The Internet of Things and the fallacy of having no human intervention

By Thane on Fri 19 October 2012

In thinking about the pros and cons of standardisation in the field of the Internet of Things, I stumbled upon a project report where the authors claim that:

The 'Internet of Things' (IoT) will represent a paradigm shift in communication: initially, communication occurred between living beings. With ICT, this was complemented, and some degree replaced, by communication between humans and machines (e.g. through word processing), by communication between humans enabled by machines (e.g. telephones or e-mail), and by machines communicating with each other (e.g. in B2B e-business). The next step will see communication between 'things' ... without any human intervention.

This seems to be rather misguided thinking, and it's all too common in current thinking related to the Internet of Things, which seems to be informed by a paradigm that says that machines could one day look after our every need (allowing us to relinquish the "burden" of choice). Let's go back to basics here for a moment: what exactly is the point of technology? For me, it seems as though technology is something that we use in order to improve our lives. The technologies we use generally depend on whether they improve our lives in some way. For example, I'll use my mobile phone to contact a loved one in order to assist in fostering connection and relationship with them, which improves my life.

So there's an inherent flaw in someone's thinking here. I detect what's Best for me - machines can't do that for me. I choose which machines I'm going to use and how I'm going to use them in order to facilitate a quality situation for myself, so there will always be human intervention at some point in the use/configuration/reconfiguration of technology no matter how much the machines talk to each other. For example, how could a machine possibly tell whether I want a burger or sushi for lunch? The best thing the machines can do is make it easier for me to figure out how to facilitate a quality situation for myself (e.g. by telling me where to get what I want, and at the best price). The idea that a machine could get into my mind, my internal constitution, and detect and provide what's Best for me is incredibly far- fetched, and I wouldn't want that anyway because it would take away what I see as one of life's greatest gifts: conscious and deliberate thought and action, informed by my choices (whether or not free will/choice is an illusion is a debate for another time and place).

At best (technology-wise), we might be able to develop machines that would be able to come together to detect what's Best for themselves. We know what that would look like, of course: just go back and watch movies like Terminator or the Matrix to remind yourself.