If you haven’t heard this term before, don’t worry. It’s one of those technology concepts being discussed mainly by Futurists, but businesses should start paying attention to it. Networked Matter is the next stage of human technology.
What we saw in science fiction movies is already happening. We see drones winning wars, animals and organs being cloned, people using prosthetics that obey the brain, objects in our homes “comingto life”; robots and autonomous cars are starting to be sold.
Oddly enough, this is only the beginning. Some experts from the Institute for the Future see biotechnology moving up on the list of priorities, leaving the IoTas something more common.
Let’s move on to the concept:
All current technologies such as Robotics (AI), IoT, Virtual Reality, Nanotechnology and Biotechnology, as of now, tend to evolve collaboratively, merging into what we will soon know as Networked Matter – or Interconnected Matter.
Imagine a doctor remotely performing a surgery with virtual reality goggles and a joystick. Envisage not only a smart city, but also a truly living and interconnected city, where objects and even the flora and fauna adapt to changes. These technology connections will grow exponentially as we understand the potential and its possible applications, which are already terrifying.
No matter how exciting it is to think about the possibilities, we must keep our feet on the ground, and worry about some ethical issues that tend to appear, especially the explosion of individual insecurity issues and ethical issues.
To start explaining the security issue, it’s worth playing the Moore’s Law card, which claims technology grows exponentially, that is, if in 1990 we had super-computers that fit into an entire floor, today we have devices that are one hundred times fasterand one million times cheaper in our pockets.
Some futurists go even further, for instance, Ray Kurzweil claims in his book,Singularity is Near, that one day, humans will simply stop dying. If we have all this firepower in technology today, imagine in 2021 or in 2100.
To illustrate technological growth even further, Jason Silva, in his outstanding lecture We Are Gods Now, reminds us that, 90 years ago, someone had a dream to fly, and today all are flying from one side to the other, texting andinstantly communicating with all parts of the globe while we fly over oceans.
The big problem here is not technology growth, but the slow growth of the security power for these new technologies, which don’t grow on the same scale. We’re always one step behind in terms of debates and security techniques. Uber is an example: first,an entire idea was created and put into practice, and only after one year, when the company was already consolidated, the social and political debates began to appear.
Or even worse: drones, which are already being used in wars without any international regulations or methodsto identify their users. Inthe current Middle East war for example, an American drone could send the wrong missile to the Russian side without anyone knowing its origin.
Technologies grow exponentially, but unfortunately, the safety systems, as well as the ethical and political debates,don’t evolve at the same rate, and this is alarming.
In addition, the security problems grow with issues such as user information confidentiality on the Internet and in any new systems that may arise (Spotify, Uber, Facebook, etc.) and even the simple movement of people through cities, which are getting smarter. For example, the Japanese are already developing cameras that identify people by the way they walk and run.
Ethical Issues in Biology
As for the biological aspect, it tends to get worse, a lot worse. We will upgrade our software in the same way we do with our Smartphones. Imagine groups of nanobots – invisible to the naked eye – crossing a river or a country, devastating crops and entire herds of animals.
If people and organizations are already acting in bad faith now (trying to acquire nuclear weapons for example), can you imagine when they try to hack into vehicles or robotic systems with the foulest intentions? Think of whole herds of cattle orfish farms being treated with micro robotic cells that cure diseases, directly monitoring themthrough their bloodstream. Why not use this in humans? Just imagine the amount of information these companies will getfrom entering the bodies…
Networked Matter is coming, driven by human nature’s immense force to evolve, and we should worry about this. This unbridled quest for immortality, to increase our potential, tools and firepower, might start to bring much bigger problems than just stress…
IFTF – Institute For The Future
Beyond The Coming Age of Networked Matter
Why Networked Matter is one futurist concept you need to know
Jason Silva (futurist)
Technology Grows Exponentially
Breakthrough: Electronic circuits that are integrated with your skin