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Human Motivation in the Internet of Everything

human motivation

What is the human motivation to embrace cloud computing and the Internet of Things? Conversely, what might motivate us not to adopt this way of life?

Apparently, we are heading into a world where everyone and everything has a digital representation on the Internet. Each of us, and each of our things, will have an IP address. All will have a location and data that can be discovered and transacted. Everyone and everything will be sensed and recorded.

Since 1943, one of the ways we consider human motivation is through Maslow ‘s Hierarchy of Needs. This theory says that people must meet certain levels of needs before they are able to focus on the next level. The original five levels were physiological, safety, love, esteem and self-actualization – in that order. Many writers have tried to apply Maslow to IT, cloud computing and IoT. So, me too.

The lower levels of needs (physiological, safety) are what Maslow called deficiency needs. When they are missing, they consume your motivations. Obviously, it’s hard to work on love and esteem when you are starving or under attack. At the same time, when things come along that threaten these foundations, we need to react to remove the threat.

Many opportunities exist for cloud computing and IoT to support health and safety needs. We will be motivated to adopt things like medical sensors, body area networks to support exercise, smart devices and sensors to increase our home comfort and security. So far, so good.

Human Motivation is a Two Way Street

At the same, all of the technology solutions we are considering have great potential to threaten our ability to maintain these basic needs. It’s hard to stay warm when a cyber-attack shuts down your local utility. Collect too much physiological data through your body area network and you might not qualify for health insurance. Incomplete security and privacy on your Internet of Everything might result in identity theft, tracking and stalking, or someone else taking over car. These are already all too common threats, easily achievable by anyone with a mind to hack.

The salient question for the next decade is what levels of trust we can achieve and maintain at the lower end of Maslow’s hierarchy. Otherwise, the human motivation will be to disconnect.

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