Culture

The Internet of more Things

27.09.2018 | By NICK GREEN

The ‘singularity’ may soon be upon us. What is it? Our friend Wiki says that the technological singularity is ‘the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization’. It has also been called the moment ‘When Humans Transcend Biology’ – the title of a 2005 book about artificial intelligence and the future of humanity by TED speaking inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil.

Heavy stuff? You bet. Should we be worried? That’s a matter of opinion. Should you choose to worry, however, you can always distract yourself online (where else?) by checking out the speed with which technology is changing. You can substitute the word ‘evolving’ for the word ‘changing’ if you want. Again, it’s a matter of opinion. So I did. Distract myself with such checking out I mean. I searched ‘the gadgets of tomorrow’. On my way to somewhere else I came across a webpage featuring a new wearable product that enables the wearer to hear phone calls through their fingers.

Say what?

 

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I know. But seriously: it’s a watch strap/wristband thing. The watch strap is paired with your cell phone. You can then listen to your callers by looking as if you have ear ache. Or you’re tired of the music the person next to you is playing on their hands-free-Bluetooth-carbon-fibre-Nanotech-Star Trek-anti-gravity headphones on the subway. Anyway. You just put your fingertip to your ear and bingo. The watch strap transmits vibrations caused by your caller’s voice on your cell phone wristwatch to vibrations in your fingertip. The mind boggles. So will you ear. Cool.

Just below the vibrating finger thing was a feature about something smartly smelly. It’s a gadget that enables you to create your own perfume. This gizmo can absorb other fragrances (erm…) and make a new and prettier pong by combining them. The device can, or course, be operated via a smartphone. Seriously. Will my aunty soon be operable via a smartphone? I can only hope so.

On the same webpage was what claimed to be the world’s smallest dishwasher, a smart brake light for cyclists (is that different to a brake light for smart cyclists?); waist belts with airbags; a miniature robot that knows everything and will tell you anything (yawn); a desk lamp that lets you go online; and something that looks like the kind of sticking plaster Liberace might have worn that measures the amount of UV light you’re exposed to. I could only imagine Liberace washing his tiny dishes while wearing a belt with airbags as rides his bicycle smartly and monitoring his UV exposure as he does it while being chased by a tiny robot that won’t stop being as brilliant as a desk lamp.

So anyway.

 

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Waiting for the technology singularity – these things are never on time – I searched further online (where …?) Google then hurled me at the richest (so we’re told) man in the world. I mean Mr Bezos. I mean amazon.com. Amazon presented me with a bunch of things it thought we would all want tomorrow, today. Among them was an ‘Official Star Wars Levitating Death Star Speaker’, and a ‘Scientifically Proven Super Soft Neck Support Travel Pillow – Machine Washable Black’ – presumably in case your ‘Official Star Wars Levitating Death Star Speaker’ puts you to sleep. Thanks Jeff.
Do you ever wonder what technology will be like in 10 years? A 100? A 1000? Are the possibilities endless, or are they limited by the usefulness or yawn factor of the gadgets themselves?

My bet is that the possibilities are almost endless. At some point, the laws of physics will curb our enthusiasm. A boundary between the possible and the impossible will be reached. But that’s probably a long way off. And by then perhaps you and I will have become part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

ZDNet calls the IoT

‘Billions of physical devices around the world that are now connected to the internet, collecting and sharing data … it’s possible to turn anything, from a pill to an aeroplane, into part of the IoT … enabling them to communicate without a human being involved, and merging the digital and physical worlds.’

So now you know. As if you didn’t already.

You’re right again. Not all the gadgets I mention above are Things. They’re just things. But the point is, there are more and more Things. More and more gadgets are getting smarter and smarter. They are connected to the internet. Does this mean at some point the Things will behave like neurons and the internet will become self-aware? Should Linda Hamilton be in the Untitled Terminator Reboot (2019)? Should Liberace have patented bling? And is the bling the thing? So many questions.

To find answers, I bravely ventured further into the infinite maze that is the IoT. I lusted further over the gadgets of tomorrow, and wondered whether we’re being dumb making them so smart. I found headbands that help you leverage your sleep. I found a smart hairbrush that listens to your hair to make sure you’re brushing it properly. I found a fridge gadget that tells you how many eggs you have left. I found a thing that goes online while it vibrates and does things I’m not going to talk about. And I found smart water bottles that glow when they think you’re thirsty – in case you don’t know.

I was getting vertigo. So I stopped looking. I went and put my internet-fried head in the fridge. My fridge asked me if it should count my head as a giant egg. Sigh.
Here’s the thing: will more Things be a good thing? Would less Things be better? Because that singularity thing. That doesn’t sound so good. But as we always have, we’ll probably just keep going in the direction we’re going in to see if it’s taking us anywhere. And if this direction is wrong, we’ll stop, retrace our steps if we can, and take another route. It’s called evolution.

Or do I mean ‘change’?