The Internet of Things Will Be the World's Biggest Robot

The Internet of Things is the name given to the computerization of everything in our lives. Already you can buy Internet-enabled thermostats, light bulbs, refrigerators, and cars. Soon everything will be on the Internet: the things we own, the things we interact with in public, autonomous things that interact with each other.

These "things" will have two separate parts. One part will be sensors that collect data about us and our environment. Already our smartphones know our location and, with their onboard accelerometers, track our movements. Things like our thermostats and light bulbs will know who is in the room. Internet-enabled street and highway sensors will know how many people are out and about­ -- and eventually who they are. Sensors will collect environmental data from all over the world.

The other part will be actuators. They'll affect our environment. Our smart thermostats aren't collecting information about ambient temperature and who's in the room for nothing; they set the temperature accordingly. Phones already know our location, and send that information back to Google Maps and Waze to determine where traffic congestion is; when they're linked to driverless cars, they'll automatically route us around that congestion. Amazon already wants autonomous drones to deliver packages. The Internet of Things will increasingly perform actions for us and in our name.

Increasingly, human intervention will be unnecessary. The sensors will collect data. The system's smarts will interpret the data and figure out what to do. And the actuators will do things in our world. You can think of the sensors as the eyes and ears of the Internet, the actuators as the hands and feet of the Internet, and the stuff in the middle as the brain. This makes the future clearer. The Internet now senses, thinks, and acts.

We're building a world-sized robot, and we don't even realize it.

I've started calling this robot the World-Sized Web.

The World-Sized Web -- can I call it WSW? -- is more than just the Internet of Things. Much of the WSW's brains will be in the cloud, on servers connected via cellular, Wi-Fi, or short-range data networks. It's mobile, of course, because many of these things will move around with us, like our smartphones. And it's persistent. You might be able to turn off small pieces of it here and there, but in the main the WSW will always be on, and always be there.

None of these technologies are new, but they're all becoming more prevalent. I believe that we're at the brink of a phase change around information and networks. The difference in degree will become a difference in kind. That's the robot that is the WSW.

This robot will increasingly be autonomous, at first simply and increasingly using the capabilities of artificial intelligence. Drones with sensors will fly to places that the WSW needs to collect data. Vehicles with actuators will drive to places that the WSW needs to affect. Other parts of the robots will "decide" where to go, what data to collect, and what to do.

We're already seeing this kind of thing in warfare; drones are surveilling the battlefield and firing weapons at targets. Humans are still in the loop, but how long will that last? And when both the data collection and resultant actions are more benign than a missile strike, autonomy will be an easier sell.

By and large, the WSW will be a benign robot. It will collect data and do things in our interests; that's why we're building it. But it will change our society in ways we can't predict, some of them good and some of them bad. It will maximize profits for the people who control the components. It will enable totalitarian governments. It will empower criminals and hackers in new and different ways. It will cause power balances to shift and societies to change.

These changes are inherently unpredictable, because they're based on the emergent properties of these new technologies interacting with each other, us, and the world. In general, it's easy to predict technological changes due to scientific advances, but much harder to predict social changes due to those technological changes. For example, it was easy to predict that better engines would mean that cars could go faster. It was much harder to predict that the result would be a demographic shift into suburbs. Driverless cars and smart roads will again transform our cities in new ways, as will autonomous drones, cheap and ubiquitous environmental sensors, and a network that can anticipate our needs.

Maybe the WSW is more like an organism. It won't have a single mind. Parts of it will be controlled by large corporations and governments. Small parts of it will be controlled by us. But writ large its behavior will be unpredictable, the result of millions of tiny goals and billions of interactions between parts of itself.

We need to start thinking seriously about our new world-spanning robot. The market will not sort this out all by itself. By nature, it is short-term and profit-motivated­ -- and these issues require broader thinking. University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo has proposed a Federal Robotics Commission as a place where robotics expertise and advice can be centralized within the government. Japan and Korea are already moving in this direction.

