The Extended Internet

I think Dan's right to be concerned about some of the examples in Adam Greenfield's new book Everyware. It follows closely on the heels of Bruce Sterling's Shaping Things and Peter Morville's Ambient Findability and completes the must-read foundation for understanding the potential impact of pervasive computing.

Ambient Findability has a few more examples that are disquieting:

  • At the Baja Beach Club in Barcelona, patrons can buy drinks and open doors with a wave of their hand, compliments of a syringe-injected, RFID microchip implant. Getting "chipped" is considered a VIP service.
  • In Portugal, under a government initiative to control rabies, all two million dogs must be injected with radio tags and registered in a national database by 2007. The same technology has existed in the US for a decade.
  • In a bid to fight government corruption, Mexico's attorney general and several key staff members have had RFID chips implanted to support tracking and authentication.
  • Hospitals are using RFID bracelets to keep track of doctors, nurses and patients. The same technology is being used in prisons to track prisoners and in schools to track students and reduce administrative overhead.
While there are implications for this technology that truly disturb me, it's clear that pervasive computing is coming with or without our help. It can be designed well or poorly. It's our ethical responsibility to see that it's handled well.
I also am uncomfortable with this. Though I also remember being uncomfortable listening to reggae and the Sex Pistols in the late 70's, and then REM a few years later, yet these things (well OK maybe not the Sex Pistols) soon become mainstream and they no longer resemble a 'radical' idea. The problem with the mainstream is that it lacks hind sight. Equally problematic for the future is the lack of now-sight.

Scenario planning is by its nature an inexact process, and needs to be that way. Its exploratory amethods are what give it potential and usefulness. Invisioning the future and particularly being a futurist requires a challenge to our sensabilities. Otherwise it does not get published, talked about or even our attention. Few innovations are really radical.

Big ideas, in hind sight, seam to be very rare. Though the impact may in fact make it seem like a big idea. But then, I have been reading the rather sobering "Hard facts, Dangerous Half Truths and Total Nonsense."

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