Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, June 15, 2015

Genealogy and the Internet of Things

I recently read a blog post on the JSTOR Daily entitled "The Internet of Things: Totally New and a Hundred Years Old." Depending on your immersion in the technology of the Internet, you may have heard of the Internet of Things (IoT) or not. As with all new ideas and technologies, since I think mostly about genealogy, I see everything in terms of its benefit or use by genealogists. Here is the definition of the IoT from that universal source, Wikipedia:
The Internet of Things (IoT, sometimes Internet of Everything) is the network of physical objects or "things" embedded[1] with electronics, software, sensors[2] and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure. Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020.[3]
Those who write about this inevitable development usually explore the negative, dystopic aspects of a future where almost every object is connected to the Internet. From time to time, I review the history of the rise of individual computers. I just finished reading a book about the history of the Intel Corporation,

Malone, Michael S. The Intel Trinity: How Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove Built the World's Most Important Company. 2014.

The book was interesting although very repetitious and redundant. I guess, as I read these histories, that I am trying to analyze my own personal history and the impact computers have had on my life. One of the most amazing things about writing a blog, such as this one, is the fact that people read it. Now, back to the IoT. Genealogists deal with ideas and concepts. Our interaction with "things" such as appliances and other manufactured objects is not that much different than any other consumer of the world's goods. We drive cars, wash our clothes, buy food and do all the other mundane and repetitive activities most of the world now does on a daily basis. To the extent that this concept of electronically connecting common, household objects with the Internet will impact how or what we do, to that extent we will all be affected by the IoT. 

Those parts of technology that will impact genealogists the most involve more complex issues than having light bulbs tell you when they need to be replaced or a refrigerator that orders milk and eggs. Our activities are directed at information and its availability. Most of what I do now, stripped to its essentials, is move information from one form to another. To the extent that the IoT or any other technology impacts my ability to extract, analyze, evaluate and use information, i.e. genealogical data, I suppose my activities as a genealogist will also be impacted. 

Most of us are swimming in an ocean of information and barely maintaining our heads above water. I taught two classes yesterday about analyzing the data in the Family Tree. In both classes, those who attended were overwhelmed with the amount of information. The implications of almost unlimited contact with the world's vast informational resources surpasses the ability of most to envision how to control the information and manage it in a useful form. How many research hints from the large genealogy companies can I examine and incorporated in my own data? 

One last example. My iPhone can talk to me. So what? I completely ignore the fact that I can issue oral commands to my phone. Why is this? Because my life does not consist in asking a phone to do stupid things. When I want information, my questions are usually much more complex than asking where I can buy pizza. What I do need is more and cheaper memory storage. What I do need is programs that aren't so buggy that I cannot use them. What I do need is access to more digitized records. What I do not need is an appliance the talks to me. 


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