Intelligence at the edges and a hungry heart




Published in: on November 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

How to negotiate IoT into a political reality, or on How Not Having IoT is ‘Evil’

How to negotiate IoT into a political reality.

Rob van Kranenburg

One third of all cars at any given moment in the city is searching for parking in the center. Yet car sharing is not immediately an option for most people. It has to meet certain standards and be convenient. The negatives of too many cars are obvious: pollution, traffic jams, congestion of public transport as well. Currently the time tables on the busses do not yet show real-time waiting minutes. Yet, as one third of all cars in the city are looking for a parking spot sharing information about parking spaces in real time would help to solve the parking problem, needless fuel consumption and traffic jams.

In mapping the stakeholders we see who is involved: citizens, commuters, city council, city planning; maintenance, public transport, pedestrian, city bike renting bikes, parking services, traffic police, and taxi drivers. The main issue is on routing and timing. It takes places mainly in the city center but also the problem is seen to be spreading out over the city. The problem is worse during the morning (parents drive their children to school), in the weekend and during the rains. We have different groups of people who are faced with the issue because of different reasons. It seems that what they need is some kind of city dashboard that shows them open spaces, traffic congestions, planned maintenance, potential upload of alerts (fix my street) that pushes notifications to smartphone apps (or wearables), on hyper-local climate, hyper-local news for individuals and groups (for example parents allow their children to bike to school through traffic free zones during the morning, escorted by students) offering citizens information on the best time to leave the home, which route to take, which people are taking the same route at the same time (potential car-sharing) and what type of weather is expected throughout the day. Interesting scenarios evolve around microclimate; is it possible to predict hyper-local weather and thus steer biking, walking and bus routes?

One of the key elements that runs as a thread through the ideas in the first IoT and Smart City workshops that we held in Novi Sad and Santander as part of the EU project was the notion of exchange and facilitating exchange. It built on the fix my street and smart gardening where the idea is that incentives drive behaviour: “As the area gets cleaner, all the people in the street benefit. As you have helped to make the street cleaner or water the plants you feel more part of the process, you get a feeling of self-satisfaction and maybe a feeling of ownership, like in I did that! This feeling of ‘pride’ and being recognized for having done what you did in the street can give more motivation then money. And from these small steps we have to work on the mentality change that is needed. Positive feedback is essential for everybody in the process to stimulate self-organization and a sense of community.”

It was therefore decided that further work in Novi sad will be around this exchange platform with key stakeholders in that case; the building janitors and selected occupants, building management professionals, (chosen by the inhabitants) presidents of apartment blocks, maintenance professionals, and a representative of DUNAVNET, developers partnering in

Janitors and building managers are pragmatic and solution oriented people. They quickly decided to focus not on community issues around the houses and in the neighborhood but on internal question in the building management. A recent law stipulates that every building has a chosen president. In the meeting we learned that some presidents want to professionalize more in what they do and service more buildings. Could SOCIOTAL assist them and build incentivizing mechanisms for different stakeholders to facilitate this?

Inside the building a number of issues can be investigated: flat roofs leaking water, fire security not up to date, sewage and heating systems, security, the noise of different life-rhythms in community spaces, the community police not being taken seriously, and the issue of the maintenance of the elevators. The participants decided on the latter as the key issue:

-           a new law requires certification but there are only three institutions who are able to do this. Remote management would be a huge time gain as now the permits take very long and the elevator can not function without the certificate

-           every elevator has its own closed software system. There is no back up of its history, only a maintenance book that could be anywhere in the bulding and is a single copy that could get lost

-           quality control could be ensured by monitoring the elevator

-           monitoring the elevator could also give insight into its use

The notion of a passport for the elevator was proposed (which could be extended to ‘heating’, ‘boiler’…) which could be triggered on a smartphone through RFID or NFC or a QR code. It would link to a webpage where data can be added and stored by different stakeholders: the owner, the companies, the building manager, the maintenance and the inhabitants of the building. It could also be read by the certification authorities that what need less on sight inspections. Such a system will bring transparency to the entire value model.

In these co-creation workshops that were done with Nathalie Stembert ( it became clear that a key prerequisite for a smart city supported by citizens is transparency of the data and information flows for all the stakeholders involved. In the context of this means in this case:

ν          an ecology of enablers: RFID, NFC, QR codes, barcodes

ν          a policy ecology of regulations (local, national and EU) on elevators

ν          developer communities that will be invited to participate in the SOCIOTAL toolkit and professional communities that SOCIOTAL provides incentivizing mechanisms for (in this case the Novi Sad building community) for further professionalization in becoming a Stakeholder Coordinator in IoT

ν          citizens that are invited to co-create scenarios that are meaningful to them, in this case by giving input to and receiving better services

The key elements of the vision as they were voiced during the discussion in the first and second workshop were:

a mentality change: “How can we all (ourselves included) make the switch from ‘This is their building’, to ‘This is our building, our street, our park?. This is a mindset change and extremely complex. Pretty much a lot of citizens are depressed. Youth unemployment is very high, much to high. There is a sense of togetherness that is missing.”

mixing public and private responsibilities: The funding should come partly from the government and partly from crowd funding and private donors as ownership must be taken by citizens and it should not feel as if everything is already decided. A business model could be on some basis of vouchers: I can donate time, money or can I buy a plant or tree? I have certain skills, can you use them? In exchange of what?

not inventing the wheel: use for example in the idea for the portal where citizens can log in and subscribe to donate a gift – time, money, a tool to a problem or cause in the street or neighbourhood.

Internet of Things can be the best possible feedback on my physical and mental health, the best possible deals based on real time monitoring for resource allocation, the best possible decision making based on real time data and information from open sources and the best possible alignments of my local providers with the global potential of wider communities.

Internet of Things is in its essence the seamless flow between the

  • BAN (body area network): the ambient hearing aide, the smart t-shirts…
  • LAN (local area network): the smart meter as a home interface,
  • WAN (wide area network): the bike, car, train, bus, drone…
  • VWAN (very wide area network): the ‘wise’ city as e-gov services everywhere no longer tied to physical locations

Whoever ensures traceability, sustainability and security linking up the gateways is de facto and de jure the new power. We see Google trying to achieve this with the Glass and Lense, the Google Power meter and NEST, the Car and automotive and the wooing discourse of public office by Eric Schmidt and

It is crucial that we organize to create an open source competitor to these gateways to ensure that the future is not old style corporate but truly open, public and inclusive.

It means that the hacking community stops hacking dying systems (actually keeping them alive by even bothering) and start building these gateways.

Where to start is not that difficult. Any period that is able to negotiate its way onto a new level, not blocked by revolution or breakdown, uses the last remnants of power as leverage. In our case the last stronghold of nation states is Identity Management; the passport. Currently this passport holds an RFID chip in a piece of paper. Logically, the next iteration will be a device. The next democracy will no longer have politicians, governments or voting every four years. It will build social organization based on (semi-autonomous) real time decision making monitoring, actuating systems – direct democracy -, harnessed in the next passport as an IoT device and controller. The EU, for example, (or Brazil) offers a trusted platform (based on possibly Fi-Ware, IoT-A and other open source architectures) where citizens can manage all services. The device talks to only one set of platforms build on the same architectural principles. In the service store citizens manage their taxes, their health, education, energy…. The device acts as a controller and can assign objects to it (for example your car or washing machine…). DPC (Digital Personal Coach) allows a 500 million zone (Europe) or a 200 million zone (Brazil) to build new social networks, search engines and sharing mechanisms as well as it own hardcoded security protocols, set of preferred currencies and business models. Responsibility in this context translates as a new form of CSR; ethics in business models, these have to be developed alongside the DPC.

