The Social Network of Machines, Software-Defined Storage, & the Data Protection Continuum

The Second Machine Age is redefining our relationship with technology. From healthcare to transportation, our lives will be nearly unrecognizable to our children. Underlying this change is the next generation of the social network: a Social Network of Machines. This Social Network of Machines will be a vast infrastructure built on the Third Platform (i.e. mobile, big data, social, cloud) and fueled by near-ubiquitous metadata about machines and humans.

In this two part series, we’ll first examine what technology drives the Second Machine Age. Then we will explore how we can avoid an “Accidental Architecture” on a global scale.

The Second Machine Age will insinuate technology into the most personal aspects of our lives. Many people already use devices to track and analyze their vital statistics – the metadata of the human operating system. Self-driving cars will obsolete automobile driving and track our every movement – the metadata of personal movement. While these changes should help reduce fatalities and increase our quality of life, they also pose a threat to privacy, freedom, and security.

The Second Machine Age will create a vast Social Network of Machines. The “Internet of Things” is merely an interim step. Just as people were once content to simply “surf the Web,” so we are content to simply have machines send their metadata (e.g., telemetry and status) to central repositories. However, just as social networking like Facebook and Twitter brought the Internet to life, social networking between machines will transform passive data collection into a thriving ecosystem. Machines will begin to dynamically and automatically make decisions without human involvement. Even more, as the machines correlate their metadata with human metadata… today’s intelligent, automatic advertising placement will look like Stone Age technology.

Metadata about humans and machines will enable the Social Network of Machines. Software needs input to make decisions; otherwise the command prompt will blink for eternity. To make complex decisions, software needs vast amounts of diverse information – the kind that is available when every device shares its status (e.g., environmental conditions, performance, usage pattern). To then extend those decisions to people, it needs information about us. And while people often worry that machines will plumb their innermost thoughts and dreams, they don’t need to. Human metadata like your health statistics (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, sleep patterns), location, and behaviors (e.g., text/email/social media/phone call targets, media access patterns, credit card charges) are sufficient. In short, the kind of information that is already available about both your machines and you.

The Third Platform will deliver the Social Network of Machines. The explosion of mobile devices and connectivity enable the network to reach into every corner of your life. Big Data provides the power to analyze and make decisions at an epic scale; social creates the connections between machines and people; and cloud delivers the dynamically configurable physical resources to transform theory into reality.

The Social Network of Machines will infuse (some may say invade) virtually every aspect of our lives. And whether you are enthusiastic about this new world or you feel trepidation, there are two questions that you have to ask:

  • How do you make sure that the Social Network of Machines remains available and functional in the face of malicious (security attacks) or non-malicious (error, malfunction, natural disaster) threats?
  • How do you make sure that the Social Network of Machines treats our personal metadata with the security that we demand?

In our next post, we will explore these questions, and how their answers intersect with the world of data protection and software-defined storage. The Social Network of Machines is changing the world and ushering in The Second Machine Age. It would be comforting to be ready for it. It is absolutely critical, however, that we ensure that it is ready for us.

The concept of “The Second Machine Age” comes from Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynjolfsson at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as expressed in their recently published work The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.

About the Author: Stephen Manley