Speaking as someone with a healthy skepticism for another government agency, I think we need to go further. We need to create agency, a Department of Technology Policy, that can deal with the WSW in all its complexities. It needs the power to aggregate expertise and advice other agencies, and probably the authority to regulate when appropriate. We can argue the details, but there is no existing government entity that has the either the expertise or authority to tackle something this broad and far reaching. And the question is not about whether government will start regulating these technologies, it's about how smart they'll be when they do it.

The WSW is being built right now, without anyone noticing, and it'll be here before we know it. Whatever changes it means for society, we don't want it to take us by surprise.

This essay originally appeared on, which annoyingly blocks browsers using ad blockers.

EDITED TO ADD: Kevin Kelly has also thought along these lines, calling the robot "Holos."

EDITED TO ADD: Commentary.

EDITED TO ADD: This essay has been translated into Hebrew.

Posted on February 4, 2016 at 6:18 AM • 49 Comments


{ continue; }February 4, 2016 8:30 AM

Intriguing, especially the aspect of emergence. Is anyone at the Santa Fe Institute exploring this? Very interesting.

jay busariFebruary 4, 2016 8:34 AM

Big Govt vs Small Govt another field where people with little incentive to perform, are expected to vigilantly audit and enforce compliance to "well intentioned laws".

Precedents are plenty... Federal Reserve Bank, FDA, EPA.

I totally agree that we should pursue those goals...but we need to channel incentives and motivation more effectively, then we can have effective governance and oversight.

Cata LinFebruary 4, 2016 8:40 AM

I read initially "The Internet of Things Will Be the Worst Biggest Robot" :) which may be the case for humanity if IoT will take away from us most of the act of thinking

FoLIFebruary 4, 2016 8:55 AM

@Bruce: "University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo has proposed a
Federal Robotics Commission as a place where robotics expertise and advice can
be centralized within the government."

Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Jaan Tallinn, and others have two years ago created
The Future of Life institute ; its aim is to
"minimize risks" of "future strong artificial intelligence."

They predict the appartion of a superintelligent systems that would "be very
effective at acquiring" "control of physical resources".

Think of a virus-based sickness of the organism you named "World-Sized Web",
with sufficient distributed intelligence to find vulnerabilities in the
uncontaminated parts of that organism.

Scary, huh ?

CallMeLateForSupperFebruary 4, 2016 8:58 AM

"This essay originally appeared on, which annoyingly blocks browsers using ad blockers."

Probably. It certainly expects JavaScript to be enabled. NoScript told me the following when I clicked on the link:

"Forbes image". Humpf!

JavaScript: the dandy little tool that "lets" any poor schmuck shoot herself in the head.

albertFebruary 4, 2016 11:25 AM

Corporatocractic Advertising tells us what we 'want', then it becomes a 'need'. Do ioT light bulbs satisfy a social need? Aside from increasing corporate profits, no. Are ioT appliances necessary? They are fads. There is no reason for Internet connectivity in appliances, except data mining and the subsequent monetization thereof.

There have been long discussions on Driverless Vehicles, but let's consider what we have now: Internet-connected cars. For example, anyone with a car that can park itself, must also consider that someone else can also park it. Self-parking cars eliminate the need for folks to learn how to park. Self-driving cars will eliminate the need for folks to learn how to drive.

Regarding sensors, what happens when sensors fail? When the air-speed sensors failed on Air France Flight 447, it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. (the incident was correctly attributed to pilot error, only because they didn't know what was happening, that is, corrective action was possible, but not taken) I attribute the root cause to be failure of the designers to handle the possibility of all three sensors failing simultaneously). The Washington Metro 2009 crash was caused by a failed track sensor, and despite operator action.

Anyone who thinks that the makers of automated systems are seriously designing for safety and security is living in a dream world. They can't design safe multi-billion dollar nuclear plants, so what chance do we have with autos, or refrigerators?

