Bruce Sterling

Science Fiction author

The Internet of Things
56 minutes, 25.8mb, recorded 2006-03-06
Bruce Sterling
In the future we may be able to find lost keys with a simple google search. Science fiction writer Bruce Sterling imagines how physical objects will be part of the internet as they become trackable in space and time. Bruce discusses the theoretical and technical challenges that we face as we try and think about and develop the Internet of Things. From Spimes to Thing Links to Blogjects, the terminology and verbal framing devices currently being used are pulled apart in this keynote address from the 2006 O'reilly Emerging Technology Conference.

Sterling discusses at length how language shapes our understanding of technology. Phrases like Artificial Intelligence, he claims, have become frozen in time. This freezing of the language may have hindered the development of computers that have little to do with thinking and everything to do with linking, ranking and sorting. He advocates for a clash of sensibilites when coming up with proper terminology for remote technical eventualites. The Internet of Things may take up to thirty years to come about, so there is no reason to expect the terminology of today to fully describe realities of the future.

Much of the talk deals with the concept of using verbal framing devices to manifest an idea. Bruce introduces us to the idea of a spime, objects that are trackable in space and time. Spimes are material instantiations of an immaterial system, digitally manufactured things from virtual plans. The Internet of Things will change how we interact with objects from the moment of invention to the moment of decay. Bruce brilliantly fits these and other concepts within the intellectual millieu of the web 2.0 world.

Bruce Sterling is the author of several science fiction novels including Involution Ocean, The Artificial Kid, Schismatrix, Islands in the Net, and Heavy Weather. He edited the collection Mirrorshades, the definitive document of the cyberpunk movement, and co-authored the novel The Difference Engine with William Gibson. He also writes a critical column for Science Fiction Eye and a popular-science column for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.His non-fiction book, The Hacker Crackdown, describes the law enforcement and computer-crime activities that led to the start of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990.


  • Bruce's Blog: Beyond the Beyond
  • Shaping Things, MIT Press
  • Adam Greenfield Everyware

    This free podcast is from our Emerging Technology Conference series.

    For The Conversations Network: