The internet of everything
Part 4: Everything connected
“I’m going offline”, means something like, “I put my smartphone away, do not disturb me. I’m running through the forest now”.
In practice, it’s hard to really go offline. There is some kind of invisible wire which keeps us connected to the internet. Especially in the last years we found it harder and harder to put our smartphone away. When we drink in a bar we still check WhatsApp, Instagram or Facebook. When we run we hear Fitbit say we run another mile. At home, we check Facebook again.
More and more things in our lives are connected with the internet. We shop (Amazon), watch video’s (Netflix) or order a Taxi (Uber). All online. There are now emerging technologies like the internet of things (IOT), artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) which make the distinction between offline and online vaguer than ever. Actually so blurred that the line between us and the internet disappears. We become part of the internet and the internet becomes part of us.
Why is internet the most profound invention of all time
In 2015 a gamer didn’t leave his house for over a year. Ordering everything online and playing games all day. It becomes easier and easier to use the internet and never leave your house again. 5 years ago this was still strange or regarded as an accomplishment, with the Covid-19 lockdown this is for a lot of people on this earth a daily reality.
Managing everything from one place feels like a biblical miracle. Jesus and walked on water and turned water into wine. We order water and wine with a click. We can also talk in real time with family on the other side of this planet. I didn’t read a thing about that in the Bible.
The gamer talked from his home to a news reporter on another continent. The reporter wrote a blog that anyone in the world can read. So the internet is not just about buying things, but most of all about sharing information and global communication.
This network of networks is so profound that it affects the individual all the way to a global level. From reading news to shopping, from work to managing your bank account. In times of lockdowns, being always online doesn’t seem to be so special anymore. It’s easy to forget the impact of the internet.
The internet of things
Originally the internet is a network of computers. This is still the case, but now also things are added to this network. What is the internet of things all about? Most know the term IOT, but the term is somewhat misleading:
- Is the internet of things separated from the normal internet?
- Does it mean that the internet goes beyond computers?
- Do things find a magic way to connect to the internet?
The answer to all three questions is ‘no’. It’s more about that not only computers were added with a chip to go online, but other things as well.
Just putting a chip inside a thing doesn’t do a lot. I can take a chip out of my computer and put it in my bed, but my bed doesn’t automagically connect to the internet. And even if it did what information is exchanged?
Most IOT chips are accompanied by sensors and a (wireless) connection. The sensors gather data, the chips process the data and the connection is being sent to the internet. In this way the object is digitally enhanced so that it becomes part of the internet. The chips developed for this purpose have become smaller and more powerful over the years. So now a speaker in your home is part of the internet, or your doorbell, the thermostat and your car. For a million things there are a million use cases.
VR and AI
The question beyond IOT is: Why only connect things? Why not connect life? The internet of life.
This trend is slowly becoming a reality, but it goes so naturally that we are almost not aware of it. There is still the idea that we can ‘unplug’. That we can go offline and forget about the internet. Actually in the early years of the web this was easy, but now we are communicating with friends, social media, and we work remote. Going offline gets harder and harder. We are caught on the web.
But also the line between the internet as a digital world and our physical world starts to fade. Not just because the internet of things, but because the connection doesn’t stop at things. Think for example of fitness trackers, connected health trackers or digital pacemakers.
Then there are other devices like smartwatches that track our health and our sleeping rhythm. There are also smart clothes, smart glasses and of course the smartphone which brings the internet always close to our body.
The next step is a chip inside us. Some people are already enhanced with a chip under their skin. They can unlock their front door for example. Not really what we would call ‘connected’. Thinking of chips we think more of companies like Neuralink. This company from Elon Musk which want to create a brain-machine interface by planting a chip inside of people’s brain.
Chips by themselves are not that special. Say there is chip planted inside your brain with which you can calculate very fast. A calculator inside your head. This may go faster than typing, but it is not groundbreaking. We may also use this chip for typing with our brains, instead of our hands. All of these things are just tasks, we already use external devices for.
What when these brain chips aren’t just used for tasks, but to connect us with the internet? When information on the internet is just another thought. When we can surf the internet with our minds. For example when we talk to a foreigner we use an AI website to translate it. So in our head we talk in English, but are colleague in China hears Mandarin. And we even didn’t say anything aloud.
How far are we from the Matrix?
In this future our thoughts aren’t limited to our brains anymore. They can move outside our body and live online where they are enriched before moving back into our body.
In the Matrix there is this image of bodies that are lifeless attached to a machine. The body is in the physical world and their thoughts are in the digital world. The Matrix. This is actually a strange picture of how mind, body and the digital world are connected.
In the real life there is and will be no such a distinction. We walk on earth and we surf the internet. Without external devices we do digital actions the same way as moving our feet. We would internalize the Matrix without being attached to a machine.
This Matrix is not a special world, but just the internet.
The digital world inside our bodies doesn’t need to be implanted as a metal foreign body. There can be bio chips that blend naturally without bodies and our bodies can be genetically modified by a gene editing tool like CRISPR to better fit this technology.
In this world, when we surf the internet with our minds, it doesn’t mean we surf a sea of 0's and 1’s. That we are caught up in a textual 2d world. With the help of virtual reality digital spaces are created on the internet. In our minds we are in specific room. This is what I call InterVR.
InterVR: How will the internet in VR look like?
Almost every kid has a mobile phone these days. Driving their parents mad, and the kids think that the little thing in…
Now we still use headsets to explore virtual spaces, but one day we just use chips in our mind. Exploring space with a resolution the same as our everyday world.
The internet of everything
Everything in the universe is connected. From particles smaller than atoms to the biggest galaxies. Physicists try to unify both worlds in the so-called theory of everything. A theory that fully explains and links together all physical aspects of the universe.
In our digital age everything is becoming connected through the internet. It doesn’t matter what technology it is, they all develop into the same direction. Computers, things and life. All become part of the internet. The internet of everything.