Sunday, January 17, 2016

OOO, Information!

In his comment on my last post, Scott Johnson suggested I consider Herbert Blumer's symbolic interactionism for clarification of my interactions in the public space of Crescent Lake park, and he linked me to a web page hosted by the Communication Studies department at the University of Twente, which notes that symbolic interactionism is "the process of interaction in the formation of meanings for individuals. The inspiration for this theory came from Dewey (1981), which believed that human beings are best understood in a practical, interactive relation to their environment." According to UT, symbolic interactionism has three core principles (meaning, language and thought) which "lead to conclusions about the creation of a person’s self and socialization into a larger community (Griffin, 1997)":
Meaning states that humans act toward people and things according to the meanings that give to those people or things. Symbolic Interactionism holds the principal of meaning to be the central aspect of human behavior. 
Language gives humans a means by which to negotiate meaning through symbols. Humans identify meaning in speech acts with others. 
Thought modifies each individual’s interpretation of symbols. Thought is a mental conversation that requires different points of view. 
With these three elements the concept of the self can be framed. People use ‘the looking-glass self’: they take the role of the other, imagining how we look to another person. The self is a function of language, without talk there would be no self concept. People are part of a community, where our generalized other is the sum total of responses and expectations that we pick up from the people around us. We naturally give more weight to the views of significant others.
The good scholars at Twente then provide an example of how these three principles unfold in human interactions:
A boy (Jeremy) and a girl (Kim) broke up last year. When Jeremy received an email from Kim to go out he agreed and they went to a bar. Jeremy had a different kind of meaning though in comparison with Kim. Jeremy went out as friends, where Kim went out as with the meaning of ‘potential boyfriend’. Also in the communication the language was misunderstood. Kim wanted to have a romantic night, while Jeremy wanted to have a talk in a bar. This is also caused by the nonverbal element of emails. The third miscommunication is under thought. When Jeremy replied so fast Kim thought that they were going out to a romantic place. Jeremy went out just as ‘friends’. They both used an internal dialogue to interpret the situation and to make a perception of the evening.
Though I claim no expertise with symbolic interactionism, I want to use this concrete example to explore how at least one object oriented ontologist, Levi R. Bryant, approaches information. I will use Blumer and Bryant to represent differing concepts of communications. In his book The Democracy of Objects (2011), Levi R. Bryant says of information:
[I]nformation is an event that makes a difference by selecting a system-state. … [I]nformation is non-linear and system-specific, existing only for the system in question and as a function of the organization or endo-structure of the object. In saying that information is non-linear, my point is that it is an effect of the endo-structure of the object as it relates to its environment and how this endo-structure resonates within the field of differential relations that define that structure. Information is not in the environment, but is a product of the system perturbed by its environment. (166)
A number of issues are at work here. First, Blumer is speaking of communication as a behavior of humans only. In the romantic story, the communication is between Kim and Jeremy, and Blumer understands the interactions between them through careful analysis of their meanings, language, and thoughts. Bryant, on the other hand, speaks of communication in terms of all objects—humans as well as rocks, flowers, computers, galaxies, and tardigrades. For object oriented ontologists, all objects have equal ontological status in the sense that, while they do not all have equal powers, they all exist in their own right. Each object works to make its way through its own environment using the resources available to it. Thus, Bryant would include the communication behavior of not only Kim and Jeremy but their email programs and devices, the bar where they meet, their shared and unshared histories, the concepts of friends and lovers, and the host of other real and virtual objects implicit in this scene but not supplied.

And this "not supplied" points to big issue for object oriented ontologists: the privileging of the human object as a subject over all other objects. For the writers of the Kim and Jeremy scene, Kim and Jeremy are the subjects, the main actors, and everything else in the story—indeed, in the universe—is an inert prop, an object, defined by and existing solely for the use of Kim and Jeremy. Odds are, most of us read the scene this way. Afterall, we are humans—we are subjects. For us, all objects are background, and no object foregrounds except by proximity to and interaction with a human subject. This view, of course, devalues the ontological status of all non-human objects. It devalues even humans if, for instance, they are part of the great unwashed crowd, just an object in the background. As near as I can tell, one of the primary aims of both object oriented ontology and actor network theory is to recognize and honor the equal ontological status of all objects: Kim and Jeremy, of course, but also the bar and its other patrons, the email application and attending devices and networks, the concepts of friends and lovers, and so forth. All are objects that demand attention. While we can focus on any object or set of objects, we inevitably misunderstand Kim and Jeremy's situation if we reduce any object, say the email app, merely to its set of interactions with Kim and Jeremy. The email app exists in its own right and behaves in accordance to its own internal structures and demands. So does the bar. If we miss this point, then we will not understand the interactions of Kim and Jeremy as well as we might.

