Babbage Linden in Second Life. Photo by Jim Purbrick.
It was bad enough when it was "The Internet of Things" -- wiring up things like your home or car to run them via your smartphone on the Internet. I've written about the horrors awaiting underneath the upbeat claims of tekkies of this Brave New World.
But now they are trying to make it even more palatable and saleable by calling it "The Internet of My Things" the way everything collectivized online is called "My" to make the user have the illusion he is in some actually personal private space. So some media that is drilling you and making you sign up for their forced social media scrape merely to share stuff creates things called "My Slate" which aren't really so much "my" anymore -- but theirs. And on some of these services, every time your friends go read an article, they see you "liked it," and they might even wonder why, and you might even wish you could get rid of some of that. In fact some of the services showed you when you merely read an article, and started posting it to all your social media automatically -- people hated this and those services began to die out. They'll be back. The drive to make "what is yours mine" is big.
I saw the Internet of Things prototyped in Second Life about 7-8 years ago by Babbage Linden (Jim Purbrick, a very creative fellow who probably doesn't think of himself as an IOT founder). I wrote about it enthusiastically initially as well as did Mark Wallace, thinking only in the context of the community of that little virtual world, not the wider Internet, and focusing more on the rating than the tagging functions. (Purbrick went on to conceive and prototype IOT as helping, for example, people use Second Life as a 3d data base to keep track of their real-life carbon-emitting objects to assess their carbon footprint; today he is doing things like making 3D printing from personal web information.)
But even then I had some misgivings about all this tagging and the inflation of the reputational system instantly welded into it back then, and watched as Grid Shepherd, as the scraper avatar was known, by the development company Electric Sheep, scraped the entire grid and took everyone's objects and put them into search -- and abuse-reported it back in 2007. This scrape including things accidently left for sale, sometimes merely to be moved from one person to another, which then became vulnerable to theft. People did not like having their property advertised in this way -- and it was all devised basically as a prototype of how to make an Internet of Things to increase shopping on the oneline marketplace. I called it "Greed Shepherd's Big Fleece." The geeks then -- as they always do now -- snarked that people's items were in search "anyway" and were fare game and that the dbase "needed to be populated" to be "useful" and therefore they couldn't have "opt-in" or even "opt-out".
Well, but nobody thought some powerful force, funded by old media (CBS), would come in and scrape all their simulators and put everything they owned into search so, among other things, people could pry into their private lives and ridicule or even blackmail them, i.e. if they were gay online but in real life had not come out of the closet. It was awful.
For a while, there was a program that picked up everything on every sim, threw it into search, and then when you arrived on that sim, you could easily search it again to find the product or item you were searching for. This made scavenger hunts, a popular activity, immediately deprecated, and so people had to devise ways of naming things with fake names or hiding them in other things to play such a game. While it seemed convenient for a store, people hated the erosion of privacy, even in a virtual world where privacy is only a theory, really, easily defeated with cams and chat loggers and such. Eventually, this feature in the browser was removed -- probably it was too big a strain on the data base and servers anyway. It was replaced with a function you could toggle for each item -- to place it in search or not. Merchants defeated this by checking the object to be in search forever by closing the "mod" perms. And so on. Online life is filled with pernicious features with destructive social impacts as we constantly see in the prototype of Web 3.0 (or 3.D as it was known for a time) in Second Life.
Few people of influence take Second Life seriously, and don't realize it is a prototyper, consciously or not. And it doesn't matter, in a way, because real life gadgetry is soon overtaking even the fantastic prototyping functions of Second Life 7 years ago.
John Udell of Wired.com has an article about such wondrous technology being developed now to create the "Internet of My Things".
As usual, the way this technology is sold is not by thinking of its larger implications and negative impacts -- obviously -- but how it might be useful -- and make fortunes for people:
“Kynetx is getting ready to introduce a product called SquareTag. SquareTag is a simple way to use personal clouds to keep track of things you own and imbue them with functionality they might not otherwise have.” – Introducing SquareTag
So far these are mostly just passive tags with QR codes, but the system is technology-agnostic and will happily embrace RFID, NFC, you name it. What matters isn’t the tag, it’s the connection you forge between a tagged item and your personal cloud.
