A Time Before IoT and a Time After

The following text was born out of the frustration caused by overly simplistic and reductivist views about what the Internet-of-Things is and what it will become.

A hundred thousand years ago a technological innovation swooped through the earth. It was called IhV – Intrahuman Vocalisation. A sound based communication method between two or more people. A world of non-communicators transformed into something completely different.

The killer app of IhV was a thing called talking - an abstract protocol for creating symbolic, sound-based substitutions for real world objects as well as ideas. Using symbol vocalisations one could transfer thoughts, ideas and plans to other people over the air.

Many different implementations of talking were created around the world. Most of them had formed similar categories of the symbol vocalisations, words. Common categories included thing-words, that symbolise real world objects, doing-words that describe actions, and quality-words, that describe different attributes and properties of things and doings.

Many functional applications were built on top of the different talking protocol implementations. Low level applications enabled communicating and transferring mood states between people. Using different intonations, or styles of talking, users were able to easily convey such things as happiness, anger, frustration and many other mind states, or feelings, and in some cases feeling were fully transferred into other people.

Talking was also integrated with the playing of instruments. Small harmonic combinatory bursts of simultaneous instrument usage and melodic talking forms songs.

Higher level applications included things like teaching – systematic transfer of usable information from more experienced person to another, business – the barter of valuable objects or services to other valuable objects or services, and politics – rule systems created and enforced by influential individuals or communities.

Different kinds of middleware were created for better and more efficient use of talking related applications. Things like schools and universities were invented to better facilitate the usage of the varying teaching applications. Companies, stores, and exchanges were built to make business application usage more efficient. Cities, parties and other organisations were formed for political purposes.

Soon a closely related innovation, writing, came and revolutionised all talking related applications. Writing is a method of giving permanence to talks. Writing allowed one to transfer talks onto permanent media like rock or other non-volatile material, so previously said things could easily be recalled with full detail.

Of the many writing based applications, the most exiting was clearly the thing people called the contract. It is a formalised agreement between two or more parties, that can provide proof and verification of an agreement at a later point in time.

Revolutionary, say many.

Many writings try to categorise IoT into boxes that are already familiar to us. IoT is being looked at and analyzed like any piece of technology before it: How does it relate to existing things and ideas?

New kind of communication begets unpredictable things. It doesn't just enhance old ways of doing things, it actually creates a new kind of thoughts, ideas and actions. A new kind of world.

When things will be able to feel and to communicate, what does understanding mean in that context? What will be the teaching equivalent for an IoT object? What does a contract, an organisation or an ally mean to them? What about a friend?

What are the important things that lie beyond all the familiar consepts?

The fundamental questions is: What happens when communication starts to happen between objects that couldn't communicate before?

Cover image by JD Hancock