Update: @stopthecyborgs on Twitter suggested to call it #IndieIOT. That’s what we need!
Bruce Sterling penned a marvelous, impassioned essay titled “The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things” that’s being quoted widely on-line this weekend. ($3.99 at Amazon). He pulls no punches, right from the beginning:
The first thing to understand about the “Internet of Things” is that it’s not about Things on the Internet. It’s a code term that powerful stakeholders have settled on for their own purposes. They like the slogan “Internet of Things” because it sounds peaceable and progressive. It disguises the epic struggle over power, money and influence that is about to ensue….
In the Internet of Things, [the user] lacks those privileged positions, “user” and “customer”. An Internet of Things is not a consumer society. It’s a materialised network society. It’s like a Google or Facebook writ large on the landscape. Google and Facebook don’t have “users” or “customers”. Instead, they have participants under machine surveillance, whose activities are algorithmically combined within Big Data silos…
The standard IoT pitch – about the reader’s smart, chatty refrigerator – is a fairy tale. It’s like the promise of a talking chicken in every pot. Politically speaking, the relationship of the reader to the Internet of Things is not democratic. It’s not even capitalistic. It’s a new thing. It’s digital-feudalism. People in the Internet of Things are like the woolly livestock of a feudal demesne, grazing under the watchful eye of barons in their hilltop Cloud Castles…
… and so forth and forth. Powerful stuff. Much of it we could have said at the Indie Box Project, except of course that Bruce is a professional wordsmith. He’s telling it so much better than we do: the dystopian society that has started already, the replacement of the market by court intrigue, and how much more of that we’ll get.
It scares me, and should scare anybody who who thinks it was a good thing the Magna Carta came into force 800 years ago, who like democracy, the rule of law, and a level playing field, that there is a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and all of those kinds of things.
For me, the question becomes: So what are we going to do about that? As commentator, Bruce identifies and describes, and that’s great. But we need more, at least all of us who want a better future than dystopia. We need to take action.
What about we build our own internet of things? The internet of things that we — the “users” — own, instead of some unaccountable “barons in their hilltop Cloud Castles”?
That almost anybody, given a choice, and all other things being equal, vastly prefers their own internet of things over somebody else’s. The “all other things being equal” is the hard part as the barons have many billions to spend with which to dazzle us. So we, in the “independent”, “indie”, “maker” community, need to get our act together so we can compete.
That is not an easy undertaking. As usually, there is too much squabbling, too much competing about the scraps tiny sub-markets, too much its-more-important-I-am-right than aligning our forces in the same direction.
But not trying is not something we can do IMHO. I’m trying, which is of course why I started the Indie Box Project. What will you do?
If you are up for cooperating in some fashion whatsoever, drop me a note?