In 2012 Bruce Sterling talked about web ‘stacks’, large companies based online that have built around themselves a self supporting network that mines and stores big data. As the value of personal information is increasing due to marketing and audience control, these stack companies are becoming increasingly creative with how they gather, access and use the information they draw from users on a daily basis. To this, I find myself thinking about our role in the process data mining and the idea of ‘the internet of things‘.
The Internet Of Things
The internet of things is an abstract idea slung around by companies to refer to the interconnected network between objects with sensors and other data producers. The internet of things isn’t exclusive to the internet and can be used without the internet altogether.
A Game Of Data
An example that relates to the idea of the internet of things is the Xbox One and it’s extension, the Xbox Kinect. When first announced, the Xbox One was going to require it’s infra-red camera and microphone device to be connected and always on. Of course having a camera that can always see and hear you in the dark stirred some controversy. I can’t imagine why…
While Microsoft did assure us that spying was not an issue and that all channels will be encrypted and that did quell the fears of many, I would like to suggest that being spied on in the moment is not what we should be worried about. A device that monitors and tracks how we move, when we do so during the day and week and stores our voices in the form of phrases to better understand us has to store all this information somewhere. That kind of database could potentially map so many aspects of our behaviour. This data is extremely valuable as it can be used to know so much about a products user base. By knowing when we are available to play its games, Microsoft can know when is the best time to air its advertisements and announce new products. By analysing what physical movements we’re most likely to do, Microsoft can build games and advertisements around our very habits. Couple this with a fitness tracker (Which Xbox One has by the way) the potential to understand all about our personal lives is endless.
Where We Fit In
Before I wrote about Sterling’s stacks and our role as consumers to these stacks, we are the farm produce. We’re grown and nurtured and when we’ve accumulated enough data, it’s harvested to allow for more users. On the other hand, what makes humans unique is that we study ad understand things and we build from what we understand. When we start to build machines that can not only outperform us physically but also know everything we do plus more, we are no longer the superior race, we are the pets.#TinFoilHat