Smart, agentic, but objects nonetheless: A vision of human and object agency in the future Internet of Things
Heide, L. van der
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Systems of interconnected smart objects, a technology currently designated by the name “Internet of Things”, are expected to gain an increasingly developed capability to act and react to their surroundings. This thesis investigates how such capability, which I refer to as “object agency”, will affect our own agency, discussing both the possible risks and desirable prospects of man-thing interaction in future smart systems. My standpoint is that the Internet of Things is problematic, as it will be designed to take over many of our daily chores by means of a high degree of autonomous action. First of all, I argue that smart objects present the risk of harming human agency, as they could override the intentions of their users, acting in unexpected ways and without being noticed. Furthermore, the Internet of Things could induce to a state of passivity due to the substitution of the user in a wide range of activities and due to a progressive imposition on his choices. On the other hand, smart systems could allow users to exercise their agency more freely and stimulate them to exploit their capabilities in more proficient and fulfilling ways. When designed as tools aimed at serving the agency of their users, smart systems could then lead to a true augmentation of human capabilities and to greater opportunities for self-development.