经济学人官方译文 | 万物皆有芯:计算机向日常物品渗透后,世界将如何变化

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Connected computers
互联计算机
Chips with everything
万物皆有芯
How the world will change as computers spread into everyday objects
计算机向日常物品渗透后,世界将如何变化

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,当飓风多利安向美国东海岸移动时,电动汽车制造商特斯拉的老板伊隆·马斯克宣布,行驶在飓风路径上的一些客户会发现他们的汽车在单次充电后续航里程突然增加。和许多现代汽车一样,对马斯克的产品最好的比喻是带车轮的联网计算机。特斯拉产品线中较低价车型的软件禁用了部分电池,以限制其续航能力。在位于帕洛阿尔托(Palo Alto)的总部的电脑键盘上敲几下,特斯拉就能够取消这些限制,让司机能临时使用电池的全部功率。

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.
马斯克这些计算机化的汽车只是一个非常广泛的趋势中的一例。随着计算机以及联网的成本越来越低,把它们置入越来越多本身并非计算机的物品——从尿布、咖啡机,到奶牛和工厂机器人——就变得顺理成章了。“物联网”(IoT)由此诞生。随着计算机逐步进入汽车、电话和电视,这一慢速革命多年来一直在加快步伐。但这一变革即将进入超速发展阶段。一项预测认为,到2035年,全世界将有一万亿台互联计算机,它们被置入食品包装、桥梁和衣服等各种各样的事物中。

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.
这样的世界将带来许多好处。消费者将获得便利,他们使用的产品具有非计算机化的版本不具备的功能。例如,亚马逊的智能门铃Ring配备了动作传感器和摄像头。这种门铃组合起来还可以充当私人闭路监控网,让亚马逊可以为客户提供“数字邻里守望”方案,并将任何有价值的视频传给警方。

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.
随着实体世界中原本瞬息即逝、难以把握的信息变得具体和可分析,企业将得以提升效率。建筑物中的智能照明节省了能耗。计算机化的机械装置可以预测自身故障并安排预防性维护。把奶牛联网后,可以实时跟踪它们的饮食习惯和生命体征,从而提高产奶量并减少生病时的用药。单独来看,这样的收益很小,但在经济体中一次次累积叠加,它们就是增长的原动力——而且可能推动巨大的增长。

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.
但从长远来看,物联网最显著的影响将体现在世界的运作方式上。可以把物联网视为互联网发展的第二阶段。逐渐主导了第一阶段发展的那些商业模式到了这个阶段仍在延续,比如所向披靡的“平台”垄断,或被批评者称为“监控资本主义”的数据驱动模式。越来越多的公司将成为科技公司,互联网将变得无处不在。结果,有关所有权、数据、监控、竞争和安全的一系列未解决的争议将从虚拟世界蔓延到实体世界。

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.
先说说所有权。正如马斯克所展示的那样,互联网使得公司即使是在卖出产品之后仍能与产品互联,这就让产品变得更像服务而不仅仅是商品。这就模糊了传统的所有权概念。例如,微软在7月关闭其电子书商店后,其客户就无法再阅读已购图书了(微软提供了退款)。一些早早尝鲜“智能”小家电的人发现,生产这些产品的公司退出这些业务之后,它们就无法使用了。

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.
这使得顾客和卖方之间的权力天平向后者倾斜。美国高科技拖拉机制造商约翰迪尔(John Deere)因其软件限制客户自行修理拖拉机而卷入纠纷。由于软件不是出售而是许可使用,该公司甚至认为,在某些情况下,拖拉机买主买的可能根本就不是产品,而只是使用产品的许可。

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.
虚拟商业模式到了实体世界中将会格格不入。科技公司通常都喜欢快速行动,打破常规。但是你不能对冰箱这样的产品发布测试版。智能手机制造商苹果仅在新手机发布后五年左右的时间里为手机提供系统更新服务,安卓智能手机的用户能享受两年的更新就不错了。但洗衣机或工业机械等产品的寿命可达十年或更长。企业将需要研究如何在最初的程序员离开多年后继续支持复杂的计算机化设备。

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.
数据将是另一个纷争触发点。互联网上的商业模式大多是提供“免费”服务,以有价值的私密用户数据来偿付,而在收集这些数据时用户顶多也只是在一知半解地情况下做出知情同意的动作。在物联网中也是如此。智能床垫能监测睡眠。医疗植入设备观测和调整心跳及胰岛素水平,透明度参差不齐。保险业正尝试用汽车或健身追踪器的数据来调整客户保费。在虚拟世界中,对该跟踪什么数据以及谁拥有生成的数据的争论似乎也漫不经心,不切实际。而在实体世界里,这些问题会带有更多紧迫感。

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.
再来看竞争。来自物联网设备的数据与从Facebook的帖子或谷歌的搜索历史中收集到的数据一样有价值。数据驱动型企业的运作逻辑是收集和处理的信息越多就越有成效,这将复制互联网上巨型平台公司崛起所依赖的市场动力。对统一标准以及物联网设备之间相互通讯的需求将增加领先企业的优势。消费者对联网汽车和医疗植入物等设备易受黑客攻击的担忧(其中一些很合理)也会加强这种优势。

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.
预测任何技术的后果都很难,特别是像计算这样普遍使用的技术。25年前,人们对消费者互联网的到来过于乐观。如今,充斥新闻头条的是从垄断力量到企业窥探和网络激进主义等互联网的缺陷。与对待任何事物一样,应对物联网的诀窍是将其益处最大化,危害最小化。这并非易事。但是,正在思考如何做到这一点的人们有一个优势:他们已经经历了第一次互联网革命,这应该让他们多少能够预见一些未来。

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