As I write this impromptu post the 2nd day of a search technology conference in Seattle is closing with the usual after-hours partying.  People are happily writing blog posts and newsletters that digest the things they have learned from the conference and they will continue the process that has led to your reading my post here on Science 2.0.
That process can be boiled down to "figure out something to say online and then figure out how to get people to read it".  I'll do my part by Tweeting and SHARING this post after it has been published but that is "old school" marketing.  It's also "crowd-sourced promotion", "social sharing", "user buzz", "community involvement", "extended engagement", and several other things I probably have never heard about.

Tomorrow, on the final day of the public conference (I believe there will be another day of workshops) yet more communal wisdom will be shared in the form of case studies, summaries of popular memes, and personal anecdotes about whose trend lines in the data went up and down.  Much nodding of heads, ooing and ahhing, and many conspiracy theories will be expressed throughout the day.  But the outcome of the event will be this:
  • People will buy more software, more "tool" subscriptions  
  • People will start collecting more data  
  • People will publish new content using "new" ideas  
  • People will spread these ideas to other people  
It's a viral process that doesn't receive much attention.  But as I watch these conferences unfold over the years and track their ideas I see the changes that they weave into the fabric of the online world we share.  These changes follow a very narrow pathway.  We'll see more demand for certain kinds of advertising and an increased production of certain kinds of content.

On the downside fewer kids will play with the toys of yesterday.  Maybe Web forums will continue to decline.  Maybe more people will abandon Facebook.  Maybe fewer people will blog next week than a year ago.

These changes are driven by a combination of factors such as anticipation of greater adoption of new technologies ("mobile" is the big buzzword these days) and fear of being left behind by an ever-changing marketplace that is increasingly complex.  The marketplace feeds our craving for data and analysis and stimulates that craving by explaining that it's all really necessary to keep things moving along.

But as people begin collecting and analyzing data for their "mobile" user experiences a new wave of technology is quickly emerging.  Some people have labelled this the "Internet of Things" but another buzzword has cropped: "the Wearables".  Your refrigerator and washing machine will soon plug into the Internet using IPv6 addressing so that you can turn them off and on while you're away from home, and so that you can double check your shopping list while at the grocery store.  But your smart phone may not be the user interface you use to interact with your home appliances.

Instead you may start talking into your wristwatch, your eyeglasses (prescription-made Google Glass is on the way), your neck pendant, perhaps even your cufflinks (if you actually wear them).  We are on the verge of becoming a world filled with magicians whispering "abra cadabra" into a myrid of wands, rods, and staves.  We will wear true "rings of power" that command our homes to open their doors and windows to us, that allow us to tell our self-driving cars where to take us, and that may act as defenders of our biosecurity protocols.

All of these things will connect to the Internet and through the Internet connect us to other things.  It is already happening so we can't call this "science fiction" or "wild speculation".  It's early stage experimentation, exploration and discovery of base concepts.  And people are collecting data about the experimentation.  But there is another stage of experimentation waiting in the wings.  If launched this next stage will eventually dominate technology conferences in 3-7 years.

Of course I am talking about the technologies needed to deliver advertising to your "things" and to enable you to express your ideas to the rest of the world through these "things".  Imagine creating a personal blog for your home that speaks to service vendors who need detailed instructions on what they are to do while you are out.  A home blogging system that speaks on your behalf and allows your service providers to engage with you (privately) may be semi-intelligent, or intelligently designed, to offer you a menu of options for service requests and instructions and to offer the providers a menu of options for services to perform or questions to ask.

Somewhere in there, for a while, real people may perform the services on site but the writing is on the wall.  Companies are already experimenting with drone technology and self-managing transportation.  How long will it be before your lawn care and pest control are handled by remotely operated vehicles or self-controlled devices?  Maybe 20 years, perhaps 25 years, tops.

We are building a technology layer that makes these things possible.  We don't yet have an economic system that makes them feasible, but through experimentation we'll figure out if we want to make them feasible.  All that's missing from this dream scenario is a workforce of robots and computers that earns our income for us, ensuring that everyone with the means to buy this technology doesn't actually have to work for it.

But in the background, behind all the convenience, enabling the "innovation" there will be a monstrous invasion of personal privacy.  That invasion has already begun and it began the day you first logged on to the Internet.  Everything you do is recorded and now much of what you do is shared.  There is little to no government regulation of all this information gathering.  In fact, most governments have little to no use for the majority of the information.  Maybe in China they use it but I doubt even the Chinese government is yet tapping into all the meta data we generate with our social media drivebys, notices, email alerts, and other automated processes.

If you subscribe to any free service on the Internet you create meta data and you are already practicing for the day when you will lift your watch to your chin and quietly order the stove to begin cooking dinner (more likely it will be a Compact Meal Mangement System).  Your electronic assistants will commune among themselves, syncing up your various thoughts, appointments, and commitments.  They may even try to figure out if you have enough money in the bank to pay for an impromptu visit to a fast food restaurant.

And all the meta data associated with that activity will be collected by product vendors, access point owners, and anyone else who thinks they can "optimize" the value they create by studying what all the people passing within the purview of their systems surveillance leave behind.  The amount of data you create will be immense.  And somewhere, at some technology conference, someone will propose an API that allows all these things to share your meta data with each other "in the cloud".

And putting all that data "in the cloud" will in turn lead to someone publishing a case study about what the meta data tells them about you, your purchase decisions, even how you reach those purchase decisions.  And that case study will lead to someone else creating an online service (a "tool") that marketers can use to tap in to your online psyche, the memory of all the things you did with the "things" you use.

It's happening now.  We're still in a very crude and primitive state of technology but technology and marketing conferences are all about collecting, managing, and sharing information.  The information is drawn from consumer activity.  It is YOUR activity.  I will one day read about you and see you in a slide show.  Your name won't be included but I'll know that I am learning about you because someone will tell me enough about what they collected for me to discern that it is YOU they are talking about and not ME.

I laugh whenever I see people online worrying about "Big Brother" and the possibility of our waking up to some Orwellian nightmare.  The Internet has proven that will never be possible.  We won't sit idly by while fascists seize control of the government and the media.  We are now creating something much more powerful than Big Brother and there is nothing standing in the way.  SkyNet won't be born of a secret government project. It will be crowd-sourced, open-sourced, and completely transparent.

The only problem is that too few people seem to see it for what it is.  You have no privacy today and you'll have even less tomorrow.  I hope you're okay with that because it's too late to change the shape of things to come.