(I am a little bit proud that this was first posted July 13, 2013. Still true today. ABN)
The NSA database shows once again that it is technology that moves the world more than ideology. I doubt there is anything anyone can do to stop this database or others like it, here or abroad.
We can maybe hope that those who have access to databases of this type are completely honest and that they function within perfect systems that have no corruption, but historically that is highly improbable.
Big databases like the NSA’s (and we know there are more of them) create a form of international competition akin to the arms race. If we don’t get ahead of others, they will get ahead of us.
In the near-term, our best hope is probably for even more technology in the form of accurate lie-detectors that can be used to keep all of us honest, including those with access to the database. I do believe that the database has rendered our traditional form of government obsolete and that there is no turning back.
In the long-term, the database will surely look passe, even puny. Isn’t it likely to be a precursor to the even larger database that will house our electronic/digital “selves” once we have achieved a non-biological stage of evolution (if we haven’t already)? Will we need or even want privacy then?
For today, a conundrum in the database arms race is that the NSA has in one way made us “safer” by staying ahead of other countries (I guess), but it has also made us less safe because no database like that can be made perfectly unhackable.
The database should make it clear to even more people that we fundamentally have no idea how our government works or who controls it to what purpose. Rather than look behind the scenes for who has the “real” skinny, as we naively did twenty years ago, now we must wonder if anything known to the public has any bearing at all on what is really going on.
First posted July 13, 2013
Last week, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, asked me to come and see a project he has been working on almost as long as the web itself. It’s a crisp autumn day in Boston, where Berners-Lee works out of an office above a boxing gym. After politely offering me a cup of coffee, he leads us into a sparse conference room. At one end of a long table is a battered laptop covered with stickers. Here, on this computer, he is working on a plan to radically alter how all of us live and work on the web. (Source)
I am looking forward to this. Communications and data should be in the hands of citizens and not controlled by government or private corporations. Hate speech laws should be abolished worldwide and China and others should be dissuaded from using the Internet for totalitarian control. It’s obvious where malign forces will take us if we don’t find another way to store data and share information. ABN
Most fundamental changes in human societies happen due to technological advances.
The next big change in human psychology will come from inexpensive, very sensitive brain scans.
These scans will show millions people in real-time how their brains are actually behaving and reacting. Presently unnoticed or concealed twinges of emotion will become conspicuously visible on a screen or within a hologram that surrounds our heads.
People will be able to use this technology in the company of a computer program or with a human partner. A good AI program will use brain-scan information to reveal much about us. We will learn stuff about how we actually function that very few are aware of today.
Having this knowledge will change the way we understand ourselves and our interactions with others. Rather than work almost exclusively with the vague stories we tell ourselves, we will be able to see how our brains (and bodies) actually function in real time.
The difference between our stories and how we actually function is very great. Great enough to completely change the landscape of what we now think of as human psychology.
There already exist inexpensive EEG rigs that are sort of good at measuring moods and honesty. There are also expensive ones with more capacity. Within a decade or two, these devices will be much better. An accurate lie-detector will surely be included in the consumer package.
This technology will rewrite our understanding of human psychology and remake the ways we think of human society today. If you want to get a head start on the future, learn how to do FIML now.