Of course, this makes understanding of even a simple romantic scene very difficult, but—hey!—if understanding was easy then everyone would do it. Reducing everything else except Kim and Jeremy to inert props, to mere objects, provides clarity and understanding. It provides meaning. We intuitively believe that we can ignore the email and the bar as background objects to get at the heart of what is happening with Kim and Jeremy, the subjects of our story.

Bryant and Bruno Latour, however, say we cannot. For instance, we think we can ignore the cloud of 106 biological particles Kim and Jeremy are emitting per hour. Their bodies are likely aware of those respective clouds of pathogens and effluvia, but their minds are not aware of them. So we can ignore the micro-biological clouds if we are not conscious of them, right? Okay, let's add two new objects, both of which Kim and Jeremy are also unaware: Jeremy has recently contracted syphilis and Kim is two weeks pregnant. Two new objects: a small but rowdy gang of bacteria and a silent embryo. I want to suggest that their bodies already know about both of these objects, even though their minds are not yet aware, and that these objects are communicating with their bodies and affecting their respective behaviors. The bacteria and the embryo are communicating with Jeremy and Kim, but the conscious Jeremy and Kim don't yet know it. Rather, Jeremy just doesn't feel it for Kim, and Kim just suddenly realizes that Jeremy is her soulmate.

Or some such. The range of responses is much wider than this, but the scene is supposed to be romantic. The point is that communication is happening quite aside from the human, conscious communication that we usually talk about and that Blumer seems to talk about. Kim and Jeremy are busy communicating with new objects, but they haven't gotten the meaning yet.

So for Bryant, communication is a behavior of all objects, and as such, Bryant drops the concept of meaning from his concept of communication. Obviously for Blumer, meaning is at the core of communication among humans. Meaning is that thing worked out among humans and transferred among humans, like a virus or a gene. Not so for Bryant.

Bryant insists that communication does not imply any kind of meaning transferred between Kim and Jeremy. No piece of information exists in the environment like pebbles and gets passed from Kim to Jeremey and back. Here, Bryant draws on Niklas Luhmann's work in Social Systems (1995). Bryant writes, quoting Luhmann:
systems or substances cannot communicate with their environments. If this is the case, then it is because systems only relate to themselves and “[i]nformation is [...] a purely system-internal quality. There is no transference of information from the environment into the system”. Put a bit differently, systems or substances communicate only with themselves.
If information is purely internal and not something transferred from Kim to Jeremy, then how do we communicate among ourselves? Bryant explains it this way:
While substances are closed to one another, they can nonetheless perturb or irritate one another. And in perturbing or irritating one another, information is produced by the system that is perturbed or irritated. However, here we must proceed with caution, for information is not something that exists out there in the environment waiting to be received or detected. Moreover, information is not something that is exchanged between systems. Often we think of information as something that is transmitted from a sender to a receiver. The question here becomes that of how it is possible for the receiver to decode the information received as identical to the information transmitted. However, insofar as substances are closed in the sense discussed in the last section, it follows that there can be no question of information as exchange. Rather, information is purely system-specific, exists only within a particular system or substance, and exists only for that system or substance. In short, there is no pre-existent information. Instead, information is constructed by systems. As Luhmann remarks, “above all what is usually called 'information' are purely internal achievements.There is no information that moves from without to within a system”. Elsewhere, Luhmann remarks that “[i]nformation is an internal change of state, a self-produced aspect of communicative events and not something that exists in the environment of the system”. Consequently, information is a transformation of perturbations of an object into information within a system.
What does this mean for Kim and Jeremy? Actually, the scene as written rather captures Bryant's and Luhmann's point (I have not read enough of Blumer and symbolic interactionism to know if this is intentional or not): Kim and Jeremy's emails are external events that perturb or irritate the other, but no information is transferred by the email. Rather, both Kim and Jeremy translate the perturbations they perceive into information within themselves, according to the potentials of their respective internal states. The meaning exists within each of them, and as such, their respective meanings can match or not. In this scene, they don't match. In some ways, that meanings in different minds ever match is a minor miracle.