And as useful, it's about how it would be useful to a nerd -- most people don't take their smartphones with them to change a filter and take elaborate notes on its date, make, place of purchase, etc. If they do have their smartphone with them, it's to text their girlfriend or watch "Waking Dead," not write about filter details. But of course, the "Internet of My Things" is rapidly developing and "the Internet of Your Things" is coming out to meet you, with the manufacturers taking the work out of note-taking by putting all this information into *their* tags. And so on.
My daughter recently asked what "the cloud" was. I had gone to TechCrunch two years ago and asked a number of the ardent evangelists for various cloud services to explain their technology to me. I went around and listened to their pitches, read some articles, and concluded:
The cloud is other people's computers, not yours.
In that sense, it is like the MMORPG game developers' fearful mantra about their games:
The client is in the hands of the enemy.
That is, their game has to be viewed through a browser that enables the user to hack them and bother other people. The cloud is merely you taking things you used to keep on your own personal hard drive under at least password protection, and under at least the theoretical obfuscation of being one of a zillion and not searchable unless you turned on filesharing programs -- and then putting them on to other people's computers. Putting them on to other people's computers so that you can "access them anywhere" and protect against data loss if your device is wrecked, but it's still about other people's computers, not yours, and your stuff becoming theirs, not yours. Really, that's all it is!
Hence, my intervention below. And I can't stress enough: it's not about the hypotheticals and edge-cases that your vacuum cleaner in the cloud is going to be hacked and start running on its own and wake you up in the middle of the night or all your doors will lock to keep you out of your own home, although we will see that happen. It's about how property becomes collectivized by coders when it becomes electronic and connected. Its inherency is broken up -- which is of course is that process Comrade Lawrence Lessig zealously began when he began to smash the inherency of copyright of digital art and induce people to "share" without paying the author.
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Each item that you put on the Internet of Things becomes partly not yours -- in fact, at any moment, it could become entirely not yours. Each thing with its unique UUID uploaded and connected to the Internet becomes collectivized by coders and then available to hackers.
What matters isn't the connections *you* forge among your things and the Cloud, which only has the thin membrane of a likely poorly-devised password.
What matters is that each connection strips away the inherency of the property as yours, and makes it at least a little bit -- and then maybe a lot -- someone else's.
If a heating pad or a television or a coffee maker requires a remote control commander or switch to operate, and you automate that via the Internet to make it work, at any moment, whether because "technology just doesn't work sometimes" or because its hacked or because the coders and operators of the Internet -- oh, don't like your blog or your political views -- those items may stop working. When they stop working, they lose their main property -- use to you. Your property with a lot of electronics in it that doesn't work anymore isn't much use now, is it?
Now imagine if it is your pacemaker?
Now, technologists interested in the Bright Future skip over these problems and call them minor or rare or fixable with encryption or whatever. But the problem isn't just the *misuse* of the cloud and your own personal Internet of Things.
The problem comes in your collectivization of your things. As you put it, "I’m not the only one who can use it. I can authorize other parties to use it as well."
That means you've stripped away some of its essence as your property and for the sake of "smartness," collectivized it. You may find this useful now, say, to somebody changing the car in your oil. But surely it's not too hard even for you to imagine when this "smartness" might get "dumb" pretty fast.
You say: "These won’t be “free” services that we get by trading away privacy for convenience. We’ll pay for them. In return they will not only store our data. They’ll also run code."
But everything that is coded and uploaded to the Internet related to me and my personal property is now a coder's and "the Internet's," not mine. Have you ever seen how the thuggish hackers' movement Anonymous operates? Is *that* what you want done with your toaster or your car?
The privacy inherent in disconnected private property is stripped away by the act up uploading and connection through the UUID or RFID, and you can never get it back -- you won't be able to reset an objects unique identifier but will be forced to buy a new one. It isn't just that your collectivized property is vunerable; try to see it. It is collectivized and you are now in a commune. You may never get your private life back again. This is why I call it technocommunism, and I warn about the way in which we will continue to get this awful system online that was discredited on earth: the Internet of Things.
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Go from "Internet of My Things" to "Internet of My Social Relations" to see the further collectivization potential for manipulation.
P.S. I'm trying to find my screenshots from back then of the parcel in the Linden sims around Derwent showing all those flowers and pots and things with taggability and rateability, and then the HUD to use to track them. Anybody else have any?