The Vicious Tech Adoption Cycle

September 04 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

If you’ve never taken the time to watch the TV series Ghost in the Shell: The Standalone Complex, I suggest you do. Looking past the nearly nude and obviously impossibly-hot characters, you’ll find a near-future society that relies so much on technology to survive that everyone needs a mechanical implant of some sort. In fact, the only people not outfitted with some sort of body-enhancing component are the homeless. And while the cyborg cops race around Tokyo searching for criminals and hackers, you’re given a glimpse at a possible future that is both Utopian and Dystopian in nature.

On the one hand you have incredible technology that can allow even the most handicapped the ability to function at a high level in society. On the other hand it leaves just about everyone vulnerable to personal body hacking by the ill-intentioned. People get their memories wiped, are programmed to commit acts of violence, and if rescued are unable to restore their old lives and memories (ghost hacking). It’s a very yin-and-yang situation.

The reason I bring this up is that it was the first thing that sprang to mind upon reading a recent article detailing how pace-makers are now being hacked wirelessly.

In the Ghost in the Shell TV series there is a villain called The Laughing Man) who can essentially hack into anyone’s body, alter their perception, push them to commit crimes, and even compel them to kill other people. One famous scene is where the Laughing Man commits a crime in broad daylight with film crews, civilians and security cameras watching. No one can see his face — every electronic device, including those implanted into human bodies, converts his face to appear as a logo (imagine walking down the street and another person walking by has a floating Nike swoosh in front of their face).

Sure, it is a science fiction scenario, but sometimes science fiction gets it right. When considering that pacemakers nowadays can be hacked one has got to wonder where it will all stop. What about your artificial arm? Your mechanical eyes? Your germ-busting nanobots? Your cryo-tank? It yet again goes to show that it’s important to realize and simulate the possible negatives catalyzed by a technology in addition to focusing on the positives.

Image:Charis Tsevis (Flickr,CC-Attribution)

Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. I think the key is to advance these technologies even further, and stay one step ahead of the criminals (if that’s at all possible). The alternative is to sit back and let bad things happen to us.

    I tend to think that the criminals will be at a disadvantage, because for all their cunning, they do not have ten laboratories, millions of dollars of funding and dozens of PhD students at their service. This is not to say that terrible things will not occasionally happen, but we will be able to counter these actions quickly so that the greater population does not suffer.

    Posted by: CptSunbeam   September 04, 2008
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  2. Maybe, but what you have to realize is that all those labs are doing is coming up with products, which takes forever. All hackers have to do is dismantle a product, see how it works, and that’s it. Remember Sony paying over a million dollars to make a piracy-proof CD? Some kid in England bypassed it with a sharpie. There will always be people who can hack just about anything.

    Posted by: martymcfly   September 04, 2008
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  3. To CptSunbeam: “I tend to think that the criminals will be at a disadvantage, because for all their cunning, they do not have ten laboratories, millions of dollars of funding and dozens of PhD students at their service.”

    True, but there will always be someone just as educated (or self-educated) who will spend their working hours trying to figure out if something can be hacked simply because of the challenge. Anything can be hacked in the end, if there’s a will there’s a way.

    Posted by: John Heylin   September 04, 2008
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