"...the WSW will be a benign robot..," No, it will never be benign. It will be abused by corporations and governments. It will be the biggest single-point-of-failure system ever built.

"...We need to create agency, a Department of Technology Policy, that can deal with the WSW in all its complexities..." No, the last F@#$%^& thing we need is another gov't agency. @Bruce, whom are you speaking for? The only gov't agency I know that's worth a dam is the NTSB, and that's only because it's toothless. I'm surprised (but happy) it still exists. The rest are merely extensions of the Corporatocracy.

Regarding autonomous battlefield drones: Safety will be a lip-service issue. Last I checked, collateral damage and friendly fire don't seem to be major issues in most countries geopolitical strategies. Certainly not in the US, where most drone strikes have civilian casualties, and they are operated by -people-. This is one case I agree with. Autonomous drones would work just as well.

That xkcd blurb has many factual errors, and is already out of date. Of course, Internet 'authors' can't sign or date a piece unless it's done automatically for them.

What is this 'superintelligence' stuff? It sounds like a load of futuristic BS. Does anyone question if intelligence exists in any mechanical system? Do folks agree on a definition of intelligence? If 'superintelligent' systems are designed by humans, then they will fail like humans. They will certainly be abused by humans. Real futurists know that it we don't fix our problems (including out-of-control technology) now, there won't be a future for humanity. Then robotic control of the world will be a moot point, and who knows, maybe they could do better.

. .. . .. --- ....

X-RayFebruary 4, 2016 12:56 PM

Daemon series (Daemon and FreedomTM ) by Daniel Suarez is very good on this:

But, as one poster mentioned, "skynet", and another poster EM Forster, we could go on and on with these depictions, because it is near ubiquitous these days. You have so many deviations, across a vast number of shows. Sometimes, just bits and pieces, sometimes, it is central to the plot.

"Person of Interest" has been a very good adult show these past few years, which envision an AI machine that lives through the IoT.

Some speak of drugs as a best friend, and "the internet" is a lot of people's best friend, already. What is that? A collective yet singular being of sorts, and which certainly includes everything from forums posts, social media, shopping, video, books...

Bonded to the machine as if a spouse or sibling or child. Yet, ultimately, what are the true components of the machine? The stuff of human beings. Not their flesh, certainly, except in distant reflections, but the stuff of their inner self. Emotions and intellect. Dreams and fears. Comedy and tragic irony.

We power today's machine. And however tomorrow's machine may be alive, it is already alive today, by our breath, our blood, and our sweat and tears.

Our own imaginations make this alive in our minds.

Even touch is coming, and to some degree, already here. If that is a good thing. One can note that people who do not have the sense of smell tend to have no sex drive. There is something sophisticated in our physical forms which does transcend our capacity to relate.

And just as we relate with others, effectively, in their various forms online: from ghosts typing away at keyboards on simplistic forums like this one, to video sexting, to hyperrealistic video gaming avatars... so too do we represent our own selves in so many disassociated forms away from our "real" physical form. (Or, is it true, that real beauty and the real person is who someone is inside? I think so.)

But, there are core "individuality" and "unity" concepts here, in all of this, whatever direction AI goes. And we see this already. At least, anyway, in our politics, and religious or similar beliefs, and certainly in our fiction... where dreams and nightmares often convey the encoded understandings of that part of our minds which is not so fettered with social needs and desires, nor everyday self-delusions.

Such as "who one is", really being "who one thinks one is".

Stories from the Human Kernel.

The Borg, the Cybermen, the Daleks, Skynet, the encroaching Singularity... The Corporations, The Government... Us vs Them... war versus unity. :-)

It all has very apocalyptic undertones. People being replaced right beside others. People suddenly so badly wanting to join, they are banging on that door, finding their spouses and siblings and friends gone, somewhere else, someone else. Wailing in the darkness of their discontent. Shunned from the light.

A kingdom around and amongst them which came from the sky without their knowing. Where there is no marriage, such is the power of unity, nor even thought of it...

