Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do You Like To Watch?

One of my many duties as studio technician is occasional clay reclaim. The ceramics students dump their unused clay into garbage barrels, which we cover in water and let soak for a few days. (The leftover clay is sometimes dry or leather hard, and so we get it back to a mushy state, put it in a mixer, add dry powder, and then replenish the bins with the right consistency of bulk clay).

We have found that, like making good cheese or beer, microbes are recruited to produce a slimy biofilm that makes the clay nice and gooshy, very nice for throwing bowls and such. The wet clay has a pleasant sulphurous smell, earthy like Grandma's country cellar. When we mix the clay, we siphon off the excess water. But since that water contains friendly microbes (archaea mainly, I think), we transfer the water from vat to vat to cultivate them. So, I'm doing that, and realizing, hey, here's another aspect of my tedious life I can document!

So, when I'm doing this stuff, I'm on autopilot, like when you paint a room, and your mind wanders. And lately it's been wandering towards the idea of metaprogramming. Programming the programs, but without needing to know how to program the programs, just how to program the metaprograms,

I'm starting to think the entire built world (us, plus Nature, plus all our shit) is nothing more than metaprogramming. Think about it. Even the simple ancient machines, the wheel and axle, the pulley, the wedge, the lever, the screw, and the incline plane, even these simple machines, when combined, automate so many tasks and allow for  further complexity, one built upon the next. Open up a VCR sometime and look at all the ancient machines in there. It's programmed materiality being used for even more programs.

And it's extending to the IoT, the Internet of Things. Well, what is the Internet of Things? Simple. Take an object, slap some sensors on it, hook it up to wifi, and you have a device that will tell you all sorts of things about itself, it's environment, its users and abusers. Couple that with some sound deductive logic, and pretty soon, every one of your secret thoughts and dirty little habits is transmitted throughout the universe. Metaprogramming. The further embodiment within physical materiality of your already embodied minds. Consider that, right now, there are about 1.9 billion objects in the IoT universe, and that, by 2018 there will be 9 billion, which is more objects than is projected for all other devices combined (you know, mobiles, TVs, tablets, laptops, PCs, those goofy wristwatch thingies, etc).

This can be a very good thing (sustainability, efficiency, cooperation and sharing of tools and toys), or a very bad thing (ubiquitous surveillance and universal law enforcement), but the point is this form of metaprogramming itself requires even more metaprogramming, which is what the Federal Trade Commission wants to do starting now, for, at least, the American internet of Things.

What will happen? I'm guessing that, what with jugaads and chindogu, the black market, and the whole developed world leapfrogging past our shoddy 100-year-old infrastrcuture (70 years in Europe and Japan due to a little bombing creative destruction), that I expect big things to happen in the next ten years. Despite the naysayers about stagnation and low-hanging fruit, I don't see the Technium doing anything but accelerating faster and faster - provided, of course, we throw enough brains at it.

No comments:

Post a Comment