There will be strong objections to such schemes. Not only will it break IP and the current dependencies of the ARPA/Internet, redistributing value, wealth and power; effectively ending the American digital hegemony, this approach takes Identity Management to an extreme level of transparency of individuals in a (federated) system. The strongest reason for implementing this fast is that failure to do so leads not to an inclusive smart society, but a set of smart gated communities or smart cities that are build for 10-15.000 people. If one does not believe that this is the current trajectory of IoT then this is a pragmatic clean slate approach that buys time to negotiate with all stakeholders; citizens, SME and startups, industry and .gov what kind of smart society they really want, becomes less appealing.

IoT is a paradigm shift and an ontological change. Our very notions of what it means to be human and what it means to be ‚in the world’ are based on subject-object dichotomies. IoT brings a third party into the equation, a database, algos and scenario reality that is always present in any interaction between object and subject. This is not an indifferent reality, however, but one of real stakeholders and investors. The consortia that will decide the validity of that reality is the new raw power, much in the same way as some groups claim to represent or know the validity of ‚God’, the ‚law’, ’democracy’ , or the ‚normal’. The protocols and procedures then that will build the IoT; driven by the need to individuate all objects; RFID, and SAAS in every object that can hold some software, Ipv6 are not neutral in a technological but also not in a political sense. When EAN and UCC merged into GS1 and became from ‚dumb’ (barcode) organizations the potential Google of the 21th century proposing an Object Name Server, a database for all objects or ‚goods’), no standard bodies saw these potentialities. Since then – as organizations became aware of the enormous power that GS1 would have holding this position – there has been work on federation, but the basic premise still stands. IP too has huge dependencies. It is essentially a situation where we are using patch after patch trying to remedy flaws of a systemic approach for which it was not build or intended.

We know that the Internet and even the web as we know it were flukes, never intended to end up as they are know. That is the very reason that they came to exist. Engineering paradigm shift in broad daylight having everyone’s attention is far more difficult, if not impossible. You have to find a hinge somewhere, an opening that can really crack a system wide open. It has never worked by trying to persuade policy makers, standard bodies and a general audience. The ‚normal’, however brief in times of Internet and web (browser being just 21 years old) is too comforting and strong. Google did it with one patch on a search engine algo, Facebook did by grabbing the timing of Orkut and even succeeded with a Founder who called his first ‚friends’ ‚dumb fucks’, so it is not impossible that a service, a product or a wearable can grab that same kind of energy and enforce a new systemic approach. The strongest candidate, however, remains the passport. It is a product, service, potential controller (of car registration systems, and other identification schemes) and enabler/entrance to a system, all in one.

The main and basically only benchmark that we have to address in hacking into a zone of normality when the arguments to do so are not shared by a majority, is to prove that such a systematic approach would potentially lead to less evil. We can not prove that it will lead to a better distribution of wealth and value per se, or that Climate Change could be harnessed by full traceability of energy from consumer to industry to resource gathering, nor that direct democracy on all local decisions would lead to better resource allocation, nor that full traceability will eradicate corruption, nor that the IoT as a new ontology will bring out more naturally the talents in people and the resources for them to develop them. But we can set up an argument on the main reason why we would want a system that feels more just to dealing with diversity in species – animals, plants, humans, machines – allocating resources for specific purposes, identifying the side effects of particular materials (plastic, nuclear waste…) early and finding alternatives, in short a system that redistributes uncertainty and violence in such a way that all actors share equally its burden. We would prefer such a system to the current state of affairs, and believe such a system would systematically lessen the very potentiality of evil occurring.

John Kekes defines evil as follows: “The evil of an action consists in the combination of three components: the malevolent motivation of evildoers; the serious, excessive harm caused by their actions, and the lack of morally acceptable excuse for the actions. “ (Roots of Evil, John Kekes, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 2005, p. 2) He continues to say that the explanation of evil has the following general characteristics: it is

Mixed because it involves the combination of internal-active, internal-passive, external-active and external-passive conditions;

Multi-causal because the conditions that jointly cause it vary with individuals, societies, times and places;

Particular because it involves the detailed consideration of conditions that differ from case to case”

It is important to realize this complexity can never be addressed in any systematic cybernetic scheme, but even more that according to Kekes: “Coping with evil depends on meeting these requirements, but meeting them will not make evil disappear once and for all because human motivation and the contingencies of life make evil a permanent threat to human well-being.”

The explanation of evil has the following particular characteristics:

If evil is unintentional, the explanation must identify the particular motive (internal-active condition), failure of misunderstanding (internal-passive condition), circumstances eliciting response n(external-active condition), and weak prohibitions of evil (external-passive condition) that jointly are the causes of evil;

If evil is intentional, the explanation must identify the motive and the circumstances eliciting response, but there will be no failure of understanding, and prohibitions of evil may not be weak


Given this explanation, coping with evil has the following requirements:


The cultivation of moral imagination because it changes the internal conditions and makes evildoing less likely

The enforcement of strong prohibitions because it changes the external conditions and may deter evildoing;

Enforecement by threatened or actual punishment for violations;

Holding evildoers responsible for both their intentional and unintentional violations, provided they have the capacity to foresee the readily foreseeable consequences of their actions; or excusing them if they lack the capacity.” (242-244)


We now have to argue that a cybernetic system of give and take 500 million people in a federated (privacies- build) platform would have a better chance of enforcement, prohibition, and responsibility upholding. If this is the case, the combination of these three requirements will lead to less evil and how can one not be for such a situation? In New Instruments of Governance for our Societies van Kranenburg and Gluhak argue for ICT technologies to play a more prominent role in supporting the governance of our society and explore the vision of how a pervasively deployed Internet of Things together with recent advances in social signal processing and persuasive technologies can enable new ways of decentralized governance. (PerCom Workshops 2012: 191-196) The smart city projects all demonstrate a level of control over situations, domains and infrastructure. The very nature of the drivers of IoT, RFID and Ipv6 embody authentication, friend-foe, traceability and accountability. We can then safely state that IoT and the proposed cybernetic system meets three out of four requirements that Kekes holds to be crucial to cope with evil: enforcement of strong prohibitions, enforcement by threatened or actual punishment for violation, and holding evildoers responsible.


If we can argue positively that IoT and the proposed scheme is instrumental in identifying personal talent as well as offering potential assistance in nurturing these talents, in giving feedback on physical and mental health in a way that is unmatched by current medical facilities, and in creating social cohesion because of the transparency and balance in providing resources, then we also have a positive match with the first requirement: the “cultivation of moral imagination because it changes the internal conditions and makes evildoing less likely.” It is then no coincidence that key elements coming from the co-creation workshops with citizens and developers above were:


  • a mentality change: “How can we all (ourselves included) make the switch from ‘This is their building’, to ‘This is our building, our street, our park?. This is a mindset change and extremely complex. Pretty much a lot of citizens are depressed. Youth unemployment is very high, much to high. There is a sense of togetherness that is missing.”


  • mixing public and private responsibilities: The funding should come partly from the government and partly from crowd funding and private donors as ownership must be taken by citizens and it should not feel as if everything is already decided. A business model could be on some basis of vouchers: I can donate time, money or can I buy a plant or tree? I have certain skills, can you use them? In exchange of what?


  • not inventing the wheel: use for example in the idea for the portal where citizens can log in and subscribe to donate a gift – time, money, a tool to a problem or cause in the street or neighborhood.


They are basically reiterating the requirements of Kekes, but are not aware of the deep level of human intentionality they are basing their preferences and urgencies. To speak in terms of ‘good’ or ‘evil’ needs a specific context that is difficult to situate in everyday practices, yet the three requirements that citizens feel to be key in shifting into a connected world match the requirements of Kekes: a mentality change that can only be fuelled by debate, discussion of alternatives, thus in stories and in the imagination, and managing external conditions by mixing public and private responsibilities. I want to argue to not inventing the wheel, points to the proposed passport-device plan. Simple, elegant and easy to implement in our current connected world. More importantly, I believe to have demonstrated to implementing this scheme will lead to less evil. Do not tell me, that you want otherwise? Or, if you do and want to keep the current situation stable, do then have the guts to speak, out and say; I willingly and purposefully choose the current state of affairs over a course that would bring less evil. I guess that would make you….:)



Published in: on November 2, 2014 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

no match for the Jack of Hearts.


