The Future is Physical: how the Internet of the future — including supply chain, manufacturing, and commerce — is physical and robotic (more thoughts on drones)

First, a couple of paragraphs of background. While I have written a little about drones, John Robb has a blog called Global Guerrillas where he writes alot about it and other topics. Well worth reading. In his blog he talks about something called Dronet (Drone Net) and it got me thinking about the idea of a network of drones and how it will interact with what we think of as the Internet.

That said, I expect there will be resistance to the idea of Drone Net. I also think even if it is built, it will pivot away from drones and warfare to something bigger and broader, just like the Internet pivoted away from ARPAnet to something bigger and broader. Drone Net will just be a part, a small part, of a newer and bigger Internet.

That brings me to the subject of this post: the next Internet.

This new and bigger Internet will be physical. It won’t be focused on just being threatening or military. It won’t be Skynet or Dronet.  It will be called something neutral like Courier-Net or ExpressNet or simply the Net. Just like Apple evolves a device but keeps the same name, we too will do the same thing with the Internet.

Some of the ways the new drone enabled Internet will work are:

    • instead of businesses and other institutions shipping good and services via trucks and planes, they will send them via this new Net. Part of the new Net will be a network of thousands or millions of drones continually in motion. All supply chains will merge into the Internet. People will order Things, and the Internet will route drones to get those Things to People.
    • Instead of business manufacturing parts and goods in a factory, they will print them with 2D or 3D printers or maybe even bio-printers. (Iimagine printing something that looks like and tastes like and has the nutrients of an apple, but not an apple). Robots will do any pre and post work with the printed devices and then have them delivered to you via a drone. Non-manufactured goods (e.g. antiques) will be selected and packaged with a combination of people and robots.
    • You may have these printers at home for small things, just like you do now. But over time, there will be advantages to centralization of these facilities, so they will be centralized, though not necessarily in factories. There may be showrooms to convince you of the need of the product, with big printers in the back. Or they may be underground, part of our infrastructure, delivering up the goods we want, much like our current infrastructure delivers water and electricity and gas to us now.
    • People will have their own drones that are part of the new Net. For example, you may have a self driving car (which is merely a drone) that is connected to the Internet. It will figure out the best way to get your from A to B, just like Google Maps does now. Other drones will clean your house. (You have a bunch right now and you call them Appliances, not drones. Appliances are drones that are not very smart, aren’t connected to the Internet, and don’t move around.) Other drones will get rid of rodents and other pests (up to and including other drones). There will be entertainment drones, security drones, maintainance drones, drones you can’t even imagine having yet, though you will. (Teeth cleaning drones, for example.)
    • Drones will be relatively cheap. Look at your smartphone now. Think about how fast and better they have gotten even as they have become cheaper. That will be the case with drones. You will have butler drones to help you manage your drones.
    • IT companies always need new IT things to sell to you. Those things will be drones.
    • Just like you have appliances, in the future, you will just have drones. Unlike your current appliances, they will not stay in one place. They may not even stay in your house all the time (any more than your smartphone or your laptop stays in your house).
    • These drones will be part of the Net. Already Belkin makes switches that you can turn off and on from the Internet. This will soon be the case for all appliances. You will use a “remote” to talk to these devices, instead of the limited panels they have now. Or you will talk to a butler drone that does the rest.
    • Drones will be made attractive to people. Ever wish, after making a meal, that the kitchen would clean itself? Drones will do that. Ever wish someone would wash and fold and put away the laundry? Drones will do that. Put the cat or dog in and out? Wash the windows of your house? Paint a room? Drones will do all these things. People will ask: how did people ever live without drones in the same way people ask: how did we ever live without the Internet? Instead of asking Siri for the weather, you will ask Siri to make a soup for lunch.
    • Everyone will have drones, because drones will be everywhere. What will separate rich and poor people is how many powerful drones they can get at a moments notice. Everyone may have small drones, but not everyone will have a drone squadron that can build a 10 story building. (And yes, they won’t be called a Drone Army….it will be a more pacifistic term like Drone Squad or Robot Crew or Android Team.)
    • Speaking of Android, Google has shown how to market robots to be cute and attractive (just think of the robot mascot for Android). I would not be surprised to see a company that has brand names like Android and Nexus making drones soon. I expect no less from Apple and other IT companies.
    • Think of a thing you want to do. Drones will be capable of doing that for you. That’s the future of the Internet. That’s your future, too.
    • I used to think the future was Digital. Now I think the future is Physical.

3 responses to “The Future is Physical: how the Internet of the future — including supply chain, manufacturing, and commerce — is physical and robotic (more thoughts on drones)

  1. Well said Bernie. You may want to check Chris Anderson’s latest book (“Makers: the new Industrial Revolution”). I would guess that, if somebody from the remote past could visit us now, that person would think that we are already living in a drone world – a very specialized society where nobody makes anything from end to end. I just ordered a Nexus 4 using Google Play, and I’m now waiting for its delivery. Very likely, hundreds or thousands of people and processes (some digital, some physical) were involved to allow that to happen, some of them very detached from the good being delivered itself. Maybe progress is just that: moving us towards increasingly specialized functions, like ants and bees. Ironically enough, as the “dronification” of work gets better and better, we should start having more time to pursue our individual interests. Being a drone during the Industrial Revolution meant to work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hopefully being a drone in a century or two will translate for us in more time to do non-drone stuff.

    • smartpeopleiknow

      Thanks for this, Aaron. I will check that out. Tim O’Reilly is also big on Makers and Maker Culture.

      I don’t know how this will play out. We are already seeing the effects of this, whereby wages are stagnating, but productivity continues to climb. Droids will only continue to drive that. Ultimately we need a new social contract, and that will likely happen after the great die off of the baby boomers.

      As always, we live in interesting times.

  2. Pingback: The future is now: Amazon announces drone delivery service | The Life Blog