Every piece of information, every picture, every video, every kernel of data, every location and every uttering by every connected human is likely to be monitored, collected, connected, and refined into useable information. Clearly, this could be heaven (if you are a marketer, a vendor of those tools, or just a super-geek) or it could be hell, given the distinct possibility that the very same super-charged information that will drive marketing will also enable a perpetual global surveillance.
In 2013, ‘big data’ surpassed ‘social media’ and ‘mobile first’ as the leading meme, soon to be trumped by ‘artificial intelligence’, the ‘Internet of things’, and ‘wearable computing’. I call this the 6 Memes because they make a perfect cocktail when blended craftily. Their allure is irresistible, their use is utterly convenient and often deeply empowering, their habit-forming power seriously addictive - and all of them combined are making us digitally naked, whether by design or simply through chains of unintended consequences.
A new kind of obesity is now looming with our information, data, and media diet. We have only scratched the surface, but there is already way too much of information available, and it is way too tasty, too cheap, and too rich. Not a single day goes by without yet another service offering us more updates from our increasing number of friends, more ways to be disrupted by incessant notifications on pretty much any platform (witness the growing popularity of smart-watches), more news, more music, more movies, more, better and cheaper mobile devices, and a seemingly total social connectivity. Many of us are likely to pig out like we’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Though this seems like a good deal for both the parties, the consumer advocacy groups are not so sure because while companies like Netflix can pay for better broadband access, smaller startups might not be in a position to do so raising the prospect of them being wiped off the Internet service provider map.
Companies competing through ever faster data and higher performing infrastructure will be competing towards zero,” says Gerd and warns us that “Cisco estimates that within 5 years 80% of internet data will be video…companies like Facebook are already sitting on top of the telcos, using ever more data but with no responsibility for the infrastructure.” Telecom operators will have to create new business models and improve IP connectivity in order to generate revenue from this future convergence.
The most forward-thinking visionaries of our species were able to get a vague glimpse of this destination in the early 20th century. Paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called this destination Omega Point. Mathematician Stanislaw Ulam called it “singularity”:
Facebook Inc. (FB)’s $19 billion purchase of mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp Inc. is a stark reminder of how much money phone carriers are losing out on as competitors let users text and chat at no charge.
The big question is: What do we do if and when our old mechanisms for coping with inequality break down? If the “endowment of human capital” with which people are born gets less and less valuable, we’ll get closer and closer to that Econ 101 example of a world in which the capital owners get everything. A society with cheap robot labor would be an incredibly prosperous one, but we will need to find some way for the vast majority of human beings to share in that prosperity, or we risk the kinds of dystopian outcomes that now exist only in science fiction.
Look, clearly we need to better constrain the NSA and provide oversight – and we will. But the US support for a free Internet globally has generally been a positive for the world. By locking down a country-by-country Internet – putting Russia, China and dictatorships more firmly in charge of the global structure – we will lose more than we gain.
Case in point is the security implications that came from one researcher whose original goal was to scan the entire IPv4 address space. To do so, the researcher (who has not disclosed his or her identity), created a small software package for scanning IP addresses that could be remotely installed on unsecured devices. “Playing around” with the Nmap Scripting Engine (NSE) and using several basic username password combos, including “root:root” and “admin:admin” the unidentified researcher was able to log in to 420,000 devices and install the scanning code—in effect creating a botnet that the researcher could use to ping the Internet.
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