The engineers took us to realtime.

They thought it was an empty space.

But we live there, in dreamtime.

We were caught by surprise in the plains.

The Rain Dance went limp.

They caught us fishing as Aborigines and slaughtered us, filled our minds with cluttering noise and meaningless chatter, chatter, chatter.

Thinking we would lose the open line

And for a while, we did.

This time we occupied the space not only with our own tools and dreams, as we live, but with their own tools and logic.

We learned about deliverables and milestones.  Where would these lie, I wonder, these stones?

RFID and IPv6 and we saw it was doable,

in fact simply waves.

We learned about projects and reviews and found that we can do them in three seconds flat and pass these reviews overcoming our fear of failure in anything we have not thought up from point zero.

We are here.

You will see us when we see you.

Do not be afraid, we will work with you and all your structures.

Yet all your assets – as you call them – are belong to us, to none, no one in p a r t i c u l a r.

And remember, if you will, the actor,  the Jack of Hearts

who had business back in town,

business back in town,

as we are growing up,

no match for the Jack of Hearts.

Published in: on May 2, 2014 at 2:15 am  Leave a Comment  


In his autobiographical story of his life with gypsies, Jan Yoors writes how hard it was for him to be outside in the open for weeks on end. At times he longs for a door and to be able to lock it. The gypsies understand him, but for them privacy is a state of mind: “…privacy was first of all a courtesy extended and a restraint from the desire to pry or interfere in other people’s lives. However, privacy must not be the result of indifference to others, but rather a mark of respect for them and of real compassion….”

Published in: on April 19, 2014 at 8:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Designing resonance

When I first started to think about this space it was called ubicomp, pervasive computing or ambient intelligence. These terms denote the move to the interface and design of systems as they get close and closer to humans in everyday living environments. In the text Mapping territory (July 2003) I started with Dreams of a Final Theory, where Steven Weinberg speaks of the “spooky ability of mathematicians to anticipate structures that are relevant to the real world”.

This text I said, “is about the spooky ability of designers to do just that, to anticipate structures that are relevant  to the real world, however spooky the real world might become. Rereading this a decade ago, I think I can safely say that those questions are still highly relevant:

How hard it is to write about a world becoming strange, or new, or spooky, after the dotcom crash, after the high hopes of increasing productivity through IT, of readers and writers becoming publishers both , of liberty finally around the corner: a product to be played out in all kinds of gender, racial and cultural roles, a process to drive decision-making transparency in both offline and online processes.  Only to have woken up to the actual realization of a highly synergized performance of search engines and backend database  driven visual interfaces. Postmodern theory, open source coding and multimedia channeling promised the production of a new, hybrid space, only to deliver the content convergence of media channels.

And yet, I claim that we are in the progress of witnessing the realization of such a new space. In places where computational processes disappear into the background – into everyday objects – both my reality and me as subject become contested in concrete daily situations and activities. Buildings, cars, consumer products, and people become information spaces by transmitting all kinds of data through Radio Frequency Tags that are rapidly replacing the barcode. We are entering a land where the environment  has become  the interface, where we must learn anew how to make sense.

The design challenge we are facing now is reading the flowing reality of our surface. How to store real-time information flows? How to chart them? Which are our seismographs? How do we match real-time processes with the signified that they are supposed to signify? How to find ways of deciding what is data and what is not data in the space of flows?

Every new set of techniques brings forth its own literacy:, the deliberate attempt of a technology to disappear as technology, implies that designers not only produce new products but also the process procedures that gave birth to these products in these first place.

The main question from a design educational point of view then concerns the kind of skills and kind of literacies that a designer needs to function. And these turn out to be those that are most foreign to an educational practice today, as this new situation needs designers that can assess emergent literacies, unforeseen uses, unintended use, and resonance – not interaction – as the key producer of causalities. For such a designer the default position is one of uncertainty, of being able to cope with a continuous delaying of the act of closure, of an ‘end’.

As the environment becomes the interface, where is the company dashboard, the familiar readers of situation, actions, scenarios? What becomes the toplevel skill in this environment? Serendipity used to be an interpretative tool, the skill to lay bare hidden connections. Now the ability to read data as data has become the top level skill. How else are you going to make sense of the serendipity that is scripted into your profiling strategies? How do you differentiate between content and context is your content is inherently contextualized?

In a ubicomp environment,  architecture will become once again the core unit of design. For something has fundamentally changed; the very nature of information itself, no longer analogue, no longer digital, and not hybrid neither: buildings, cars and people can now be defined as information spaces.”

I am therefore very happy to announce the IoT-A book: Enabling Things to Talk: Designing IoT solutions with the IoT Architectural Reference Model. This book, an open access book so free for download (see below), is the first comprehensive overview of the European Architecture Reference Model (ARM) for the Internet of Things. It includes both a reference manual and numerous best practices and tips for implementing the ARM and is written in cooperation by leading software and solution providers (Alcatel-Lucent, IBM , Ericsson, NEC, NXP, SAP, Siemens) and top-level research institutions.

The Architectural Reference Model (ARM), presented in this book by the members of the IoT-A project team driving this harmonization effort, makes it possible to connect vertically closed systems, architectures and application areas so as to create open interoperable systems and integrated environments and platforms. It constitutes a foundation from which software companies can capitalize on the benefits of developing consumer-oriented platforms including hardware, software and services.

For the past two years I have been engaged as Stakeholder Coordinator for IoT-A and have been familiarising myself with the way how software architects aim to model real world environments infused with IT (or the other way around). I have founded Council in 2009 in order to build a news and events site (Council as a knowledge partner) that gives an inclusive view of the IoT space. As an engineer you see items from different domains such as design, usability and societal aspects not as the ‘other’ but as equally necessary building blocks in the architecture of ‘smart’ worlds and ‘smart cities’. As a designer and artist you might begin to realise that there are potential frameworks in which your skills and expertise can work together with others in order to help build a fully transparent world that is able to face Climate Change as it monitors in full traceability, corruption and greed (as everything comes to light), and facilitate an internet of neighbourhoods and communities that produce hardware and infrastructure locally like in so many centuries before us.

Read more in:

Towards Designerly Agency in a Ubicomp World, In: Tales of the  Disappearing Computer, Kameas A., Streitz, N. (eds), CTI Press, 2003,  pp. 119-127.

Enabling Things to Talk: Designing IoT solutions with the IoT Architectural Reference Model Bassi, A.; Bauer, M.; Fiedler, M.; Kramp, T.; Kranenburg, R.; Lange, S.; Meissner, S. (Eds.) 2013, X, 349 p. 131 illus., 116 illus. in color.
ISBN 978-3-642-40402-3

Published in: on November 20, 2013 at 9:23 am  Leave a Comment  

IoT and the building of new elites.

A few years ago we were looking for a relatively small amount of money to invest in Pachube. EU VC said: there is no busines case. That may well be still, but the message we got is there is no EU mentality, responsability or ‘style’. There is no attempt to keep EU startups European. The idea that Europeanness might be a set of values worth fighting for does not have a strong voice in an elite.

The notion of what constitutes an elite can change as does its nature. It has acquired a kind of negative connotation associated as it has become with the idea of quality and exclusion. As if it takes heritage, money or a set of fixed qualities. I would like to argue that this superficial analysis was always problematic as elites historically have been very diverse, in flux and organized around a particular intelligence or sensibility if you will- that was able to read the sign of the times.

It has always been the task of elites to be a bridge between old sclerotic systems and sclerotic people clinging to solutions tuned to past situations and the breakdown and bloody revolutions pregnant in the rising contexts rearing threir heads and getting worked up as they see no productive and joyous way into the contexts as they appear to them.