This mismatch in meaning is, of course, a good thing for literature. Without the possibility of mismatch in communication, we would have no comedies, no tragedies, no resonance in poetry. As I understand both views of communication (and remember, I am just newly aware of symbolic interactionism), the Luhmann/Bryant view explains better what happens between Kim and Jeremy. The emails are external perturbations which Kim and Jeremy translate into an internal state according to their own resources and internal structures. Kim translates the emails into a romantic evening, and Jeremy translates them into a friendly chat.

In Bryant's view, a gap exists between signal (or perturbation) sent by an object and signal received by another object, and the gap demands a bridge, a translation, by both objects. That translation is always an internal process by the enclosing system. Thus, Kim translates her email message into one meaning, and Jeremy translates the very same perturbation into another meaning.

Bryant's view also explains better the communication of no signal. As we all know, no signal travels faster than any signal, faster than light itself. If my wife walks into the room and does not speak to me, her no signal has communicated. Nothing is transferred—no spoken signal at all—but I get the message, usually the wrong message. For instance, I may fear that she is angry with me, when she is just distracted by something else. The point is: if we drop the notion of some kind of transfer of an external chunk of information, then we can better explain the meanings of no signal, or the meanings of some signal. This post, then, may perturb you and me, but it is unlikely that you and I are getting the same meaning from it. You are almost certainly creating ideas different from the ones I create.

According to Bryant, all objects create information in this manner. They translate the range of external perturbations that they can perceive into internal changes in state according to their internal resources. We humans have a most malleable and enriched mind that can assume many states, and we have a relatively rich toolbox of senses that can perceive a wide range of perturbations. Stones, on the other hand, can perceive relatively few perturbations and can assume very few internal states. They can perceive heat and they can melt, but they seem to have few options beyond that. Information and communication for stones is a very simple, restricted affair. We humans can perceive more perturbations and assume more states in more ways, but the process of communication is similar for stones and humans. They both translate a limited set of external perturbations into a limited set of internal states. We humans seem to have more options than stones have, but we are not supreme in all ways. For instance, we cannot hear or smell perturbations that dogs can, and we cannot select from the range of internal states available to flowers in the sun. Neither we humans nor the dogs or stones perceive the neutrinos that flow constantly through us, but as things go, we humans are reasonably gifted. These gifts, however, do not privilege us ontologically. We are all objects—mineral, vegetable, and human—trying to make the best of a given situation. This need not diminish us; rather, it elevates us all. Our world is rich—we just don't own it as we think we do.

If OOO is correct, then, information is not a thing in the environment that someone can transfer to us. Rather, information is an internal process whereby objects perceive what external perturbations they can and translate those perturbations into an available internal state according to their internal needs, structures, and options. This explains much to me, but it also disturbs me, for it closes all of us in upon ourselves. I can be no more revealed to you, for instance, than the heart of a stone is. Like all objects, I basically communicate with myself. OOO leaves me with the sense that I am alone, to the core. Yet, my experience contradicts this. I believe, for instance, that I connect with others—for instance, through this blog. I believe that I can make and have made the private of me shareable, public.

Well, I have more learning to do. That's nice.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hyperobjects and Privacy: Shit on the Sidewalk

This year, I celebrated the Christmas holidays in St. Petersburg, Florida. My sister-in-law lives near Crescent Lake, and I've been walking the park (about 1.2 miles) each morning and evening while I've continued my readings in object oriented ontology, mostly in two books: HyperObjects (2013) by Timothy Morton and The Democracy of Objects (2011) by Levi Bryant. I'm wondering what object oriented ontology has to do with our ideas about public and private. I have to deliver a paper at the end of January to the Southern Humanities Conference about Public Bodies, Private Spaces: Private Bodies, Public Spaces. It seems a timely theme, and I'm hoping that Crescent Lake and object oriented ontology can help me. The people, dogs, and birds keep my mind calm enough to think my way through some difficult passages, and they help explain thorny concepts to me. For instance, one evening I took a photo of a paddling of ducks and then noticed the fellow sleeping in the grass along the bank of the lake. I uncritically think of sleeping as rather private—at least, it is something that I do most usually in the privacy of my bedroom. I have dozed on the beach or in a hammock on vacation, but those are exceptions. Usually, my sleep is not a public matter.

