Internet of Things Is Coming, but Is That Good or Bad?

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2014-05-14 Print this article Print

Whether this kind of world is good or bad is up for debate.

"First, we should never underestimate the power of convenience," wrote Bryan Alexander, senior fellow at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education. "Wearable computing can make things easier for users, and that's enough to drive adoption. Second, companies, old and new, have much to gain from the Internet of things, starting with customer data, and moving on to shaping services based on that data. … Third, we will socialize in new ways, changing more.

"Our sense of personal space will both expand (to cover the world) and contract (to not be rude to other multitaskers)," he continued. "Our sense of belonging will continue to redistribute globally and by affiliation. Public and private spaces will acquire a new layer of interaction and mediation, with Twittering car tires, writing on fridges and projection on cabinets. … Our will to create will make us want these devices ready and on-hand. Naturally, there will be a backlash. We've already seen it with the 'Glassholes' meme. Expect more neoLuddites to hanker for computing as humanity was intended to have it, on keyboards!"

Others worry about the loss of privacy and the threat to security, and question whether the IoT will be too complex and prone to failure.

"There will be absolutely no privacy, not even in the jungle, away from civilization," wrote Nick Wreden of the University of Technology Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur. "I don't like this, but people have shown over and over again that they are willing to trade away their souls for a '$1 off' coupon. Conversation, which includes not only words, but also movement, eye contact, hearing, memory and more, is such a holistic, pleasurable experience that people will not give it up easily."

Karl Fogel, a partner at Open Tech Strategies and president of, disputed how anticipated the Internet of things is.

"No, yuck, we don't need this, and most people aren't asking for it," Fogel wrote. "I've never been quite clear on where the demand is supposedly coming from. The scarce resource will continue to be human attention. There is a limit to the usefulness of devices that are worn in public but that demand attention because it is often socially and practically unacceptable to give those devices enough attention to make them worth the trouble of configuring and interacting with."

Justin Reich, a fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said there will be good and bad with the IoT.

"It will have widespread beneficial effects, along with widespread negative effects," Reich wrote. "There will be conveniences and privacy violations. There will be new ways for people to connect, as well as new pathways toward isolation, misanthropy and depression. I'm not sure that moving computers from people's pockets (smartphones) to people's hands or face will have the same level of impact that the smartphone has had, but things will trend in the similar direction. Everything that you love and hate about smartphones will be more so."



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