The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It


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Instead of delivering one of its 1, bike variations in 21 days, it can manage delivery in a mere six hours. A PLC is a switchboard that can control systems as diverse as cruise ships, ski lifts and, yes, assembly lines. Microsensors embedded throughout the manufacturing and assembly process have helped the company virtually eliminate defects: It claims its PLCs are perfect Power rates are automatically incorporated into machine work schedules, allowing the plant to avoid peak prices.

In addition to its enviable pickup—zero to kilometres an hour in less than four seconds—it can travel up to klicks on a single charge. The camera also reads posted speed limits and can warn drivers to slow down. All this is to say that the days of your car being a static thing, its functions set at the point of sale, are receding fast. Legacy companies like Mercedes-Benz are also set to launch smart vehicles. At its Silicon Valley research centre, a team of engineers and programmers are perfecting a model that can interact with a smartphone, gathering information on your appointments and proposing routes to get there, and displaying real-time traffic information.

There are eight million traffic accidents each year and 1. But the fact that the technology to prevent tragedies like the Germanwings crash—in which a disturbed co-pilot locked out the captain and deliberately flew into the French Alps—already exists makes it all the more senseless. Airplanes have long been equipped with sensors that collect data on fuel efficiency, altitude, location and maintenance issues.

But that data has typically only been processed after the aircraft lands. But change is coming, slowly. On the efficiency side, GE has developed a tool that measures fuel use inflight and subtly moves the wing flaps among other things to reduce unnecessary drag. The rail business, too, is slowly chugging toward modernity. This will reduce the estimated 1.

New York commuters have the Internet of Things to thank for shorter commutes. Shipping is getting in on this, too.

Many of the trucks that arrive at the port each day were idling for hours in long lines waiting for their ships to come in, or parking in residential neighbourhoods near the port, since harbour-side spots were scarce. With 10, ships unloading there each year, it often happened that too many arrived at once, jamming the relatively small harbour. Now, thanks to a project with Cisco and SAP, the ships and many of the nine million containers moving through the port transmit and constantly update their precise arrival times, so trucks can arrange just-in-time pickup and drop-off of freight.

Technology designed to help boomers live at home longer is, well, booming. A new generation of sensors can tell if the condition of patients living at home has worsened—and communicate that at once to their health care teams. The Dutch company recently spun off a new health care subsidiary, Philips Healthcare, that is a leader in the field—and is struggling to find an interface that works just as easily for smartphone-wielding youngsters as it does for octogenarians with degenerative diseases and dementia. Their sensors can be specially refined, like the ones used by neonatal units to monitor premature babies.

These devices will eventually help doctors and nurses care for and monitor more patients both at home and in hospital beds. Smart beds now being used at New York-Presbyterian Hospital can tell immediately if a patient has gotten up, and let the nursing station know. These monitors measure heart rate, sleep patterns, diet, exercise and more, and beam that data to mobile apps. Soon, that information could be sent directly to your health care provider or insurer, which still rely on your word that, yup, you exercise four times a week and always take the stairs.

Next up: subcutaneous implants. Mississauga-based Medtronic already sells a glucose implant that helps diabetics keep tabs on their blood sugar. The grid was designed to deliver power on an as-needed basis, to delicately balance supply and demand—a challenge, given that demand varies by time of day, by weather and by season. A heat wave, a blizzard—heck, even an Academy Awards broadcast—can all stress this aged infrastructure. To meet sudden spikes, backup power stations and diesel generators must stand at the ready, gobbling up scarce resources.

It is far from efficient. This system uses market forces to balance the system loads and should, in theory, make power networks less susceptible to black- and brownouts. Pilot programs, most notably in Italy and Texas, have demonstrated that the theory can work in the real world. The U. But the meters could, in the future, receive information on pricing and the total demands placed on the system, and govern themselves accordingly.

Power lines and pipelines are getting a high-tech upgrade, too. Data collected by sensors in the lines can be analyzed to detect and isolate maintenance problems. And predictive software already on the market can anticipate which trees are most likely to fall and take down lines.