Rarely have elites aspired to rule themselves and when they did it was always fatal as for better or worse its members make lousy dictators, lousy democrats, lousy revolutionaries, lousy whatevers as the Nr. 1 position that is implied in all these former actualizations does not suit them. In those days of strategy and tactics, time operating on the side of the young and ‘new’, space on the side of old and invested powers of place and resources, all was clear and in the open (even if it was hidden).

We see the remnants and pathetic outro’s of this particularly stupid way of looking at reality (in Ortega Y Gasset’s assertion that time and space are the absolutely stupid aspects of the universe) by the security and military sclerotic forms of ‘intelligence’ as their sad and futile attempts to guard an item level security in the days of lilypads running on t-shirts, leads them to believe that ‘security’ can be found in harvesting every item and bit of data on the planet. No real intelligent elite can even contemplate to work for such deep misunderstanding of what life, living and feeling secure is about. Hence Assange, Chelsea Manning, Snowden, Jeremy and mamy more to come and respect to them. Creativity and intelligence is leaving or not even entering, inevitably leading to obsessive compulsiveness and paranoia as those who stay were never the most open and bright in the first place.

Feeling secure entails the human capacity for dealing with adversity and unforeseen circumstances. Create an environment in which nothing ‘bad’ can happen and you create a generation without resilience, creative impulses and need to innovate. Feeling safe has nothing to do with feeling safe.

Rarely have elites been timely and decisive. The German Kreisau Circle has laid some theoretical foundations it can be argued for the current paradigm of local and peer to peer, as it focused on an extremely decentralized Germany in an equally decentralized but still united Europe, building on a horizontal scaling of local communities that would share infrastructure and resources. This mix of Christian inspired philosphers, Army officers weary with SS brutality (but a large part of them did not condone the Blitzkrieg), and German nobility adhering to a certain syle and strong values of service, was not very well organized but was the logical context for the von Stauffenberg attentat and subsequent brilliant conception (but lousy execution) of hiding a revolution within an existing official plan for countering a revolution.

The Russian Beseda Circle loosely organized itself some fifteen years before the 1905 Winterpalace massacre that turned the popular tide fully against Tzar Nicholas II. It consisted of a wide range of extremely conservative nobles, socialist and liberal gentry as well as the oldest families in the Russian Empire united in their common belief that withour real reform and real changes in the decision making structures of the country it would lead inevitably to bloodshed and breakdown. These were no Kropotkins or Tolstois, they had no anarcho-communist vision at heart and were largely motivated by self interest. Yet they made the same analysis as the anarchists, Lenin and the communist revolutionaries. There was no more common sense nor balance in the systemic architecture of their time that could be supported by a convincing structural belief system from which an everyday ethos for practical living could be derived and sensible business models could be deducted from. The story had dried up, the protagonists were no longer believable to the audience nor the critics, the actors nor the author and even the props started to complain.

The Beseda Circle was not able to organize a space where all parties could feel comfortable for a while. Although not persecuted by Nicolas (the members were too close to him) the Circle was banned and would never be productive. For the anarchists and communists it was nearly impossible at that time, without data, without an internet, without social networks, without cheap hardware, software, data space storage and analytics, to see that there was a deep common interest between the Black Hand and the Beseda Circle. And as a new ontological space was born, it was filled with blood and violence and petty minds.

Let’s learn from these examples.

Last year I was invited to the GFF Forum in Rome by the US State Department and the Italian Intelligence Community to talk about Internet of Things. The outcomes of the breakout sessions of the somewhat 150 intelligence and security professionals describing the 5 major current threats were one military, two DIY biology and twice the  total breakdown of society because of the inability of the state to deal with the digital was the key scenario. Among the most important threats in terms of individuals and groups a new figure had arrived on the scene: the superempowered individual who because of cheap investments of time and the cost of an url or twitter profile could build up a presence in the world in a pervasive way; omnipresence at the cost of a fistful of dollars.

Rarely have elites behaved so extremely responsibly, as they do now. These superempowered individuals are not only growing in number day by day, they are also organizing as they deeply favour cooperation over competition, sharing over isolating data, simple pleasures over expensive luxurious showoff, and the best and brightest among them have allowed their egos to be broken and their wings clipped lest they keep stumbling like Baudelaire’s albatross through scene after scene century after century. They are deeply unweary of monitoring every step they take as this will just show that they work hard, live simply and try to do the ‘right thing’ within the grey zones of their individual agency in every practical setting. We pick litter from your streets! I don’t see them calling for revolution. I don’t hear them advocating stop paying taxes or dues to this dying and deeply rotten capitalist system. No, they start up open hardware everyday appliances on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, no longer believing in macho one size fits all ideologies. They crave a different kind of buzz in deed.

In fact there is a new Beseda and Kreisau Circle forming and that is the Internet of Things itself. It is an operation of the scale and scope of fire, wheel and book as it operates in the liminality of all types of activity; it is connectivity itself. It is therefore not unusual to have usecases on health, predictive maintenance, smart dust, IpV6, smart home and city, RFID slaughtering, OneCard pilots (shop, park, home…) co-existing in a single day of an IoT Conference. IoT is itself the new Circle, drawing everything in an equal data reality. Biased? Sure. Potentially better then what we have now? Personally I say yes. I do not have to convince you. You either see it or you don’t. See you when you get there!

Published in: on November 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm  Comments (1)  

An old fashioned story along the lines of Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade. In installments. Irregular.

Can we arrive at a shared analysis of the situation? Agree on objectives, a timeframe, metrics with which we can have some notions ourselves of reasonable success?  We are not do-gooders. We do not want to change the world. We are not here to clean anyone’s mess.

I have tasted a bottom up agency not dependent on money, heritage, interest, ego, but build on the efficiencies inscribed in mathematical and computational logic. Through this we have been able to organize and infiltrate in old institutions and organisations where by our very being we expose the overhead and legacy in the systems. What we want then is more of that. More open places where people can come to work and learn and can draw on any kind of dataset and any kind of repository of information as they see fit. I hope we can agree that this is what we want to achieve. An open global infrastructure of mobility, sewage, communication, production of a layer of non branded ‘white’ goods coupled with applications and services. Value is no longer tied to currency in such a system of full traceability (IPv6, 6Lowpan, RFID, sensors, QR codes, barcodes…), bartering schemes and bitcoin type of scenes of trust will replace the current travesty of ‘value’  and Ponzi schemes. I hope we can share these objectives.

If we do then we have serious work ahead. Before us there is very little to worry about. We can only harm or beat ourselves by not growing up into other and professional ways of working. We are not surprised by the NSA stories, smooth as Lester Sterling African Beat. It was their system from the start! If we share this analysis there is no more need to invest energies in hacking systems that are tied to dying models.

It is our job in the coming years to set concrete scenarios, set timeframes, our own metrics and indicators for success, decide about concrete actualisations to achieve these objectives (companies, projects, direct action, setting up or informing or taking over political parties… The crucial thing is that all these courses of action should be aligned and coordinated, not in leninist vanguard style, but in the Platformist form of Machno’s light organising.

We are gathering in the realisation that the window that is still slightly open, bringing us some fresh air, is closing down fast. All blocs are currently being governed by the security and military forces. They differ just slightly and gradually in look and feel. The military take half of the US tax dollar. For them it has become a luxurious lifestyle and no one ever asks for receipts or explanations of why and how things were spend. There is no way we can believe they will dismantle their own lifestyle. They will not hesitate to retreat fully from the commons into gated communities (already the fastest rising form of building in the USA). They have demonstrated throughout the past centuries to not hesitate killing to keep what they want. To a broader public drenched in Facebook and getting used to smaller cars, still not able to give up the notion of personal mobility wrecking the Climate on our Planet, we have to design different stories at the moment for unless they initiate contact when their unease or economic situation becomes too bad we have no examples of the Verelendung theory bringing real solidarity.

