The Internet of Things

For the past several decades we have been digitizing our information flow, and lately we have started digitizing the world at large interconnecting things that are digital by themselves, and are able to act on the world.

This complementary network of networks is the Internet of Things, which is now poised to change the world.

When you have an object that can calculate, knows its position and has memory, and it can communicate, Bruce Sterling calls it a “spime”. The best and simplest example of a spime is your phone: it can definitely calculate, it has memory, can communicate, and it also acts on its environment. In this case, the environment of the phone is you, your phone acts on you. As another example, cars have become ever more digital in the Internet of things, and they are starting to take over the functions of driving from humans, in a manner that is increasingly incisive and autonomous.

When we started creating the civilization that we are now enjoying 10,000 years ago and more, embracing agriculture was a one-way street. We increased the number of people that a given area of territory could support, but at the same time, we became dependent on a set of practices that on the individual level were measurably harmful. We became shorter as a consequence of the lifestyle that we adopted, and for a long set of millennia, the calories per head available were less than those at hunter gatherer societies. Today, we are climbing out of the shadow of that decision. We are able to delegate an increasing number of dangerous repetitive or boring jobs to our machines. The Internet of Things is going to continue delivering benefits, and the advantage of this trajectory is going to make us human again.