Objects with consciousness are necessary to the survival of our planet

One of the great insights of science fiction author Bruce Sterling, is how intelligent objects, i.e. that know and can telll you where they come from, are necessary to create a world of zero waste. Before presenting that argument, a recap of the vocabulary of the P2P-Objects, and a summary history of their evolution.

This entry is inspired by a great speech by Bruce Sterling, recently rediscovered.

1. The vocabulary

First a reminder of the ABC of the Internet of Things:

A Spime is an object that can be tracked through space and time throughout the lifetime of the object.

A spime descends from the species of gizmo’s: “A Gizmo is not manufacturable by any centrally planned society. A Gizmo is something like a Product, but instead of behaving predictably and sensibly for a mass market of obedient consumers, a Gizmo is an open-ended tech development project. In a Gizmo, development has been deputized to end-users.” (see also here for info on a subspecies of gizmo’s: the blobject)

Some of the trackable objects will be able to blog, i.e. the blogjects: “The three major characteristics of a blogject are its sense of space combined with its ability to track where it has been, its knowledge of its encounters and previous experiences, and more importantly, its ability to participate in an assertive way to social networks. “In its most basic form, a blogject is not dissimilar to people that blog — it is an artifact that can disseminate a record of its experiences to the web.” (from Smartmobs)

Trackable objects will need physical bookmarking.

2. The history of man-made objects

Bruce Sterling:

In my grand vision, there’s a history of the relationship of objects and human beings. It goes like this. Up to the present day, during previous history, we humans have had. and made, four different classes of possible objects. These classes of objects are called, in order of their historical appearance, Artifacts, Machines, Products, and Gizmos.

The lines between Artifacts, Machines, Products and Gizmos aren’t mechanical. They’re historical. The differences between them are found in the material cultures they make possible. The kind of society they produce, and the kind of human being that is necessary to make them and use them.

Artifacts are made and used by hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers.

Machines are made and used by customers. in an industrial society.

Products are made and used by consumers, in a military-industrial complex.

While Gizmos are made and used by end-users, in whatever today is == a “New World Disorder,” a “Terrorism-Entertainment Complex,” our own brief interregnum.

Blobjects tend to be a subset of the class of Gizmos. Not all blobjects are Gizmos, but most gizmos have insane amounts of functionality in them, and they are designed on computers.”

3. Why Spimes are necessary for the survival of the planet

Bruce Sterling:

The people who make Spimes want you to do as much of the work for them as possible. They can data-mine your uses of the spime, and use that to improve their Spime and gain market share. This would have been called “customer relations management,” in an earlier era, but in a Spime world, it’s more intimate. It’s collaborative, and better understood as something like open-source manufacturing. It’s all about excellence. Passion. Integrity. Cross-disciplinary action. And volunteerism.

When you shop for Amazon, you’re already adding value to everything you look at on an Amazon screen. You don’t get paid for it, but your shopping is unpaid work for them. Imagine this blown to huge proportions and attached to all your physical possessions. Whenever you use a spime, you’re rubbing up against everybody else who has that same kind of spime. A spime is a users group first, and a physical object second.

I know that this sounds insanely complex, because it is. The reason this is necessary is a simple one. The reason is the passage of time. Entropy requires no maintenance. Artifacts, Machines, Products, Gizmos, they all die. The material objects that we human beings use and make, they wear out, get consumed, and get thrown away. Unfortunately, this process is reaching limits and is doing us serious harm. We’re getting permeated by trash.

We are filling the atmosphere, and the seas, and the surface of the planet, and our own bodies, with our industrial emissions and our dead junk. In a world with 6.3 billion people, trending toward 10 billion, there is no “Away” left in which we can throw our dead objects. Our material culture is not sustainable. Its resources are not renewable. We cannot turn our entire planet’s crust into obsolete objects. We need to locate valuable objects that are dead, and fold them back into the product stream. In order to do this, we need to know where they are, and what happened to them. We need to document the life cycles of objects. We need to know where to take them when they are defunct.

In practice, this is going to mean tagging and historicizing everything. Once we tag many things, we will find that there is no good place to stop tagging.

In the future, an object’s life begins on a graphics screen. It is born digital. Its design specs accompany it throughout its life. It is inseparable from that original digital blueprint, which rules the material world. This object is going to tell you — if you ask — everything that an expert would tell you about it. Because it WANTS you to become an expert.”

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