Cisco builds pipelines lined with sensitive fibres that can sense leaks and radio for help right away. For aging pipelines, GE has developed software that collates seismic data, topographical details, population density, and hospital and school locations to help make maintenance decisions on an ongoing basis or in emergencies. The growth of renewable energy sources also hinges in large part on the smart grid. Here in Canada, wind and solar are by far the fastest-growing power-generating sectors though they still account for just a few per cent of the total.

While they may be easier on the environment, they put major pressure on the grid, since the energy generated by solar and wind farms varies by time of year and day, throwing out of whack its delicate balancing act. Wind is suffering similar integration issues, though the latest generation of turbines themselves are already benefiting from Internet of Things technology.

Zittrain's "The Future of the Internet" -- how to save the Internet from the Internet

GE-built turbines on the leading edge of a wind farm can let those behind them know that a gust is coming, prompting them to immediately alter the angle of their blades to protect themselves from damage and lengthen their lives. Despite the bucolic image we might have of the average family farm, farmers have always been early adopters of technology—after all, anything that can help boost the meagre living they can scrape out of the land is a good thing. Most farmers these days walk their fields with GPS-enabled smartphones in their hands, loaded with ag-related apps.

And with farms getting dramatically larger—the average spread in the United States has doubled in the past quarter-century—farmers or, as is becoming more common, the huge corporations that own these operations have been quick to deploy data-gathering, Internet-linked devices to help keep track of them.

Smart watering systems sprinkle just enough H2O on the fields, in just the right places, and can detect leaks in water pipes—vital in dry and drought-affected regions like California. One company has developed a sensor that can detect high counts of a particular pest and then release the pheromones that disrupt their mating rituals—which can, in turn, reduce the need for pesticides. Even cows are now transmitting bits of data in real time: A Dutch company has created sensors that, when attached to individual animals, can tell farmers which ones are in heat, pregnant or ill.

It's the medium in which we communicate.


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I think the other thing to also think about, Michael, to put it back, there was a time period in human history in which we thought the sun went around the Earth. Then we discovered later that, no, that was not the case. The Earth actually goes around the sun. I think we're discovering the same thing, which is, we're born into this world and we grow up thinking that our thoughts are our own and, in some respects, we may have the initial opinion until we grow up and become adults that the world goes around us. What we're discovering with the planet is now the Internet allows us to see the planet as a whole and see different things in different context across the planet, which can be tremendously uplifting that we can understand that we are 7.

But, at the same time, we're also recognizing that things cannot be just left to individual thoughts of individuals or even just local communities. It's now thinking about the collective planet as a whole, and that's why we have to have the conversations about how do you relate to others through this medium called the Internet that connects us all on the planet and, eventually, if all things go well, in the solar system?

Now we have to worry about Martian foreigners online. Vint Cerf: The one other thing, which is very important, about the Internet and the things that layer on top of it, including mobile and things of that sort, smartphones, is that there is an immediacy. There is no distance anymore. Things happen all over the world and, yet, they become visible to you very, very quickly. The result of that is that you feel like every bad thing you've ever heard of is taking place in your backyard.

This distortion of reality, I think, is hard for us to ingest because our species evolved with the notion of locality. The Internet erases the locality and causes us to imagine that everything that's happening around the world is happening nearby. Our psychology, as a result, receives this as potentially alarming.

This is a phenomenon that is new. Any of the other, the telephone, telegraph, and everything else, had some of those properties, but they didn't have it on the massive scale the Internet has now. Yeah, exactly. The telegraph could community, but it wouldn't diffuse as rapidly as it does now on a daily basis, let alone hourly basis. This gets to the questions then of what I would call virality which, unfortunately, the research is showing if you want something to go viral, first make it angry.

Second, make it fearful. The trouble is, you don't want to make it so it makes everybody angry. You want to make it so it makes one group angry and the other group angry in response or fearful. Now, there's a little bit of hope that the third way to make something go viral is to have a sense of awe and of inspiration. Maybe we need more of that and less of the other two. Again, I think the fascinating thing is the Internet, in some respects, is a reflection of all of us as humans. And so, if anything, maybe what we need, going forward, is a deeper understanding of the empathy and what makes us humans, both at the individual level but part of the People-Centered Internet is thinking about the community and the society level as well.

