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雙語:How the World Will Change as Computers Spread into Everyday Objects
發布時間:2020年02月04日     發布人:nanyuzi  
來源: 英語世界
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Chips with Everything: How the World Will Change as Computers Spread into Everyday Objects

萬物皆有芯:計算機向日常物品滲透后,世界將如何變化

 

On August 29th, as Hurricane Dorian tracked towards America’s east coast, Elon Musk, the boss of Tesla, an electric-car maker, announced that some of his customers in the storm’s path would find that their cars had suddenly developed the ability to drive farther on a single battery charge. Like many modern vehicles, Mr Musk’s products are best thought of as internet-connected computers on wheels. The cheaper models in Tesla’s line-up have parts of their batteries disabled by the car’s software in order to limit their range. At the tap of a keyboard in Palo Alto, the firm was able to remove those restrictions and give drivers temporary access to the full power of their batteries.

 

八月二十九日,當颶風多利安向美國東海岸移動時,電動汽車制造商特斯拉的老板伊隆·馬斯克宣布,行駛在颶風路徑上的一些客戶會發現他們的汽車在單次充電后續航里程突然增加。和許多現代汽車一樣,對馬斯克的產品最好的比喻是帶車輪的聯網計算機。特斯拉產品線中較低價車型的軟件禁用了部分電池,以限制其續航能力。在位于帕洛阿爾托(Palo Alto)的總部的電腦鍵盤上敲幾下,特斯拉就能夠取消這些限制,讓司機能臨時使用電池的全部功率。

 

Mr Musk’s computerised cars are just one example of a much broader trend. As computers and connectivity become cheaper, it makes sense to bake them into more and more things that are not, in themselves, computers – from nappies and coffee machines to cows and factory robots – creating an “internet of things”, or IoT. It is a slow revolution that has been gathering pace for years, as computers have found their way into cars, telephones and televisions. But the transformation is about to go into overdrive. One forecast is that by 2035 the world will have a trillion connected computers, built into everything from food packaging to bridges and clothes.

 

馬斯克這些計算機化的汽車只是一個非常廣泛的趨勢中的一例。隨著計算機以及聯網的成本越來越低,把它們置入越來越多本身并非計算機的物品——從尿布、咖啡機,到奶牛和工廠機器人——就變得順理成章了。“物聯網”(IoT)由此誕生。隨著計算機逐步進入汽車、電話和電視,這一慢速革命多年來一直在加快步伐。但這一變革即將進入超速發展階段。一項預測認為,到2035年,全世界將有一萬億臺互聯計算機,它們被置入食品包裝、橋梁和衣服等各種各樣的事物中。

 

Such a world will bring many benefits. Consumers will get convenience, and products that can do things non-computerised versions cannot. Amazon’s Ring smart doorbells, for instance, come equipped with motion sensors and video cameras. Working together, they can also form what is, in effect, a private CCTV network, allowing the firm to offer its customers a “digital neighbourhood-watch” scheme and pass any interesting video along to the police.

 

這樣的世界將帶來許多好處。消費者將獲得便利,他們使用的產品具有非計算機化的版本不具備的功能。例如,亞馬遜的智能門鈴Ring配備了動作傳感器和攝像頭。這種門鈴組合起來還可以充當私人閉路監控網,讓亞馬遜可以為客戶提供“數字鄰里守望”方案,并將任何有價值的視頻傳給警方。

 

Businesses will get efficiency, as information about the physical world that used to be ephemeral and uncertain becomes concrete and analysable. Smart lighting in buildings saves energy. Computerised machinery can predict its own breakdowns and schedule preventive maintenance. Connected cows can have their eating habits and vital signs tracked in real time, which means they produce more milk and require less medicine when they fall ill. Such gains are individually small but, compounded again and again across an economy, they are the raw material of growth – potentially a great deal of it.

 

隨著實體世界中原本瞬息即逝、難以把握的信息變得具體和可分析,企業將得以提升效率。建筑物中的智能照明節省了能耗。計算機化的機械裝置可以預測自身故障并安排預防性維護。把奶牛聯網后,可以實時跟蹤它們的飲食習慣和生命體征,從而提高產奶量并減少生病時的用藥。單獨來看,這樣的收益很小,但在經濟體中一次次累積疊加,它們就是增長的原動力——而且可能推動巨大的增長。

 

In the long term, though, the most conspicuous effects of the IoT will be in how the world works. One way to think of it is as the second phase of the internet. This will carry with it the business models that have come to dominate the first phase – all-conquering “platform” monopolies, for instance, or the data-driven approach that critics call “surveillance capitalism”. Ever more companies will become tech companies; the internet will become all-pervasive. As a result, a series of unresolved arguments about ownership, data, surveillance, competition and security will spill over from the virtual world into the real one.

 

但從長遠來看,物聯網最顯著的影響將體現在世界的運作方式上。可以把物聯網視為互聯網發展的第二階段。逐漸主導了第一階段發展的那些商業模式到了這個階段仍在延續,比如所向披靡的“平臺”壟斷,或被批評者稱為“監控資本主義”的數據驅動模式。越來越多的公司將成為科技公司,互聯網將變得無處不在。結果,有關所有權、數據、監控、競爭和安全的一系列未解決的爭議將從虛擬世界蔓延到實體世界。

 

Start with ownership. As Mr Musk showed, the internet gives firms the ability to stay connected to their products even after they have been sold, transforming them into something closer to services than goods. That has already blurred traditional ideas of ownership. When Microsoft closed its ebook store in July, for instance, its customers lost the ability to read titles they had bought (the firm offered refunds). Some early adopters of “smart home” gadgets have found that they ceased to work after the firms that made them lost interest.

