In the future, new technologies will give us much better control of the world around us. We'll surround ourselves with self-service dashboards and carry a multipurpose self-service card and a self-service mobile phone. This techno-control will allow us to perform continuous checks on everything (and everyone) in our environment: Is the air polluted? Is this taxi driver cheating me? Is this doctor licensed? We also will be able to control any use of our own personal data and to prevent misuse. This will greatly enhance our privacy.
At the same time, government will gain power as well. In the years ahead, technology will provide government and society at large with tools for a safer world and for automatic law enforcement. Permits and licenses will be embedded in smart cars, trains, buildings, doors, and devices. Laws will automatically download and distribute themselves into objects in our physical environment, and everything will regularly be updated, just as software is now automatically updated in your desktop computer.
Innovations in government will enable us to have a safer environment for law-abiding citizens because built-in intelligence in our environment will minimize fraud, global crime, pandemic diseases, accidents, and disasters. Law-abiding citizens will gain privacy, while criminals will lose it.
Innovations in ambient intelligence--rooms full of networked smart devices that adapt to ourneeds and respond to our whims--are accelerating and offer the promise of automatic control over our world. Right now, innovation in goverment worldwide is about creating parts of this infrastructure, with the goal of a paperless world with fewer mistakes, fewer flaws, and real-time ID checks.
Only a combination of smart control and smart technology will solve major current problems. I stress the phrase smart technology since a lot of today's technologies are simply too dumb. They are not compatible, exchangeable, or reusable.
Successful governance of these technologies requires that they meet human needs by providing safety, shelter, communication, health, happiness, better care, less waiting, better rules, better public services, more-efficient mobility, less criminality.
So how do we achieve this ideal through automatic governance, using smart knowledge and citizen control? What consequences will we face when our world turns intelligent and transparent in the next 10 years? And what should we do to make it happen?
Government in Control: Automatic Law Enforcement
Making rules and enforcing them are important government tasks. Right now, laws are written down on paper and enforced by individuals. In the future, all rules and laws will be incorporated into expert systems and chips embedded in cars, appliances, doors, and buildings--that is, our physical environment. No longer will police officers and other government personnel be the only law enforcement. Our physical environment will enforce the law as well. I call this trend automatic law enforcement.
A cigarette machine, for example, would only allow you to purchase cigarettes if you were of legal age, a fact that is stored on a smart card and can be verified. You would put the smart card in the machine or wave at it, and once your information is verified the cigarettes would be dispensed. The smart card is the key to obtaining legal services or products (in this case, cigarettes). If you are not of legal age, you cannot obtain the restricted product or service.
In the same way, an elevator would stop accepting passengers if the government license that is embedded in it has expired. If it has not expired and if the elevator still meets all government demands, then it would just keep working.
Automatic law enforcement or governance will find its most useful application in the intelligent car. Toyota exhibited a concept car in early 2004 that would recognize a change in speed limit as the car moves onto a new road, then tell the driver when he or she is exceeding that limit. …