Arthur C. Clarke’s novel The City and the Stars voiced two different possibilities for a future society. One was a city run by computers, totally detached from the physical outside world, forming its own microcosm. The other was a society living in harmony with the physical world, but augmenting it with technology. A generation ago there was great fear that our future would be a sterile world run by computers, like the detached microcosm city, and we would lose something human. But modern developments, concerns for the environment, human engineering …etc. have tended to lean towards the other option – humans developing technology that takes its cues from the real world.
Interfacing technology via the cloud is an example of this. Car manufacture Volvo envisions a system where information from a car gets distributed via a connection on the cloud. If your car encounters slippery road conditions, traffic, or anything else of concern to motorists the car’s cloud connection passes the information to others nearby who might be using the same roads.
This is not really so much a new concept as the development of an old one. We’ve had traffic reports for years, and we have apps on smartphones where individuals can look up road and weather information. But this approach is more integrated; the information goes straight to the car and driver who doesn’t have to use the phone while driving, or listen to a possibly relevant radio report. It means navigation systems on cars can give the most economical route to a destination at a particular point in time rather than a route that would be best under ideal conditions. This information to the car is current, integrated with the car’s systems, and has far greater detail than before.
Or course it is only as good as the people who use it. If there are only a few cars and drivers with the system then they have to hope some other driver has already gone the route ahead of them if they are to gather any useful information. Whereas if the majority of people have the cloud accessing systems there will always be relevant information as long as there is some traffic on the road. Any driver can benefit from the experience of another driver, even if the experience was only moments before.
Undoubtedly this could have an impact on insurance. Hopefully it will prevent a few incidents, but even if it doesn’t stop all problems it might help if we know that the drivers were at least complying with up-to-date information and following a recommended path.
Technology with this approach adapts to the world, which is also a world that we have adapted to us, having built cities, road and other technology. Information that these systems convey is far more extensive than before, but it is never complete or final, as the outside world is always changing. Any concern we once had of being isolated in our own stagnant world now seem unfounded. In an infinitely complex and changing reality there will always be constant change in how we adapt to it.