I want to focus on  a  possible trajectory to build an inclusive smart society by taking control on device level, platform and app store. The key is the device. Currently the passport is a piece of paper with a chip. The next logical iteration is a chip with a screen. There are over 80 tablets on the market that can be researched. This device preferably would be a foldable screen. That device becomes a gateway between citizens and services. On the application and developer side it is open source and open data. It can be modified and personalised. All broad regions build their own device, platform and app store. There can be seamless potential within each zone. Middleware filters between all zones and starts the slow process are creating a single device/protocol that acts more as a gateway then as a firewall. To an individual the device as also a controller and things can be assigned to it so to become a ‘tribe’.

Is this a bad solution?
Yes, a very bad solution.
Then again I have come to the conclusion that to bad wars only equally bad solutions apply.

Once upon a time, as I went on my way, I had no clue thinking I was meant to find a door. It took me fifteen years, and so the door found me. Somehow I think it it important to write this down, but I must confess it tires me. There is too much ‘I’ in this tale. Then again I have tried so hard to find a ‘we’. The places, the meetings, the quiet nights I spoke of ‘we; only to lose that thin line I tracked in your eyes. No there is no ‘we’. I find friends, I find traces, I see similarities, I sense a tribe out there. I realize now that I won’t be me organizing them. At most I can sound them out, make them visible for you for a brief moment. I don’t know. It just might be. It might be you. So follow me for a while and I will show you where that door is. If it is you, you will know what to do.

So I went on my way some fourteen years ago as I stumbled up a worthy cause and a true problem. I set out exploring the territory and as it was not mapped I tried to be among those to map it. I said a lot of things I should not say. Yet I did not lose track of the land. It has been such a long long time since we were united and as one across the open plains. I can not recall the moment, but I am talking about it in my sleep. Reality to me is four trains running side by side. Switching from one to another is just switching tracks. No time tables run these trains. All and every track is always there, realtime. This land of in between has been known to the poets, the witches and the troubled. Come to think of it the poets are the troubled with the gift of language of signs and the witches are troubled with the gift of the language of the body. So troubled is the constant here.

The violence of the ‘normal’ of the past centuries, build on competition, scarcity of resources as quality (totally arbitrary) and a particular kind of easily scared intelligences not among the brightest, has all but demolished those who have no filters and are pure sensibility. Moving, moving always moving from one place to another, they occupied the unseen, the in between, leaving open tiny gateways that the normal people thought they could recognize: a gallery, a poem, a story, a glance. Always they would miss the clue, yet they realized that in these efforts lay the notion of becoming itself. And they could not get to that. There was no way for them to control the key to creativity, to imagining the alternative – any alternative – to the very spark igniting old flames of freedom, dignity and service. Until they realized that if they were able to bring reality itself onto a plane where the very notion of mediation was brought into a closed space where every interface and interaction itself was controlled and controllable from the very first human interfacing with the world, that it would then be possible to script the very notion of the in between itself, thereby effectively turning every human potential into an act of consumerism of predefined and marketed building blocks.

So that is where we are. We can not hide the ugliness of the facts of today. If you have come this far, you know that from now on you can only trust a handful of voices. All else and everyone else as far as I can see is marketing. These voices are either paid by the conglomorates forming today around Industrial Internet, Internet of Everything and Internet of Things, or objective allies. You will hear a lot of so called critique and superficial criticism of the smart city, only to pave the mental way for its smooth gadgets and services.

So maybe everything is going to be allright, but we must admit only because everything is indifferent after all. For everything to going to be allright I am going to have to be clear and precise. I hate that. Clarity and me can not be in the same room, not even briefly. And the caravan? It ain’t moving.

I’m going to see if she has a coat so warm to keep her from the howling winds.

Published in: on October 8, 2013 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

The world, it will fade away. That’s all.

 A cold logic

Nor to pursue the atoms one by one,
To see the law whereby each thing goes on.
But some men, ignorant of matter, think,
Opposing this, that not without the gods,
In such adjustment to our human ways,
Can Nature change the seasons of the years,
And bring to birth the grains and all of else
To which divine Delight, the guide of life,
Persuades mortality and leads it on,
That, through her artful blandishments of love,
It propagate the generations still,
Lest humankind should perish.

On the Nature of Things
By Lucretius

There is a feeling I get when I look to the West, and my spirit is crying for leaving,

Stairway to Heaven
Led Zeppelin

And men is a giddy thing, Mumford and Sons sings. Oh man is a giddy thing. True. Men is the only species whose leadership is not tuned to the present or future but the past. Even the Dinosaurs did well until something wiped them out. I’m beginning to realise that this is not good or bad or even indifferent. It simply is. The acceleration in acceleration caused by the network is simply making this painfully visible. All positions that are claiming some kind of power base are not even going through the motions of change, not even in lip service. It also makes no sense to try to enlighten them, as their very position shields them from taking any message serious that has not been filtered through protocol or formatted in known verse. Again, I’m beginning to see that the only mistake made is by me. It is my own blind spot. How can I begin to think there could be a dialogue of bottom and top when there will be no more middle? Ha! Both caught in the same old logic. We are in the network. And unless we find a parallel track, we too will be caught in the cold logic of efficiency and security that will cause this world to fade away.

That process is described by the author John Wyndham:

The world, it fade away. That’s all.

John Wyndham

John Wyndham: Duel

“Department of Psychiatry
Forcetta Delano, Connecticut, February 28
Law Firm
Thompson and Thompson Handett
Philadelphia, PA
Gable Street 512

Ladies and Gentlemen,
On request, we have studied our patient men Stefan Dallboya and we have taken steps that helped to establish with certainty his identity. Please find enclosed the relevant judgment, according to which his claim to being actually Terencea Molton to be wholly unfounded.

How many more things that I wanted to learn! – What happened to my world? – I asked. – It seems to me that it was close to some great catastrophe. It was probably destroyed in the next world war?

- Why, no, it just faded away, like all early civilisations. Quite simple.

I thought of my time, with its complexities and conflicts. The mastery of space and the speed of developments in science.

- Just fade away! – I repeated. – That’s impossible. My world could not “just die.” Something had to have happened to lead to such destruction.

- Order killed it. The love of order is not nothing but a manifestation of a longing for stability. That longing is indeed quite natural – but its gratification is sometimes fatal. A favourable environment longed for the world to be static, and hence the world was static. Then of course the need arose for a new adaptation, but alas, that world was not able to adapt, and humanity died out quite naturally – as it has happened with many primitive peoples.

Clytassamine had no reason to tell an untruth, but it was hard to believe.

- And we had such great perspectives! Everything lay open to us. Science developed so intensively. We were even traveling to other planets and beyond … – I said.

- Yes, you were smart, like monkeys. Every invention was for you as a toy. Not fully understanding its true value. Just you started to use new layers on top of a system suffering from multiple sclerosis. And besides, you were like misers – each new discovery mistreated as a glamorous outfit covering up your old, dirty rags. All you needed was thorough disinfection.

- Such generalisations are very unfair to us. Our world was extremely complicated. We had many difficult problems.

- They related mainly to your forms and customs. Did you ever consider that life is a constant development? and survival a matter of embracing change? … You can not keep a local taboo as a perpetual truth and fight for life at the same time.

I thought about my current situation.

- What if I went back and told them what to expect?
The girl smiled.

- And you think – Terry, that they will listen to you, if they do not want to listen to their own philosophers?”

Published in: on May 1, 2013 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Internet of Things and the Future of Work

Generation Jobless; the global rise of youth unemployment, The Economist captures (may 2013): “More people are idle than ever…75 million people are looking for a job…the number of young people without a job is nearly as large as the population of America (311).

But does this mean that young people are not doing anything? Of course not. The problem is the definition of what a job is, what pay is is, what renumeration is and what it constitutes to be a ‘full’ member of society.

In a way, there is no issue at all.

Internet of Things easily solves it. We don’t need jobs. We need meaningful interactions.
WWWW| Work When We Want is a proposal by Konstantin Schmoelzer for a service available through mobile devices (iPhone, Android, iPad, etc.) and web browsers, which combines current existing established payment instruments focused on the domestic service sector with the convenience of online payment, an evaluation network to improve the quality of the market, introduction and matching of households with workers and packages to overcome bureaucratic barriers.

