Keeping Connected - The Khuram Dhanani Foundation
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Keeping Connected

Keeping Connected

Keeping Connected: Did Science Fiction predict The Internet of Things (IoT)?

In 1968, HAL 9000, is a Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic sentient computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL controlled everything on Discovery One, from the lights to the engines. HAL controlled every aspect of the human’s lives aboard Discovery One. 

Now, we have Alexa, Google, and Siri, all descendants of a science fiction computer created in the mind of Arthur C. Clarke in his 1948 story “The Sentinel”. Sentient AI is no longer just part of a story. It’s not just a plot for a science fiction movie. It’s real, and it can be toxic.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has the ability to connect everything. From our refrigerators to the space station, the internet connects devices and systems that communicate with one another using sensors, servers, and microchips. They share data and perform tasks. IoT is one of the biggest advancements in technology in the 21st century. 

So, how do we make sure that one day the thermostat doesn’t say “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”.


Back in 1968, while Stanley Kubrick was releasing 2001: A Space Odyssey, three scientists were working on a breakthrough. By 1969 they had a plan, the ARPANET. ARPANET was the global computer network to be used by the U.S. Defense Department. 

The PhoneNet system in the 80s allowed communication throughout the world. This led to LANs, then to domain names and this finally became the internet we know today. 

Each step along the way allowed for more connections. Connections to other servers through telephone lines eventually led to what we know today, WiFi and satellites that allow you to connect to your car through Bluetooth or ask a device in your living room to turn on the porch light.

Along the way, there were those that took advantage. The first indicator to most of the world is “War Games”. For the first time, the “geeks” were in control. This was a scary thought, that a kid with a computer, a modem, and a finger to dial, could hack into any system or server, often not understanding the implications.

“Do You Want To Play a Game?”

When David Lightman, played by Matthew Broderick, hacks into a NORAD computer, to impress a girl, Joshua, the name given to WOPR (War Operation Plan Response) computer asks “Do you want to play a game?” The movie introduced the world to the idea of personal communication between devices, as well as hacking those devices.   Intentionally or not. David chooses to play Global Thermonuclear War, bringing the world to the brink of disaster, all for a game.

After a private showing at Camp David, Nancy Reagan asked “Could that really happen?” When the question was posed to the Joint Chiefs, General Jack Vessey’s response to Ronald Reagan was “Yes, the problem is much worse than you think.”

Hacking became a very real problem. White hats who just sought to see if they could do it and black hats that wanted to commit crimes. All over a phone line with a computer that cost around $4,000.00 in today’s market. 

Over 15 years later, the phrase, the Internet of Things, was coined. It’s believed that Kevin Ashton 1999 used the title for a presentation he was making on RFID chips. The company he worked for, Auto-Id, proposed the RFID chip would link supply chains, replace the UPC code, and allow even more connectivity. More connectivity meant faster delivery, but also, more potential for black hatters. White hats were too busy trying to prevent Y2K.

Y2K was believed at the time that it would wreak havoc. The original programs didn’t have the ability to accept the change from 99 to 00. Computer systems infrastructures, banks, power plants, and airlines could have potentially been affected. With IoT, the infection, it was believed, would spread across the world. A “Millennium Bug” that until that date rolled over, no one really knew how or if it would spread.

But, with a lot of planning and long hours, the disaster was averted, and in the year 2000, the first IoT product was promoted to the public. In May 2000, one of the first major worms was unleashed as well. The ILOVEYOU bug was said to have spread over 10 million Windows personal computers, and even to this day, its variants have contributed to over $10 billion worth of loss.

Bigger, stronger, faster. Playing not “Global Thermonuclear War” but World of Warcraft, on our phones, our laptops, or tablets, with players connected all over the world. Our banking information, our credit cards, our pasts, our present, and our futures, are all there for someone to find. The question really becomes are there too many secrets or is everything available with the right stroke of the key?


The movie Sneakers was released in 1992, years before IoT was coined, but the implications of IoT were relevant even then. The white hats in Sneakers were charged with procuring a device that was a codebreaker. SETEC Astronomy.

In 1999, the most IoT-related movie was released. It played on our worst fears of the future, greater than SkyNet and the Terminator. More terrifying than Virtuosity’s sentient serial killer. The Matrix provided us with a future IoT where we were one of the devices.

Smart homes are now everywhere. We can see who’s at the door while we’re halfway across the world. We can ask the delivery person to put the package next to the potted cactus or open our garage door from a mile away. 

We can turn on the washing machine, see what’s in our refrigerator without opening it, or program the thermostat all without being anywhere near the items. It’s all connected, and it’s all tracked. Implantable chips can allow you to start your car, or send information to your doctor. 

We have passwords for everything from the games on our phones, to our bank accounts. Why? Because there are hackers and scammers afoot. Lurking and waiting in the dark alleys of the world wide web. Ready to infect our devices, our institutions, and even our governments. 

The IoT has made life easier, but not just for us. Approximately 69% of appliances, 80% of home devices, and 88% of voice command systems are connected to the internet. Over 62% of adults in the U.S. own at least one connected device. 

In 2016, Mirai malware took down huge amounts of the internet using default passwords. 2017 saw the Devil’s Ivy attack allowing hackers to access an entire network through a single device. Ransomware, worms, and bots, are all used to steal from individuals, companies, and healthcare facilities. 2021 saw some of the worst attacks by hacker gangs throughout the world, from Microsoft, and Twitch, to the Colonial Pipeline.

All from the IoT. 

In the movie Sneakers, the band of hackers is working on the side of good. They show companies how they are vulnerable and help them to correct the problem. Many great minds are working every day to keep the IoT positive. To advance us further into the future and help us hold on to  SETEC ASTRONOMY, Too Many Secrets without being asked to choose what pill we want to take.