Welcome to the Machine

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.

Where have you been? It’s alright we know where you’ve been

– Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here ℗ 1975

I’ve been thinking about people this week – and not just because of the incredibly moving and disturbing news coverage of the refugee crisis sweeping across Europe. It just seems that in so many debates we increasingly seem to forget the “human” element of a situation until it’s placed fully in sharp focus by something or someone..

Now, trust me I’m not going anywhere near politics here but this week there was also a surprisingly large amount of mainstream media coverage on the subject of robotics and what many call “the second machine age”. With it came the inevitable man vs machine debate ranging from the natural evolution of work to a variety of terminator style apocalyptic scenarios. Intermixed with all this however were some interesting and challenging philosophical discussions about the true value of work itself and the modern era’s linkage between work and pay, effort and reward etc. What will we do when “work” – be it physical or intellectual – becomes a robotic / cyber activity and what exactly will we get paid for doing in that world strange new world ?.

All interesting stuff but it still brings me back to thinking about where people fit in all this

There are probably millions of column inches (and whatever the web equivalent measure is) dedicated to the “Internet of Things” and how all our devices, physical goods, machine components, electrical appliances etc are going to be chatting endlessly over the internet. But surely the key question is …  for what purpose? Tim O’Reilly (of O’Reilly media fame) used a phrase “the Internet of Things and Humans” about a year ago and even got some traction with the hashtag #IOTH – though given all the robotics coverage, the Internet of Human Things is perhaps an even more interesting concept.

My point, and believe Tim’s was too, is that the reason behind IoT and connected everything has to be, in part, about the value that’s delivered to people. Indeed, often the true value of IoT only comes into sharp focus when you consider the person or people at the end of all that technology and innovation. Technology for technology’s sake or disruption created purely to disrupt is an ultimately futile exercise

Aaron Levie Tweeted about Uber saying: “Uber is a $3.5 billion lesson in building for how the world *should* work instead of optimizing for how the world *does* work.” Surely, that’s the perspective todays Internet of Things designers and developers should consider: how do all these connections and all this collected data make it possible to change the nature and experience of what we do in the real world – for the better?

Just a thought

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