We’ve looked a bit at the nature of the Internet of Things. We’ve talked about the benefits that it could have, such as self-driving cars, and the pitfalls, such as poor security. The real question is what its future looks like. So let’s look there.
For the next few years, IoT devices will largely be relegated to the rich and nearly rich. They are going to remain expensive and their benefits won’t be enough to justify the price. But they will begin to get more and more popular. They will trickle down to lower and lower income levels. So how will we respond? This gets trickier when you realize that these changes won’t happen in a vaccuum. Recessions are a normal part of our economic history, so they will probably continue. A major recession, or possibly even a depression, is a very real possibility too. In addition to that, people tend to be contrarians, also known as trolls, who will reflexively revolt against any change at all. And let’s not ignore potential environmental disasters in the form of climate change, and local spills and accidents. Taken together, you can start to get a picture of what our future will look like.
It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if we began to see a movement, disjointed and random but a movement nonetheless, to a more agrarian way of life. I don’t necessarily mean we’ll all be farmers, but we may want lives less global and connected. We may flee to the woods or mountains, rely on nearby farmers for food, and local options for entertainment. This may be balanced against tech utopia/dystopias. Guys like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and the people working for them will be trying to build technological wonders and put colonies on Mars, while the other end of the spectrum will be trying to figure out how to get Netflix without requiring a TV that doubles as a listening device for your house. And the rest of us will be somewhere in the middle. Embracing some new technologies and rejecting others to some degree.
In other words, we can expect the IoT to contribute to the continued polarization of our society. It will be a continuation of trends that started decades ago, with an important catch. Generally, when people react against change it is purely to break things down. But if the motivation is to build a more positive agrarian lifestyle, then it is about building up as much as tearing down. Ditto for those trying to build a world based on connected technology. It is less about destroying and more about creating.
The polarization of our world has been a destructive process in many ways. There is a chance that the IoT will help bring a world where it is more positive. I’m an eternal optimist. I see reason to be positive