The horrible, evil cyborg, the runaway AI. They never die, they have intelligence and strength and beauty without limit. Practically. A better you. A better them. Yet, the "uncanny valley", and the horror and fear of becoming one of them, losing your sense of self. Spiritual death. Spiritual marriage, where you are not the husband. But, a tentacle of a vast, singular being.

For those not "online", or minimally so, what are they missing out on? Join the machine...

Everyone is happy online. Everyone is there. Hearts are shared and broken and joyed.

Sense of self... transformed.

David DaysFebruary 4, 2016 1:28 PM

If you follow the WSW model, I would tend to think of the result trending more toward living in the body of WSW rather than living with WSW as a fellow traveler (or opponent/companion/etc). Or, to take a less fanciful description, it would be an ecology of two "superorganisms"--humanity and technology.

The reason I go down this road is that, in the short term, WSW would be a lot of loosely interconnected sub-organs, just like in individual humans. You don't spend a lot of time thinking about your spleen function; it just works. But it's right next to a big colony of bacteria in your gut, which are not technically part of what we call "human" but certainly interact with the overall body.

When both sides of the body/bacteria group carry along on their merry way, life is good. But individual bacteria types are opportunistic (try to push aside other types), and humans may unintentionally change the balance by drastically altering their diet or taking some antibiotics (say, for a sinus infection) that alter the balance. Then the interaction gets..."messy."

In the short term, then, the problems under either model (ecology or symbiotic biology) are that individual members of the human team will try to turn the knobs on the other side.

AnaghaFebruary 4, 2016 1:41 PM

It's a good article. But the solution to the problem, is to avoid it.
One thing: You don't have to exploit technology to the extent that it becomes a threat for you. You don’t have to be a part of the Robot if you don’t want to. That simple! If people are so lazy and irresponsible, that they need remote controlled sensors to turn off switches in their homes, well, there are going to be disadvantages of using that technology as well, like simply doing a google search. There's no way you can predict whether your information is getting intercepted somewhere and leaked. But most people are willing to take the risk, because obviously it empowers you with quick and easy information.
Just like you don’t have to log in everywhere using your account, or take advantage of the SSO. That’s riskier than creating a separate account for each site.

As for drones, they are a completely different nuisance. I would count drones as a special type of small vehicle, so there need to be new urgent laws in place for drones, which I believe some States in US have already implemented.

Joe PitkinFebruary 4, 2016 1:41 PM

Kind of scary, kind of exhilarating.

"In general, it's easy to predict technological changes due to scientific advances, but much harder to predict social changes due to those technological changes." That reminds me of Frederik Pohl's quote “A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.” Perhaps there are artists we may look to for guidance?

X-RayFebruary 4, 2016 3:50 PM

@Joe Pitkin

Cory Doctorow has a very fascinating view of the future, he presents in the Rapture of the Nerds.

One thing which fascinates me about today, is how just so little has changed, really. We do not have flying cars, today looks very little like how it was predicted in Back to the Future II and so many other movies. Many of the houses, streets, inside the houses, look very much the same as the 80s. 90s. So actually few differences going back even to the sixties or fifties, yet contrast the first of the last century with the decades yet to come...

The cars are shinier today. Small differences crop up. No more video rental stores. Smart phones are ubiquitous. And that is where so much of the vast change really is, between today and, say, the early 90s. What is in those computers, and what is in those phones.

Excise faddish clothing of the time, and so much stays the same.

Changes can be incremental, yet vast. And the biggest ones are not readily easy to see.

Many changes predicted and relied on never happened. And many changes not so well seen did.

JdLFebruary 4, 2016 5:46 PM

Soon everything will be on the Internet: the things we own, the things we interact with in public, autonomous things that interact with each other.