Vint Cerf: This actually emphasizes the importance and role of anthropology, behavioral psychology, all these other things. There are a number of things to read that reveal the human element of this online communication system and what its side effects are. Michael Krigsman: Given the fact that, essentially, what you're saying is that the Internet is a reflection of fundamental dimensions of human psychology manifest in this communication thing, this communication device that brings the world to us with the sense of immediacy and distorts that sense of locality, as Vint was saying.

This being the case, why are we even having this discussion at all? Human nature is what it is and protocols in communication devices are simply not going to change it, so why are we having the discussion at all? I know you're playing devil's advocate, Michael, as you always do. I don't think we're proposing that the communication protocols should change it. I think, if anything, it's just discovering that we now, in some respects, have the feeling of feeling more connected now than ever, but let me give you two quick things as well.

First is, back at the beginning of the 20th Century, there was this actual school of thought that thought there were three types of spheres. There was the inanimate sphere, the geosphere of the planet. Those were the things that were inanimate.

Then there was the biosphere. That was animal life.

The global internet is disintegrating. What comes next?

Then there was this idea of a noosphere, N-O-O-sphere, which would be eventually where we'd have collective thoughts occurring. In some respects, that's what the Internet is allowing to occur. What we're discovering, though, is not all those thoughts are necessary thoughts for the good of individuals in human society. Like all things, it's both mediocre and, unfortunately, has some bad things. Then what also happens is this other phenomenon, which is, we humans have an inherent sense of fairness. What the Internet is allowing us to do is we're now beginning to see what we think is perceived unfairness around the world.

Some of it is real. Some of it is not. The trouble is, with social media, a lot of times people only put their best side forward online, and so you have this illusion that everyone else's life is better than yours and that's not fair. That causes anger, and that causes interesting anomalies. This also is not just unique to humans. Again, going back to biology, primates as well, they will eat cucumbers up until the point where they see that another primate is being given a banana by somebody else. They'll reject the cucumbers and they'll throw them at the researchers and refuse to eat, which is not logical but, again, they're seeing that being done with another monkey or chimpanzee and they want that banana too.

The Internet is creating all these interesting second and third order effects, much like how books did for society when the printing press came out that we're now having to deal with because the future of the Internet, at the end of the day, is not the technology; it's how we as society choose how to use it. Michael Krigsman: Vint, if we are giving both good and bad actors an equal access to this huge megaphone, is there any solution possible? If so, what should we be doing about it? In some cases, the mass media, for example, have regulated limitations on what they can and can't do.

There used to be the notion of responsible journalism. You'd like to think there is still small evidence of that here and there. But as David has implied, if you have a business model that requires lots of attention in order to generate revenue, then you tend towards extremes in terms of what you broadcast and what you put out in the print media. We have encountered problems like this before.

Let me use a rough analogy. The automobile gets embedded. It too was a compressor of distance. It made it possible to live farther away from work and still commute. It led to the road system in the U. The interstate highway system led to both a boom of automobile production, but also housing because of what it allowed, the affordances that it permitted. Here we are.

We're faced with some of the same kinds of things in the Internet space. Think about the cars on the roads for a moment. When the cars were first built and were using cow tracks and other things because there weren't really any paved streets, eventually we realized that there were things that people could do with these that were potentially harmful, like running into each other, running into other things, driving on both sides of the street.

Rules got embedded in order to change the chaos to try to put order into chaos. That's what we do. That's why we create the laws. That's why we have regulations. That's why we have societies and governments. That's why we have social contracts where we give up some of our freedom in exchange for stability, peaceful, and safe existence. We're going to adopt rules that will achieve those kinds of objectives in the online world. The big question, of course, is whether the rules differ from one country to another and whether or not the boundary between the countries ends up being in conflict or whether there's a way of making the rule set more or less compatible.

The United Nations Secretary-General has empowered a panel, a high-level panel, to discuss digital cooperation, which is a nice broad mean. It could mean lots of different things. A portion of it is to ask the question, "How should nation-states interact with each other? What rules should they adopt? How should they cooperate with each other in order to cope with harmful behavior on the Net, even if it's crossing the international boundary?