Can this system enable a new type of economic growth, namely ‘work where we want?


If we build IoT (read the seamless flow between body , home, mobility and local decision making data streams) from the scale of a neighbourhood this area can be enhanced with as many and as wide a variety of sensors as possible. Workshops with citizens by local media activists and media labs will facilitate the adoption of this process and will enable the personalisation of these sensors through 3D printing and fablab tools. The technical challenge will be to build a neighbourhood dashboard that is privacies friendly. The research questions are: how granular can we make the input of the sensors; that is what kind of quality data can we retrieve, and how can this process lead to local decision making procedures in ‘light communities’. The design and interface challenge is about linking low tech with high tech for a growing elderly population.

In such a situation I can get ‘paid’ for helping to carry groceries up the stairs of my elderly neighbour, talking about math, helping to fill out a form….In Iot a single currency makes no sense, so this will not strengthen efficiency paradigms and turn every human act into a potentially quantifiable act. It breaks up this 19th century factory paradigm of working 8 hours a day. That really makes no sense anymore. It also breaks the educational deadlock as the only reason now for kids to be in school is that there parents have to work and can not host them.

But most importantly it stops this nonsense of talking about a ‘lost’ generation. There is nothing lost about them. Growing up in the browser they are the brightest generation ever, the kindest and the one most tailored to cooperation.
They know the ‘system’ of their parents is dead.

However, they are a transitional generation and still psychologically burdened by all this negativity as if they should still hope or long for that job that will not ever ever come no more.

We should stop that.

I stared for a long time at this picture.

This is Madrid, 2013. These youngsters are dressed to party, but they are scavenging for food.
In the heart of the once so proud Spanish capital.
57% of them ‘jobless’.


Be ready for when they come
For they’ll be returning sure as the rising sun
Now get yourself a song to sing and sing it ’til you’re done
Yeah, sing it hard and sing it well
Send the robber baron’s straight to hell
The greedy thieves that came around
And ate the flesh of everything they’ve found
Whose crimes have gone unpunished now
Walk the streets as free men now
And they brought death to our hometown, boys
Death to our hometown, boys
Death to our hometown, boys
Death to our hometown

Daniel Ochoza de Olza
“People look for food in a trash bin in Madrid, Spain. Many stores throw out food when they close every night, and people often gather to look though the garbage bins. Photograph: Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP”

Published in: on April 27, 2013 at 4:00 pm  Comments (2)  

IoT is a new politics

IoT is a new politcs

The key element for design guidelines of IoT is to leave all the technology dashboards that are being currently build intact but override their protocol by widening the notion of end-users to encompass all citizens. This will allow small artisans and SME (as we see now happening to the i-phone model) to make new kinds of slow business with all that data enabling, for example real-time individual threat analysis (which will show 0,00001 threat from terrorists and .5 slipping in your bathroom).  Why don’t give intelligence 3.0 a chance and open up all the data from satellites, readers and intercepting for Facebook and Twitter style data-mining? Surely we can give it a try if the old style dashboards keep failing?

As ordinary citizens, we in principle have the possibility of making combinations of open source software, network algorithms and hardware.In the code, which we ourselves could administer down to the lowest level, lie possibilities of building in forms of solidarity and making them part of applications and services. For why couldn’t we also code social variables into the dominant protocols? With the Internet of Things, the big challenge for designers, thinkers and makers is to play a part at the lowest level, to determine what the protocols will look like, what kind of wireless frequencies go to users, and what kind of data goes from users to the database. Specifically for this purpose, we have set up the Council think-tank: ‘We believe the “winning solution” to making the most open, inclusive and innovative Internet of Things is to transcend the short-term opposition between social innovation and security by finding a way to combine these two necessities in a broader common perspective.’19

This new perspective ultimately can be nothing other than a guideline for bringing policy in line with reality. In addition to constants that have functioned well in every age, such as delaying, arbitrating, negotiating and finding a balance between short and long term, it is particularly important to allow for conflicts, just like in any other frontier community.[1] Robert Dykstra writes in The Cattle Towns: ‘Social conflict was normal, it was inevitable, and it was a format for community decision making.’ 20 The sociologist Lewis Coser advises: ‘Instead of viewing conflict as a disruptive event signifying disorganization, we should appreciate it as a positive process by which members of the community ally with one another, identify common values and interests, and organize to contest power with competing groups.’21

In a country like Holland there is a range of about 470 years in between the first printed book (1455) and the first Dutch public library in 1917. What does this mean? It tells us that power was able to stall, to distribute, to slow down this technology until it found that every citizen was ready for reading the books he or she wanted to read in a public library (and also there the moral education of the masses reigned). We can safely say this is too long a period. But we can also see the need for a society to be inclusive. This means that it facilitates innovation and new technologies. It does not welcome disruptive innovation, breaks and things that seem so sweet yet turn out to be very addictive and unproductive. Now imagine telling an i-phone owner that he or she has to wait for three years before being allowed to download that app.

In this day and age both the government and the activists can see, because of the wide range of data available, that in an age of acceleration, there can be no more revolutions. We are in a permanent one. We live it. The key now is to transcend these oppositions and our own priorities into simple things and mundane applications, generic infrastructures for everyday life.  For that we need all the data we can get. It makes no sense to block some and not others as you do not control the moment that it can become relevant. All you do as a censor is help whatever you want to censor to gain momentum as by your act you annotate it with the most precious gift in the network: timing.

Breaking bad or be steered

It is inevitable that vertical institutions all across the world will break under the weight of the internet based decision possibilities of ever growing groups of people organizing themselves on all kinds of specific topics. The organizational structure of taxes and fines, one men one vote every four years, cannot harness that kind of change. The scandals we are witnessing today of simple people becoming powerful and having no moral scruples or strong inner faith, no notion of sacrifice or of serving somebody, are secondary but will hasten the downfall.

We have become used to small numbers of people making decisions. If you examine the historical turning point of the beginning of WWII, you’ll find authors like Richard Owen who shows in Countdown to War (2009) that the decision to go to war was made on both sides in a “growing state of irrationality.” Protagonists on either side were dead tired. All we know is that a handful of human beings found themselves in such a mental cul-de-sac that the others lost the chance to lead their lives.


Spencer Wells[2] shows in his Genographic Project through our shared DNA how we are -in all our diversity – truly connected. He argues that it is a 1000 generations ago – 50.000 years ago (in evolutionary terms relatively recent) that language and non domain related expression (arts) kickstarted toolsets that led to the cultural social and artistic intricacies that we have today. Before that the cognitive tools and material toolsets appear to be quite constant over a long period. The difference was made by language acting as a tool for cooperation and negotiating. Both the explosion of variety in practices and tools as well as many of the crises we have today have their roots, as he argues in the dawn of the Neolithic: “We spent an enormous amount of time as hominids and as primates living as hunter-gatherers. That is the natural way for us to live, and we’re suddenly living in this profoundly unnatural way, and we’re still in the process of adapting to it and working out how to live with it….We were once used to living in groups of no more than about 150 individuals. Now we live in cities of millions and the cultural cacophony creates a feeling of unease and we are seeing evidence of that with the rise of mental illness.” Spencer Wells believes there is hope – what he calls “Pandora’s seed”[3]: “ When Pandora opened the box, she at least had to slap it shut fast enough to contain hope. “The hope is that humans are innately innovative and that we can innovate very rapidly when we’re forced to.”

Reading Ancestral Roots, Julie Myerson’s novel ‘Then’ and a lot of Eurostat statistics, lead to one sound reasoning and to a very depressing conclusion about my own role as naïve optimist, always hijacked by the poetic potential of situations.

