The Silence of the Chips

I have long advocated for transparency especially in the telecoms / mobile space in relation to price plans.

There is also a clear need for transparency, within the standardization process.

We all accept that need.

But transparency means sharing information and sharing too much information can lead to Obfuscation. Obfuscation is the concealment of intended meaning in communication, making communication confusing, intentionally ambiguous, and more difficult to interpret.

Here is an example:

Currently there is a discussion in the European parliament around a paper called The Internet of Things – An action plan for Europe (pdf).

The document outlines a concept called ‘The silence of the chips’.

Silence of the chips is easy to understand and on first impressions, it is benevolent.

In a nutshell, in a world of sensors, RFID chips etc, an individual should have the right to effectively disconnect from their networked environment at any moment.

Hence, silence of the chips and the attempt to enshrine the idea of the ‘silent chips’ in future standards for the Internet of Things.

Leaving aside the fact that there are many security situations where these sensors could actually benefit us, the attempt to ensure that the chips seek permission(or in an extreme case – we can silence them) are motivated by the need for greater transparency.

But they could also overwhelm people with too much information and could defeat the very purpose of Ubiquitous computing (i.e. seamless computing – devices that exist in the background).

Thus, in this case, the attempt to include transparency may lead to too much information, which could be used to hide some real issues and will ultimately defeat the goals of ubiquitous computing itself.

The concept is certainly catching in popular imagination.

Inspired by the Anthony Hopkins/Jodie Foster movie Silence of the Lambs, there is even a logo for the silence of the chips and a whole bunch of memorabilia around it like t-shirts and mugs.

My concern is – if some of these ideas go ahead under the guise of transparency, the only people who will gain any value from it are the mug makers and t-shirt makers!

And society as a whole will be poorer in terms of the benefits we could gain from Ubiquitous computing.

Image source: Oneillkza / Boing Boing