Yet, here was this fellow asleep in a public park, slipping into my photograph along with the ducks, the trees, and the lake.

And now he is here on my blog, asleep near the white trunk of a tree, a dark mass unconscious in the sunset of a warm, post-Christmas evening, arms and legs barely visible in the twilight. He appears to be as self-possessed as the tree behind him and the ducks before him or the sunset beyond. Is he private or public? If he is private, have I violated his privacy with this photograph? I cannot identify him. I don't know his name. Is his privacy protected then? When he chose to sleep in a public park, did he give up any right to privacy? Do these questions make sense?

I'm not sure. I know that I am not as concerned with privacy as are most people—or so I tell myself. I do not worry about people seeing my photos online or learning my name. I tend to have a very close personal space when talking to people. I like to be close enough to touch. If you ask about my age, how much I make a year, or my religious convictions, I will tell you. But if you ask me to disrobe in a public space, I probably won't, at least not alone.

Still, I recognize that privacy appears to be a central tenet of modern human rights and a core issue for those who want to safeguards those rights. For instance, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has dedicated itself to defending privacy against all attacks—foreign and domestic, real and virtual. According to its 2015 brochure, EPIC "is a public interest research center in Washington, D.C. … established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging human rights issues and to protect privacy, freedom of expression, and democratic values in the information age." EPIC points to Article 12 of the United Nations' 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says, "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

Correspondence, I'm sure, is broad enough to include emails, tweets, and cell phone conversations, but therein seems to be the rub. Our correspondence no longer seems private, and thus, privacy is a heightened concern at a time when more and more people are being enticed, encouraged, tricked, or even coerced into the public domain with promises of friends and status, wealth and health, endless information and entertainment, and all for the price of a bit of data—much of it data that people weren't using anyway and may not have known that they even had. It seems such an easy exchange: some GPS data for all these Facebook likes. And what is privacy anyway?

What a great Wikipedia question, and of course, Wikipedia provides a wonderful, totally non-authoritative definition that no self-respecting scholar would use. According to Wikipedia, privacy is:
the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves, or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals, but share common themes. When something is private to a person, it usually means that something is inherently special or sensitive to them. The domain of privacy partially overlaps security (confidentiality), which can include the concepts of appropriate use, as well as protection of information. Privacy may also take the form of bodily integrity.
After this general introduction, Wikipedia goes on to explore a dozen various concepts of privacy:
  1. Privacy is the right to be let alone. This legally vague phrase from the 1890 article The Right to Privacy by American jurists Samuel D. Warren and Louis Brandeis seems to mean something like the right to remove oneself from the scrutiny of society.
  2. Privacy means limited access, or the right to participate in society without society collecting information about oneself.
  3. Privacy means control over information, which goes beyond the mere absence of information to suggest that one has the right to determine when, how, and to what extent one's personal information is shared with others.
  4. Privacy implies a range of different states of privacy: theorists such as Alan Westin and Kirsty Hughes define various states of privacy, including solitude, intimacy, anonymity, and reserve constructed via physical, behavioral, and normative barriers.
  5. Privacy implies secrecy, or one's right to conceal sensitive or potentially damaging information about oneself.
  6. Privacy is important for personhood and autonomy. In other words, privacy is a "necessary precondition for the development and preservation of personhood."
  7. Privacy is also important for self-identity and personal growth.
  8. Privacy is necessary for intimacy, as a "part of the process by … which humans establish relationships with each other."
  9. Personal privacy seeks to prevent "intrusions into one's physical space or solitude."
  10. Informational privacy refers to the "evolving relationship between technology and the legal right to, or public expectation of, privacy in the collection and sharing of data about one's self."
  11. Organizational privacy considers the rights of governments and businesses to conceal sensitive information.
  12. Spiritual and intellectual privacy says that one has the right to keep one's beliefs to oneself.
While the above concepts overlap and likely omit some other views of privacy, they are sufficient to demonstrate what a far-reaching, entangled concept privacy has become to all of us, but especially to me and the fellow sleeping by the lake, so I want to disentangle a bit.

