It’s not quite the Matrix as portrayed in the sci-fi flick, but it’s still a matrix of sorts. It’s the Internet, and it’s growing – not just from additional human users, but from the very machines we thought we controlled.
Where before, Internet growth came from our mobile devices, people are no longer the primary users of the Internet; things are – one billion of them in 2013, estimated to rise to 27 billion by 2020. Our Internet has become the “Thingternet.”
Just the sheer scale of technology connected to the Internet far surpasses a layman’s understanding. As a recent article in the Economist point out: things now connected to the Internet include “everyday objects – cars, household appliances, food, clothing, pets, medical implants, tools and toys.” These are connected with “smart chips capable of sensing and sharing information about themselves and their surroundings.” The mind boggles.
To many, the Thingternet is an exciting development that has been predicted practically since the Internet was born. As Jonathan Peachey posted in a blog devoted to “random thoughts on the Internet of things” (http://thingternet.tumblr.com/): “Thingternet is about how the world is connecting itself together, one appliance at a time.”
But as even its enthusiasts admit, this transformation to an Internet of things raises new issues: As the Economist notes, the “concern is that it could overwhelm society before the appropriate safeguards have been put in place…issues such as privacy, safety, ethics, and governance are only just beginning to be discussed.”