3G breadbaskets and intelligent flooring: how the internet permeates everything

Posted on 17/11/2011


In the not too distant future, everything will be on the internet and the internet will be on everything.

Films and tv shows already have a home online. I’m not just talking about Netflix or Google TV, but also IMDB, which contains an assortment of random facts, profiles of people involved and histories relating to films online. Wikipedia has everything from personal to chemical to technical histories, all of which are edited and debated by the public. Almost any question you want to ask, probably has an answer on-line, no matter whether it’s who played “drunk businessman” in some obscure 1980s film or what happens in episode 4, season 7 of Family Guy.

I’ve taken these examples from popular entertainment, because they show just how far the fact and data trail stretch. Every second of important, newsworthy events is covered and recapped hundreds of times by all the newspapers, TV channels and blogs. So much so that we’ve come to expect a thorough breakdown of every comment and reaction of people in the public eye. Not having access to all the information (and then some) rarely happens any more, and when it does, it scares us.

The Internet of things is also dissolving the barrier that once lay between the internet, and what was hither to called “the real world”. It surely can’t be too long before every machine of importance, or every every person has the option of being connected into and saved as part of the Internet.

Most discussions around this have focussed on the sheer volume of data these connections could generate and what we could do with it. For others it’s the ability to attach emotions, memories and sensations to inanimate objects. For me the most interesting things are the cultural phenomenons. Before long, the internet will BE history, tracking everything that’s happened and everyone that’s lived since it’s inception.

Every day, we’re adding more answers, asking more questions and building the internet. Ever Google search is recorded and will influence all future searches, in a tiny, but significant way. The same way that all our actions influence the rest of our lives, in small but significant ways.

There are some lovely examples of inanimate objects being hooked up and plugged into the web. One of my favourites is the Talking tree, which has been hooked up to weather instruments, a web cam and Twitter, so that it can comment on the world around it as it happens.

The Talking Tree

Less so for plant-life, more so for human beings, the web is sharing and preserving those little moments that would otherwise be lost. Twitter users have been accused of releasing their brainfarts onto the internet precisely because they tweeted the tiny, banal little moments of their lives (“I’m eating breakfast”, “Newsnight is awful”). Unless you’re monitoring the mental health of internet users, or doing ethnographic research at some point in the distant future, it’s unlikely that this will be of any use to you. But, people have more or less learnt to write for Twitter. They know how to condense their ideas and make they humorous (starred comments). International TV events like the Royal Wedding and Eurovision are now twice as entertaining because now you have live updates from the rest of the world.

Eventually, every event, viewpoint, idea and identity could be covered. We’ve spent over 10 years busily curating our own lives and sharing it with others online. In doing so, we’re making history by putting the world on the web.