Know what’s fun on a rainy Labor Day? Catching up on a weekend’s worth of links from Twitter. Know what’s even more fun? When one of your favorite bloggers writes about how we’re on the precipice of a period when “machines will communicate in increasingly human-like ways.” Know what’s even more fun than that? When a duo of big brains do near instant follow-up posts that build on that thought.
That’s what happened this afternoon as I first caught Alex Williams’ thought-provoking post on the eventuality of a future where machines get all Facebook’y and build friend lists of their own (“How Machines Will Use Social Networks To Gain Identity, Develop Relationships And Make Friends“).
Which led me (via Twitter) to a post by rye connoisseur, pit master and jiu jitsu warrior Christopher Hoff. In his post, Christopher expands on the sociality of human/machine interaction by positing that ““how humans are changing the way we interact will ultimately define how the machines we design will, too.” In other words, up until now, we’ve been focused on how machines change human behavior; we’re on the cusp of seeing how humans change machine behavior.
And then one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter, Christian Reilly, threw his gray matter into the mix with a post that put real-world context around the discussion. Christian writes that a “colossal, ad-hoc network of sensors” will make buildings — yes, actual inanimate things — smarter…something he’s dubbed “smart maintenance.”
The idea of sensors everywhere creating a global (cosmic?) data fabric is an idea that I helped promote a decade ago during the early days of IBM’s pervasive computing initiative. Over the past 10 years, its core has evolved into the technological foundation underneath business and society today: cloud computing, APIs, open source and big data. Millions and billions of people and things sensing, learning and adapting. IBM once referred to the server-centric version of this as autonomic computing.
The pieces required to create the future Alex, Christopher and Christian map out are here. Computer chips and logic are already embedded in everyday objects (and getting smaller and faster by the day). Networks are getting wider and smarter with the rollout of technologies like LTE. APIs are liberating data. And software (and humans) are taking that data and turning it into information. And despite the non-society-contributing, advertising-focused business models of today’s social networks, the personal and societal connectivity enabled by the likes of Twitter and Facebook is unassailable.
We’re on the cusp of a future where this bouillabaisse of technology and society combine into a single pot. A pot where an airport becomes the social network and thermostats friend other thermostats.
Image Credit: Benedict Campbell. Wellcome Images. Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0 UK