By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."
Okay, many of you know I’ve been a serial entrepreneur – starting seven previous computer companies. I’m currently working on my eighth. All have been in and around professional publishing – the computerization of many parts of writing, producing and distributing printed products (currently, while we still have printed products – but that’s a subject for another day – note you’re reading this article in a newspaper which is only published on-line).
My newest venture is looking at, among other things, the next generation of the Internet. Many call it, for lack of a better term, The Internet of Things. Most simply stated, everything around us with which we interact, will – according to experts, have an IP address. What things? Well, for starters, every medical device including those which already and will in the future monitor your body and its health. Everything electronic in your home. Your TV (of which many already have an IP address), your refrigerator, your stove, your thermostat on the wall, your HVAC system. Everything which is electronic in your car. Perhaps your clothes. On and on it goes.
If you’re reading this and saying “So what?” you haven’t been reading carefully enough. Remember that behind just about everything you do which may have an impact on others is probably covered by some insurance policy and might be regulated, in some way, by the Government. Still confused? Okay here is just one example. You have some electronic device which monitors some part of your health. Say it’s your blood pressure, heart rate and some of your body chemistry all in real time. Imagine this scenario combined with IP addresses. So you’ve had dinner (let’s say hot dogs with sauerkraut, relish and mustard, potato salad with a couple of beers). You get up and are about to drive to meet friends at a local watering hole. As you exit your house with car keys, a device in your pocket (smart phone anyone?) speaks to you. It says: “Mike, I’ve noticed that your cholesterol has just spiked, along with your blood pressure, and your alcohol level is .06%. I’m sending a command to your car to prevent you from driving anywhere. Furthermore, I’ve scheduled an appointment with your doctor/nurse practitioner for tomorrow morning, sent an e-mail to your employer letting them know you’ll be an hour late, and I’ve notified your auto insurance company that you attempted to drive while just under the legal limit – so your monthly deductions for auto insurance will be increased 15% starting tomorrow.”
Still not impressed? You should be. Here’s another one: You meet a very attractive (to you) member of the opposite sex. You sit down and start to talk. Again, your smart phone (which by then will not be a separate device – it will be part of an implant sort of like today’s most advanced hearing aids) goes off in your ear. It says: “Mike, I’ve compared the profile and dating history of the woman you’re talking to. It turns out she’s had three visits to her gynecologist in the past few months and has been prescribed with anti-social disease treatments. Furthermore, her profile says she prefers men over 6’2” tall, who are either a professional athlete or successful movie actor and earn over $250,000/year. Mike, you don’t match any of her ‘preferences’ so my advice is break it off right now. Oh, and if you do persist on seeing her, your medical insurance will not cover any remedial visits as you’ve been warned.
Still not convinced. Here is my final example. I call it “the war of the appliances.” You bought a steak to grill a few days ago. As you’re preparing to leave the house, your fridge gets into an argument with your stove. You get a voice mail from a very upset fridge. It says: “Mike, you promised to cook that steak two days ago. You’re being irresponsible. If you don’t cook it tonight it will have to be thrown away. Tsk Tsk!” The stove replies: “Mike, you just cooked a steak 3 days ago. Your doctor (and me, your stove) both think that is sufficient cholesterol for now. Let the steak rot.” Finally, your car jumps in. It says: “Mike, you’re 2,000 miles over-due for an oil change, and I’m not letting you start me up and drive me anywhere until that oil is changed.”
For all these things to take place, there would have to be massively parallel databases tracking all this information. Guess what, these data bases are already in place. How do you think you get advertisements on your home web pages – that offer you items that you’ve recently searched for. If you don’t like any of this, just remember to vote for conservatives this fall. And even then, you can’t be sure these future events will not take place.