electronic interestingness

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Amy Webb - A futurist's notebook

Every week I open my research notebook and share artifacts from the adjacent future.

The Future of...The Internet of X

Amy Webb

With so many objects, networks and people online, you're going to start to hear companies calling themselves the “Internet of X.” For most of the Internet's history, we've only been able to search for text-based files. Only very recently have we been able to drop photos into a search engine to hunt for similar images. While there are some early prototypes that use lexical and image databases to identify what's inside a photo (or to learn if there are cats in videos, we haven't really been able to search real-world things.

For example, Israeli startup Consumer Physics, a sort of Internet of Ingestibles, wants to put molecular spectroscopy into smartphones so that you can extract information out of your food and pills. This would enable you to scan a piece of chicken so that you can search the fat and calories on your plate. Their research also applies to medicine, and it can recognize prescription and over-the-counter drugs in order to spot counterfeits.

This new paradigm shifts how we think about digital categorization. And it's important, so keep reading. Shodan is an "Internet of Connected Devices," a sort of search engine for the IoT. It can search for connected refrigerators, buildings and webcams. It can also return results with "default password" in the banner, meaning that you could easily exploit whatever device you find with the factory preset username and password. A new project called MatchMaker Exchange is an “Internet of DNA,” matching the DNA from sick people around the world. This pen promises to let you search on any color in the physical world––and then it'll produce the necessary ink for you to start drawing with it right away. 

What’s next: It’s not unrealistic to say that in the near future, everything you see (and even the things you can’t) will become searchable via a distributed network. This will unlock layers of information previously unavailable to us––but it will also create a significant demand for verification. 

Why you should care: What data are you creating that might be found by someone else? Do you own devices that might be searchable? How will you use the searchable world to inspire you/ learn about your competitors/ do investigative work/ better yourself/ help your organization? How will you ensure that the results you find are accurate before you act on them?

The Internet of Searchable .xls Files
Note: Clicking on any of those links below will automatically initiate an Excel download. Instead, you can poke around and look at cached versions here.


The Internet of X-Ray Vision
You'll wonder how you've never seen these before. Do yourself a favor and set a timer before you click.

The Internet of Sound(s)

  • Chirp app: sharing files over audio
  • LISNR: sharing and searching files over audio
  • Tone: an experimental Chrome extension for instant file sharing over audio
  • NexGuard: searchable forensic audio watermarking

"I have control. You are not required to think at all. Everything we hear (Goes on and on). I blame the machines." –– Duran Duran


Internet of Nerdness
Hey girl. Remember the last time you searched the Internet for that clever Ryan Gosling meme? Scientists think that memes can change the way people think about difficult subjects. According to science:

The study was done by University of Saskatchewan PhD students Linzi Williamson and Sarah Sangster. They asked a group of 99 undergraduates — 69 women and 30 men — to look at photos of Ryan Gosling. One group viewed the meme, and the other just looked at photos of Gosling without any text on them. Both groups then took a quiz that asked them about whether they self-identified as feminists, as well as their sympathy for various types of feminism, such as radical feminism, socialist feminism, and women of color feminism. Men who viewed the meme were significantly more likely to endorse views associated with radical feminism and socialist feminism. (synopsis via Vox)

In other words, hey girl. How do you feel about all this stuff being searchable on the Internet?

Internet of Me (and You)
You've probably noticed that I changed the name of this newsletter, and it's also now simultaneously posted here. Suggestions? Feedback? Drop me a line. If you have a common name like mine, you might be tempted to look up the Internet of other people with your name. Don't do that.

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