I think we are going to need to explore those kinds of things. Of course, we also have local questions about how to deal with bad behavior, how to regulate it, how to apprehend criminals or harmful actors, so we will be working our way through this as the Internet penetrates more deeply and as we become more heavily dependent on it.

I don't want to go on and on here. I want to put a small place marker here for a discussion about Internet of Things because that introduces its own set of interesting challenges. Michael Krigsman: What about the Internet of Things? It's a very interesting point. Vint Cerf: Yeah, look. The simple idea here is that we can program all kinds of things now and they can have communication capabilities, so ordinary appliances that normally weren't part of the Internet can become part of it. That allows us to automate things. It allows us to use externally obtained information in order for those appliances to do useful things for us.

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There are these artificially intelligent assistants like Alexa and Google Home and others, which we interact with using voice communication, which is another manifestation of machine learning and AI. The thing that I worry about, though, is that everything is dependent on software.

As David and I both know and, presumably, your listeners know, the software is well-known for having bugs and that it often leads to things that don't work the way they're supposed to. We don't need to go into the details, but you were experiencing something like that in the process of setting up this conference call in the first place. Now, what do we do about buggy software, and what responsibilities do programmers and companies have to protect people from these kinds of failures? It just exacerbates the brittleness of the infrastructure that we are relying on.

We have to figure out how to cope with that. Michael Krigsman: There's this very significant technical component having to do with the infrastructure that has to be dealt with at the same time that we're dealing with the human dimensions and that is then expressed in business models and what's acceptable to society in terms of even government regulation. David Bray: In fact, Michael, if I could add even a third dimension to it so we can make it a three-legged stool. In addition to the people side and the technical side, what really is also a phenomenon that's happening that I think historians will look back at what was , , and then what those decades were, were instrumenting the planet in a way that's unprecedented for human species.

With the Internet of Things, plus small satellites, increasingly getting affordable to launch cube satellites, we will have sensors scattered throughout the planet and have an availability for what's going on around the world that the only time we ever came close to this was when we were living in nomadic groups and everyone in nomadic groups pretty much knew what was going on in that nomadic group. Now, we're going to know it for the entire planet. That then also raises questions about privacy. That raises questions about transparency. That raises questions about, can anything you do be taken out of context?

You already see some societies where they are doing public shunning if you do something that the society themselves does not feel is something that should be done. There are questions about how do we live in that world in which we have now instrumented the planet, where do we want to go, and how do we want to live as, in this case, the United States, open societies? But there are other countries that will make other decisions that are appropriate for them. Can we still be connected as a planet through a global Internet?

He asks, "What happens when governments, on purpose, use technology and data to do harm? Who is responsible to keep them in line? Because of the fact that they are global in scope and cross international boundaries, the only way to cope with this is to have a cooperative regime. There is one other possible way to deal with this, of course, and that's to have everybody cut themselves off from this global shared system, lose all of its benefits and value, lose all of the sharing of data and the ability to acquire and discover it, and then try to lock everything up inside national boundaries.

We have seen this huge appetite that people have.

What is amazing to me is that even in economies where the disposable income is relatively low, there is a willingness to buy these smartphones, for example, because it gives access to information and because it allows this connectivity. The answer is more international cooperation, finding incentives that cause individuals, corporations, and governments to want to cooperate and collaborate to deal with the harmful effects, to cope with them, and to suppress them somehow while enhancing the positive benefits of this global connectivity.

It won't be an easy task at all, but I sense a feeling, in many of the democratic countries anyway, that this is a value worth preserving. In the autocratic world, however, there is a great deal or desire to prevent people from finding things out, to prevent them from cooperating with each other because that might lead to government overthrow. And so, you get this amazing difference of view about the utility of this kind of technology. Michael Krigsman: It's interesting, the multiple points of view, as you say.

We hold up in our society, as an ideal, this notion of cooperation, fairness, openness, transparency. Yet, from a functional standpoint in many other societies, for the leaders, these are antithetical to achieving the goals. It was a four-star that was assigned what was called the Pacific Rim, U.

