Big Brother and the ‘Internet of things’

The ‘Internet of things’ is the next big thing in technology.  Supposedly you will have combinations of sensors, RFID tags and Internet links that will be as much a part of you as your clothes, and will allow you  to control everything in your life, from your thermostat to your garage door.

But this is not just a new technology for people to control things.  It is a new technology for people to control other people as if they were things.

“The next wave is wearable technology, like Google Glass, smart watches, and smart vests,”  [Jason] Prater of Plex systems explained.

internetofthingsThe advantage of these devices is that they “will allow you to continue using your hands without having to input or look for data.”

The data will be sent to the factory’s computer where every movement and drop of sweat will be recorded and analyzed.

In Gartner [Inc.]’s words: monitoring, sensing and remote control … …

“Today, decisions are made instantaneously,” Prater said. “We can’t wait to hear about things after the fact.”

And then the industry insider too had an intriguing forecast: “Turning people into essentially walking sensors is going to be the future.”

via Wolf Street.

“Monitoring, sensing and remote control.”  Hmm.

Engineers will be able to constantly monitor the air temperature, humidity, and working conditions of a factory process, and track employee motions for ergonomics research and safety concerns.

New Internet-based technologies will allow all the data to be managed automatically, so that factory tooling and equipment can be adjusted without human intervention, Jason Prater … said … at the 2014 Management Briefing Seminars.

via Automotive News.

“Track employee motions.”  Hmm.

What the new technology will mean for factory workers is this: Managers will track what every line worker is doing every minute of the day, and make sure that (1) they never let up and (2) they always do things in the “one best way” as outlined in Frederick W. Taylor’s system of Scientific Management.

The key idea of Scientific Management is for industrial engineers to design an optimum way to perform any repetitive task, to teach factory workers to do it that way and to make sure they conform.

This is dehumanizing, but I think it is a bad idea even from the standpoint of economic efficiency—that is, unless you think economic efficiency is the same thing as managerial convenience.

The “one best way” system does not allow workers to use their intelligence and experience to adapt to variability of circumstancs.

And, of course, if you decide to treat employees as if they were machines, there is no reason not to decide to replace them with actual machines.

Telephone operators, data processors and customer service representatives know what it is like to work every minute of the day under surveillance, and to be punished for any slippage from the schedule or deviation from the script.  The new technology would bring surveillance and control to a new level.


Goal of Becoming ‘Internet of Things’: Monitoring, Sensing, Remote Control – Factory Workers First, You Next by Wolf Richter on Wolf Street. Hat tip to Naked Capitalism.

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4 Responses to “Big Brother and the ‘Internet of things’”

  1. Gunny G Says:

    Reblogged this on BLOGGING BAD w/Gunny G ~ "CLINGERS of AMERICA!".


  2. Paul H. Lemmen Says:

    Reblogged this on A Conservative Christian Man.


  3. Kurt Says:

    is this accurate? I’ve read about scientific management here


  4. philebersole Says:

    I am temperamentally and philosophically opposed to the idea that a tiny group of masterminds should make decisions for everyone else, which is what I think Taylorism is.

    Frederick W. Taylor’s view was that the greatest cause of inefficiency in industry was that the workers themselves set the pace of production, and set the pace lower than the maximum of which they were capable.

    The reason workers had this power was that they understood the process better than their bosses did. Skilled workmen understood their trades better than anyone in management did, and therefore should be left to decide for themselves how to do their jobs.

    The goal of scientific management was to transfer this knowledge and this power to scientific managers.

    Taylorism, in my opinion, can be credited with much of both the accomplishments and the dehumanizing aspects of assembly-line mass production.

    As for myself, I think that, within reason, it is a good thing, not a bad thing, when workers can set a pace that enables them to get the job done without killing themselves. And it is bad thing, not a good thing, when the intelligence and experience of workers is not valued.

    Frederick W. Taylor’s three basic principles (as summarized in Chapter 4 of Harry Braverman’s LABOR AND MONOPOLY CAPITAL) were:

    1. Managers assume the gathering together all the traditional knowledge which in the past has been possessed by workmen and then of classifying, tabulating and reducing this knowledge to rules, laws and formulae.

    2. All possible brain work should be removed from the shop and centered in the planning or laying-out department.

    3. The work of every workman is fully planned out by the management at least one day in advance, and each man receives in most cases complete written instructions, describing in detail the task he is to accomplish, as well as the means to be used in doing the work. This task specifies not only what is to be done, but how it is to be done and the exact time allowed for doing it.

    I admit my knowledge of Frederick W. Taylor’s ideas is second-hand. I have not read PRINCIPLES OF SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT. Maybe his ideas were misunderstood or not implemented as he intended.

    But I think Taylorism in practice had the effects I describe, and there was good reason why the Taylorist philosophy was welcomed by management and hated by labor.


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