#WhyWait: On the Internet of Everything

by | Nov 28, 2015 | Uncategorized | 22 comments


  1. x over it

    As someone who probably has a more easygoing relationship with technology, I was expecting to disagree with some points of your rant. Nope, I agree completely.

    That mindless desire to have everything connected, down to your washing machine and the iron you never use, really is sad. What good would that even do? Why are people spending money and humanpower to achieve this goal? I don't want to drag in the "third world" argument into this, but I have to. When there are people who don't have clean drinking water, let alone access to the internet in any form, why is this pointless integration even a thing?

    I'm sure they'd find some way to profit off your washing and ironing habits.

  2. Ms Baroque

    Hi Richard, this is REALLY INTERESTING. I used to work at a little NGO (which has since had its gov't funding severely cut) called the Energy Saving Trust. It was what it says on the tin, and it was great. One of the guys I worked with there – one of my favourite people ever – was a very groovy guy called Steve, an expert on renewable technologies who has built himself and his family a zero-carbon house on a hillside in Wales… well, he wrote (& I edited) a series of eight posts for the NGO's blog on 'The Smart House' – how computer systems were going to help save the planet by helping us to reduce our CO2 emissions. I'm not going to go into the detail here, clearly, but just flagging it up as a thing. (I also, naturally, share your view and had to overcome my resistance to the idea. feeling that if Steve like it it can't be all bad. There's a great picture of a solar panel strapped to the back of a beat-up old van, which is how they charged the power tools for building the house….

    And secondly, can I just point out a couple of design aspects of this very sinister ad? The thing is, when I saw it my first reaction was admiration. Look what they've done. they've put us back in our cribs, with a baby mobile overhead. The room is womb-pink. The scene is the American (atomic) 1950s, a time of great trust in progress and the so-called security it offered.The typeface also puts us straight back there. Further, al those little fades and scratched, and the fake rip at the top of the page, make it look old, as if it was ever thus. It says, 'This is a message from when you were a baby; this is what you've been waiting for your whole life'.

    Furthermore, it is hard not to notice that they have TRADEMARKED a perfectly ordinary phrase of the English language.

    I like seams too.

    And btw I'm very much enjoying your book!

  3. Bill M

    I've been interested in many aspects of science and electronics from a very early age. I truly love working with electronics. As time went on and I started to work with logic and LSI, VLSI and so on all the way into the intrusion of everyone needs the latest and best and biggest most powerful PC in their house I became quite (and remain so) disillusioned at modern digital technology. I read 1984 in the 60s and the IOT is Big Brother at his worst.
    This started with the propaganda 'everyone needs a pc' crap. It has moved on to computers in cars. That I still do not understand. The car companies use all kinds of excuses like the computer is needed to monitor this or that or whatever. The sinister side is. like an airplane's black box and voice recorders, the computer in one's car now monitors how the driver operates the car. Have a wreck while speeding, that is recorded. Don't believe me, watch the lady in the insurance ad (So as not to get anyone into trouble by mentioning the company). She tosses the driver a monitoring device to just plug it into the data port to lower your insurance. Nonsense! The device is so the insurance company can monitor what the driver does with the car. Same for tracking (GPS) devices.
    OnStar is just one example of how a big greedy corporation (or the government) can take over control of a car.
    The reason computers are on cars and the corporations and government are pushing self driving, internet connected, and other cars is to control you and me! Should they desire to stop all traffic; it could be done with one command. Should they desire to track you: you will not even know it — just look at Apple and the iPhone.

    Digital cellular phones are not better than the analog ones. They are digital so you and I can be controlled. The audio is not as good as analog. The signals drop out because the phones lack power. The phones are computer based so the user can be traced! I fought against digital phones 20 years ago before their proliferation. We do not need to always have a portable computer with us. Only the government wants us to so they can track us.

    Secure IOT? Don't believe a single word of that crap. Anything digital will have a foot print. Anything on the internet can be tracked, traced, and controlled by others. Hackers already know this.

