Cybernews podcast #31: IoT – liberation, or a labyrinth we cannot escape?

Like it or not, the Internet of Things (IoT) is here to stay. But does a network of interconnected gizmos that runs every aspect of our daily lives add up to a worldwide web of entrapment?

In 2022, it was estimated that there were around 20 billion IoT devices in operation – that’s an average of three per person on the planet, and once you factor out people too old, young, or poor to own one that ratio is likely to be considerably higher for those that do.

As you might expect, such impressive figures add up to big business – this year, the market revenue for IoT is estimated to rise by 18% to $1.38 trillion. To put that sum in perspective, just one-tenth of the world’s countries are estimated to be in the so-called trillion-dollar club in terms of annual GDP – viewed like that, you could say the IoT industry is worth more than most nations.

In our latest Cybernews podcast, we discuss the ramifications of this monetary incentive to keep pushing out and marketing internet-enabled gadgets. We weigh the economic and convenience benefits against growing cybersecurity concerns and the impact this increased dependence might have on our wellbeing and capacity to function autonomously as human beings.

To be clear, the IoT is everywhere nowadays: from smart fridges that tell you when your milk has soured and internet-controlled home cameras to digitally guided hospitals and traffic control systems. But, we ask, could this ever-expanding web of devices be taken down in its entirety in a designated city by one devastating cyberattack?

Naturally, legislation was also something we were keen to look at – but policy wonks maybe shouldn’t get too excited, because both the EU and US federal government have acknowledged that regulating the IoT industry will be a mammoth undertaking.

Paulina Okunyte worries that our growing dependence on the IoT might add up to just that – a dependency, one that leaves us weakened in mind and less able to problem-solve for ourselves. She also draws attention to the vicious cycle that technology creates – no sooner have we invented something to solve an old problem than it causes a new one, requiring… you guessed it, another tech solution.

Gintaras Radauskas, on the other hand, thinks we should place more faith in good old-fashioned human judgment – after all, no one is forcing anyone to buy these devices, and grown-ups must be free to make responsible purchasing decisions for themselves. He doesn’t have much confidence that legislation can adequately guide this without killing innovation but hopes that children in the future can be better educated by teachers and parents to use technology more wisely.

To hear us unpick these issues at greater length, tune in to the Cybernews podcast.

More from Cybernews:

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SpaceX's third Starship test flight gets FAA green light

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US gov opens probe into UnitedHealth hack as systems come online

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