Last week I attended my first event as a member of the British Computer Society. I went to ‘The Internet Of Things’ on February 7th and looked forward to what I might discover and learn, both about BCS and also IoT. I was not disappointed in either.
I’ve followed the concept of IoT since hearing Bruce Sterling
talk about it in relation to RFID and his brilliant Spimes
ideas, back in 2005 (?), and much of what Bruce talked about then is now happening. The BCS also lived up to my expectations, with very clever and erudite people, great surroundings, and I had a growing feeling of slowly becoming part of a very interesting community.
The main areas of interest for me in the IoT presentations were: means of production (3D print), uses of big data for and from smart metering and civic services, social issues around technology security, dependency, access, cost and know-how (how to use stuff), and that fabulous notion, the ‘Internet of People’.
Us who come from alternative and underground culture think about this kind of stuff differently to the formal academics and scientists, and I believe have much to bring to this party. So, I was really interested when talk turned to security, sabotage and what they termed ‘Cyberwarfare’. While most in the formal tech world think of terrorism and other serious political threat in relation to this, some of us may also think about Anonymous
and League of Noble Peers
kinds of activities. These are different in nature from overt political threat and are part of the growing and possibly unstoppable trend of the democratisation of our digital lives. The Internet is after all a flat world
The second speaker – Chris Yapp – whose job is mainly in legalese and policy work, talked about a variety of issues surrounding threat and risk to an IoT working system. But all the time he spoke, I had the major feeling that no matter what laws may be put in place for enterprise level implementations, or how fast they might be implemented, they are unworkable/unpolicable/unenforceable in the wider scheme of things. Policing and law only work by consent – see the UK riots last year for full evidence of that. So, in a world of ‘stupid laws’ surrounding internet life (for example old models of territorial IPR
, cookie policing
, free rich media access
), any new laws that big government see fit to implement will likely follow the same fate. That is, be ignored or bypassed. It is impossible, after all, to police the Interweb. Look at Kim Dotcom
as one such case. And this is big business, not just a bunch of hippies with love and peace ideals.
So, the Internet of People. This is, in the literal sense, the social media revolution, including GPS Location Based Services using personal mobile devices, and all the social media channels of identity, communication, content and sharing. “Today, for the first time, you can get background information on almost any prospective counterparty by searching Google, Facebook etc. Or put more simply: we finally have an internet of people” (Chris Dixon, 2011
). And perhaps most of all, it is also the associated absolute change in ideas of individual privacy and ownership. While many may still argue about personal rights surrounding identity, search or other data patterns created by each individual, we in the Internet of People already know that nothing is private unless you make it so, nothing is owned unless you make it so, and more importantly, we don’t care. Our digital lives are defined by the identities we create through social platforms and sharing. We are simply not in the loop if we do not exist in these platforms. In other words, we do not exist at all. In the same way that you presume you are visible when you walk down a real street, so it is in the virtual highways of the Internet of People. You can be seen, and you can see everyone else. That’s after all, the whole point.
I look forward to more such thought provoking events at the BCS, and am honoured to be a tiny part of it.
Speakers: Gary Atkinson, Director of Embedded Marketing at ARM and Chris Yapp FBCS, author of the BCS Futures blog and a member of the BCS IoT working group.