At my table, is a sheet with a simple question. What is the long future of ‘wearables’? the probable, the possible, the negative or the positive.
A) Clearly the capabilities, powers and individual agency of our things trends ever upwards. What happens if we keep extrapolating? Our physical, personal artifacts become increasingly largely self sufficient and autonomous. Do the tings we wear become more more powerful, more socially relevant and more ‘important’ than the wearer?
How long before we become mere accessories for our accessories?
And if our technology begins to surpass us humans in more ways, is this good or bad? who’s betterment our tools and toys placing first ours, their own or their manufacturers’?
B) Worse case, but more likely – Forget ’Selfish genes’ – ‘Selfish Clouds’ and their intrinsic AIs are now the semi-benevolent hand that mediates all our behavior everywhere. Useful AI like you see in self driving cars or Alexa becomes such a massive capital investment and with barriers to entry from ongoing learning so there will only be a few big stacks, the ‘uber-clouds’ of amazon, the google, the facebook, the apple, the ms cloud AI, and our wearables will be just extensions of one these big stacks that mediate an ever increasing number of our online and mobile (today) and soon almost all physical (wearables and vehicles) interactions with the world.
But, as with the current state of facebook or gmail, we users are not really the users of these systems, we are the ‘product’ and the ‘fodder’. And they are cleverly designed to addict us and shape our behavior to the needs of the cloud system. And like genes, the clouds are competitive with each other, to constantly reproduce, evolve and fighting to out-expand into any opportunistic niche they profitably can.
Interestingly, at this event there’s been mention of concepts of ‘AI Containment’. It might be too late
First with the ubiquity of smart phones, and now wearables, the clouds stacks have ‘jumping the air gap’ into the physical world. Carry this forward, will semi-wittingly, opt in to become their zombie army tasked with carrying around their complex sensor packages, eyes ears, radios, microphones and other input output sensors in the physical world.
We humans become packmules for our wearables, 6 billion meat-chassis allowing big dueling corporate uber-clouds to now freely roam the earth.
C) But there are less dystopic possibilities – Sensible regulations and basic consumer protection are an obvious approach, to hopefully balance innovation with any risks of exploitation or safety. In the US, very recent and pretty smart regulatory frameworks for the AIs behind self-driving cars are already doing well in this regard.
Or, like the internet and it’s services in the old days like it’s original decentralized apps like mail, bbs’, http, apache, linux extended to the domains of higher level cloud based services for communications, connectivity, storage, trusted AI. Imaging civic instead of private infrastructure for self driving cars or personal AI agents that any wearable can connect to. Would you be in favor or have confidence in government raising taxes to fund or public sector or open source organizations to build an alternative, a great public work of socially, economically humanistically ‘benevolent’ technology stack alternatives? Just having these alternatives would help to keep the big stacks honest. paging @mozilla?