Keep People in the Equation

Tribrid_CarAs I keep reading about the coming Internet of Things I keep running into ideas that make me a bit uneasy. And since I am a tech head, I imagine that things that make me a little uneasy might make many people a whole lot uneasy.

For instance, I read about the impending introduction of driverless cars. I have to admit that when I am making a long drive on the Interstate that having the ability to just hand the driving off to a computer sounds very appealing. I would think that the challenge of driving on wide-open highways at a consistent speed is something that is quite achievable.

But it makes me uneasy to think about all cars everywhere becoming driverless. I sit here wondering if I really want to trust my personal safety to traveling in a car in which software is making all of the decisions. I know how easily software systems crash, get into loops and otherwise stutter and I can’t help but picturing being in a vehicle when a software glitch raises its ugly head.

I know that a road accident can happen to anybody, but when I drive myself I have a sense of control, however misplaced. I feel like I have the ability to avoid problems a lot better than software might when it comes down to a bad situation.

I am probably wrong, but it makes me uneasy to think about climbing into a cab in a crowded City and trusting my life to an automated vehicle. And I really get nervous thinking about sharing the road with robot tractor-trailers. The human-driven ones are scary enough.

I am probably somewhat irrational in this fear because I would guess that if all vehicles were computer-controlled there would be a lot fewer accidents, and we certainly would be protected from drunk drivers. Yet a nagging part of my brain still resists the idea.

I also worry about hacking. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to bump somebody off would be to hack their car and make it have an accident at a fast speed. You know it’s going to happen and that will make people not trust the automated systems. Hacking can break our faith in a whole lot of the IoT since there will be ample opportunities to hurt people by interfering with their car or their medicine or other technology that can harm as easily as it can help.

I can’t think I am untypical in this kind of fear. I think somehow as we make these big changes that somehow people have to be part of the equation. I don’t have an answer to this and frankly this blog just voices the concern. But it’s something we need to consider and talk about as a society.

The people issue is going to spring up around a lot of the aspects of IoT. It has already surfaced with Google Glass and many people have made it clear that they don’t want to be recorded by somebody else surreptitiously. As the IoT grows past its current infancy there are bound to be numerous clashes coming where tech confronts human fears, feelings and emotions.

There are certainly many of the aspects of the IoT that excite me, but as I think about them I would bet these same changes will frighten others. For instance, I love the idea of nanobots in my bloodstream that will tell me days early if I am getting sick or that will be able to kill pre-cancerous cells before they get a foothold in my body. But I am sure that same concept scares the living hell out of other people, the idea of having technology in our blood.

I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but the human equation must become part of the IoT. It has to. If nothing else, people will boycott the technology if it doesn’t make us feel safe.

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