Connecting with Our Connected World
The Futurist, November-December 2013
We can only really communicate with a tiny fraction of our personal and global environment. But our world and our experience of it are poised to change dramatically as everything becomes increasingly interconnected. Here’s what we can expect in the coming era of the “Internet of Things.”
Whether it’s biological cells, electronic systems, or communities of people, networks increase in value as the number of nodes and connections grow. As Metcalfe’s law suggests, increased connectedness can lead to increased value and usefulness.
For many millennia, our ability to communicate was limited to those people with whom we could physically meet and interact. Writing and the ability to create records transcended this limitation, allowing us to communicate with others separated from us by physical space and even time. With the telegraph and telephone, near real-time two-way communication with nearly anyone, anywhere on the planet, became possible.
Our growing interconnectivity has allowed us to share knowledge and ideas, which in turn has advanced society even further. But it was the development of the Internet that really accelerated this process.
Perhaps equally important, our inventions made it possible to improve our communication with the physical world in the form of remote sensors and other telemetry. As computers process more input from satellites, sensors, radio-tagged devices, and so on, it’s been estimated more than 40% of all data will be entirely machine-generated by 2020; that is up from 11% in 2005, according to the 2012 IDC Digital Universe report. This trend will likely continue for some time.
Phi Beta Iota: Technology is not a substitute for thinking. Top-down data-driven mandates are a very poor alternative to bottom-up multinational and multicultural consensus based on shared human experience. NSA will never, ever, be able to create a human brain (fits in a hand, uses virtually no energy, does petaflop calculations per nano-second). The article is recommended as an example of the “singularity” mentality that elevates technology in isolation from humanity while depreciating the value of human attention, thinking, and sharing. As we continue to diminish our education and automate our idiocy, we are literally burning our seed brain cells. We can never get them back.