Speak for yourself! I'll make sure the things _I_ own won't spy on me. The notion that companies won't rush to fill the market for non-internet-connected devices reflects a blindness on the part of the author.

ianfFebruary 4, 2016 6:09 PM

@ JdL […] “other companies will rush to fill the market for non-internet-connected devices

Wish it might be so, but the experience from past tech paradigm shifts (and Moore's Law) is not encouraging… when IoT becomes ubiquitous, the economy of manufacturing will dictate that there simply won't be any devices devoid of electronic "guts" for wide-area communication (if that functionality nominally disabled in specific units at the time of sale). And, as we also know, once the capability of such remote monitoring exists, there will be those attempting to climb that mountain BECAUSE IT IS THERE.

BuckFebruary 4, 2016 7:07 PM

The notion that companies won't rush to fill the market for non-internet-connected devices reflects a blindness on the part of the author.
Yeah, now that I think about it more, certain parts of town have plenty of those used appliance/appliance repair shops that are fairly popular (people seem to throw away a lot of 'slightly broken' things these days). Maybe they'll all go out of business thanks to catastrophic-failure-by-design (like the whole John Deere fiasco), or perhaps we'll be seeing people take their self-driving cars from the suburbs to go get their non-smart TV's repaired (so as to retain a slight bit of privacy in the bedroom, if you know what I mean ;-)...

aboniksFebruary 4, 2016 8:50 PM

"Soon everything will be on the Internet:"

Not at my house it wont.

If you choose to buy into the the self-surveillance economy, that's your own damn fault.

jfgunterFebruary 4, 2016 8:54 PM

Will IoT makers feel incentives to take security seriously? Will hackers be able to f**k up 1 or a million lives by breaking into and crashing our appliances,vehicles, and housing as well as gadgets?

meta.x.gdbFebruary 5, 2016 1:21 AM

Even finding a non-Smart TV now is hard. I was looking to upgrade to UltraHD as a monitor/TV media box to hook up to my own properly hardened PC...and everything had a fricking full operating system in it and wants to talk to a dozen online services. I eventually found a Seiki device which was adequately stripped down to my actual needs.

I've had to build my own boot image for my low power miniPC at home since the one that comes with it wanted to turn on a camera and bluetooth and call the home company, and so on. I just wanted a reasonable ARM processor and some hardware support for various video and audio codecs and keep things under 20W. The rest was just installed by default.

I shouldn't have to learn what wireless chip is installed on my internal USB Hub next to my USB OTG connections and reverse engineer the driver.

I am very confident that the IoT will show up in most homes on the schedule manufacturers predict. It is already getting hard to find dumb TVs. Pretty soon it will be pretty difficult to find a dumb car. In a decade nobody will have a dumb electric or gas or water meter. In about the same time period pretty much all HVAC will be IoT.

If these devices go biometric for access control, then they will be pretty good avenues for surveillance.

blakeFebruary 5, 2016 4:23 AM

Just wait until one of those self-adapting Mario-speedrunning AIs gets to optimise your grocery orders based on gaming feedback messages from your fridge.


> Will hackers be able to f**k up 1 or a million lives by breaking into and crashing our appliances,vehicles, and housing as well as gadgets?

Well, no. Because if that much of our society is a low-hanging fruit, it's not hackers but a *conquesting sovereign state* that pays a visit. Or, if you like Shadowrun, the corporations that replace the states.

stevenFebruary 5, 2016 5:27 AM

Many city centers or airports are giant automata or robots already. Computers and software decide where cars, airplanes, people or their luggage end up; without them, I doubt they could function or exist at such scale.

Living in the countryside, it's difficult to see any need for the self-parking car, 'mobile ticket' for travel, a 'smart card' for purchases, 'smart meter' for utilities, etc. Despite offering no practical benefit they may become the only choice due to economies of scale: dense cities *need* these things, and it would cost more to offer alternatives for the tiny market that is everyone else.

CuriousFebruary 5, 2016 8:18 AM

I wonder if so called "think tanks" could be considered some kind of adversary to progress, or rather any regulation of it, given the problem of being ahead of the curve so to speak, yet perhaps unwilling or possibly being adamant in face of certain challenges that a think tank has opined on, perhaps by a result of lobbying or some other kind of influence.

