examining what it means to be human in the Internet of Things

Keynote Speakers


Alison Powell

Dr. Alison Powel is a Lecturer at the Department of Media & Communications at the London School of Economics and Politcal Science. Her research interests cover the history and future of 'openness' within new media. In particular, she studies open-source cultures including community wireless networks, free software advocates and people interested in open sourcing knowledge including hardware design. Far from living in an ivory tower, Dr. Powell has examined internet governance and media issues including barriers to internet access, best (and worst) practices of community wireless networks, the social and economic implications of these networks, Net Neutrality decision-making in the US and the UK and funding models for internet access in rural and remote areas.

Abstract of her keynote
How Does It Feel? (philosophy in the data city)
The internet of things promises to rationalize experience by collecting data from everyday objects, optimizing the delivery of services and eliminating the need for humans to interpret information. In theory this is meant to dis-intermediate the world and eliminate the kinds of exploitation based on inequalities in economic power. It also however dis-intermediates a different kind of power – the symbolic power that we often associate with media. In the 20th century, power and social control were often achieved through symbolic mediation. For instance, the Second World War was not only fought on the battle field, but also, importantly, through media (propaganda movies; leaflets distributed by allied air planes; etc.). Dominance in the physical realm was accompanied by dominance of the media discourse. In the contemporary world, this kind of symbolic power co-exists with the data-power generated by many networked machines. Can we understand power in the same way in a situation in which the majority of this data will be produced and disseminated by machines? The short answer: probably not; rather, what we need is a new understanding of the economy of information that also includes the technology by which this data is generated. Reflecting on how cities are represented and networked, this keynote talk raises philosophical challenges for future considerations of power.




Gérald Santucci

In July 2012 Dr. Gérald Santucci was appointed Head of the Unit Knowledge Sharing at the the European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT). Between March 2007 and June 2012, Gérald was Head of the Unit Networked Enterprise & Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) that managed a portfolio of some 50 Research and Innovation projects grouped around two clusters – Future Internet Enterprise Systems (FInES) and Internet of Things (IERC) – and that spearheaded an international policy dialogue on RFID and the governance of the Internet of Things.

Abstract of his keynote:
On the Philosophy of the Internet of Things
If we had to pick up one word to describe what the Internet of Things (IoT) is, it would certainly be "smart": smart objects, smart cities, smart living smart grids, smart health, smart transport… But if we keep the hype down, we may wish to ask some questions. What does "smart" imply in terms of societal challenges? What forms of governance are needed in such a "smart" environment? How does IoT affect and transform the relationship between humans and objects? What ethics do we need for designing and deploying smart connected objects? Aren't smart connected objects forcing humans to behave according to specific standards that may deprive those humans of their autonomy or freedom? By what ethics will humans and smart things relate to the rest of the things? The IoT introduces specific ethical issues that lead us to turn a philosophical eye to those 50 billion objects which are predicted for the end of this decade: ubiquity and pervasiveness; nano-scale and invisibility; identification and identity; identities and linkages (the 'Quantified Self' and its relations to the others); strong mediation; Big Data flowing from sensors and other smart devices; delegation of human agency to the things; embedded intelligence; distributed control; unpredictability and uncertainty… The full deployment of the IoT is likely to bring about a set of new issues such as: the renegotiation of agency between humans and non-humans in an hyper-connected world; the autonomy of humans in a world where smart connected objects will outnumber humans by a ratio of at least 1 to 10; human dignity and justice; the 'right to be forgotten' in a scenario of billions of things exchanging one's data; trust in the things that will decide on behalf of the humans or for them. Finally, as IoT evolves through a combination of ICT, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and cognitive sciences, the fundamental philosophical question becomes: up to which point can we accept that technology transforms humans by allegedly enhancing them?



Bas Boorsma

Bas Boorsma currently serves as director and specialist for of the Internet of Everything for Cities at Cisco Corporation. In that capacity he manages a portfolio of smart city endeavours globally. Bas has coordinated and overseen the implementation of innovative projects and programs that address the ways we work, live, consume, play, learn and deliver within the context of larger communities.

Abstract of his keynote:
The Network Culture Paradigm - The Internet of Everything as cradle for new premises of human enterprise
At core of Bas's professional beliefs is the idea that the internet essentially is one of the most robust human-made structures ever built, and that this very structure will probably have to be part of the Big Redesign humanity needs. The next waves of global network build out will prove imperative to the ability to address the perfect storm of challenges that humanity currently faces – from climate change and rising sea levels to water distribution, energy and urban mobility: the Internet of Everything will prove vital. As we build this Internet of Everything, we have effectively commenced exporting the robust design of the internet to multiple layers & facets of human enterprise. The internet started out as an optimizer of an old way of doing things, but it has turned into the cradle and blue print for doing things differently altogether – probably one of the biggest paradigm shifts humankind ever faced. And it isn’t just changing how we do things, it is also changing what we do, why we do it and the values that underpin it. Yet – if the internet is a cradle for a new culture, we find it hard to define what that culture is, what the core values are, and how it can be framed in a larger philosophy that provides direction to humankind’s social evolution. We will let go of models of the old, models that provided us with control – control of government over society, control of employers on the work place, control of our individual lives, understanding and controlling where privacy begins and ends. We seem to leave that age of radical control. What will come its place? An age of radical trust or an age of social, cultural and psychological networked compliance? Will political philosophy move from utilitarian thinking to an age of personal growth? Will a singularity of technology, science, philosophy and an individual’s deepest values and beliefs emerge?