The idea that there’s a set of consistent first principles behind the existence and operations of the universe is undermined by evidence of a multiverse – many universes with potentially different properties – and the existence of “dark matter.” In this universe and on this planet, we’ve had just the right conditions for life – is this an accident? What other conditions may exist, what other forms of life? Question’s raised by Alan Lightman in his Harper’s piece, “The Accidental Universe: Science’s Crisis of Faith.” Thinking about the expansion and dissolution of the universe is a great way to feel smaller, less like a dominant life form and more like a gnat buzzing in the dark. Smaller still when thinking how all must be infinite, yet infinity seems impossible to grasp. Our place in all this is uncertain. Do we have within us manifestations of the universal, are we all pieces of some expansive and infinite intelligent hologram? Or are we bits of dust in an infinite chaotic meaningless haboob?
The Internet of Things, predicted by Bruce Sterling around 2006, is happening. Steve Lohr in the NY Times explores the mainstreaming of the idea: “… the protean Internet technologies of computing and communications are rapidly spreading beyond the lucrative consumer bailiwick. Low-cost sensors, clever software and advancing computer firepower are opening the door to new uses in energy conservation, transportation, health care and food distribution. The consumer Internet can be seen as the warm-up act for these technologies.”
Across many industries, products and practices are being transformed by communicating sensors and computing intelligence. The smart industrial gear includes jet engines, bridges and oil rigs that alert their human minders when they need repairs, before equipment failures occur. Computers track sensor data on operating performance of a jet engine, or slight structural changes in an oil rig, looking for telltale patterns that signal coming trouble.
Here’s Bruce at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in 2006: