In ancient times, the environment that surrounded humans had a soul. Things communicated with each other and with men, and even when men did not believe that trees or dresses had a soul, they knew everything about the trees and dresses. They were able to plant and grow a tree and in most cases they could make their own clothes, with fabrics of which they knew origin and characteristics.
Men knew how to build a house or they knew who built it, they had a deep knowledge of what they eat, wear, and in general, of the men and things that surrounded them.
The industrial revolution has made what surrounds a man a product conceived in such a way as not to reveal its industrial, military or economic secret.
The contemporary man is surrounded by objects that not only have no soul but that hide from his eyes and his mind all the important information about themselves. Men do not know where the apples they buy at the supermarket come from, how the pants they wear are made, he does not know how to build or repair the car he drives and the same goes for the lift, the television or the telephone. Everything that constitutes the environment of a modern man is designed to see man as a consumer. The only information he receives from the outside world is huge billboards advertising companies and products and everything is revealed to him only by the price tag.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is defined as a system that ‘encapsulates a vision of a world in which billions of objects with embedded intelligence, communication means, and sensing and actuation capabilities will connect over IP (Internet Protocol) networks’ (P. 1).
The way the internet of things is understood is consequential to a relationship between man and environment in which objects are connected to each other and to men to extract information from men in order to improve their consumer experience. The system intends to know everything about men but men are expected to know what is just sufficient about the system in order to remain connected and to use it as a consumer.
The possible applications of IoT in the world of education are imagined in an old way of thinking.
There are projects to implement in a school environment an Intelligent Lighting Technology, a system to alert the administrators in the event of an emergency, a gunshot sensing technology, a system to customise the temperature of the classroom, or to detect student attendance.
This kind of applications is reminiscent of those who try to write with a pen on a monitor, or to enlarge the image of the paper book as if it were a tablet.
Instead, I believe that apart from the problems of control, sovreignty, power, ethics, and privacy on which an important debate should be deepened, the technological opportunity offered by the IoT could be an important social and even anthropological revolution.
Men could return to being part of an environment in which they give and receive information. To get to know a car, you could look at the car and ask questions that the car would ‘answer’ directly. Currently, the commercial mentality makes us imagine augmented reality as a way to ask a red armchair what it would be like in blue, how much it costs, if it is available. But things could communicate with us in a way that would bring us closer to the interchange relationship we had with the environment before the industrial revolution.
Our education system is considered important as engine of human capital or as a signaling tool. The limits of both the approaches led authors like Illich to design a deschooling theory and others to consider the idea we have of education as a simple ideology.
The new education could take place outside of the school as imagined by Illich. The surrounding environment should provide anyone with information about itself. Books, music, art, science are already widely available but the way they are accessible in bookstores, museums and schools is paradoxical. Man is first shot in terms of knowledge by his surroundings and then he is given access to information created by a complicated and expensive chain of ideas and knowledge production detached from his needs, his curiosities, and his objectives.
More sophisticated knowledge like science theories could be learned through peers, experts, or direct contact to places where they are taught or concretely used.
Apart from the technical problems to design such a model of education, I think a propaedeutic change should be first introduced in the way we understand the relation between humans and information.