The Internet is invading all aspects of your life. No longer confined to your computer or your phone, the Internet is now in garbage cans, refrigerators, and the infrastructure of our cities. The future will either be a surveillance nightmare or an eco-utopia, the outcome determined by startups in Silicon Valley and Shenzhen.
The Internet of Everything captures our present moment, when both futures still seem possible.
Brett Gaylor – a reformed techno-utopian who works in the tech industry – will be your guide.
His award winning documentaries Rip! A Remix Manifesto and Do Not Track have mapped the public’s relationship with the Internet; first fascination and obsession, then growing discomfort around the abuse of our private information, and now a sense of confusion and dread. If the pace of change and lack of agency is confusing for a techie like Brett, everyone else is probably feeling bewildered, too.
But now, with the connecting of the physical world into the “Internet of Things”, the stakes have been raised – it’s no longer just the abstractions of cyberspace that are spinning out of control, but instead our homes, our bodies and our cities that are being transformed.
It’s a fast, funny and enlightening take on the bewildering change the Internet has wrought. The Internet of Everything embraces the “tech-lash” while reflecting on the big picture of a world where we are all connected.
A five webisode miniseries is also available comprising new, complementary stories
Episode 1 – Screen time
It’s easy to point our finger at kids for too much screen time — we’ve all laughed at memes of children on their phones at the museum, in the park, or on a camping trip… but as adults, are we any better?
At his home in Victoria, B.C., reformed techno-utopian Brett Gaylor, like most parents, is in a constant battle between his kids and screens. But what happens when the internet moves beyond the screen and into the world around us? With innumerable connected objects and spaces, depending on how you see it, we’re either living in a futuristic utopia or a nightmarish surveillance state. Every connected product comes with a trade-off — from the carbon footprint of smart assistants, to the complicated health insurance implications of wearables, or safety concerns around self-driving cars.
Episode 2 – Alexa, Save the Planet
Ever wondered how much energy is needed for Alexa to play that 90s dance hits playlist you love so much? More than you think.
There are already 66 million smart assistants in operation in the United States alone, and the number is growing daily. But what are we trading for the convenience of turning the lights on with our voice? Director Brett Gaylor approaches the question from a child’s point of view with his daughter Layla as they grapple to understand the enormous amount of energy and processing power involved in the machine learning powering Alexa. In parallel, Amazon’s corporate carbon footprint continues to grow, between the massive amount of non-renewable energy used to power their web services, or the ongoing pollution from transport emissions. In 2018, staff protests prompt shareholders to confront management, demanding a plan for climate change and a reduction of the company’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Episode 3 – In Good Hands
It’s easy to get sucked into the cute graphics of your health monitoring app, but the data captured by your FitBit or smart watch is being used for much more than simply encouraging you to up your step count.
Director Brett Gaylor travels to the outskirts of Paris where four young roommates try out fitness trackers for the first time, allowing him to monitor their health data. He finds out much more about their lives than they were expecting — what time they go to bed, when they go to the convenience store for a late night snack, and who’s sleeping with whom. This is creepy enough in and of itself, but it gets worse when the data falls into the hands of third parties. Health Insurance companies and corporate “wellness” programs are using health data obtained from fitness trackers to make decisions about how much your health insurance should cost, or whether or not they will insure you at all.
Episode 4 – Take the Wheel
The fantasy of stepping into a self-driving car and kicking back to read, nap or work until you arrive at your destination has universal appeal. But are the cars, or the cities in which we plan to let them loose, up to the task?
Director Brett Gaylor travels to northern France where the company TEQMO is testing self-driving cars in common accident scenarios, such as getting cut-off at an intersection. Let’s just say, they still have some testing to do. On the infrastructure front, hacker Cesar Cerato is on a mission to expose weaknesses in smart city traffic systems. Steps from the White House in Washington, he is surprised to discover that Washington’s traffic sensors aren’t encrypted. With pedestrians and drivers’ lives at risk, algorithmic driving where we can trust the data to make the right decision seems to be a long way off.
Episode 5 – See Something, Say Something
The Ring doorbell camera is positioned as a great way to monitor who or what’s at the door, whether you’re home or not. But preying on consumers’ fears of their Amazon packages getting stolen, or worse, is having far-reaching impacts on communities and policing practices around the world.
Director Brett Gaylor meets community activists in Skid Row, Los Angeles, where law enforcement has partnered with Amazon’s Ring, with some unintended consequences. On a map obtained from the police, the activists notice that “hot spots,” where police predict crimes will occur based on users’ “reports of suspicision,” are often found not in the heart of Skid Row, but at the outskirts, where gentrifying communities are clashing with their less fortunate, often non-white neighbours. By embracing these technologies, are the police protecting everyone, or just the gentrified?