You've heard the term and probably read stories about smart homes and devices that communicate with each other. But what makes it all connect? There is no agreed-upon definitive definition, but there is a test for determining whether something is part of the Internet of things (IoT): There are lots of questions about IoT. -- Does one vendor's product work with another's? Does a door lock by one vendor communicate with a light switch by another vendor, and do you want the thermostat to be part of the conversation?

One thing is for sure, the Internet of Things is here -- at least the beginnings are.  Several of today’s Enterprise Software Developers are taking a close look at the issues surrounding “The Internet of Things.” They have questions like, “Will it free up human potential? Will everyone share in its benefits, or just those who capitalize on it?” These are the types of issues that may be raised at the Philosophy of the Internet of Things conference in July at York St. John University in the U.K. Beginning July 3, this may be the first such conference organized around this topic. One of its organizers, Justin McKeown, head of the program for Fine Art and Computer Science at York St. John, explained some of the issues in an interview conducted via email. Computer science and fine art are separate programs, but the university has introduced mandatory computer programming classes for all first year fine arts students with the "aim to produce creative and innovative individuals who are able to affect and adapt to changes".

What makes the Internet of Things important enough to warrant such a conference?  The conference was prompted by the shared understanding between co-organizers -- Joachim Walewksi and Rob Van Kranenburg -- that the Internet of things is not only a technological revolution, but also social revolution. Yet its  technological development is being spurred on primarily by business and commerce concerns. We need to think about the social aspects of the technology, as well. Just because we can build something doesn't necessarily mean we should.

Is this increasing automation freeing up human potential? Is there a downside risk that it could diminish human potential? This is a question Plant-wide thinks about a lot. If we look at the first industrial revolution, we see that it did free up human beings by relieving many of them of the burden of their jobs, through mechanization. While it freed humans up, it didn't relieve the economic problems brought about by lack of income caused by lack of work. So in the short-term, based on prior historical evidence, it's not guaranteed that this will free up all human potential. However, if we reflect on the long-term benefits of the first industrial revolution, we can see that it did eventually take us to a place where human potential was free enough to engage in other things. Hence the need to start thinking about the philosophical implications IoT is now.  This is exactly the type of thinking that needs to happen so that the  IoT benefits the maximum number of people and not just those  smart enough to capitalize on a disruptive technology.

Posted by dbrody