Internet of Things as Applied Demonology

The price of the Internet of Things will be a vague dread of a malicious world

Volkswagen didn't make a faulty car: they programmed it to cheat intelligently. The difference isn't semantics, it's game-theoretical (and it borders on applied demonology).

[...] Test the energy efficiency of a lamp, and you'll get an honest response from it. Objects fail, and sometimes behave unpredictably, but they aren't strategic, they don't choose their behavior dynamically in order to fool you. Matter isn't evil.

But that was before. Things now have software in them, and software encodes game-theoretical strategies as well as it encodes any other form of applied mathematics, and the temptation to teach products to lie strategically will be as impossible to resist for companies in the near future as it has been to VW, steep as their punishment seems to be. As it has always happened (and always will) in the area of financial fraud, they'll just find ways to do it better. [...]

So the fact is that our experience of the world will increasingly come to reflect our experience of our computers and of the internet itself (not surprisingly, as it'll be infused with both). Just as any user feels their computer to be a fairly unpredictable device full of programs they've never installed doing unknown things to which they've never agreed to benefit companies they've never heard of, inefficiently at best and actively malignant at worst (but how would you know?), cars, street lights, and even buildings will behave in the same vaguely suspicious way. Is your self-driving car deliberately slowing down to give priority to the higher-priced models? Is your green A/C really less efficient with a thermostat from a different company, or it's just not trying as hard? And your tv is supposed to only use its camera to follow your gestural commands, but it's a bit suspicious how it always offers Disney downloads when your children are sitting in front of it.

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4 Responses:

  1. Dara says:

    I want to dismiss this, but if there is anything I've learned from the last 15 years, it's that humans, given a chance, will make the paranoid delusions of other humans into actual reality.

    • Space Hobo says:

      I am not only still getting over the fact that the Goodtimes virus was made real, I'm still getting over the fact that this reaction is now trite and overplayed.

      Yeah yeah grandad, tell us again of a time when e-mails couldn't drain your bank account.

      • Dara says:

        Hell, screw Goodtimes - the Bush (II) administration's first term took all these paranoid conspiracy theories of the 80s and 90s and implemented them wholesale. As far as I'm concerned, legitimising those crackpots was a crime against humanity all by itself.

  2. MetaRZA says:

    I used to think that JWZ's quip "sysadmining your television" was scary. Now we get to sysadmin just about everything.

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