In 1943, a scientist named Albert Hoffman started experimenting with a fungus which grew on diseased rye. He extracted a chemical from this fungus which accidentally touched his skin, thus getting absorbed into his body. Little did he know that he had stumbled upon one of the most powerful psychedelic substances of our time, LSD. They say LSD opens up a completely new version of reality to the person who consumes it, a reality where everything speaks to you or abounds in life. When he reached home, he saw that simple objects like a chair were reverberating with life and actually reacting as if it had a consciousness of its own. There have been several instances of these type of hallucinations where seemingly dull and everyday commonplace objects seem to take on immense lifelike qualities which makes them seem as much alive as we are. Sounds like some crazy hallucinations doesn’t it? Well, what if I told you that you may not need to take LSD to realize how alive the things around us are!
Enter into the world of the Internet of Things or IOT. This concept essentially involves tapping into each and every inanimate object around us and connecting it to the 4000 exabytes worth cloud of information, which is the World Wide Web that we use. In other words, this concept is actually a reality in today’s world as appliances such as your smartphones and your computers are connected to this collective information storage and exchange system that is the Internet. But imagine if appliances such as your fridge, your chair, and even your blanket are connected to the Internet and can be upgraded as well as embedded with any kind of software that has been created and uploaded into the Internet. Moreover, imagine a world where the roads around you, as well as the buildings that you reside in, are all connected to the immense bouts of information that is present on the Internet! This would mean that every single inanimate object around is imbued with a consciousness of its own!
So what would the implications of this immense revolution in the realm of artificial consciousness be like? Well, there are so many aspects of this technology being developed and prototypes being created such that science fiction may seem to be as real as reality can get. What scientists are basically trying to do with the concept of the Internet of Things is first, giving an identity to every single appliance or inanimate object around us. The second step would involve giving them “senses” in the form of thermal, pressure and chemical-based sensors which help these objects to assimilate information about their immediate surroundings. The third aspect of this concept would involve making these inanimate objects use their sensors as well as the inherent identity that they have been given in order to interact with their environment, which essentially includes connecting with other appliances as well as us humans.
Tripped Out Fact: Scientists like Rodolphe el-Khoury have created prototypes of immensely advanced appliances which have a consciousness of their own and are designed to cater to the needs of the humans who use them. For instance, they have created a blanket named Im Blanky, which has in-built sensors in order to understand your sleeping postures as well as your sleeping schedule and even monitors the vital stats of the individual, wherein it can directly alert authorities in case of any medical emergency. Moreover, it would be connected to other appliances as well, such as the curtains in the house, which would invariably open at specific times according to your sleeping schedule, acting as a kind of natural alarm system.
The Internet of Things would essentially make numerous previously unimaginable things possible. For instance, there would be roads fitted with sensors which can detect accidents. As soon as an accident occurs, the road would send messages to the nearest medical as well as police authorities depending on the scale of the accident. Moreover, it would also directly send messages to any registered medical professional who might be in the vicinity of the incident, thereby ensuring swift action. The Internet of Things can also be intricately designed in such a way so as to integrate it in a harmonious way with nature. For example, the huge crevices and spaces in the skyscrapers could be utilized to grow algae which would help in purifying the air within the building. Moreover, the tiles and the ceilings of buildings could be fitted with vines and creepers, whose growth and maintenance would be digitally monitored by the building materials themselves.
Even though these innovations seem out of this world, we are closer to them than we think. As of this year, there have been several technological appliances which have already been connected to the Internet of Things, such as refrigerators, security cameras, and even baby monitors. These refrigerators alert you when there is a shortage of food and even have the ability to order food for you, completely independent of actual commands which need to be given to them like the robots of yore. This essentially means that the Internet of Things opens up an avenue where every single appliance as well as inanimate object around us, is connected to each other, hence forming a fully sustainable ecosystem amongst themselves. These appliances would be able to communicate with each other and tailor a reality for us in order to help us live more convenient as well as connected lives. In the near future, we as individuals would also be directly connected to the immense cloud of information, thereby ensuring a deep-seated connectivity with the appliances as well as the myriad inanimate objects around us. That would be a scenario worth visualizing!
On the other hand, the Internet of Things does raise several questions as well as doubts. Amidst several attempts to ensure that a proper security system is put in place for the concept as a whole, there have been several loopholes discovered in the system. For instance, now every single appliance around us would be prone to attacks from hackers. Imagine if someone hacks into the system of roadways and traffic lights in a city. The individual would essential have access to the lives of hundreds of people, with whom he can play around and even cause immense damage.
Tripped Out Fact: Recently, an individual hacked into the baby monitor of a particular house and actually started to taunt the child with comments in the middle of the night. He also gained access to the night-vision camera in the child’s room. Once the child complained to his parents that there was someone talking to him at night, parents suspected evil spirits, which later turned out to be a hacker who wanted to have some demented fun with a child.
These instances prove that there are several considerations to be made before we take the leap of faith into the concept of the Internet of Things. This leap of faith may even turn out to be a fall from grace for humanity if we do not calculate the odds of ensuring safety as well as sustainability in an ecosystem where everyone and everything is connected with each other. On the other hand, maybe it’s time that we humans first learned how to live in harmony and connectedness with each other and developed a sustainable ecosystem amongst us. That would be the first step in realizing this dream to its full potential!