DIGC202: Global networking chapter 12 Why Things Matter.

Date: 11 November 2012

DIGC202: DIGC202: Global networking chapter 12 Why Things Matter.

In the twelfth week of class, the class was introduced to the twelfth chapter of the Global Networking Subject entitled “The Internet of things: from network objects to ubiquitous computing.”

This week’s lecture, the class assembled examples and discussion points to look at the expansion of communication networks and micro processers  into everyday objects, the concurrent proliferation  of radio frequency identifiers (RFID), and the emergence of what is being currently theorised as an internet of things.

In this blog, we will examine examples of the internet of things (iot), Artificial Intelligence and their implications for notions of privacy, surveillance, and subjectivity.

God made us in his image.  Now, man tries to make machines in his image.  Welcome to the world of Artificial Intelligence and the internet of things (iot), whereby objects connect and interact with us. Inanimate objects “come to life”.  We make objects do our bidding, displaying our superiority. Man sure is a powerful being today.  Kurzweil said: “a kid in Africa with a cell phone has access to more intelligence than the President of the United States did 15 years ago.” Technology has created intelligent objects which thus receive our respect and attention. (Burke, 2012)  However, things only matter when they are networked. Julian Bleecker pointed out “how physical objects, once networked and imbued with informatic capabilities, will occupy space and occupy themselves in a world in which things were once quite passive.” (Piquepaille 2006) Due to the convergence of technology, media and communication, the borders are crumbling.  As information becomes decentralized and the homogenization of time and space is immaterial, we are no longer bound to the physical space. Instagram, Facebook, pinterest and others, represent the coming together of all those small platforms. Man is able to create, share and spread information. We enjoy ubiquitous connectivity with a global communication system (Mitew 2012; Raeney 2012)

Besides our smartphones and GPS, many more simple objects have become connected, transforming into complex objects and becoming tangible social actors. Julian Bleecker writes about blogjets “that creep into our lives and assert their influence”.  “Blogject” describes the communication and participation by objects in the sphere of networked social discourse, also known as the blogosphere. He cites the pigeons that blog. Pigeons equipped with a GPS device for tracing where it has been flying, and an environmental sensor that records the levels of toxins and pollutants in the air through which they fly are able to communicate on the internet wirelessly, dynamically registering environmental changes.

The new object, once connected, will also be able to store and process that information, as well as independently initiate action (cloud storage and AI).  The MIT Media Lab called this the internet of things (iot). Fancy a refrigerator which can scan the stuff inside the fridge and gives us recipes based on those foodstuffs. (Mitew 2012; Nafis 2012) We have shoes that tell us how far we have walked or run, rings that can detect our heartbeats, and a host of other daily objects that can perform unique tasks, once thought impossible. Our cars are equipped with artificial intelligence that can communicate with us.

In the euphoria of staying always connected, we tend to forget that with such a global nervous system, we are constantly under surveillance. I have always been conscious of the hidden cameras in lifts and public places, and somehow these inanimate objects compel me to behave, thus actually controlling my freedom to do things.  So, these objects have already taken over our lives.  In Malaysia, the Transport Ministry (MOT) has implemented the controversial Automated Enforcement System, where cameras at traffic lights and speed traps were installed to reduce the number of road accidents. You’d think the public would embrace it because it is meant to save lives. No. It was met with public outcry.  People feel very uncomfortable because they are being watched while driving. It’s man versus machines, convenience versus lack of freedom.

I envision a life where we have a cybernetic or mechanical avatar of ourselves that are hooked to our brains and while they go to work for us we get to laze around.  No doubt these things that matter will reshape the way we think and live. Perhaps, one day, every single object that we have around us would “blog”.  As it is, Julian Bleecker has warned us of “blogjets that sneak into our lives and take over”. (Piquepaille 2006) During 2008, the number of things connected to the internet exceeded the number of people on earth.  By 2020, it is projected to reach 50 billion. (Mitew 2012) This demonstrates why objects matter. Simple objects, once connected, attain first class status, because we have become so dependent on them. With iot, our perception of things as inanimate objects will change, as we look at them as powerful devices.  Furthermore, objects are in conversation.  For instance, if our meeting is pushed back by 45 minutes, it will be relayed to our alarm clock which signals the alarm to ring 5 minutes later, which in turn signals the coffee maker to turn on 5 minutes late as well. (Mitew 2012)

With artificial intelligence, we will look at machines as if they were humans.  In fact, one day, we will be communicating more with objects than with humans, having a social communication with them. In my opinion, we may face the danger of regressing in civilisation and staying less connected to fellow human beings.  What took humans thousands of years to be civilised and get connected globally may be jeopardised by the very technology that they created. What an irony! Will machines take over our world?  I don’t think so. Without man, these machines cannot exist.  I do not envisage the so-called doomsday when machines will dominate humanity and take over, as Kurzweil said: “There are still tasks for humans to do’, he says: relating to other humans and understanding them, being funny, sexy, expressing loving sentiments. These are not sideshows to human intelligence, that’s the cutting edge of human intelligence.” (Burke, 2012)

(982 words)



Burke, A 2012, ‘Kurzweil at Techonomy: Artificial Intelligence Is Empowering All of Humanity’, The Blog, accessed: 11/11/2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/techonomy/techonomy-artificial-intelligence_b_2117112.html.

Mitew, T 2012, DIGC202 ‘The internet of things’, lecture notes, accessed 26/10/2012, http://prezi.com/hotqlxztvxdb/digc202-counter-networks/.

Nafis, F 2012, The internet of things, lecture, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 22 October.

Piquepaille, R. 2006, ‘The new world of ‘blogjects’’, accessed: 11/11/2012 http://www.zdnet.com/blog/emergingtech/the-new-world-of-blogjects/187

Raeney, P 2012, ‘Most of world interconnected through email, social media’, accessed 8/11/2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/27/net-us-socialmedia-online-poll-idUSBRE82Q0C420120327.

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