Some time back, I answered the excellent questions posed by the Pew Research Center about the future of smart systems. Enough time had passed that I was pleasantly surprised to read the results, and to see a quote of mine called out. It runs as follows:
Jerry Michalski, president of Sociate and consultant for the Institute for the Future, shared a comprehensive view of flaws he sees, writing, “A few years back, BMW and Mercedes Benz had to turn off some of the onboard electronics on their high-end cars because complexity gremlins were making things break. Those are smart German companies that one assumes have a lot of control over their components and their software. Diabetic Jay Radcliffe recently hacked into his own wirelessly enabled insulin pump, changing his dosage. The Internet of Things and the subsequent world of smart systems, from smart cars and smart highways to smarter cities and smart homes is mostly overblown, and, in fact, poses a significant risk of creating overwhelming complexity, which could take down the Internet we now have. It also opens the door to hacking scenarios we seem to not want to contemplate. Every security technology becomes obsolete. If we connect all these new things and expose them to external control, you can bet some of the forces controlling them won’t be the designers or owners. As these connected devices age, they’ll just become more vulnerable. Imagine also the court cases of people hit by autonomous vehicles, for example. I see our ‘smarter world’ much as I see genetically modified organisms right now: very powerful technologies that could do a lot of good but are being implemented poorly.”
I’m typically an optimist, though not a techno-utopian. Imagining how complex a world full of smart things will be, combined with how unlikely it is that we’ll have a satisfactory field-upgradeable infrastructure (meaning the ability to increase embedded devices’ security in years to come, once they’re installed) makes me extremely skeptical that this ends well for us all.