Backstages are back. Before it has even fully emerged from its multitude of wombs, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been hard at work creating new worlds of privacy faster than pronouncements of privacy’s death can be posted. The backstage, that place in which we used to create ourselves before we began living out loud and letting our every waking and sleeping moment be surveilled, not only won the Oscar for Best Picture; the President just created a comic secret sharer of his backstage related to his list that rhymes with bucket list.
How, exactly, will the IoT contribute to the rebirth of the backstage? As networks of things grow and develop deeper and deeper network connections, they become swarms of elements that are generally little and on their way to becoming even smaller. Eventually, it won’t be easy to go anywhere without walking into and through such swarms.
OK, to be fair, they will generally not be things designed to sting you and may not all even be things designed to spy on you; they will generally be designed to improve your life in ways of which you may generally approve. Although there is this one mosquito drone whose audio and video recording is complemented by a syringe to extract your DNA:
But a friendly swarm is still a swarm, and since we know what it is like to try to focus and remain responsive, productive, creative and secure in the face of a constant firehose of emails, texts, tweets and real attacks, we can easily imagine the demands for filters generated by the omnipresent swarm of connected things. These demands will not be universal; they will be choices that some people make, helping the IoT to create or respond creatively to the many and various dimensions of the future of rich private lives. Here is a list of five of my own favorite dimensions; please respond with some of your own:
- A place where some of your thoughts can truly be protected against disclosure beyond your inner circle of real or imagined key advisers and guiding lights;
- A place where it’s quiet enough to hear yourself think (Some carmakers market this now, but imagine how much more powerful it will be when we’re able to do more in a car than drive.);
- A place where you can devote yourself to one thing rather than to the “Internet of Everything,” a respite from multitasking;
- A safe place in which to experiment and create without watching your back; and
- A place in which to be an innovator rather than a consumer.
I think I am on firm ground in saying that these five dimensions of backstage privacy will be bolstered by the IoT, not only because we can already see them there, but because an IoT that includes them will do better than one that does not, from both the standpoints of the user and the innovator of the IoT.
Walking to the taffrail, I was in time to make out, on the very edge of a darkness thrown by a towering black mass like the very gateway of Erebus—yes, I was in time to catch an evanescent glimpse of my white hat left behind to mark the spot where the secret sharer of my cabin and of my thoughts, as though he were my second self, had lowered himself into the water to take his punishment: a free man, a proud swimmer striking out for a new destiny.