Questions for IoT

21/10/2014 - 09:50
The Internet of Things (IoT) is arriving with startling promises of pervasive and endless connectivity and automation. It envisions a new kind of global physical, digital and virtual infrastructure of devices and entities, which will manage everything for us and also through us, from energy grids and traffic, to medical and financial decision-making processes, to the very texture and nature of our daily life.
The instrumented, interconnected and intelligent IoT scenarios introduce new forms of mediation with ourselves, with others and with our surrounding environments. Our ‘smart things’ are disrupting and will deeply re-define our ways of living, interacting and learning, and accordingly, our notion of what is to be human.

The disembodiment of experience, rationality and agency poses fundamental challenges about the shift of autonomy to the things we interact with and through, such as the degree of operationalization of social and decision-making skills, the transformation of our capacity to choose alternative paths and to adapt to the (unpredictable) unexpected, or the dependency on implicit and undiscussed values embedded in our devices. Some paradoxes are already visible. The very same IoT technologies invoked to fix our problems increase exponentially the level of complexity they are supposed to manage, and the only conceivable solution is to continue to technically optimise our lives.

The promises of improved governance are paradoxically counteracted by forms of digital divides, where those who are knowledgeable, skilled and empowered enough to understand and influence the working of technology will have an advantage over a majority others.

We would like to start an open-ended discussion on the underlying aims of IoT and to explore its societal and ethical challenges, by presenting the following questions:

-           Q0: What is your definition of IoT?

-           Q1: Why do we need IoT?

-           Q2: Who is going to benefit from it?

-           Q3: Who decided that we need it and why?

-           Q4: Are there ways to opt-out?

-           Q5:  What can we expect from open/DIY trends in IoT?

-           Q6: Can we reasonably translate our experiences and emotions into algorithms?

-           Q7: As technology gets smarter, will our abilities to think, feel and act be affected?

-           Q8: What decisions can or cannot be delegated to smart things?

-           Q9: More information equals more knowledge and empowerment?

-           Q10: Whose values and norms are embedded in our devices?

-           Q11: By what values will we relate to each other as we become things in the IoT?

-           Q12: Will IoT applications enhance existing or emerging social disparities and divides?

-           Q13:  What do I want by design and by default?

-           Q14: Who will govern IoT?

-           Q15: Will there be sufficient powers for regulatory authorities to effectively counter-balance large corporations who wish to develop IoT?

-           Q16: How should we manage the work on smart cities, especially through the deployment of large-scale IoT pilots, to help ensure that values and norms embedded in the smart connected devices will truly and fairly reflect the needs, expectations, concerns and priorities of citizens?

-           Q 17: How will the IoT evolve under the combined pressure of nano- and bio-technology, Big Data and Cloud?
-           Q 18: Is the IoT likely to contribute to the development of a global ambient hyper-connected super-intelligent system where technology and humans/communities/societies interconnect and integrate? (reference to "biot", "Singularity" and similar concepts) 

Every week we will launch a question on the Council's Linked in Group 'The Internet of Things'. We will also set up Twitter debates weekly. We will kick off Questions for IoT November 3 and present the results on the Global IoT Day, April 9, started by Council and hosted for the third year in a row by Council and Postscapes.

The results will also give input for building citizen-centric services in the Smart City Project and AC8 - Societal Impact and Responsibility in the Context of IoT Applications of the European Internet of Things Research Cluster

This discussion was started by Angela Pereira and Susana Nascimento. They framed the context and the questions. Alex Bassi added Q0. Q 16-18 are provided by Gérald Santucci.