By James Hirsen, Special for USDR
Eric Schmidt is the former software engineer who rose to become executive chairman of Google.
Schmidt recently spoke to the top political, business, and financial minds gathered together at the World Economic Forum. The global event was held at the fashionable Swiss municipality of Davos.
Schmidt’s speech carried a prediction regarding the Internet; that being, the World Wide Web as we know it is essentially destined to fade to black. Responding to a question about the web’s future, Schmidt said, “I will answer very simply that the Internet will disappear.”
The vanishing net to which Schmidt refers is not the death of the web per say, but rather the notion that the Internet of the future will so extensively permeate our lives, it will effectively be subsumed into life’s backdrop. In other words, it is Schmidt’s contention that in due time people will no longer be consciously aware of the actual presence of the Internet.
“There will be so many IP addresses…so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with that you won’t even sense it,” the Google executive explained. “It will be part of your presence all the time.”
Silicon Valley is in the process of developing appliances, systems, and controlling devices that are connected to one another through use of the Internet. Major manufacturers such as Samsung and LG are already promoting smart appliances, which utilize the net to operate devices via a home technology hub.
Schmidt painted a figurative picture of what a futuristic technologically advanced smart room might look like.
“Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic,” he said. “And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room.”
Although Schmidt included the word “permission” in his description, the reality is a great deal of present-day technology already involves data that are being obtained without the consent of consumer participants.
The interconnected apparatuses that Schmidt describes, which include smart clothing, accessories, and appliances, are being referred to as the “Internet of Things.” However, use of such devices raises the specter of the surreptitious collection of data and the tangential demise of privacy.
Boo-Keun Yoon, president of Samsung Electronics, has pinned a numerical tag on it. The company head recently told an audience at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that the tech industry will fully embrace the Internet of Things within five years.
Still, the very inter connectivity that is essential to the Internet of Things has the potential to create significant privacy risks for unsuspecting users. Privacy has been directly addressed by a group of Harvard professors who delved into the darker side of technological advances at the Davos forum.
According to the scholarly group, the future will include the use of mosquito-sized robots that will travel by flight and land upon individuals for the purposes of secretly obtaining DNA samples. Retail chains and Internet marketers will potentially be able to use collected data to evaluate individuals in relation to such highly confidential areas as individual predispositions and personal health profiles.
“Welcome to today. We’re already in that world,” Margo Seltzer, a Harvard computer science professor stated.
Seltzer provided an epitaph for personal privacy’s gravestone when she said, “Privacy as we knew it in the past is no longer feasible… How we conventionally think of privacy is dead.”
Sophia Roosth, who conducts research on twenty-first century life sciences for the Harvard History of Science Department, warned about the future collection of personal genetic information. The use of such data in the public sphere is “inevitable,” according to Roosth.
The research scientist pointed out that intelligence agents are already in the process of collecting genetic information to determine susceptibilities to diseases and life expectancies of foreign leaders.
“We are at the dawn of the age of genetic McCarthyism,” Roosth said. Genetics could be used to determine health insurance costs, suitability for employment, and other even more intrusive purposes.
Seltzer told the Davos crowd to expect a future in which invasion of privacy becomes “more pervasive.”
The professor emphasized the disturbing fact that privacy rights, which have always been part of the American fabric, are already severely endangered.
“It’s not whether this is going to happen, it’s already happening…,” Seltzer said. “We live in a surveillance state today.”