Pacific Rim forces, RIMPAC, in which he actually puts forward the premise, which is, some of those autocratic societies may be wanting to polarize conversations in more of the open, holistic, represented democracy societies, one, to demonstrate to our own people that says, "Look, they can't even agree amongst themselves.

They're fighting amongst themselves. They're pulling themselves apart. They're being driven apart. As Vint said, I love that he said, "Can you provide incentives that work for all different types of regimes to try and suppress the less than great elements of what they could do with the Internet and try to encourage more of the good, positive elements of it, regardless of whether they choose to have a more autocratic versus open, representative regime?

Even just to put it in context, with the People-Centered Internet, we had a big event last year, December 10th, , which was 70 years after the UN Declaration of Human Rights. They remembered all the atrocities and everything like that. Imagine, though, nowadays if you try to get people to agree to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from fresh While we celebrate that we're becoming more progressed as societies and things like that, I think we've got some really hard, deep introspection to do as well as bridge-building to do with others to try and, again, recognize that we're all on this pale blue dot together.

We've got to figure out a way to agree to some version of human rights both for the physical world we live in, but also the digital world we live in as well. The Chinese government has made a huge investment in the Internet and they capitalized on it in dramatic ways if you look at some of the companies that have come out of this: WeChat, for example, Alibaba, and WeWork.

In fact, here's an interesting observation. Driving down the street, downtown Washington, D. It never dawned on me that the WeWork pane would actually have what looks like, I guess, a presence in Washington, D. That was a surprise. We have the Chinese making this huge investment and, at the same time, very concerned about the potential abuse, from their point of view, of this knowledge sharing, which the Internet supports.

And so, they work very hard to try to keep that knowledge sharing under control. We're going to be arm-wrestling with a lot of these phenomena for some time to come. Michael Krigsman: We only have five minutes or so left. If the Internet technology is a kind of virtual Rorschach test or projection that allows people to project whatever they want, and given the diversity of opinion, as you've been describing, and the diversity of goals, can you, in our last five minutes, talk about some of the opportunities of the Internet?

How do we retain that Rorschach style transparency and yet, at the same time, impose some type of -- is moral discipline the right term? I'm not even sure what the right term is. Similarly, with things with hiring decisions, "Did you know that the last ten hiring decisions, you tended to select people of this type or you made salary offers of this type?

What you can do is maybe make us more aware. It can serve as a reflection of that. The second thing is, actually, I think we need more research into a science of humans plus machines. How do they behave? That's not economics.

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That's not sociology. It's a new field. I've been calling it augmented intelligence. Basically, how do these humans plus machines behave in different structural incentives? If you push out different type of stimuli, how do they behave? We can begin to at least have some explanatory and predictive science of that. Then the third, I think, is when you talked about encouraging values. While I don't want to assume that my values are the values that are right for everybody else, I'd say three things, which is:.

There's a wonderful phrase from President Lincoln that said, "I do not like that man. I must get to know him better. David Bray: I feel like we've forgotten that and we're all just resorting back to our own shoes as opposed to trying to wear the shoes of someone else. The third, I think, is actually a willingness to experiment, learn from, and try again. We're going to have to figure out ways, at the community level, to have leaders that say, "Look, I may not have all the answers, but I can work with you to try and figure out what works best using this Internet for your community, whether it's at the local level, national level, or global level.

We're looking for those benefits out of the societies that we live in. The Internet is a potential tool to achieve that objective. But, as this conversation has demonstrated, it's also a potential avenue for all kinds of disruptive kinds of behavior, which would lead us not to the benefit that we're looking for but some real negatives.

Figuring out how to cope with that at all levels--the personal level, the family level, the private sector level, the local and national government level, and the international level--all of them perceive, sense, and experience both the benefits and the deficits of this online environment and, at all of those levels, we have to be seeking solutions. That means we have to be talking with each other about what we're seeing, what we're experiencing, and what we think could be done in order to make the situation more manageable and more beneficial, which is, of course, why the People-Centered Internet was created.

It was to focus on things like that, and we appreciate, very much, the opportunity to articulate that on your program, Michael. Michael Krigsman: We are pretty much out of time.

The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It
The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It
The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It
The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It
The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It
The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It
The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It

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