    The reason the government wants the IOT and broadband over powerlines is to control what we do. Even with 'smart' meters (they like cell phones are not smart, they are only able to allow anyone to control you) the government can control you electric use. It can come down to — you use too much to suit some authority, you get power shut off. The IOT will allow hackers, government, big corporations to control you completely. One of the things came up in CA. not too long ago was the grid is so far behind being able to supply sufficient power the power companies used rolling black outs to control power, especially around the dinner hour when most electric is used and to try to force people to use appliances, washers, dryers, and such at odd hours because they want to control the consumer. Now if all is on the IOT the power company or government can control when you cook your dinner!

  4. Joe V

    Great post, Richard. As I mentioned in the comments to your precious article, this ad is interesting to me because it conflates the puppet master's omnipresent control with the art of Alexander Calder, originator of the mobile. Art and technology.

    It also implies the rise of a technocracy, the use of technology to enable the ultimate surveillance state, as you imply.

    I don't want to be a technophobe, any more than I would want to fear any basic tool. But it's those who wield the tools that we must beware.

    A great post. I love the bicolor ribbon effect, and the type style of your machine is wonderful.

  5. Anonymous

    I agree with the sentiment others have echoed. However ominous a "Skynet" type system might be, let's look at how realistic that is. Here in the USA, each new phone isn't some grand leap in technology. It's the equivalent of "Here, play with this." We haven't seen anything "new" in quite some time. And let's not forget, that although there are many ways you can be tracked and monitored, it all depends on a very fragile power grid that falls apart every time there's a major storm. We were supposed to have flying cars and colonies on Mars by Cold War projections, and now there's no interest in space. I don't think we're going to see anything close to IOT any time soon.

    Pays to be vigilant, though. And there are plenty of old cars out there.

  6. Richard P

    You're right; how to make your washing machine "smart" is a "first world problem" if there ever was one—unless that technology can somehow be used to create a more efficient and affordable way to do laundry in poorer countries.

  7. Richard P

    Thanks. Good point, this is more of a mobile than a marionette, although it seems to partake of both.

    I'm in favor of systems that can increase energy efficiency. Some such systems may come at the cost of some of our freedoms, but this is a matter of planetary life and death. I suspect the way out of our predicament, if there is one, will be some huge technological breakthrough such as nuclear fusion, but small-scale efficiencies can also help, or at least buy us a little time.

    As for the rips and scratches: they are actually real! This is the back page of the recent tech issue of The New Yorker, which I get on paper, and I scanned it.

  8. Richard P

    Communication and control is what cybernetics is all about.

    Old-style control is about repressing people's desires. The new, "smart" control works with people's desires and subtly channels them. Just think of the "club cards" we use to get discounts at stores.

  9. Ted

    You know, while there are nefarious purposes for networking things like phones and cars, the true reason for networking appliances is not to track how often you wash your socks, it's simply a matter of planned obsolescence. Convincing consumers of the need to replace a perfectly good washing machine, fridge or iron, which tend to be the sort of thing you buy once and use for a decade or so. Digital versions of these appliances *will not* last for decades, for the obvious reason that they will be software-obsoleted within a few years.

    One side-effect of this phenomenon is that the used market for appliances will become a nice bet for obtaining relatively newish, perfectly functional and non-networked versions of appliances that have been traded in for the "obsolescence-friendly" versions. It's interesting to note that this is a similar phenomena to what happened to typewriters in the early 80's.

  10. Ted

    Heh, you can game shopping cards. I pick them up when I see them on the ground in the parking lot and swap the one I use every so often, which spreads out my own purchasing data so it gets attributed to various other people that are not me. It's a fun way to screw with the chain's databases.

  11. Richard P

    I'm sure you're right. "Seamlessness" is another ever-receding digital dream. The reality is a neverending series of glitches and patches, updates, troubleshooting, viruses, defenses, and on and on. Our self-reliance gets eroded piecemeal.

