Towards a Democratically-Distributed IoT

The questions raised in my previous post are worth serious consideration.  If the commanding heights of global industry are to be conquered by robots, then this is a step towards a distopian cyberfeudalism straight from the pages of science fiction.  To the uninitiated, the vision of robot overlords may represent something with some resemblance to a human, like the Terminator, or even the 1980’s toy the Omnibot, complete with the computerized voice and choppy, robot movements.

In reality, these robots are much more likely to look very similar to things we already see in our everyday environment: cars, tractors, pumps, electrical outlets, automatic fences, etc.  The essential difference will be one of connectivity and control systems; cars and tractors, instead of acting as discrete units on the landscape, will be interconnected, receiving data from and sending data back to the server farms of the Internet cloud.  Hardware interconnectivity will be mediated and controlled by software, which is the area of greatest development at the moment.

Development and deployment are the clear and present opportunity for the open source entrepreneur.  Google, Facebook, Amazon et al. (ie “the Stacks”) want sole and exclusive access and control of the hardware, software, and data of the IoT.  And while they certainly have the capital and the clout to make that happen, the final outcome is hardly a fait accompli.

Nevertheless, I am left with numerous questions that, if answered, may provide some insight into the path forward for building a decentralized, P2P IoT that is owned and operated in a more democratically distributed fashion:

  1. What are the elements of successful open source projects?
  2. How can these projects be funded in a business environment largely driven by venture capital and promises of multibillion dollar returns?
  3. How are these projects coordinated over large, disparate groups that all have a stake in its success, but may not be able to lead their development?
  4. What is the role of the worker-owned cooperative, or coalitions of such cooperatives, acting as decentralized groups of consultants developing and deploying systems in the real world?
  5. How do we bridge the gap between technologists and industry specialists (farmers, construction workers, doctors), such that developed technologies reflect and address the needs of realities on the ground?
  6. What real and immediate monetary incentives exist for technologists to develop and deploy these systems in conjunction with industry professionals?

All of these questions point to a development pathway that is bumpy and unpredictable, but also full of opportunity and potential.  If you have answers to any of these questions, or feel that you would like to see some more added to the list, please feel free to chime in on the comments thread.

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