WB-40: Episode 1 – The Internet of Robots

In our first episode, Chris & Matt discuss the short term implications of the Internet of Things, and why we seem to fear robots taking over our jobs. Matt also gets to grips with audio recording for the first time in 20 years, so apologies for the hiss… we’ll get better as we go.

Links to things mentioned:

Pete Trainor’s company: http://www.nexus.cx/

Boston Dynamics: http://www.bostondynamics.com/

Insulin pump vulnerability report http://www.reuters.com/article/us-johnson-johnson-cyber-insulin-pumps-e-idUSKCN12411L

OpenAPS: https://openaps.org/

Internet connected toaster https://toasteroid.com/

‘Smart’ medicine safe http://ikeyp.com/

Information security nightmare vibrator http://metro.co.uk/2016/09/13/smart-dildo-was-spying-on-my-vagina-woman-claims-6126467/

11 hour WiFi tea-making escapade



Production notes:

Are we sure we want to connect *everything* to the internet?

The number of startup companies peddling ‘smart’ devices connected to the internet seems to get bigger every day.   From smart coffee cups that claim to tell you how well you’re doing against your personal hydration target to toasters that will burn the daily weather forecast onto your medium-sliced Hovis, we don’t seem to be running out of ideas just yet.

Is it really possible for these to be marketable – and what are the downsides?  For sure they’ll collect a lot of information about us.  We’re being measured, profiled and categorised like never before, but rarely in a very coherent way.  Hackers might charge us to stop telling our toaster to burn the choicest parts of our internet history on our families’ breakfasts.  Complexity is fascinating but we don’t necessarily need more of it in our lives.

Example – ikeyp.  An internet enabled medicine safe.  The advertising tells us that we need to keep medicines secure, and that’s a good thing – but does it need to be connected?  Unlikely that a hacker will specifically target you to keep you from getting to your vital heart medicine that they used to have in all the 70’s disaster movies – but they could extort money from the manufacturer by threatening to lock *all* the safes.  What is the real benefit of this ‘smart’ device?

We have to think about finding a way to manage our own data in a more strategic way, and taking control of our individual subnets of the internet, to avoid handing over a great deal of control and leverage to people that maybe might not have our best interests at heart….



If robots are taking over the world, why do we still have hand car washes?

Automated car washes have been around since the late 1950s- surely if robot automation were a thing that was going to make us all redundant, we’d not have hand car washes any more.

Why is the current wave of “we are all going to be more redundant” so pervasive?

  • It’s a natural response to tech hype (same happened in the 1970s)
  • It’s going to happen in some cases (washing machines, “office clerks”)
  • Human resistance
  • Sometimes we prefer dealing with machines (self checkouts)
  • Economics…

Robots, bots… AI v anthropomorphic things. Eliza still impressive. Text as an input mechanism sucks… (suicide analysis interesting counterpoint). Voice + natural language makes more sense in certain circumstances (driving) over others (in the office).


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