The key observation that rose from the reading (not that much, as I was basically ill all through the holidays with a bad ‘viral infection’ cold), was realizing that in terms of systems I systematically overestimate agency and cooperation over overt competition, free riding and virtually disregarding unethical behaviour by default. This is very strange as I can only posit the idea of IoT bringing transparency and more balance, a political an-archy – based on the assumption that the current systems (single currencies, financial capitalism, erosion of resources, poverty, loss of biodiversity…) can only exist by virtue of this anti-social and selfish behaviour. So I have to conclude to that so far I have overestimated the capability of ‘change’ itself by rational arguments and ‘common sense’, as I have posited that within the current openings in the system(s) in order to gradually see that IoT can be accommodated within the current formats and frameworks. In a way I knew that of course, as I have been looking for soft trajectories for the past ten years. Still up till now I have thought I would be able to play more then one card in the deck. Now I am not so sure of that anymore.

If we take evolutionary biology into account as among the driving forces of human behaviour[4] we have to be prepared “to learn that modern living is, on the whole, disappointing and dissatisfying. Modern living is clearly problematic. Although providing many of the things we would list as crucial to our physical and psychological well-being, the modern world does not cater for all our needs.”[5] The key argument thus goes:

If the modern world that can be characterized by the increasing ability of men to master the environment with tools leads to an decrease in psychological wellbeing as it caters only to ‘convenience’, not to ‘excitement through discovery’ or ‘excitement through satisfying curiosity’ (and…), then IoT and the smart city as the epiphany of IoT will lead to more and perhaps even a dramatic rise in mental illness – fragmentation on agency and capability of individual human beings, as the smart city is a) a place where all potential interaction with the system as a whole has been made invisible-seamless, and b) all things in the immediate vicinity are controlling, updating and eventually power scavenging themselves and no longer in need of ‘supervision’.

The more successful IoT then is as the seamless interaction between data coming from the body (BAN), the home (LAN), the car (WAN) and the smart city (as ‘services everywhere: a passport at the supermarket)[6] the more fragmentation we can predict in individual agency of human beings in a way that hitherto has been regarded as ‘normal’, ‘rational’ and ‘sane’.

So far IoT applications have focused on providing support for physical afflictions such as blind and deaf people, diabetes and regular drug taking support. If the above argument is sound than

the next wave of IoT applications will be focusing on balancing the very effects it is fuelling itself; a perceived loss of ‘meaning’, a perceived fragmentation of the ‘self’

the capability of an individual to deal in a meaningful with reality is inevitably and necessarily getting smaller

  • the next wave of IoT applications will be focusing on balancing the very effects it is fuelling itself; a perceived loss of ‘meaning’, a perceived fragmentation of the ‘self’
  • the capability of an individual to deal in a meaningful with reality is inevitably and necessarily getting smaller
  • capability itself then becomes a mix of human and machine (IoT application) potential[7]

data testifying to a rise in mental illness

The European Alliance Against Depression (EAAD), an international network of experts, estimates that 18.4 million Europeans suffer from depression.

“Rates of serious mental illness among university students are drastically rising, and universities are struggling with how to respond to students who show symptoms.”[8]

“Mental illness is one of the biggest challenges facing the welfare state, and one which we’ve only really begun to explore….The numbers who can’t work because of mental health problems (1.1 million) are not much off the total number claiming unemployment benefits (1.5 million), and the mental health charity mind argue that it mental health problems cost the economy £77 billion per year in England alone…Between 1995 and 2005 about half a million extra people registered for Incapacity Benefit (IB) because of a mental illness, taking the total to about 1.1 million. Claims for mental illness grew even faster than other Incapacity Benefit claims.”[9]

“With mental illness ranked as the number one cause of adult disability in America, affecting 1 in 5 adults, the mission of IMHRO (International Mental Health Research Organization) is to alleviate human suffering from mental illness by funding scientific research into causes, prevention and new treatments.”[10]

“…SAMHSA (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) issued the results of their national survey on mental health in the United States.   A closer examination of the survey’s data revealed some alarming findings.  First and foremost, the survey evidenced that over 45 million Americans – approximately one in five adults – suffer from some form of mental illness.  Among those adults, the percentage having a serious disorder was 4.8 percent (or 11 million individuals).  Perhaps most alarming, however, was the fact that 62 percent of those individuals failed to receive health services for their illness.  As Pamela Hyde, a SAMHSA administrator, stated, “Too many Americans are not getting the help they need and opportunities to prevent and intervene early are being missed.”[11]

“Most common mental disorders can get better, and the employment chances be improved, with adequate treatment. But health systems in most countries are narrowly focused on treating people with severe disorders, such as schizophrenia, who make up only one-fourth of sufferers. Taking more common disorders more seriously would boost the chances for people to stay in, or return to, work. Today, almost 50% of those with a severe mental disorder and over 70% of those with a moderate mental disorder do not receive any treatment for their illness.”[12]

“The number of disability support pensioners with mental health problems has risen to a staggering 252,392 people. Maree O’Halloran, of the National Welfare Rights Network, told The Australian that 45 per cent of people aged 16 to 85 will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime. “It is not surprising that the proportion of people receiving the disability support pension whose main medical problem is (a) psychological or psychiatric condition is increasing,” she said.”[13]


 A novel of course is not a newspaper.[14] Yet literature is written in and builds contexts and can be used with a wide variety of other sources. In Julie Myerson’s, Then[15], a post apocalyptic world is sketched. It is not clear what has happened but the world has become Mad Max. However, contrary to the possibility of plot, action and survivalism that we know from other post-apocalyptic novels and movies what keeps the protagonist from going ‘mad’ is being ‘mad’.

Graham. He stares at me now and shakes his head. I ask him what he wants.

What do you mean, what do I want?

Why are you following me?

I’m not following you. I came to look for you. And you’re lucky someone else did not find you first.

What? I say. Who would have found me?

He takes a breath. His finger right on my wrists.

Look. It is almost dark. What the hell are you doing out there on your own.

On my own? I try to think what the answer to the question might be.

Nothing comes. I am glad when he lets go of me. Now his eyes are softer. Seriously, he says. Why do you run away like that? We looked everywhere for you. We did not know where you’d gone.

Neither did I, I tell him, and for a moment or two the words do feel true. But then the face of the child comes back at me, and with it confusion.” p. 2.

I stand by the lifts for a moment, shut my eyes, take a breath. I smell some things that should not be there. Apples. Ink. A blown-out candle. Blood. I think I hear voices, laughter. Far away, a siren. I know that none of this is possible.  p. 30

I look down at myself to see if I am still there? I am. My heart is hammering and my legs have lost whatever it is that keeps them up and I have sunk down on the floor, but I am – I’m there, I’m here, here I am.” p.81

The logics of IoT support systems

It looks then as if we do not really have a choice. Either we continue to create more and stronger forms of mental disintegration by counting only on ‘ourselves’ to keep making ‘sense’, or we allow for other intelligences to support us in the real digitally enhanced hybrid territory we have embedded ourselves in. Three particular kinds then are foregrounded:

1. animal support systems: Giving input for the European Parliament Resolution of June 2010 for the Internet of Things I delivered a series of propositions, among them was “

the impact of electromagnetic fields on animals, especially birds in cities;

[16]. I will approach the Commission soon with a request to set up such a study. I am sure the magpies that are gathering every morning outside my window on neighborly chimneys will be very eloquent about their experiences in cities full of new strange winds and pressure fields. Further investigation is needed into Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic fields that “continue to link members of the social group together even when they are far apart, beyond the range of sensory communication, and can serve as a medium through which telepathic communications can pass.” They “may also underlie the sense of direction. Animals are not only linked to members of their social group by morphic fields, but also to significant places, such as their home. These fields continue to connect them to their home even when they are far away, rather like invisible elastic bands. These bonds can consequently give directional information, “pulling” the animal in a homewards direction.”[17]

2. computer support systems: This basically is our IoT territory. At a speech to the Pittsburgh Technology Council in 2009, Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt focused on the negative effects on innovation and integration of (what he called) institutional fragmentation and wondered if governments – and the very process of policy and policymaking itself – could not benefit from the iterative cycles of measuring success and failure that characterize the engineering and design prototyping cycles. He argued that with this amount of real-time tracking, aggregated data and information – not heuristics, governing itself could benefit. In essence, particular laws can be effective for three months and evaluated, adjusted and on the basis of real data – not estimates, adjusted again. It is this process that can lead to combinatorial innovation and system Innovation.

