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Living a life embedded with intelligent systems

Microsoft sees a near-future where embedded microchips will record everything and intelligent systems will analyze the data to make a better world.

A recent feature story on the Microsoft press website describes the near-future as a world of embedded microchips recording everything we do and consume and then reporting that data to intelligent systems for analysis. A world where there are no surprise trends or unexpected markets; a world where the collective behavior of all of us is predicted by statistical analysis.

I don't know about you, but I am not absolutely sure that is a good thing. The Microsoft version makes it sound wonderful; a reality that should be welcomed and embraced. But, in many ways, the whole scenario sounds like the opening to a science fiction novel in which machines enslave the human race.

Reality

The reality is somewhere in between enslavement and embedded-everything bliss. There is no doubt that embedded microchips are going to be everywhere and put into everything -- you can see the IDC trends for yourself in Figure A.

Figure A

Courtesy of Microsoft

Embedded systems shipments are on the rise, Oct. 27, 2011.

The crux of the Microsoft version of the story is explained in this excerpt:

It's a very real place where smart devices share their experiences wirelessly with large data warehouses, and software then connects that data in logical ways to portray the hidden patterns and trends that allow organizations to see business intelligence faster than ever before -- from individual buying habits, to oil consumption by region, to the epidemiology of diseases across continents.

The relevant questions yet to be answered fully are who controls the data collected by those embedded systems and what analysis will be conducted by those in control? Intelligent systems will undoubtedly make at least some aspects of our daily lives better, but what cost are we are willing to pay for those conveniences? Are you comfortable with your life being dissected, analyzed, and used as an everyday part of business intelligence? Does anonymity make such data collection a nonissue?

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About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

8 comments
hippiekarl
hippiekarl

1) What does the inevitability of death have to do with your supposition that 'making the most of it' necessarily involves having 'business' (at the least) or 'tyranny-of-the-majority control freaks (at the worst) keeping track of your every move, with the stated agenda of 'predicting your life's events'? 2) The faith-in-the-human-race crowd will will be lining up against this particular bit of 'tech inevitability', I'm sure. I'll be there with them....

FanoTech
FanoTech

2 things to say to people against this: 1. We're gonna die anyways minus as well make the most of it. 2. Suck it up you pussies and have some faith in the human race

phil
phil

This reminded me of a European project that finished more than 5 years ago: http://www.embedded-wisents.org/ They ran a series of competitions where people were invited to write papers about the future of sentient systems. I think the slant was more towards a benevolent Big Brother, but then I suppose they all start off that way, don't they?

mckinnej
mckinnej

Both of these have to get mentioned. I'd lean more toward Big Brother on this one. This is all about targeting us and getting into our wallets deeper than ever. There will be lots of disabling to do. I can see me snipping the legs on some IC chips. On the upside, they'll create a market for blocking tools, so someone will make money besides the data miners.

markcnz
markcnz

Living a life embedded with intelligent systems

robo_dev
robo_dev

For he sees an evil conspiracy lurking in any collection of any data about anybody. My attitude is that those who worry about evil government conspiracies are wrong for two reasons: a) There is a virtual sea of data..why would they care about you, specifically? What is the evil motivation for some entity to learn what coffee you like to drink? b) Government incompetence trumps government conspiracy every time. If the government cannot do simple things like delivering the mail well, the plot to use your digital-TV convertor or Smart PowerMeter to spy on you is not gonna fly.....

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Are you comfortable with your life being dissected, analyzed, and used as an every-day part of business intelligence?

alandeanreeder
alandeanreeder

you're excited? about what? the fact that the government will watch every move you make, and if they don't like what they see, what will happen to you? and, how do you feel about your kids with these chips embedded in them? brainwashing the kids into believing that this is the norm for the american people. everyday we are losing our freedom and this is just another tool for DHS and other's to spy on us and violate our rights, ect., ect., ect.. i see nothing good coming out of this...