Just recently in the news Samsung TV’s ‘listening’ in on our personal conversations has been labelled “outrageous” and reporters have cited George Orwell’s novel 1984 description of tele-screens.  The general vibe is that “we” don’t like it.

It is unacceptable and “we” should be able to control where our conversations go and who listens to them.

What we do like is quizzes about ourselves, Facebook news feeds are filled with “what personality type are you”, “What type of wine/flower/cat/star wars character are you?” “What job should you be doing?”

We also like projects that hold up the mirror (or smart phone); such as Selfiecity.net that investigated the style of self-portraits in five cities across the world; the website presents their findings; the demographics, poses and expressions and what parallels can be drawn about gender, age and city.

And we like books such as “Information is Beautiful” by David McCandless a data journalist and information designer whose mission is “dedicated to distilling the world’s data, information and knowledge into beautiful, interesting and, above all, useful visualizations, infographics and diagrams.”

So in summary we do ‘like’…ourselves.  “We” find ourselves interesting, so naturally we like to “talk about ourselves”, “find out things about ourselves”. “We” like putting information out about ourselves online and having it mirrored back to us.

So what it is that really irks us about our conversations being listened to by computers?

Is it the instilled “it is rude to eavesdrop”?

Is it the spoken word is more sacred?

Is it that the spoken word can be misconstrued but the written is there in black and white?

Is a matter of control and the ability to edit? How many times have you wanted to take back something you said, hit backspace as the words tumble out of your mouth?

Interesting isn’t it, what we deem as acceptable and what we don’t.

Now if you caught a glimpse of the recent CES (Consumer Electronic / Technology tradeshow) you will know that “The internet of things” (IoT) played a major role, a future where everything is connected, a future of smart homes, cars, and appliances. I’m talking connected lightbulbs, self-watering flowerpots, smart toothbrushes and smart pet feeders. Everything is getting a chip or a sensor and will be connected, storing and sharing data about each other and about us…

Stacey Higginbotham’s words come into mind.

Cool, Convenient, Creepy.

We, funny humans that don’t like to have our privacy invaded.

We, funny humans that sometimes forget to lock the door on our way out.

We, funny humans that don’t have time or inclination to read companies privacy policies.

We, funny humans that turn to technology to make our lives easier and more convenient.

Cisco is predicting for year 2020 that there will be 50 billion connected devices communicating.

At the recent The Future Laboratory: Trend Briefing we looked at two drivers behind this self-focused “Me-conomy”.

  • The Sharded Self.  Where we, funny humans, “reveal an increasing range of character facets online and off-line.”  Think about it for a moment, is your identity on Facebook the same as LinkedIn?  What about Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, where are you expressing different versions of you?
  • The convergence economy.  Where industries collide. “Formerly separate industries are merging as consumers demand immersive experiences and technology is woven into all aspects of daily lives.”

How are these related? Well, industries, let’s use the example of a fashion and technology collaboration in the form of the app, ASAP54.  The Asap54 iPhone app combines visual recognition technology, crowdsourcing and a team of in-house personal stylists. The user uploads an image of an item or look that they are after and the app searches for an exact match in its database or suggests a related product. The users can then click through and buy the product. Cool? Convenient? Creepy???

Industries are using your data to delight and enchant. It is a win win, you are getting a more personalised unique experience, they are getting your business (and your data). Which takes us back to our smart TV. Being able to browse websites, access apps and games and maybe even watch your favourite programme is cool and convenient. The information gathered by the TV is for tailoring the service provided.

Cool and convenient.

What about the Creepy? I guess it comes down to we funny humans, to know ourselves and what level of creepy we are willing to accept for cool and convenient. The IoT is here and the future is exciting.  But we need to take responsibility and ask the right questions. What questions? Well, that’s another topic all together.