From Momus' latest column in Wired: two concerns about ubiquitous computing. First,
as we interact with and ourselves morph into what Sterling calls "spimes" — space-time objects leaving paperless trails vastly bigger and more important than the objects themselves — authorities will be able to track us at all times, from our smart bathtubs to our smart buildings, indexing our dumb purchases and locating our dumb animals thanks to the RFID tags embedded in them….
[I]f we're all tagged and mapped, if all our acts and transactions are subject to total recall and the satellites never allow us to get lost, nobody will be able to fall through the cracks again? Bohemia will become impossible. All gray areas will be erased….
[A]esthetes will have different concerns. One of the appeals of much visual art is that — unlike literature, which works with words and is distributed as a mass-produced commodity — art often plays on the irreducible specificity of objects, their uniqueness, their quiddity. Now, even if we could give every object in the world a unique address — and proponents of new 128-bit addressing system IPv6 claim it can give every grain of sand its own IP address — that's still different from recognizing the uniqueness of every object. A label is a label; it reduces a three-dimensional, multi-textural thing to a number or word.
I've talked in the past about "the post-bit atom" — an emerging renewal of respect for real-world objects after a blip-period in which we turned our backs on everything but the digital. You see it in the return to acoustic music, or the way live performance is overtaking electronic downloading as the primary activity for many musicians. But what happens when even non-digital phenomena get their own IP addresses and become as manageable as search engines have made the internet? What happens to that respect? Are atoms still "post-bit" at that point?