  12. Richard P

    Thanks, Joe!

    I also think that the mentality transcends any particular individuals, corporations, or governments. It's in the air we breathe. It's how we understand knowledge, work, and reality today—unless we take steps to gain distance and perspective.

  13. rino breebaart

    Whenever I hear of the internet of things, I sniff an air of yearning for total virtual reality, and all that Kurzweil thinking. the internet gobbling up the real world.

    And yes, it's meant to increase 'convenience' exponentially. Which it almost never does. More security leaks and weak points (think hackable cars, pacemakers, webcams), more things to connect, set up passwords for, more things to fail and not fiddle or fix because warranty. More things to be distracted by, more waiting to talk to helpdesks, more Oh, my fridge just sent me a message-type surprises. No more cheese.

    Every increase in 'convenience' comes at the cost of something done humanly-adequately before. Like drive-thrus cheapened the restaurant experience. Like computers and typewriters.

    All this appliance-connection just seems clunky and extremely unseamless and harmless nerdery – network thinking gone bad. They wouldn't push this vision of near-futurity without there being plentiful opportunities for seamless product integration and marketing. That's the puppet-driver, methinks; imagine sewing together user consumption data with the kind of data insights Facebook is gathering now… (and actually, if you've seen how sophisticated Facebook advertising is, wow – scary).

    But yes, nice deconstruction. We need more of this to parse the bullshit and smoke-screening lazy thought that drives branding these days.

  14. Richard P

    Amen. I must say this post has elicited unusually long and insightful comments!

  15. rn

    On the marionette: in today's grand scheme of social control, that articulated puppet is us. So the ad is suggesting in a soft, nanny-state way that we are our devices. Or, more insidiously, that the devices are us, that they are our bodies and our brains.

    Lucky us.


  16. notagain

    I enjoyed this post and all the comments. If I hadn't been writing about this all month I'd weigh in.

  17. Rob Bowker

    Good to get it off your chest. I too cringe when I hear the phrase "internet of things". Then again, I still question the need for electrically operated windows in cars. I can't think of the problem they are a solution to. But nowadays we like to make solutions in a vacuum and then see who'll monetise it.

  18. Mike Telesca

    It seems to have been a dream of the tech community to have "everything" connected for some time. Luddite that I am, I did actually attend something called Duke University Computer Kamp (or DUCK) when I was in Jr. High… back when Radio Shack was the ultimate technology store. We learned BASIC on IBM personal computers with Floppy Drives, and went to presentations on what the future of computing could mean. One of these presentations was about connecting everything to the PC:Controlling the temperature of the house, the contents of your refrigerator, watering the lawn. None of us took it seriously at the time because accomplishing all those tasks required an intricate interface that controlled the analog device through some robotic means of manipulation by a computer. It was almost steampunk if you think about it. Not only were these systems not redily available, but there were no doubt expensive past the point of practicality. Frankly it was academic at that point… because in reality there was no point. No real advantage to controlling every aspect of your life by sitting behind your home computer when could take a few steps and adjust your own thermostat. It was just a matter of doing it to show it could be done.

    For years I thought that those presenters got it all wrong: I saw that Computer chips were put in all those analog devices, but rather than allowing us to control them from afar, they allowed us to control them individually through a digital interface. Instead of just setting the temperature, we could program the temperature for different times of the day: turn off the heat or A/C while we're away, but get the house comfortable for our return.

    But now we can control these devices from miles away thanks to the connectivity of the internet. Through our mobile phones we can record TV programs, spy on whatever is going on in the house, and yes, adjust the temperature.

    Do we NEED to connect all things? No. do we want to? Some of us do. As easy as it is now, it's still just academic.

  19. Matthew

    I find myself becoming increasingly paranoid and despairing because of these things…

    Technology, while good, seems to be greatly abused lately…


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