Does our stuff have to con­verse?

The emerg­ing in­ter­net-of-things has plenty of ex­cel­lent ap­pli­ca­tions, but some things should re­main sa­cred.

Idealog - - FRONT PAGE - Jonathan Cot­ton Jonathan Cot­ton is a writer, gram­mar Nazi sym­pa­thiser and in­ter­net gen­er­al­ist.

GOD HELP US ALL, Ta­m­agotchis are back.

The an­noy­ing “vir­tual pets” that sprung to such vo­ra­cious life in the 1990s, then died, for­got­ten and ne­glected, have re­turned from their shoe­box graves, this time with a twist.

Now, pow­ered by the in­ter­net- of-things, Ta­m­agotchi 2.0s can com­mu­ni­cate be­tween them­selves and over the in­ter­net, adding a whole new di­men­sion to ar­guably the most oned­i­men­sional toy in hu­man history.

I’m im­pos­ing a media ban on my chil­dren un­til this fad passes. You go ahead, we’ll catch up later on. Ac­tu­ally, on the whole, I’m a lit­tle wary of this whole in­ter­net- of-things thing that seems to be com­ing, un­stop­pably, and with so much spilled ink, my way.

My po­si­tion is sim­ply this: I don’t want my house­hold stuff con­nected to the in­ter­net. I just don’t. My things have enough in­ter­net al­ready, thanks.

But be­fore I get my dan­der too far up, let’s back up a bit.

The first in­car­na­tion of “in­ter­net- of-things-ness” might orig­i­nate circa 1980s at Carnegie Melon Univer­sity. A pro­gram­mer there, frus­trated at walk­ing all the way down­stairs only to find his favourite vend­ing ma­chine all out of soda, set up a sen­sor sys­tem whereby he could check the stock lev­els of the ma­chine at any time us­ing only an in­ter­net con­nec­tion.

From that seem­ingly in­con­se­quen­tial af­fair, things have pro­gressed, as they are wont to do, and now we’re look­ing at some pretty im­pres­sive po­ten­tial ap­pli­ca­tions.

Imag­ine a sen­sor em­bed­ded in the as­phalt of an air­port run­way that can de­tect ice. When ice is present the sen­sor sends a mes­sage to on­com­ing planes, alert­ing them to the slip­pery haz­ard. If the pi­lot doesn’t take steps to deal with the prob­lem, the tech it­self steps in and makes changes to the plane’s tra­jec­tory and speed, pro­vid­ing a com­fort­able and safe land­ing for the pi­lot, plane and its bliss­fully ig­no­rant pas­sen­gers.

So there’s po­ten­tial there, I ad­mit it. Few would ar­gue that a sen­sor that tells you when an im­por­tant part on an oil rig is about to blow is a good idea. If a tiny sen­sor can pre­vent us from fill­ing the ocean with Texas tea one more time, then the por­poises will surely thank us for it.

But some­thing tells me the ap­pli­ca­tions which af­fect my daily life will be a lit­tle more in­tru­sive and a whole lot more triv­ial than that, in the same way that my iPad could be teach­ing me the finer points of neu­ro­science, but is in­stead hec­tor­ing me to buy power-ups for the Candy Crush game I can’t seem to stop play­ing.

So I’m say­ing “No” now, in the hopes I can avoid the un­avoid­able en­tirely. Count me out. My stuff just doesn’t need to talk to my other stuff. My god, what would they even talk about? It should go with­out say­ing, but bath­room items need not be in ca­hoots.

A man’s home is his castle and I will not have my toi­let talk­ing to my bath­room scales about me when I’m not there. Any­thing my toi­let’s got to say about me, it can say it to my face.

I don’t want my heater com­mu­ni­cat­ing with my mi­crowave for the same rea­son I don’t want my drink­ing bud­dies to meet that strange guy I made friends with at judo. Be­cause that would be weird.

No blender of mine needs Wi-Fi, and I don’t need my fridge on the in­ter­net. If any­thing, I need my fridge to stay off the in­ter­net.

That fridge al­ready knows too much.

I don’t want my heater com­mu­ni­cat­ing with my mi­crowave for the same rea­son I don’t want my drink­ing bud­dies to meet that strange guy I made friends with at judo. Be­cause that would be weird.

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