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The Internet of Things: Will Unplugging From The IOT Be Possible?
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The Internet of Things: Will Unplugging From The IOT Be Possible? - Executive Leadership Articles

The Internet of Things: Will Unplugging From The IOT Be Possible?

Executive Leadership Articles

The Internet of Things: Will Unplugging From The IOT Be Possible?

As security breaches of large, trusted institutions hit the news seemingly every day, many people are considering opting out of services in favor of feeling safer or more secure. Some of your more interesting friends may already have given up their bank accounts and credit cards; some others may hang stubbornly to cell phones with no internet connectivity (“dumb phones” in the current slang). Others are taking baby steps first, giving up their supermarket discount cards and anything requiring some kind of signup for membership.

As extreme as the examples may be, it’s not difficult to understand the inclination. We grew up without car-sharing services, social media, photo-sharing, and anything on demand, so why can’t we live this way now? And as our neighbors get excited about phones and sprinklers controlled by a mobile phone, plugging in anything that can possibly be plugged in, some of us are content to turn the lights on the old-fashioned way.

It’s true that we lived without many of the new conveniences, but as the Internet of Things grows and grows, will living unplugged be a feasible option, as current luxuries become the future’s necessities? You probably remember, just ten or fifteen years ago, having to ask friends if they had an email address, and not being surprised that they either didn’t have one or shared one with their whole family. The concept is nearly inconceivable now, at least for anyone in the working world. The assumption is that you can be reached by email from the highest echelons of a corporation down to the college frosh entering college next month. Email, once a convenience, has become a professional necessity.

The Pew Research Center conducted “a large canvassing of technologists, scholars, practitioners, strategic thinkers and other leaders,” asking them for responses to the question of whether the IoT’s massive growth will continue unabated, or if there will be a backlash resulting in large sections of the population opting for an unplugged life. The responses are fascinating and can be examined at the link below. Although answers ranged across seven broad topics, but three dealt directly with the idea that people will seek to unplug: unplugging isn’t easy now and will be more difficult later; more people will be connected and more will withdraw or refuse to participate for privacy and principal; and notable numbers will disconnect for safety.

You’ve already seen indications of that first topic. It has already become more and more difficult to attain information, products, or services without some connection to the internet, one reason public libraries provide internet access on computers. This is very unlikely to reverse itself, as online resources save money for consumers and providers, and as online options become more reliable. It’s possible for your tax refund to somehow get lost in an electronic funds transfer, but it’s still faster and more reliable than waiting to get it in the regular mail. On a less foundational level, many employers accept only online job applications, many of which ask for links to your social media profiles and LinkedIn resumes.

The next two topics are more crystal-ball-gazing for now, but respondents believe there will be a cultural backlash against all this connectivity, so that more people will opt in while increasing numbers also opt out. It will be a thing to get away from the IoT, as it has become a thing with younger consumers to receive all their content outside traditional streams. It will be a rebellion of sorts, and while the disconnected will remain a minority, the size of that minority may grow in the next decade. “There will always be a segment of society that understands and rejects the ‘Big Brother’ parallel,” says one anonymous respondent. Assuming this is true, there’s hope for holding onto necessary analog services in a digital world. As long as there’s enough of a market, someone is likely to cater to it.

The last topic, the belief that notable numbers will opt out simply because they don’t feel safe, seems more likely given the current climate. So far, wide-ranging and large-scale damage has been avoided, but how many bank accounts need to be emptied by malicious actors, and how many automated cars might escape drivers’ control before large numbers of us simply drop everything but the most necessary forms of connectivity, just to avoid high-tech trouble caused by others?

It’s too early to tell, just as it’s not clear how feasible unplugging will be for people so inclined. While it may become more difficult for them to do so, if enough of them go that route, there will most likely be options, and if the providers and politicians want to win them over, there are going to have be some mitigating responses to the very real—and largely under discussed—consequences of living in the Internet of Things.

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The Internet of Things: Will Unplugging From The IOT Be Possible? - Executive Leadership Articles

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