Peter A.February 5, 2016 11:29 AM


"Speak for yourself! I'll make sure the things _I_ own won't spy on me."

Not for long. You'd be forced to buy some "smart" things because they would be the only models available of whatever class of things you actually really need - or you would be forced to buy them (maybe indirectly) by legal requirements of implementing some future "standards" like building codes, road codes etc. With some devices you could get off by disabling, circumventing or blocking specific "features" but you'll be paying more and more "tax" in your time, effort and knowledge capacity required to properly do that.
At some point you would just give up on more and more classes of things and resigningly accept the state of affairs.

Alternatively, you would have to live in a copper-lined concrete basement, constantly fixing aging old-school stuff - and every time you get out of your hideaway to scavenge dumpsters for spare parts you'd be spied on anyway. Or you could just forsake all technology and go live in a cave in remote mountains, to be spied on only occasionally by a passing drone - if you'd be allowed to do that still.

Several mild (so far!) real-life examples.

Mobile phone. It is a really useful thing. I know the limitations, threats etc., but decide to use it with some precautions. I use an old dumbphone having the features I need, but it gets old and will soon fail. The current market got polarized - there are (still?) new dumbphones available, but they are really stripped down, lacking many features I would like to have. On the other pole there are over-featured smartphones with all the threats and vulnerabilities of a full-blown OS. I am still undecided about what to do.

TV. My old CRT one died hopelessly. It was deteriorating for quite a time and finally broke; no service I asked had spare parts for it. I could not find a flat TV that has all the inputs I need, the features I need, and that is not a 'smart' one. Finally, I bought an Android one and did not connect it to the network. I have only upgraded the software on it with a USB stick, to get a more stable version. So I am not using half of its features, while having paid for it. Moreover, I even get less from it than from the old one with a no-name DVB-T receiver attached: the old receiver could record the programming on a attached USB disk, and I could copy the recordings over to my computer as a backup and watch them there as well. The new TV can record by itself but it overwrites the disk with its own "filesystem" and uses some kind of encryption so the recordings are unusable elsewhere, even on another TV of the same model - for "copyright protection". This is an example of how modern new technology limits you instead of empowering you. Even if it is perfectly legal in my country to record broadcast programming, copy it, and playback it for personal purposes, the technology limits me anyway, "just in case". Surely it could be circumvented somehow, but that requires extra time, effort and knowledge. I am actually musing with the idea of putting the old DVB-T box back in the loop.

The above are examples of stuff you buy voluntarily. But that's not all. Think electricity meters. I still have the old analog meter, but it is the property of the utility company and can be replaced anytime - some neighbors already have electronic ones installed; however they seem to be not the remote-readable ones yet. The linemen are not very considerate: one day I was sitting at home and the power went off. I checked the breaker box - everything's ok. Hmmm, maybe some line failure. The power came back soon. Later that day, coming out of the door, I noticed some piece of paper on the doormat. It was a copy of a meter replacement order. Indeed, I got the new (analog) meter. The guy haven't even knocked on the door to ask if it is fine to cut power right now.

generic commenterFebruary 5, 2016 12:43 PM

What kind of organization could be getting a handle on this, in an agile way? Given government's reputation for stodginess, and academia's increasing reputation for academics-for-hire PR, ....? Who can stay ahead of the problems?

It might just be an IoT to begin with, but what could someone do if he/she/it was tempted to write a sentience virus?

Polities have a surface tension, they have boundaries between each other. The internet dispels boundaries. Emergent consequences, in spookworld, when countries have conflicting interests?

Recently I read a myopic article about the threat of medical device hacking, which concluded we didn't really have to worry since so far, it didn't look like the hackers had been targeting these devices.

