How can the Internet of Things (IoT) boost our happiness?
I was lucky enough to spend last week in Barcelona debating the future of IoT with some great minds, and I really want to share some of our thoughts.
The interesting element about the debate is that we applied a philosophical twist to it: we debated following the rules of a socratic dialogue, which gave us a framework to avoid losing track of the main objective and falling into the classic loop of opinions. (To know more about this please visit http://humbertoschwab.net.)
We are still programmed for living in an industrial society, but it’s pretty clear we’ve already moved into a new digital world. It’s a new era that we need to understand and build together by making new rituals, concepts, paradigms and strategies. Believe it or not, we will all be the key drivers of this process and we need a framework to start designing the world we want to live in.
In Socratic dialogue you start from simple questions and listen carefully to each other, and together you craft analyses and answers. The dialogue is very concrete, avoiding abstract academic knowledge and creating practical intelligent ways to improve our lives and communities. We find wisdom in the detail. It is the art of listening: listening to the other but also listening to ourselves. What are our real needs and desires? In Socratic dialogue, we create knowledge based on our own personal cases, while using the practical intelligence of all participants.
So what did we actually achieve during those days of dialogue?
Firstly, we all agreed that ‘moral values’ are the most important element of our society; economies can only flourish within a common moral system. How can we add value if we do not agree on these values? We have worked years towards freedom, which is no less than a community that gives you dreams and the tools to make them happen.
We concluded that our community should have the following values:
Integrity: including respect, trust and authenticity. We are a community, and without these at its core, it would be nothing other than the wild west.
Creativity: we believe the essence of humans lies in creating, and therefore the community should enable people to do this.
Collaboration: we believe there is no single human being who has all the skills needed to deliver something new; so the recognition of strengths and weaknesses together with the collaboration of individuals in the community is crucial to lead the future.
Openness: there is no creation without curiosity for the new, learning and sharing of thoughts and discoveries.
Love: we believe this is very simple and can be a given, but we also believe it’s worth keeping in mind. Love is the pillar of family and community, the driver of passion and achievement.
Secondly, we looked at what exactly IoT means. We came up with a simple definition: IoT enables connectivity between things providing data to extract value. It allows for real-time interactions and data visualisation that ultimately should enhance our knowledge and drive better performance and enjoyment of the world.
Now let’s see what happens if we connect the values to the technology:
"The creation of IoT solutions designed around openness of data, and integrity of sources aimed at supporting collaborative knowledge, will provide us with trustworthy results that will allow a genuine projection of ourselves into the digital future."
Beautiful! These few words felt like guidelines to a future I would love to contribute to.
And what about the position of the user in this beautiful new world? I have read a lot about the consumer economy, about how all these new digital services are empowering the consumer to control brands and products. I still believe we are very far from this. Users are still consumers of pre-packaged products and services, they are more involved consumers, but still consumers. I read a lot about fragmentation of data and solutions; it something that we are very committed to solving at Nuwe.
So, the question becomes: how can we eliminate fragmentation?
In the values list above, the word ‘creativity’ was an important one: I believe the essence of humans is creating and thus the economy should enable people to create things. This statement is based on the fact that we are not made to live in comfort, but we are inspired by complex challenges. A comfort economy where we can just buy stuff sounds very good but will eventually create unhappiness and fragment our minds. We need to make.
The solution I think is very much in line with the above arguments, since we need to define where the user sits on those values. My view is that currently the user sits underneath technology and data, being presented with thousands of pre-packaged services that further fragment personal data and digital experience.
Instead, I believe the user should sit on top of data and become a maker of technology, not a consumer of technology. This the vision we are trying to implement at Nuwe. We are making technology personal by allowing users to make their own personal digital services.
"Users are makers, not consumers."
In conclusion, I would like to touch on artificial intelligence. I said users should own their data and be on top of it, a figurative way to define the hierarchy between the two. Therefore, artificial intelligence and machine learning, in my opinion, should be focused on augmenting our skills rather than automating them. The point is: are we becoming robots… or super-humans?
I honestly would choose the latter of the two since it means I will keep control over the technology that I use to augment my life, instead of trusting a service to automate my decision making.