Tuesday, April 07, 2015


OK, so that is a hateful join of two things, in this case words! But that will be what we get, when we let Things join together willy nilly. Most of the Thing joins done out of sight, and not under our direct control will be neither fortuitous nor laudable.

I recall trying to contact the folks behind the current Thing joining standard, DLNA. I had hoped to find a group of individuals who were planning to build "Agency" into their standard, at least I was until I understood them to be an association of Thing Manufacturers. When I understood the FLA, it stands for Digital Living Network Alliance, it became clearer, their goal is to let things connect to share data, mostly media related data. Put plainly DLNA servers publish all media files they hold to any and all compliant DLNA clients.

My conversation with them, was short and not so sweet, it resulted in them not understanding why I might not want any DLNA compliant thing to be able find and connect to any DLNA compliant server on my network. It ended with me being told "if you don't want them (the DLNA servers) to be connected to, then switch them off!" They clearly didn't understand my point or motivation. I wanted to add human agency to the DLNA standard, and they didn't see the need.

There are other Media related sharing standards, like Apple's proprietary AirPlay. Apple made the sharing activity human centric, the server in this case a smart phone or IPad will only share to a client under the direct control of a human. Putting the AirPlay Server under the control of the user, rather than allowing the user to use an AirPlay Client to browse all servers, is IMHO the right thing to do, Human Agency was put at the right point in the process of sharing.

As a test I placed a "Inappropriate Media File "on one of my disks that acts as an DLNA server, and tried to make it unavailable to my television, so that my Grandchildren could not stumble upon said file. The fellows from DLNA was right. If I didn't want the file to be available to my Grandkids, I needed to turn off the DLNA service on the disk. Be aware that when DLNA servers are enabled, "any" DLNA enabled client on a network can browse the files so published.

When it was just about sharing Media, perhaps Agency wasn't a high priority, as users could be relied on to not publish inappropriate material on their private networks. In truth, apart from the fact that they can't be relied upon, this also ignores the porosity of most home networks, that is few Betworks are private.

If I were a musician or filmmaker I would be concerned that my material was being published on DLNA servers, connected behind porous network routers. For I can imagine an illicit media service that reaches into the deperimeterised home networks to map, and provide access to the worlds DLNA published media.

As Things become more capable, and they start controlling each other, building Human Agency into the protocols that allow the Things to collaborate will surely be a necessity? Not just from the view points of Intellectual Property, and Privacy, but also from the view points of Fiduciary and Personal Safety.

Alternatively we can build Things that can think and act Autonomously, applying human values to their decisions, and Asimovs Four Laws of Robotics will apply!

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