How the internet first connected people,
then things and then people to things


About the #InternetofHumans blog series:

As co-founder and CEO of IDUN Technologies I come across fascinating people and technologies every day. In this series I want to share some insights in my personal and our company world view and invite readers to dream about the world of tomorrow. Our vision at IDUN Technologies is to create the #InternetofHumans and we want to invite you to be part of it. Regularly check in to get the newest gist on what’s happening in our world.

To start this blog post about the Internet of Humans and what it could mean for our society and our species I would like to start with a quote from Dr. Markus Weinberger, former director of the Bosch Internet of Things & Services Lab at the University of St. Gallen: “I recognized that the internet was no longer only about connecting people but about connecting ‘things’ – inanimate objects. I had the feeling that, as the internet once did, the IoT would induce significant changes to many aspects of our lives.” [1] Several things are worth noting in that quote. Firstly, the internet connected people. When Ray Tomlison sent the first email ever in 1971 through the ARPANET they would have hardly imagined that in 2019 close to 300 billion emails would be sent per day. [2] Secondly, as the quote above from Dr. Weinberger accurately describes, at some point the internet was about connecting “things”. He describes it as: “Consider a standard light bulb and imagine extending it with sensors, local computing power (so an implemented microprocessor) and connectivity. That light bulb could be mounted in a room and produce light, so the very same functionality that a light bulb has ever had. Yet at the same time, due to its sensors, its computing power, and its connectivity, it could be leveraged to provide additional services – for example, it could be adopted for security purposes. So, with this light bulb you have the physical, local aspect, and the digital, security service.”

«We want to build a bridge between your mental and cognitive state…»

Okay, fine enough, but where does the human come into play? Imagine you now have said light bulb, but it is connected to your brain. I know, it sounds absurd and quite comical (I am just thinking of a guy with an idea and a 💡 emoji) but imagine this light bulb can understand how you feel. A lot of “smartness” can already be retrieved today by the concept of partial decoding hypothesis (we’ll touch upon that later on) like adapting the blue light to the time of the day or just simply making the light bulb react to your Philips Hue color app because you simply just like… green. However, when we talk about an Internet of Humans, we want to go beyond adapting the color of a light bulb to the time of day. We want to build a bridge between your mental and cognitive state and the elements of your smart home system to create a tailor-made environment which adapts perfectly to you and not to an approximated profile based on limited data input.

Another description of this comes from Kujisters et al. in his 2015 paper [3]: «Among the various facets of ambient intelligence, a particularly interesting one is the so-called “empathic technology”: systems able to detect the affective state of a person, and react on it by providing the necessary care.»

Figure 1: The intelligent living room which reacts to your needs with «empathic technology»
AI = Augmented Intelligence

The term “internet of humans” invites to dream about a distant future where Homo Sapiens becomes Homo Deus through artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, as described in the bestseller Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow from
Yuval Noah Harari.

I feel like a topic I have to talk about in this blog is the “AI will make us lose our jobs” argument. According to PwC estimates, 20% of jobs are at risk of being taken over by an AI/ML capable system by the end of 2020 and up to 35% by mid-2030s [4]. So, windy waters ahead captain. However, a fact which in my opinion is often overlooked is that it is not simply “us against AI” but
“us with AI”.

The human-machine symbiosis or simply man-computer symbiosis has been termed by J.C.R. Licklider in the 1960s [5] (!) .. “The concept is simple, to make humans set the goal and define the criteria where the machine does the routinizable work to prepare for insights and decision making in technical and scientific thinking”. If you translate that concept to the 2020s it sounds like this: “Intelligence is augmented when we optimize the computational power of computers and IoT with the cognition, intuition and “common sense” of human beings” [6].

From that viewpoint questions like “will intelligent systems make human workforce redundant” and “will humans become meaningless without work?” seem misplaced. It is not about replacing, it’s about augmenting. To quote Paul Pavlou from Temple University Philadelphia: …”In contrast [to disciplines where AI doesn’t need human judgement like data analytics, natural language processing and machine learning], areas such as design of creative marketing ads, personal selling, hiring and mentoring employees, strategic decision-making and treating diseases are prime examples where human judgment, managerial intuition and human-computer symbiosis can still enhance work performance.” Pavlou continues with arguing that human beings generally outperform machines when dealing with ambiguity, vagueness, and incomplete information or when requiring emotional intelligence or judgement. Augmented reality integrates the unique abilities of human beings that cannot be replicated by AI (yet).

«We are on the brink of a gigantic revolution to catalyze the evolution of our
species dramatically.»

Researching for this blog post I have really come to the realization that it’s not about the future of humans, nor about the future of machines, it’s about the future of both entities coalesced, melded, and forever entangled. We are on the brink of a gigantic revolution to catalyze the evolution of our species dramatically. Okay, okay, I am turning down the volume and taking off my 3D glasses and trying to keep my feet on the ground.

As one could guess, disruptive changes of society almost always come with certain hurdles and challenges along to the way. In the next series of my #InternetofHumans blog posts I will talk about the rules we have to agree upon and things we have to take care of to make sure we don’t forget the human on the way. Stay tuned for #2 in the coming weeks!

[1] Dr. Markus Weinberger, The Internet of Humans, Article in Reflect, Equatex
[2]  Key Internet Statistics to Know in 2020 (including Mobile), Broadband Search
[3] Kujisters et al., July 2015, Lighting to Make You Feel Better: Improving the Mood of Elderly People with Affective Ambiences
[4] Will robots really steal our jobs? An international analysis of the potential long-term impact of automation © 2018 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
[5] J.C.R. Licklider, Man-Computer Symbiosis, March 1960
[6] Paul Pavlou, Internet of Things – Will Humans be Replaced or Augmented? AI and Augmented Intelligence / Vol. 10, No. 2, 2018

Hello everyone!

Thank you for reading my blog post. I am a first-time founder with the vision to enable the Internet of Humans. I am interested in wearable technology which enables humans to more intuitively engage with each other and the digital world.

As a co-founder and chief executive officer of a tech-startup I am excited by building world-class teams, building win-win partnerships with customers and research institutions to make the next-generation of wearables a reality. Most of the stuff I do on a daily basis I have never done before and what I lack in experience I make up with my hunger to learn.

Do you want to get in contact and discuss the topic? Connect me on linkedin or write me an email!

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