Featured Speaker: Richard Yonck — Connecting in our Connected World | Ada’s Technical Books.
Richard Yonck (ryonck) on Twitter. Richard Yonck is a Foresight Analyst and contributing editor for The Futurist. The article related to this talk can be found here.
Saturday, Richard Yonck spoke at Ada’s Technical Books about how technology is changing the future, specifically sensors, environment and the data that arises between them. He started off by introducing the concept of the “Internet of Things.” Machine to machine communication is prevalent. Devices are connecting our physical environment to data streams living in the cloud. Big data and algorithms designed to make sense of it become telling bits of information. Yonck brings up concerns of how we can oversee, control and relate to all of this new information.
Yonck shows an image of the Michigan Micro Mote, or M3 as an example of the future of sensors. The micro mote is 1.0mm3. Nanotechnology, often characterized as smart dust, is the new frontier. (See this lecture by Richard Feynman in 1959 titled: “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom“) The sensors will be in our bridges, sensing metal fatigue; in our rivers, measuring erosion; in our refrigerators, notifying us the milk has just soured.
In this connected and data-rich world, what does the future look like? For one, you have to patch all kinds of security holes. For every device or thing connected, there’s a way for a stranger to get your personal information. Yonck speculates that insurance companies might raise your premiums based on the data they get from your fridge apps, say the level of alcohol your household consumes. We begin to define a line where quantification and documentation, Big Data, that might lead to Big Brother. Imagine, the more data a company has, the more refined their model is. Metcalfe’s law. The more involved in a networking system, the more power. With enough participants, companies will have information that can predict where we are, what we’re doing, personal health information. (More of these types of incidents: How Companies Learn Your Secrets – NYTimes.com.)
So, this system of sensors, environment, people and data emerges. The Futurist article Yonck wrote included a scenario– I learned that futurists often use scenarios (little stories) to help humanize the data and help us envision the future–In this small scenario, the morning of Anya was described in some detail, from self driving cars to a smart medicine cabinet, it paints a sterile image of how life can be with all of these sensors automating processes like what medicine to take and what route to drive. Yonck leaves us with a somber feeling about the future. Will we be less in charge of our lives when we give up our decisions to our smart sensors?
After his talk, Richard Yonck fielded some interesting questions during the Q&A session after his talk. Paraphrased here.
Who is the next governing body to oversee the Internet of things?
Regulation is difficult at early stages. There’s a tendency of knee-jerk reactions to innovation that result in almost draconian regulation. Yonck cites What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly, saying that technology, when the time is ripe is unstoppable. Technology whose time is ripe when restricted will go underground. When you as an individual, company or even country opt out of technological advances, you put yourself at a disadvantage. Who might take reign? There might be some grassroots behavior, some government regulation, but favoring grassroots. Often political entities need time to catch up, their understanding of a new technology and its ramifications being limited.
How will communities be affected?
Chilling? Surveillance can scare people. Metadata anonymizes personal information, but with enough information, you can make a pretty good guess at who the individual is.
How does Moore’s Law relate to sensors?
Nanotechnology is being approached from the bottom and the top. Sensors, as with nanotechnology as a whole, there is a trend to move toward more mechanical solutions.