In his book HyperObjects, Timothy Morton considers hyperscale objects such as global warming in hopes that such considerations will reveal characteristics of all objects at all scales. The first characteristic that he discusses is viscosity, which I've already written about, but I want to explore the viscosity of objects in terms of privacy. Privacy suggests to me the ability to manage boundaries between one object and another—for instance, between me and the geese who live about Crescent Lake or me and the people who sleep on its banks. Viscosity, on the other hand, suggests that objects stick to one another despite boundaries. Do the Crescent Lake geese stick to me even when I walk to the other side of the lake or leave the lake and return to my sister-in-law's home? What about when I return to my own home in Georgia, 400 miles away? Do I carry the geese with me, or can I relegate them to a pleasant Christmas interlude, distant and removed from me?

My movie suggests that the geese and the sleeping fellow are viscous on several layers.

First, I am physically marked by the geese. I hear them, I smell them, I move about them. I leave the park trailing feathers, goose scent, and goose shit. The park has rules about picking up after dogs, but no one, it seems, picks up after the geese, and some parts of the park sidewalk are covered in goose shit, making walking and jogging viscous. I have no doubt that I have breathed the spores of goose shit, goose feathers, goose breath. I have been among the geese, and they are among me, as close as my breath. The geese are smudged, spread across the park and into the community beyond, and I walk through them. I am stained, marked as their own, almost as if I had eaten one of them. (While I have eaten goose, I have not eaten one of the Crescent Lake geese.) Yes, I bathe regularly, but the imprint is there anyway.

Then, I am socially marked by the geese, who are part of the social system of Crescent Lake Park. We have rituals. As long as I stay on the sidewalk, I can pass near them, close enough to touch them, but if I get off my path and into the grass, they honk, flap their wings aggressively, and flee. If I have food, then the rules of engagement change somewhat. They usually avoid direct physical contact, but if I hold food in my hand, they will sometimes touch me to take it. When certain cars such as the blue pickup in the movie arrive at certain times of day, then the geese and other birds congregate noisily in anticipation of food. A social agreement exists between the geese and the fellow who brings the bread. The social boundaries and rituals bind us together.

I am informationally marked by the geese. The geese are here in my blog post, in my memories. The geese have deterritorialized and reterritorialized as movies and words in my post, as shit on the sidewalk. I have been visiting St. Pete for 20 years, and I've seen the geese each time. I have blogged about these visits in my family blog, so I have a long record with these geese and with Crescent Lake. 20 years is a old age for geese, so likely I don't see today the same geese I saw then, but the flock has kept a surprising consistency and identity—about the same size and with much the same behavior. For all I know, it's the same geese. These geese and I go back to the Clinton era, and we can both tell stories. We have tattoos to show: decalcomania.

I am philosophically marked by the geese. When I encounter the geese, they are always already there. This seems trivial in a sense, self evident: of course the geese are already there or else I wouldn't have encountered them. But it is also profound. Because the geese are already there, they are objects in their own right, regardless of whether or not I am there to perceive them. They did not appear the moment I turned my gaze their way. The geese are not a matter of my knowing about them (epistemology); rather, they are a matter of their being (ontology) whether I know about them or not. They have ontological status independent of my knowledge of them. Morton says it this way:
Objects are what they are, in the sense that no matter what we are aware of, or how, there they are, impossible to shake off. In the midst of irony, there you are, being ironic. Even mirrors are what they are, no matter what they reflect. In its sincerity, reality envelops us like a film of oil. The mirror becomes a substance, an object. Hyperobjects push the reset button on sincerity, just as Neo discovers that the mirror no longer distances his image from him in a nice, aesthetically manageable way, but sticks to him. (Kindle Locations 667-670)
I am immersed, then, in Crescent Lake, and I trail it when I leave. I never really leave, so why do I think I do? In HyperObjects, Morton says we do it out of self-defense:
Not only do I fail to access hyperobjects at a distance, but it also becomes clearer with every passing day that “distance” is only a psychic and ideological construct designed to protect me from the nearness of things. There is a reason why they call it “the schizophrenic defense” when someone has a psychotic break. Could it be that the very attempt to distance is not a product of some true assessment of things, but is and was always a defense mechanism against a threatening proximity? (Kindle Locations 536-540)
Morton seems to be appealing to the idea that the separation of privacy is a "necessary precondition for the development and preservation of personhood" (Wikipedia), a fiction we use to support our sense of self. My point though is that the information is always already here, and we choose not to look at it. The shit is on the sidewalk, but we step around it, and we do not mention it to each other. Our dogs sniff and lick each other's privates, but we look away. Our own privates are right here with us, but we act as if they are not. As Morton adds, hyperobjects "are already here. I come across them later, I find myself poisoned with them, I find my hair falling out. Like an evil character in a David Lynch production, or a ghost in M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, hyperobjects haunt my social and psychic space with an always-already" (Kindle Locations 560-563).

