My Technology Rant v1.0

While being in technology is sometimes exciting, it also spans a wide range of other emotions.  Most notably is terror.

Science & Invention, November 1928. Volume 16 Number 7I have always been enthused about technology.  That’s not from a realistic perspective, but mostly from a science fiction perspective.  I’m not even entirely sure “fiction” applies anymore.  Perhaps, “science just hasn’t happened yet” is more appropriate.  We are seeing more of the “tech” from that area becoming a possibility.  I remember when touchscreen and multi-touch interfaces were wildly futuristic, and then came the conferences where researchers displayed proofs of concept (to wild nerd applause) but no one thought it would become commercially available.

Now, if your phone doesn’t have those technologies baked in… shoot, if your fridge doesn’t have that… you are behind the times!  It’s everywhere!

Unfortunately, with technological progress, there are folks that aren’t out for the “common good” so to speak.  In some cases, it’s hard to fault those folks.  I’d categorize them into three silos:

  • People wanting to benefit the world.
  • People wanting to benefit themselves and the world.
  • People wanting to benefit themselves.

If you’ve developed a new technology that can be licensed or sold and your goal is to earn some money off your hard work and effort, then I find it hard to negate that goal.  I’d be in the same boat if I was brilliant enough to come up with something like that.  While in some cases that can be seen as selfish – if you had a cure for Parkinson’s and you wanted to massively profit on it, you’d better watch out because the whole world will be upset with you.  Everyone.  Similar to Martin Shkreli.  If you don’t know who that is, you should be able to find a few articles about it online.

Trying to save the world with new tech and making that tech available to the world is noble, for sure.  Even though I respect that, there is a responsibility across the board to make sure that we know the implications of our advances.  CRISPR is an excellent, current, example.  Fundamentally changing a person’s DNA by removing or replacing particular genomes could be fantastic for preventing or even curing diseases and disorders.  Then the bad guys realize they could really mess someone up.  Not even bad guys!  I should step back and just clarify that people may not fully understand what they’re doing.  Updating one piece may impact other pieces down the line.  Technically it can be done, but do we understand all the implications.

Quantum Computer 2018Moving it into the electronic world, quantum computing will help solve very large problems, even though it’s only in its infancy.  It will solve “good problems” but it will also break current “good solutions” such as our current thinking of cryptography and encryption.  New research is being done to circumvent the potential disaster of being able to negate all current encryption technologies.  It’s promising.  What is it going to look like, though, for all the “old stuff” out there that’s still potentially damaging using old encryption, but now wide open thanks to this new tech?  This will be wild.

If you look around the world, you certainly see us trying to regulate and control technology that we don’t want misused.  However, most knowledge, once available, is hard to contain again.  The high level theory of nuclear weaponry is taught in most high schools!  It’s not called that, but the rudimentary information is there.  How do we stop someone from using it negatively?  Sanctions and fear of a slap on the hand are the current means, but at some point that doesn’t work.  Bad guys will circumvent… they always do!

The same  problem crops up all the time: how do you stop people from doing bad things?

It’s a hard one and if anyone had a good answer, I sure hope they aren’t keeping it to themselves.  Most of the answers either take a long time to implement – for example, teaching morality and influencing culture takes decades at a minimum – or require a dramatic shift in attitude.  We can all agree (I hope) that the most comprehensive solution lies in not having bad guys in the first place.

Oh, sure, there will always be the riff-raff.  I’ve got five good kids, but I wouldn’t want to put any one of them in charge of “the button that could end it all” because they each have their bad moods, as do most people.  I’m open to comments as to how to solve.  In the meantime, I will remain concerned about how we are preparing our people to utilize technology.  Free and clear technology is great, but let’s keep an eye on context whenever we create something new!  How things SHOULD be used is very different from how they CAN be used.