 

先說說所有權。正如馬斯克所展示的那樣,互聯網使得公司即使是在賣出產品之后仍能與產品互聯,這就讓產品變得更像服務而不僅僅是商品。這就模糊了傳統的所有權概念。例如,微軟在7月關閉其電子書商店后,其客戶就無法再閱讀已購圖書了(微軟提供了退款)。一些早早嘗鮮“智能”小家電的人發現,生產這些產品的公司退出這些業務之后,它們就無法使用了。

 

That tilts the balance of power from the customer to the seller. John Deere, an American maker of high-tech tractors, has been embroiled in a row over software restrictions that prevent its customers from repairing their tractors themselves. And since software is not sold but licensed, the firm has even argued that, in some circumstances, a tractor-buyer may not be buying a product at all, instead receiving only a licence to operate it.

 

這使得顧客和賣方之間的權力天平向后者傾斜。美國高科技拖拉機制造商約翰迪爾(John Deere)因其軟件限制客戶自行修理拖拉機而卷入糾紛。由于軟件不是出售而是許可使用,該公司甚至認為,在某些情況下,拖拉機買主買的可能根本就不是產品,而只是使用產品的許可。

 

Virtual business models will jar in the physical world. Tech firms are generally happy to move fast and break things. But you cannot release the beta version of a fridge. Apple, a smartphone-maker, provides updates for its phones for only five years or so after their release; users of Android smartphones are lucky to get two. But goods such as washing machines or industrial machinery can have lifespans of a decade or more. Firms will need to work out how to support complicated computerised devices long after their original programmers have moved on.

 

虛擬商業模式到了實體世界中將會格格不入。科技公司通常都喜歡快速行動,打破常規。但是你不能對冰箱這樣的產品發布測試版。智能手機制造商蘋果僅在新手機發布后五年左右的時間里為手機提供系統更新服務,安卓智能手機的用戶能享受兩年的更新就不錯了。但洗衣機或工業機械等產品的壽命可達十年或更長。企業將需要研究如何在最初的程序員離開多年后繼續支持復雜的計算機化設備。

 

Data will be another flashpoint. For much of the internet the business model is to offer “free” services that are paid for with valuable and intimate user data, collected with consent that is half-informed at best. That is true of the IoT as well. Smart mattresses track sleep. Medical implants observe and modify heartbeats and insulin levels, with varying degrees of transparency. The insurance industry is experimenting with using data from cars or fitness trackers to adjust customers’ premiums. In the virtual world, arguments about what should be tracked, and who owns the resulting data, can seem airy and theoretical. In the real one, they will feel more urgent.

 

數據將是另一個紛爭觸發點。互聯網上的商業模式大多是提供“免費”服務,以有價值的私密用戶數據來償付,而在收集這些數據時用戶頂多也只是在一知半解地情況下做出知情同意的動作。在物聯網中也是如此。智能床墊能監測睡眠。醫療植入設備觀測和調整心跳及胰島素水平,透明度參差不齊。保險業正嘗試用汽車或健身追蹤器的數據來調整客戶保費。在虛擬世界中,對該跟蹤什么數據以及誰擁有生成的數據的爭論似乎也漫不經心,不切實際。而在實體世界里,這些問題會帶有更多緊迫感。

 

Then there is competition. Flows of data from IoT gadgets are just as valuable as those gleaned from Facebook posts or a Google search history. The logic of data-driven businesses, which do ever better as they collect and process more information, will replicate the market dynamics that have seen the rise of giant platform companies on the internet. The need for standards, and for IoT devices to talk to each other, will add to the leaders’ advantages – as will consumer fears, some of them justified, over the vulnerability of internet-connected cars, medical implants and other devices to hacking.

 

再來看競爭。來自物聯網設備的數據與從臉書的帖子或谷歌的搜索歷史中收集到的數據一樣有價值。數據驅動型企業的運作邏輯是收集和處理的信息越多就越有成效,這將復制互聯網上巨型平臺公司崛起所依賴的市場動力。對統一標準以及物聯網設備之間相互通訊的需求將增加領先企業的優勢。消費者對聯網汽車和醫療植入物等設備易受黑客攻擊的擔憂(其中一些很合理)也會加強這種優勢。

 

Predicting the consequences of any technology is hard – especially one as universal as computing. The advent of the consumer internet, 25 years ago, was met with starry-eyed optimism. These days it is the internet’s defects, from monopoly power to corporate snooping and online radicalisation, that dominate the headlines. The trick with the IoT, as with anything, will be to maximise the benefits while minimising the harms. That will not be easy. But the people thinking about how to do it have the advantage of having lived through the first internet revolution – which should give them some idea of what to expect.

 

預測任何技術的后果都很難,特別是像計算這樣普遍使用的技術。25年前,人們對消費者互聯網的到來過于樂觀。如今,充斥新聞頭條的是從壟斷力量到企業窺探和網絡激進主義等互聯網的缺陷。與對待任何事物一樣,應對物聯網的訣竅是將其益處最大化,危害最小化。這并非易事。但是,正在思考如何做到這一點的人們有一個優勢:他們已經經歷了第一次互聯網革命,這應該讓他們多少能夠預見一些未來。


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