The always already nature of objects seems obvious in hyperobjects such as global warming and nuclear waste, but at the human scale, the thin veneer of privacy and the persona it enwombs/entombs is most often revealed by excrement and waste, when what we thought was private is made explicit. Morton says it this way:
A baby vomits curdled milk. She learns to distinguish between the vomit and the not-vomit, and comes to know the not-vomit as self. Every subject is formed at the expense of some viscous, slightly poisoned substance, possibly teeming with bacteria, rank with stomach acid. The parent scoops up the mucky milk in a tissue and flushes the wadded package down the toilet. Now we know where it goes. For some time we may have thought that the U-bend in the toilet was a convenient curvature of ontological space that took whatever we flush down it into a totally different dimension called Away, leaving things clean over here. Now we know better: instead of the mythical land Away, we know the waste goes to the Pacific Ocean or the wastewater treatment facility. Knowledge of the hyperobject Earth, and of the hyperobject biosphere, presents us with viscous surfaces from which nothing can be forcibly peeled. There is no Away on this surface, no here and no there. In effect, the entire Earth is a wadded tissue of vomited milk. (Kindle Locations 607-614)
There is no away. The information about everything is always already here. I carry with me, in my body, the information about my diseases, my failures, my desires and dreams, my successes, my relationships. It is only the flimsiest of custom and courtesy and an undeveloped sixth sense that keeps me from being rendered totally explicit. Exposed.

And this is part of the issue, for we are devising ever better tools and techniques to render more data explicit. Mind you, the data has always been there, but we have either looked away or, more often, been too blind to see. New tools are helping us to see the light in different spectra.

For instance, National Public Radio recently discussed a study by University of Oregon microbial ecologist James Meadows and a cloud of fellow researchers that demonstrates that "humans emit upwards of 106 biological particles per hour, and have long been known to transmit pathogens to other individuals and to indoor surfaces." They add that they could clearly detect and identify occupants in a room "by their airborne bacterial emissions, as well as their contribution to settled particles, within 1.5–4 h. Bacterial clouds from the occupants were statistically distinct, allowing the identification of some individual occupants. Our results confirm that an occupied space is microbially distinct from an unoccupied one, and demonstrate for the first time that individuals release their own personalized microbial cloud." NPR wonders if we will not be able to identify and track people by the cloud of microbes they train behind them. We will. The main point here, though, is that the information has always already been here, we just needed a way to see it. It's doable now in the lab. Soon, it will be doable everywhere.

If we need it. We may not. Big data is capturing data that was always already there and analyzing it to show us things about ourselves that we have had trouble seeing in the past. For instance, a recent article on the MIT Technology Review website reports that researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico are using data from Wikipedia to track the spread of influenza. Other researchers have used data from Google to do the same. The data was always already there, we just needed ways to see it, collect it, and analyze it. We are developing those ways rapidly.

Of course, we can still avoid the large, monolithic Net entities such as Wikipedia, Google, or Facebook, but the Internet is about to become very, very granular, insinuating itself into every aspect of our lives. We are putting on smart watches that track our heart beats, steps, and correspondence. We are hooking up washing machines and coffee makers to the Net. You simply cannot imagine the cloud of information we are generating about ourselves. In his post MICROSERVICES: THE POLYGLOT OF TECHNICAL ARCHITECTURE, Ankesh Anupam writes, "According to Gartner, there are 4.9 billion connected devices in the world today, and that number is expected to reach 25 billion by 2025." This number of devices is significant. In his post A trillion tiny robots in the cloud, Kelly Stirman says:
The future of AI isn't about one giant super-intelligence. Instead, it's about many small, dedicated agents that know you intimately and work on your behalf to improve your everyday life. That could be helping you shop, get to work or, even, find a partner. Each is focused on a discrete task, and each gets better over time and adapts to your needs as they evolve.
Of course, as these agents help you with truly important tasks that add great value to your life, they are also collecting data—intimate data, private data. They are collecting the data that was always there, but that is now explicit.

It is now New Years in the States. Happy New Years to all my network friends. I am so blessed by all of you. Thanks.