Last Updated October 13th, 2012 — For just about as long as humans have existed we’ve used technology and innovation to create weapons, from sharpened rocks and spears to WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). The question of whether violence, crime, and war will remain in our future is probably certain as long as humans inhabit the Earth, but that isn’t what I’m talking about.
As popularized by science fiction films like The Matrix and Terminator, I am talking about the idea of technology advancing to the point where we give it too much control or lose control of it altogether. We already have a lot of dependencies on technology, and not just in our social, domestic, and working lives (internet, cell phones, washer and dryer, fridge, alarm clocks, vehicles), but for our very lives themselves.
We depend on safety devices in our vehicles, ambulances, helicopters, technology in our hospitals, medicine and even simpler and often taken for granted technology, sewers, the technology to clean and sanitize our water supply and the list goes on. Realistically, there’s no doubt that you could simply live in the wilderness and live off the land with your own two hands as your only tools, but I don’t think many people are willing or able (mentally or physically in our current world) to go that route. So, if you’re one of those people that just can’t do it then you definitely depend on technology no matter how much you may not like it.
The main concern isn’t really that of human error (someone forgetting to crunch a number, push a button, recharge a battery, etc.), which by all means is a very real possibility, someone inadvertently and accidentally killing many people, in fact it happens.
I’m not even talking about a technological failure in which there was no human control, which is an even greater taker of life. I’m talking about giving too much AI (Artificial Intelligence) to the wrong software. Before you laugh, keep in mind that AI is not science fiction, but fact. It has been a reality for years. To the public, the most common use is probably in video games to bring a new level of realism, challenge, interactivity, and immersion into the experience.
If you think of video games as child’s play, you might want to think again, the ARMY has and a lot of games nowadays are for an adult audience. Quite simply, the ARMY sees the training and recruiting benefits of these games. If you have about an hour I want you to watch the following two videos, suspend your disbelief for a little bit for this thought experiment, combine these two concepts, and think hypothetically about their possibilities in the next 10, 20, 30 years as they advance and draw your own conclusions of the possibilities:
After watching the above videos, the first thing I thought about was net neutrality and the law. In the US, the government, states, counties, and cities are catching up the law with technology. There is a lot of concern that laws and regulations will be passed putting too many restrictions on internet use. That ISPs (Internet Service Providers like Comcast or Verizon) will start setting monthly caps on how much data and bandwidth you can use each month and even possibly what content you can view or even what you can talk about (UPDATE — sadly, this is now happening: ISPs are spying on their customers officially).
Some ISPs already do set caps and block certain IP addresses and software to a certain extent, but not at the level where it will ruin the internet as we know it. My big fear is this: we’ve already created an alternate reality on the web, some people only communicate and have relationships with people over the internet. With any new community of people, of course the government is looking into how to police it, tax it, and ultimately, control it. The internet as we all know it is the World Wide Web, although some countries do govern the flow of information locally. For instance, did you know that China censors its internet to block certain info from its people?
I have no doubt that some sections of the US government have similar feelings. Within any community there is crime, fraud, identity theft, and worse. The FBI and police already do enforce internet law and they already monitor email, social media, chat rooms, etc. Not to mention how much personal, communication, and behavioral data Google already has on all of us which is of course shared with outside authorities (maybe not at a constant flow, but most certainly upon request which I don’t fault Google for because you just don’t say no to the government at that level, unless you want trouble).
The internet is a GIANT place and there will never be enough man-power to police all of it. So, that is where I come to this possible and frightening conclusion:
- The US government will hit ISPs to put heavy caps and filters in place.
- Those caps and filters will get worse and worse as the law progresses.
- When technology is ready, ISPs will govern the internet with AI that tracks you ALL the time. When you listen to music or read books, watch movies online, you could be charged a fee or if you download music illegally, images, or maybe quote a book, you could be hit with theft, copyright, or plagiarism warnings or possibly fined right away. Everything you type could be watched and if the AI red flags a keyword, keyphrase, or sentence used, it might alert an actual person to monitor everything you’re typing and everything you can see on-the-fly.
There are certainly implications of the government wanting to spy on us and other shady plots that are of an unknown nature, but I’m not trying to create conspiracy theories. Quite logically, I understand the importance of trying to put a stop to identity theft, child abduction, even stopping terrorist communications and plots in their tracks. But, as the story goes, there’s always someone who ruins it for the rest of us. The problem is that in their legitimate efforts to find say one serious criminal out of every 10,000 people, they’re violating the privacy of 9,999 innocent people.
And you thought I was going to talk about robots taking over the world ;). Well, maybe in the next 50 years if I’m still around I’ll blog about “The Current State of Dystopia in the US”.
UPDATE — My predictions have pretty much come true. Maybe not at the extent that I’ve theorized, but this is just the beginning.
UPDATE — Well then, knowing what we now know about the NSA, I pretty much hit the nail on the head about 4 years before Snowden whistle-blew.