We sacrifice control for convenience. Some people believe the technology is controlling us. Some think we are having greater control over the technology.

Technology – big and gadget-small – makes our lives easier. Why remember phone numbers, addresses and birthdays when something will remember it more accurately for you?  It secures your home. It controls your heart’s pacemaker. Things can park your car or even summon a car to take you there. Sooner than expected, the car that you summon will have no driver, take you there, and remember to pick you up on time and return you home.

Your handheld computer (It’s not really a phone any more, is it?) will update itself and soon recharge itself and pay for itself through ads.

Step aside. let us do it for you.

It starts with small things, grunt work, mindless tasks and grows. You are less involved in decisions, less in control of – our devices, personal environment, personal information.

Arthur C. Clarke wrote Childhood’s End about the alien Overlords taking over Earth. We resisted them. We fought back briefly, then we gave in. And things got easier. Very easy. Then it got a lot worse. Read the book. It may be a warning, but not about aliens. It is about algorithms.

An animation, describing Boruvka’s (Sollin’s) algorithm, for finding a minimum spanning tree in a graph.
Don’t worry. It doesn’t need you to run. Relax.

With algorithms, you can put more than vehicles into autopilot mode. Have you heard of the Internet of Things (IoT)? Things (physical devices) are connected in their own network(s). Things in your home, office and vehicles are wirelessly connected because they were embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity.

They talk to each other. They collect and exchange data. They make decisions for us. Simple decisions now: when to reorder, the correct spelling of a word, the best stock or phone to buy. Complexity will increase. One day it will make your healthcare decisions for you. Of course, you must learn to trust its decisions. You must trust that autonomous vehicle. How many safe rides will that take?

People who make things want them to be connected and give them feedback about what we are doing with our things. But why do we want things to talk to other things? When they are aware, we don’t need to be as aware. They can protect us. They give us more free time and fewer decisions to worry over. They can make better decisions based on data and make them faster. Faster is important when you’re driving at 70 miles per hour and another car swerves into your lane. Driving will be much safer when all the vehicles are without human drivers. A few humans will screw up everything. Humans are so damned unpredictable.

Ah, humanity. Still a very good thing. It has its uses.

 

This post first appeared at One-Page Schoolhouse

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