Internet of Things- a Call to Look Up

I recently came across a video called ‘Look up’ (featured below). In this video Gary Turk, a writer and poet, preforms spoken-word poetry to send a message against the age of social media. “I look around and realize that this media we call social is anything but.” The overall message of the video is a call for people to look up from their phones and media devices, and start interacting with each other and the word again, or, risk losing a lifetimes worth of experiences. He drives the message home with a scenario whereby a boy meets girl and lives happily ever after, except that it doesn’t happen because he was using his smartphone.

This video is quickly approaching viral stature and it got me thinking about its relevance to the cloud. It is common knowledge in the tech world that we are quickly approaching the next generation of technology, with the adoption of the internet of things (IoT). Gartner even predicted that over 30 billion devices will be connected to the internet by the year 2020. For those who don’t yet know, the internet of things is the transfer of data without human involvement. So for example, a fridge that operates on the IoT will be able to update your shopping list automatically based on its contents, and will probably even be able to purchase the products on your behalf.

This concept is often reacted to with either excitement or fear. It opens us up to a world of possibilities in terms of making our lives more convenient, so what is there to fear?

A few months ago I read Philip K Dick’s Ubik, a sci-fi novel that was written in 1969 but set in the 90’s. This book is narrated by the lead character Joe Chip, and portrays a world where IoT is the norm. In one scene Chip is charged $0.05 by a door in order to exit his apartment. Since he is unable to pay he unscrews the door, then the door threatens to sue him for the damage. Now a world where objects are anthropomorphized, though entertaining in novels, can be quite terrifying. Even if IoT is not taken to the level of doors with personalities, the Orwellian possibilities of every detail of your life being monitored, even down to how much milk is left in your fridge can make people more than a little squeamish. So what’s the solution? Perspective.

We have already shaped a society that is already largely internet and technology dependent. Gone are the days of fighting over incorrect directions from the passenger navigating an oversized road map. Gone are the days when looking up facts only meant leafing through in a hard bound 800+ page encyclopedia. Gone are even the days when buying groceries means having to leave your house. The only way to keep everything under control is to keep perspective. Heed Gary Turk’s advice, look up. Look away from your devices every so often, leave your cellphone at home once in a while. There is this game that I have played several times with my friends when we have met up as a group called “stack ‘em.” In this game we all stack our cellphones in the middle of the table, and the first person to check their phone before the bill has been paid has to pay for the whole meal.

The internet of things can be as revolutionary and helpful as the creation of the internet itself. It is just crucial that we don’t lose sight of what is most important.