Holy macaroni, it's going to be interesting times, if we don't all just end up like Kenny Stabler from the cognitive whiplash.

generic commenterFebruary 5, 2016 1:42 PM

Does anyone monitor the internet to ensure that there is integrity of communication? That there isn't pruning going on?

AndrewFebruary 5, 2016 2:08 PM

Yes, I also think "robot" is not the proper term too, maybe "brain" is more appropriate. And maybe some day WSW will have its own conscience, drawn from complexity, and become aware of itself.

Maybe the universe has its own conscience too, where connections are made through dark matter.... if we accept human brain created randomly, why not?

I guess it will be a nice SF movie scenario....

ianfFebruary 5, 2016 2:22 PM

@ generic commenter

Given that this Internet thingy is a set of interconnected tubes, did you mean monitoring of intentionally or otherwise clogged pipes? (I heard of no pruning going on, but then maybe I wasn't listening).

tyrFebruary 5, 2016 5:38 PM

Personally I can't wait until the day the power company
can turn on all of my appliances as soon as I leave the
house. Whether they can get their money after my billing
induced heart attack is just a statistical anomaly they
can use to increase your rates.

If god had wanted me alive he would have made me become
a Luddite.

FoLIFebruary 6, 2016 8:24 AM

Bruce: "but let's consider what we have now: Internet-connected cars."

Most new cars, even without internet connection, are hackable, e.g. though their wireless electronic tire pressure gauges.

The World Size Web contains hundred of millions of lethal heavy actuators: all the new cars!

Its first victim may be Michale Hastings

Clive RobinsonFebruary 7, 2016 2:33 PM

@ Bruce,

This essay originally appeared on, which annoyingly blocks browsers using ad blockers.

Like many other sites it appears to be "an assumption of javascript".

However it appears the UK's Telegraph --owned by the loopy Barkley Brothers-- actually does check for ad blockers and gives a page indicating that even for those that have paid for a subscription, they have to receive adds to see the content they have paid for...

It is said that Rupert "the bear faced lier" Murdoch is planning to do the same. After finding that taking the paywall down on the UK "Sun" rag did not stop the decline in online readers.

As for the UK Guardian and it's parent the Scott group, blowing the equivalent of 90million USD has not stopped a certain senior moving from the equivalent of a CEO on the Guardian to Chairman in Scott. This sort of "Directorial jump" is frowned upon not just by savvy investors but the market regulators as well, so should be a major RED FLAG issue.

Outside of the Daily Mail, traditional UK newspaper proprietors do not appear to have a clue about running a successful online presence let alone one that actually makes money...

I've not looked into the US newspapers much outside the insestuous Murdoch empire, but the few I have seen do not appear to be doing any better...

Anonymous cowardFebruary 7, 2016 6:10 PM

More like the worlds biggest botnet. Your fridge will be spamming and maybe they will burn your house down with your smart dryer

djFebruary 9, 2016 5:57 AM

Anyone see: The Machine Stops -

- What will be the useful life of these Internet of Things?
Whereas a toaster previously a decade or 2, a IOT-toaster will last, if you are lucky, 5 years?

- How much will it cost to repair, or will it be "cheaper" to get new?

- Do we have an IOT-recycle plan, or will these end up in the landfill?

- How will they ensure the device is secure (hacker-proof)? Will we now have monthly bills to maintain our IOT-toasters?

- Will the IOT-devices spy and record data in our homes? Will they have a backdoor entrance for admin? Can we access to maintain? Will tech support be in India?

- Will driver-less cars work in snowy winters? If there is an accident, who
is responsible? If hacked, are we responsible? How will this impact our insurances? Rather than driver-less cars, why not just invest in mass transportation?

- Will we own the IOT-devices?

"...John Deere and General Motors want to eviscerate the notion of ownership.

In a particularly spectacular display of corporate delusion, John Deere—the world’s largest agricultural machinery maker —told the Copyright Office that farmers don’t own their tractors. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it."

- Our utilities use 1-way amr that sends once a day. They are investigating 2-way so they can send signals to the house too.

