The Internet of Things Ate My Activism

This week, ReadWriteWeb reported that more things went online via AT&T and Verizon than humans:

In the race to the mobile internet, the machines have quickened their pace beyond what we humans have, at least in the US. Dishwashers, refrigerators, home heating units and other objects are next in line, then perhaps very widespread tiny sensors – and that’s a lot more exciting than it might sound.

We humans are reaching full market penetration and growth in subscription sales to us is slowing down, but there are more potentially-connected objects than there are human beings, and those objects are coming online faster and faster, according to a new report released today by wireless industry analyst Chetan Sharma. As Stacy Higginbotham, who first reported on these numbers, wrote today, “the data indicates that the Internet of things has clearly dawned, and with it, a new arena of competition.”

I can’t lie.  I had a hard time wrapping my mind around this.  Things?  As in my iPhone?  But isn’t online because I am?

A nifty little video helped break it down:

I know you young’uns are all up on your smartphones these days and that may make a lot of sense to you (read: I blame you).  And I loves the interwebs.  But as a first generation digital native and birth-to-earth sable fangirl–


I grew up in the age of post-apocalypse Mad Max, I’ll-be-back, stranded across the universe with monsters science and military gone wrong sci-fi (all of which coincided ever so nicely with crack epidemic era of hip hop.  Coincidence?).  The Wachowski brothers went to my high school.  My first introduction to afrofuturistic, womanist speculative fiction was Octavia Butler’s trauma-ridden, year 2024 end of the world novel Parable of the Sower.  I still kinda think that the best reading and writing is done with a book in your hands not a Kindle–mainly because I like the finality and legality of paper products.

So when you tell me that the day will/has come when my laundry machine, air-conditioner, fridge and hair dryer are smarter than me…I start getting itchy.  For realz.

moya b. over at Crunk Feminists Collective writes:

“BP Oil Spill cleanup won’t be done til 2014 and that’s a conservative estimate.

Wyclef has the nerve to run for president of Haiti (haven’t the Haitian People suffered enough?! Yo, even Jeff Spicoli is saying fall back!). Seriously?!

Landslides and fires are wiping places off the map!

Google, whose public mantra was “Don’t be evil” has recently reincarnated into the Devil himself and is teaming up with Verison to make the internet even more inaccessible and costly for folks….

I’m done. I am moving away from the (in)justice system and embracing my new love, Nihilism….”

Enter the New York Times Magazine with this disturbing little gallery on scavenging for precious metals in Ghana…

Pieter Hugo/NYT, "A Graveyard for Computers in Ghana" or click for more

…and I’m reminded that all those things that get such pretty animation in the IBM video, all those things including the computer I am typing this on right now are part of a global crisis for “conflict minerals” the average U.S. internet user remains stubbornly quarantined from.

That gallery was for Ghana.  Across the continent (via Afrobeat):

While not the only mineral fueling the war in the Congo, coltan (columbite–tantalite) is the mineral at the center of issues.  80% World’s known reserves are in Congo (DRC), mostly in the Eastern provinces of Kivus and Orientale. Tantalum from coltan is used in capacitors in consumer electronics products such as cell phones, DVD players, video game systems and computers, including iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac, PCs, cell phones, digital cameras, etc.

The brutality against women and children in this region is well-documented.  Rape IS a weapon of war.

We bitched and moaned about Naomi Campbell accepting or not accepting conflict diamonds but we are right now building an Internet of Things every time we search Bossip or YBF on our smartphones.  Talk about a technology industrial complex (especially with the Google-Verizon deal).  And at what cost?  And for whom?  And how do we–will we, hell, can we–stop?