"Nothing Is Off-Limits": The Hidden Cost Of The So-Called IoT
We’re Stuck In A Digital Box With No Escape And That Box Is Getting Smaller
Technology is part and parcel of living in today’s modern age. Wherever you go, no matter what you’re doing, it’s impossible to get away from technology. From the GPS in your car to the smartphone you use to watch videos and check your work emails, technology is indispensable.
We’re stuck in a digital box with no escape, and that box is getting smaller and smaller, with the advent of always-online internet-connected devices that are part of the so-called ‘Internet of Things’.
The Internet of Things offers the promise of convenience at a low, corporate-subsidised price tag for a high-quality product that does what you need it to do. You don’t even own it. As the World Economic Forum says, “You will own nothing, and you will be happy.”
However, it comes with a hidden cost.
This digital reality in which we live provides corporations with all-new ways to monetise our existence. Your life, experiences, and habits are for sale. Everything you do is tracked, nothing is off-limits.
How many times you open your fridge. How many times a week you wash your clothes. How often you sip your drink. It’s all for sale. Corporations are selling that information, and governments are buying it.
As mundane as it seems, it’s in the interest of every marketer to want to know what your habits are. Nestlé wants to know how many scoops of sugar you put in your cup of coffee, how much milk you put in it, and how many times a day you drink it.
Businesses sell you products they know you’ll want to buy through targeted ads – and then some.
Corporations will argue that it helps them to make better products – and that may be so – but the one-size-fits-all approach distills every unique experience into something generic. A cup of Nescafé, while decent, will never taste quite as good as your personal cup of coffee.
You are for sale, whether you like it or not.
Security and privacy are sacred, but the Internet of Things deprives us of our most intimate human experiences. To be part of this new digital reality, we end up sacrificing what little privacy we have left for ourselves without even realising what we’re giving up.
There is no ‘off’ switch or opting out unless you want to live as a pariah in the wildernessWith the ever-prevailing claws of the IoT encroaching into our daily lives, it’s impossible to escape. There is no ‘off’ switch or opting out unless you want to live as a pariah in the wilderness – as Henry David Thoreau did in Walden.
The United Kingdom is now set to launch a social credit program to tackle the country’s obesity crisis. This program, which is modelled on a similar scheme in Singapore, calls on citizens to install an app that tracks the dietary habits and physical activity of those who choose to opt-in.
In return, the high-performing users are rewarded with ‘loyalty points’ to be exchanged for discounts, free tickets, and other incentives – all subsidised by the taxpayer, of course. Based on some cost-benefit analysis, the economists behind the strategy figured out that it’s cheaper to train people’s behaviour than it is to treat them after they get sick and depend on the socialised National Health Service to take care of them.
Either way, it’s behavioural conditioning. Such systems, which operate on information provided by the Internet of Things, allow coercive governmental and corporate forces to run massive, country-sized Skinner boxes and silently dictate the behaviour of every individual through a system of rewards and punishment.
What may seem like an opt-in program that rewards people for exercising and buying healthy foods is in fact a punishment for doing the opposite. That one time you sneaked a bite of a donut? That’s your extra allowance for the week gone.
None of this would have ever been possible were it not for the ubiquity of the Internet of Things.
The world’s governments, for all their good intentions of behaving like nanny states, don’t always have anyone’s interests at heart. After all, the food pyramid was a lie. Corn is bad for you. Can you really trust the government to dictate what’s best for you?
Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, infamously described this digital reality as the “technological society” to which we are enslaved. In his so-called manifesto, the ‘Industrial Society and Its Future’, Kaczynski warned of the next (and now ongoing) Industrial Revolution and its consequences on the human race.
Although it’s impossible to justify his acts of terrorism upon private citizens and institutions alike, Kaczynski’s fears are being proven right with every step of the way we take on the road to glorious technological connectivity.