Bruce Sterling Envisions An Internet of Things

Posted on Wed 14 June 2006 in Dispatches • 2 min read

If you have not heard about Bruce Sterling’s keynote speech at the O’reilly Emerging Technology conference, you really need to take a listen. It’s was a mind-blowing presentation illustrating the future of Internet technology and how the language we use to talk about it will guides technological development.

Sterling observes that as mobile technology becomes more and more common, our relationship with the Internet is changing. We no longer log on to it, the Internet comes with us everywhere we go. And as this kind of access become more and more ubiquitous, he envisions a future “Internet of Things”, where all objects become interactive and produce data. “Blogjects” produce and post data to online data, and manufacturing reaches a point of such ease that the majority of objects come to be viewed as material manifestations of immaterial data. These items, which Sterling calls “Spimes”, begin and end in the digital world. First as a theoretical model, then as a manufactured instance that transmits information back to its original digital source interactively. He describes a future where looking for where you left your shoes is as simple as a Google search as every piece of information is sorted, cataloged and ordinated by computers.

A writer, Sterling knows the importance of language and explains why he believes our stubborn insistence on certain terms, like “Artificial Intelligence” has negatively impacted our imaginations, slowing our own technological development. He emphasizes the need for new words that our minds can latch on to that free of us our preconceived notions of the future.

I’m really not doing his presentation justice, so I strongly encourage you to go take a listen. He makes a compelling argument for his vision of the future, and I’m not sure whether it excites or worries me. Although, I suspect, just as Sterling does, that ultimately these developments are inevitable.

You can find the recording of his speech here.