In our minds, the future is either a bright cozy place full of sunshine or an oppressive regime of mad dictators with an army equipped with cutting-edge technology all lined up for the worst reasons. It’s not easy to tell which scenario is more likely to emerge, but reasonable thinking tells us, the truth would be somewhere in the middle, beautiful, but full of danger.
A hundred years ago people thought that by 2015 we would be flying around in our cars, and travel to the moon with ease. And just take a look whats parking in your yard. Not really a rocket-powered, winged car is it? Okay, but those were folks before you were born, so you know much better, don’t you?
We can predict everything now, or if we cannot, we can google it! That may be less than enough to say for sure, so today we are taking another perspective, by examining the danger level of certain scenarios already coming true. Will the emerging technologies and evolving trends be harmless or not for our civilization?
1. Danger of our vanishing privacy
I’d put our privacy to the first and foremost endangered place of this list without a question. Our online privacy died so long ago it might have starred in The Walking Dead season one. Offline privacy is dying also, and in the future, it will be extremely hard to maintain, let alone protect it. Recently I’ve read a quite impressive book dealing with the issue, the author is Arthur Keleti, and the title: The Imperfect Secret. He states, that by 2020, we will be unable to protect 75% of our online data – put simply: three out of four of our most precious secrets will be completely public. Just remember Samsung’s smart TV scandal and the Chinese smartphones which recorded users private conversations and sent the data back home.
“There is no such thing as total security. There’s a gap, wide as an ocean, between the ordinary reader’s knowledge and that of the specialist, when we talk about information security issues.” – Keleti says. “The book is about the smallest and most delicate asset that anyone and everyone possesses: our secrets. And I have bad news for you: our secrets are under threat, just when we thought they were in the most secure place that they could possibly be. Something happened, and it’s irreversible, and still not fully understood.”- he adds. “In the future, will we know everything about our politicians, company leaders, or the family living across the street? What is a secret anyhow? Why are they so important for us? Critical and complicated times are ahead, from the point of view of sociologists and information theorists, and we need to change the way we protect our data.” What would Hitchcock say to all this? Aaaand Action!
2. Danger of digitizing our data
First of all digitizing everything, every bit of our identity makes the previously described privacy loss even more likely. Just think about it, all of your the data is in approximately the same place, computer or hard drive. Once your network or system is hacked, or your Gmail account compromised, you lose all of it in one big package. It’s also pretty vulnerable and exposed to erasure due to magnetic or physical forces. One commonly overlooked problem can be, that old media is hard to read. Have you got boxes in the cellar, that you haven’t opened, say, in the last 15 years? No problem, because books, old letters and magazines can be read anytime, can’t they? Now, what about floppy disks? Still have a 3,5″ drive in your desktop? Do you still have a desktop at all? Do you still remember the 5,25″ floppy drives? The MFM Winchesters? The IDE or old SCSI drives? VHS, SVHS or UMATIC tapes? If you happen to have any of them, and they are in those boxes, you might be in real trouble already!
3. Danger of digitizing our interactions, our lives
It’s the process of the frog and the boiling water. Drop the frog into the pot filled with boiling water: it’ll jump out. But if you put it in cold water, and slowly turn the heat up: it’ll stay until it’s too late to jump. In our brave new interconnected world, first came the forums, and they seemed to accumulate our knowledge for good, made getting new friends easy. Than came the chat clients, like MSN Messenger or Skype, with never ending conversations, and the first emojis. And than, all of it together: enter Facebook. The problem here isn’t the obvious one. We spend a lot of time online, and our human relationships degrade, our abilities to communicate deteriorate too.
Besides that, we face a really tricky, hidden danger which is connected to the second threat on this list. Not all of human communication are intended to be recorded. In fact, none of it are intended to be recorded. Our species didn’t evolve or was created to use complicated interfaces to interact one another. There should be breaks in our communication’s records, as well as breaks in our time spent online, and it all should be alternated with offline activities. But these breaks are getting scarcer, thus more communication mistakes, reckless emotions, anger, fury and intimate activity leaves its traces in our browser and chat histories. Things that were never intended to be recorded. Remember the second threat: they can be easily fetched by hackers or other wrongdoers.
4. Danger of technology-dependence
Our time is clearly a time of great changes in terms of technology and machines used by humans. Never before in known history did we acquired such high level of comfort and scale of possibilities through technology, and we are working really hard to abandon the last effort needed for living, the last barrier: thinking. Professor Stephen Hawking warned us: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Clive Sinclair agrees with him. Dangers are lurking in giving military control – of let’s say nukes or drone swarms – over to Artificial Intelligence, just to reduce the chance error, or shorten reaction times. We are already in big trouble with technological aides. Lets see some crimes and suspects: Millenials grammar and spelling is miserable (autocorrects, smiley symbols), we are all losing the ability to navigate, drivers actually drive their cars to ditches by overruling what their eyes are showing them if told to do so (GPS, route planners), and calculators strips the masses of the skills needed to count in their heads.
No punchline or revelation here. The best advice: just try to live responsibly towards yourself and your loved ones and the environment.