Ambient Intelligence

Posted in Society and Technology by tpdr on February 6, 2009

This post is a summary of what I found interesting in the article ‘The Territory of Ambient Intelligence’ by Rob van Kranenburg in TAG MAG 06 ‘Augmented Reality, Superimposing the Virtual, published by <>TAG

In the Phaedrus Socrates spoke out against writing, pencils, and any other way of outsourcing our human memory to the environment, the question is should we exclude any kind of environment?

For most of us growing up with technology, makes it not technology but something that just is arround. As we are moving into the territory of ambient intelligence (AmI), we have between five and ten years to decide which connectivities we want, after that, also according to Marc Weiser in ‘The Computer of the 21st Century’, they disappear into the ‘fabric of everyday life’. Still there are still quiet a few catches.

Catch 1: The Internet is not yet ready to become the ‘Internet of Things’.

Catch 2: Philips sold their chip-making divisions so as not to get caught up in the debate of ‘privacy’. Companies do not want to be associated with things like RFID, they just want to add drama to the everyday life, bringing ambient narratives, gameplay, etc. in our homes. In these last cases people are not supposed to be thinking about what is running in the background to make them effective systems. But this can only happen if we can implement the technology in a stable environment, we need this so nothing goes wrong since people only start thinking of the system behind something if it goes wrong.

Catch 3: We want to be safe, not feel safe, because to feel safe may change quickly. AmI promises this safety, but will we still feel free? As an example of the totalitarian character of AmI just imagine this. Some people would like to use RFID to do provocative surveillance tracking every action of citizens. As somebody is noticed to have visited shop A to buy product A, then  stops at shop B to buy product B and ends up in shop C to buy product C, the police could catch him right there because these are the ingredients for a bomb. Just take this way of thinking and you might end up with a world in which you can get arrested for saying certain words, even thinking something, for reading this text, etc.

Catch 4: No more public. Even hacking an RFID tag is pretty useless as the database and thus the system will still continue to exist.

Catch 5: We have 2 options. One is that the ongoing disciplining process will sclae larger and to more damaging techno-logistic blocs (which we will have to fight). Option two is that the first cracks will show and in highly developed and techno-saturated countries opening the doors for cibil wars, gang wars, etc. not accepting the fact that a gouvernment which has outsourced its currency and law and privatised all it’s services, still collects 0% of our incomes. Anyway in both cases we need our own system of communication, transport, etc. and we that are the people involved with open source software, brico in nature, share as a way of living, people with some sense of shame left.

I must say I will not ask to agree or disagree, I think everybody should make up his/her own mind. This post is just a teaser to make people think. And I wanted to end this post with one advice: As artist, please don’t focus on the gadgets, but on the connectivity.