These are published chapters from my book The real Internet of Things, published on January 1st, 2017.
The “Internet of Things” means many different things to many different people, so let’s start with what this book is and is not.
This book is not about the transient technical details that will inevitably transition over the next few years. It’s early, and there will be countless iterations and battles over standards.
What this book is about is an inevitable IoT that I believe isn’t just a technology upgrade, but a humanity upgrade.
There are three central themes throughout: prediction, interface, and evolution.
Prediction argues—against common opinion—that it is possible to see what technology will look like even decades into the future. It’s not that I can tell you all the forms water could take (that’s insanity), but what I can tell you is the shape of a pothole in a rainstorm.
Interface describes how our interactions with technology are about to become fundamentally less tech-centric and more natural and focused around the human.
Evolution discusses the discussed technologies’ ultimate form and function, its value to humans, and the effect it will have on society.
It’s a short book, made up of around twenty micro-chapters of one to three pages. Each one introduces a single, discrete concept and has a numbered summary that captures the key points.
You can easily read the whole thing in one session, and when you’re done I believe you’ll have a unique view into the inevitable intersection between technology and society.
I’m aware of the strength of that claim, so let’s get started.
Prediction and Trends
Before we discuss the main concepts, I want to call out a number of technological and civilizational trends that are useful to notice and observe. While the forces are somewhat independent, they often interact with one another, and when grouped together they can show us a great deal about where we’re going.
First, you might still be stuck on the massive claim made in the introduction.
Is this guy really so arrogant as to think he can predict technology decades into the future? Only geniuses and fools attempt this, and most who think they’re the former are actually the latter.
I hear you, and I agree. When I hear crazy long-term predictions I always think two things: either the prediction is going to be obvious, or it’s going to be wrong.
I think my approach is different in a subtle and powerful way. Rather than predicting the exact form, of the exact tech, in the exact order that it’ll emerge, I’m taking a reverse engineering approach.
Specifically, instead of starting with tech and seeing where it’s going, I’m starting with humans and what they seek, need, and desire. In other words, I think we can predict the future of technology through a strong understanding of what humans ultimately want as a species.
So if you want to know the shape of water—which can take any shape—your strongest play is to study the shape of the potholes (and other containers) it’ll end up in.
To that end, humans have always sought forms of the following:
- enjoying friends and family
- telling, or listening to, a great story
- falling into, and enjoying, romantic love
- having children and seeing them thrive
- creating useful and/or beautiful things
- becoming more socially influential
- receiving attention and praise from others
- becoming more powerful
These were fundamental human desires 100,000 years ago, and they remain so today. So that brings us this question:
How do we maximize these experiences and capabilities within us, both at an individual level and at the level of society?
Answering that question is the ultimate purpose for technology, and the following trends are some of the forms that this change will take.