3. new entities:

This will be the focus of a joint forthcoming text with Joachim Walewski who articulated the question of capabilities and objects

“What kind of capabilities and aspirations will these new entities possess? Will they look like ours because we conceived of them? Will they have a need to control, tell other resources (us, for example) what to do? “

Clearly in the intuitive public eye it is precisely the fear for this ‘rise’ of the machines that testifies to the idea that they will look like ‘us’.

There are very few popular fantasies pointing to a peaceful and networked organization between these different types of intelligences, yet on which basis is there any reason to conclude that this might not be the case?


Ideally we would need a broad and public a debate about the amount, nature and very potential of emergence of new stakeholders in the process of ‘terraforming’ the connected world aka Sensing or Smarter Planet. We see that the most likely candidates that will knock on our door are sensory capabilities embodied by certain animals and things, in the definition of any physical object in combination with its digital representation. Humans have been confronted with such a process of new stakeholdership before and that it is in itself part of our journey as humanity.

It is not going to make us better or worse per se. It will not augment our capabilities in any trendy transhumanist or singularity way, as it is not inherently something outside of us, nor are ‘we’ the centre of the process. As a process it is not new, we have lived through it.

We do not take lightly to these journeys though, clinging as we are particular resources – humans –  to what we did grow up with as ‘normal’. We are so afraid of anything out of the ‘ordinary’.  We live most happily as if we were already dead. Nothing should happen that is not in our agendas. We never were meant to be alone. We do not like being alone. So do take that little step. Do take a giant leap of faith. We are not alone. All that we need is already here. Always was.

You just might end up on that ship after all.

Earth is a big round spaceship spinning its way through space.

She is a ship. The bridge got deserted somehow when the intelligences that steered it broke up over small differences and petty fights.

The bridge is reassembling itself.

Why now, you might ask? Most logically the bridge is getting ready to make contact with other ships. That is the most rational explanation.

You want a more poetic one?

[1] “Among those actually involved in building the new towns of the nineteenth century, the problem of community was understood in economic and moral  terms, and noth were faced with a remarkable sense of optimism. Those who saw themselves as reponsible for the moral environment of new communities likewise interpreted the problem as one requiring the quick construction of a proper set of institutions…. Central Illinois began attracting settlers soon after Illinois became a state in 1818…Soon after the creation of Morgan County in 1823, local politicians began coalescing into factions to contest which of twoi or three nascent settlements along the Illinois River would become the new county seat. ….A site for the proposed town was approved in the winter of 1825. ….The government land upon which the county seat was to be platted was sold at auction, and two nearby settlers were  quick to recognize a wise investment. They bought eighty acres at 1.25$ per acre and shrewdly donated half their purchase to the county. With this inducement the county quickly platted the town on the eighty-acre site. (19).. “The conflict which is to decide the destiny of the West, will be a conflict of institutions”, wrote Lyman Beecher in a Plea for the West.” (Doyle, Don Harrison, The Social Order of a Frontier Community, Jacksonville, Illinois, 1825-1870, University of Illinois Ptess, 1983, p.18.

[2] Spencer Wells, The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey, p. 75. Random House, ISBN 0-8129-7146-9

[3] ‘Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization’ is published by Allen Lane (£20). To order a copy for the special price of £18 (free P&P) call Independent Books Direct on 08430 600 030, or visit

[4] According to Clack issues of modern living, such as environmental destruction, aggression, depression, obesity and the ‘isms’ (sexism, raceism, and ageism), “can only be understood in relation to our evolutionary past. If we understand why we are driven to self-destructive behaviour we will be better placed to work against our natural instincts and deal with them appropriately.”(p.3)

[5] Timothy Clack Ancestral Roots, Modern Living and Human Evolution, Macmillan, 2009; p. 2

[6] The success of the smart city lies in disentangling physical spaces from regulated services. Getting a passport now requires a real trip to a particular place. The place itself validates the action of handing over a new passport. Yet as all actions required to make one are in the ‘Cloud’ the pickup place itself becomes irrelevant.

[7] Which seems to be a kind of trans-humanist argument all of a sudden, but not argued from a positive view on technology but taking an evolutionary biology argument and extrapolating that into the current modern: IoT.

[8] Volume 60, Issue 1, 2012 of the Journal of American College Healthincludes publication of the first ever feasibility study on Psychiatric Advance Directives (PADs) for college students. PADs allow students who are living with serious mental illnesses to plan ahead with a support person, creating and documenting an intervention strategy to be used in the event of a psychiatric crisis. The study entitled “University Students’ Views on the Utility of Psychiatric Advance Directives” was conducted by Anna M. Scheyett, PhD and Adrienne Rooks, MSW.

[9] The remarkable rise of mental illness in Britain

By Neil O’Brien Politics Last updated: October 30th, 2012

[11] Mental Illness on the Rise in the U.S. New government data indicates 1 in 5 adults suffer from a mental illness. Published on May 18, 2011 by Tyger Latham, Psy.D. in Therapy Matters

[12] Employment: mental health issues rising in workplace, says OECD 12/12/2011 – Mental illness is a growing problem in society and is increasingly affecting productivity and well-being in the workplace, according to a new OECD report. More information about Sick on the Job at

[13] Patricia Karvela, The Australian December 07, 2012

[14] “Postmodern insights, however, suggest that fiction can have more substantive uses as historical source material. According to the postmodern model of history, a novel is just another text in a world of texts, a world where objectivity is unattainable, where distinc-tions between primary and secondary sources have blurred, where material reality and discourses are entwined. Some texts are, of course, more significant than others, and fiction requires more complex interrogation than “factual” sources, but all texts deserve scrutiny and consideration. There is something to be gleamed from even the most ephemeral sources. Furthermore, texts themselves have power. The text—what people read, be it a newspaper, a political pamphlet, or a novel—can shape and influence the reader’s viewpoints of the world.” Johnes, Martin: Texts, Audiences, and Postmodernism: The Novel as Source in Sport History, Department of History Swansea University, Wales.

[15] Julie Myerson, Then, Vintage Books, 2012

‘Heartless has become the law’. In the wasted ruins of London, a woman pieces together fragments of her memory. As her past emerges, her own apocalypse begins…


15.  Points out that RFID technology and other IoT-related technologies for the intelligent labelling of products and consumer goods, and for things-to-person communication systems, can be used anywhere and in practice are quiet and unobtrusive; calls, therefore, for such technology to be the subject of further, more detailed, assessments by the Commission, covering, in particular:

the impact on health of radio waves and other means of enabling identification technologies;
the environmental impact of the chips and of their recycling;
user privacy and trust;
the increased cyber security risks;
the use of smart chips in specific products;
the right to ’chip silence’, which provides empowerment and user control;
guarantees for the public as regards protection during the collection and processing of personal data;
developing an additional network structure and infrastructure for IoT applications and hardware;
ensuring the best possible protection for EU citizens and businesses from all kinds of online cyber attacks;
the impact of electromagnetic fields on animals, especially birds in cities;
the harmonisation of regional standards;
the development of open technological standards and interoperability between different systems;
and for it to be the subject of a specific European regulation, if appropriate;

[17] The Unexplained Powers Of Animals. Dr Rupert Sheldrake was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge University, and a Research Fellow of the Royal Society in biochemistry. His web site is This article was printed in New Renaissance, Vol. 11, No. 4, issue 39, Spring, 2003  Copyright © 2003 by Renaissance Universal, all rights reserved.  Posted on the web on March 22, 2003.

This text is the result of a dialogue with Joachim Walewski, who introduced me to the notion of ‘capability’.

Published in: on March 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

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