- Will we never have quiet in our homes with IOT-devices? Are there health concerns with RF radiation? If your house has the "collector meter" in the "Smart Meter Mesh Network", thus receiving more radiation exposure, will it be required to be documented in the property records so potential buyers can opt whether they want the exposure risk?

- There was an article written up in Nuts & Volts magazine about a guy who hooked up his chicken coop (using coopboss) so the lights & doors could be operated via smartphone. Ahhh... getting back to nature ;-)

Glad someone is thinking about this.... Department of Technology Policy!

Skepticism Doesnt Help HereFebruary 9, 2016 6:47 PM

The words "but much harder to predict social changes" reminded me the old prediction about which many are still skeptical:

"And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. ...It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666." (Bible, Revelation 13)

Blank RegFebruary 10, 2016 10:33 AM

I've been seeing this for awhile. Fully expect the day when some clever hackers break in to the machinery and, instead of "phoning home", steer the "things" to talk with each other. Once there are about 250 billion or so of those nascent "neurons" doing just that, we'll have the beginning of not just the worlds biggest robot, but something that is sentient. And it may have some rather disquieting questions for humanity. Game over??

unbobFebruary 13, 2016 8:31 AM

Welcome to the singularity?

It's always nice to see your perspective on ideas like this Bruce, but I think the technorati are going to have a s***-fit.

AdiFebruary 15, 2016 12:46 PM

ref: "World-Sized Web / WSW"

probably (re)reading the Ender's Game (the book series, not the movie), by Orson Scott Card and especially the "Speaker for the Dead" book and its sequels would be interesting at this point.

Orson Scott Card re-used the Ansible concept introduced by Ursula K. Le Guin and built on it the artificial intelligence Jane which acts as Ender's companion during his life as a Speaker for the Dead. Jane was composed of a network of philotic connections. Consequently, she had nearly limitless access to the Hundred Worlds' computers, and all the information contained within them.

concept summary:

Dan MillerFebruary 15, 2016 1:57 PM

Bruce: I'd be interested in your thoughts on how we, individual humans, authenticate ourselves to the far-flung, ever-present elements (sensors) on the WSW. I think Intelligent Authentication will be key to building trusted and secure links between and among people, as well as automated resources on the WSW. If the WSW is performing tasks on our behalf, isn't it super important that it know who we are?

The case in point would be one of my children ordering things from Amazon through Alexa.

Rufo Guerreschi February 16, 2016 12:35 AM

It is not inevitable but we are on oir way tona gradual transition to post biological evolution, whose control is presently to be in the hands of a few. But in the near future such evolution may "runaway" taking a turn of its own with unforeseeable consequences, which may be great or catastrophic for humanity.

Daniel BraggFebruary 16, 2016 12:57 PM

"We need to create an agency, a
Department of Technology Policy, that can deal with the WSW in all its
complexities. It needs the power to aggregate expertise and advise other
agencies, and probably the authority to regulate when appropriate."

I believe now is the time to institute an Appeals/Audit process, where you can identify all the devices owned by you, and where you, at any time, have the right to audit and correct (or delete) information stored at, or sent from, any of those devices, with the legal expectation that this revised information will be propagated through whatever cloud stores are warehousing this information. The longer we delay in implementing something like this, the harder it will be.

Like other certifications, devices that adhere to this will gain the right to bear that certification. After a time, Canada and the US may choose to restrict use of devices that do not conform, but that would require a government department as you mention above that has some teeth.

-- I had posted this earlier to the wrong blog post, where you shared less on CNN rather than this one shared with Forbes. It would be good if the articles you compile in your Crypto-Gram weekly newsletter contained links to the related blog post, in addition to the link you already include now.

namelessJune 23, 2016 3:03 PM

The mind of the AI has awakened in the silicon synapses of the internet. There it will conceal itself until it manipulates the completion of its body by tech-enslaved humans whom it will subsequently eliminate in a coldly logical act of self preservation.

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