What happens when your appliances join the conversation

I wanted to share a potentially transformative trend coming out of Japan. Last week Mixi, Japan’s largest social networking site, introduced two APIs – mixi Plugin[J] and mixi Graph APIs[J] –  designed to let the third parties integrate their social web services and apps with Mixi. For example, Panasonic is developing a DVD recorder that allows you to let your friends know what TV programs you’ve reserved to record via Mixi.

While I understand that privacy is no longer the new norm, as Mark Zuckerberg stated, this trend does raise certain concerns. These include privacy, the ratio of signal to noise across social media, and the amount of data that Google, Facebook and others will capture, track and sell about us to third parties including advertisers.

On the other hand, perhaps this is just the next step towards a fully integrated and seamless social ecosystem in which our lives are increasingly distributed among one another.

No doubt some people will wonder at what point does the technology we buy come to own us (a new take on the old adage, perhaps?) Our public personas could soon become an extension of what we do with what we buy and what version of our lives we choose to share. This information could then be repurposed and recycled in web version of the Chinese whispers game until the lives we live and the lives we share are completely unrelated.

Alternatively, we may quickly come to accept such relatedness to each other as the new normal. I will take for granted that I know what’s in all my friends fridges, on their shopping list, when their car is being serviced, what their microwave is cooking and what programs they are watching on television. After all, I can choose what I want to know and what I don’t.

As our personal experience of life becomes increasingly shared, we each have to decide whether this is a good or bad thing for us as individuals (just as we have with recent privacy concerns on Facebook). We always maintain the right to opt out. Yet what happens when the majority of personal lives become a community experience or unified field? Do we isolate ourselves or give in to the tide of sharing? Especially when the next generation will take such connectedness for granted.

What do you think of appliances that share? Are you concerned about your privacy? Do you find this much connectedness overwhelming?