20160824

Cyber Cassandra Complex

"While your faith in technology is endearing,
it will ultimately be your undoing"

Arclight has an old 2600 tshirt with a friendly robot on the back, uttering this stark phrase.  

When was the last time you looked around you at this technological society that has sprouted up around us, within our lifetimes?   If you're under 30 years old, you barely remember a time before the internet;  a strange far-off land where payphones and Thomas Guides helped us stay connected and get to where we were going. 

Remember when "Information Forever" wasn't reality?  Some time around 2008, roughly when humanity crossed the terabyte hard drive threshold, suddenly everything you've ever said and done online has been recorded, with metadata, for some kleptomaniacal reason that not even Edward Snowden understands. 

Never before have humans ever been required with wrangling and maintaining a digital personality.  Sure, you can go live under a rock somewhere without FaceSpace or Gmail, but the mere fact that you're reading this implies otherwise.  There are enormous philosophical and psychological components of this tool that we can barely comprehend, much less plan ahead for the inevitable technological singularity

During DEF CON earlier this year, DARPA sponsored an event that is edging us closer to true artifical intelligence than humanity has ever seen.  Luckily, SKYNET didn't wake up at that moment, humanity is safe for now. 

Do you think humanity is going to be satisfied until we get to that point?  Do you think we even have a choice in the matter? 

Remember not long ago when your cellphone was a single purpose device?  No malware, no Angry Birds, no Pokemon?   Now you're carrying around a general-purpose computer that not only makes phone calls, shows you around town, spies on you, is connected to billions of devices over the internet, with more computing power than supercomputers from a generation ago!  A question to ask yourself is, what do you think these devices will look like, and how will they behave in unintended ways a generation from now?

All it would take is a simple solar flare to ruin everything we hold dear.  What happens if the earth's magnetic poles decide to flip?  Imagine, if you can, if the Internet were to go down for some mysterious reason, and stay down, for a month.  How would people transact buisness?  How would people communicate with each other over vast distances?  We'd be instantaneously sent back to the 1950s.  Who knows how to make vacuum tubes anymore?

Self-driving cars will kill at least as many humans as human-driven cars, but with far less personal culpability and moral decision making ability than ever before. 



You go on ahead and catch those pokemon.  I think I'd rather stay right here with my books and tinfoil hat.

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