We have a choice about the world that technology will give us

Phil Windley, former CTO of Utah and now CTO of a startup called Kynetx, has an inspiring, brief piece on how technologists can help build a technological world where technology helps us live better lives over which we have more control, and how a failure to do something to build this world will give us a place where we are continuously spied upon and manipulated.

We probably don’t really have a choice about whether a $0.03 wireless sensor platform will exist. Technology marches on.

But we do have a choice about how it will be employed. If we follow the path we’re on now, all those devices will be controlled by some company somewhere that is providing the service behind them. All that data that all those devices are gathering about you will be streamed back to a walled garden via an encrypted channel to end up as fodder for some big data analytics platform that will be used by someone to sell you more stuff. You will be spied on by everything around you with no rational way to understand where all that data is going and how it’s being used. We’ll create government regulations that will do little to rationalize your world or help you understand it because they will only succeed in further Balkanizing it.

There is another path: in this alternate world all the devices that are related to you will push their data into a place that you control. This will seem rational and natural because the model will follow the structure of the world you’re already used to with clear delineations between public and private spaces and easy-to-understand controls over how data is used and shared. I say “natural” in a literal way. This is the way the physical world works and we’re all used to it. In this alternate world you are in control.

Build the World You Want to Live In (via Hack the Planet)


  1. Another way to look at it:

    I’m indenturing myself to technology now so that maybe, someday, I will have the means to completely disconnect from most technology. 
    (The two forms of tech I hope to keep in my life will be 1) uphill wire rope transportation and 2) fiberglassing.)

  2. I notice the writer is a highly successful corporate officer.  It is nice that he has choices about how his privacy balances with his technology.  Many Americans actually don’t have those choices. Some of them worry about the choice between rent and food.

  3. Seems like an argument between government and corporations over which Panopticon manager we’re going to get. Which box do we check for “neither?”

  4. The article sounds to me like it is coming from the idea of “Corporations are people, too” which is only a legal reality and hopefully it will be overturned soon. Magical thinking on the part of corporations that “think” they are focused on technology when actually they are focused on being corporations. They are caught up in the magic so much that the kind of people who are not corporations but use technology suffer from it.  Makes one want to become a neo-Luddite!

    1.  Neo-Luddite, eh?  I’ve pretty much resigned that the iPhone 4 is the last smartphone I’ll have. There’s too much new tech that makes spying on the owner all the easier.

      While I haven’t read this article, it reminded me of, on the surface, Jello Biafra’s “Become The Media” tour that was put on three CDs.  He’s got a lot of great ideas, as usual.

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