Ah, Things To Come. One of the original sci-fi movies that promised a beautiful future, after a long struggle and world war. Like most optimistic films of the time, it thought that technology, a scientific viewpoint, and the abolition of religion would make everything OK, and we’d all be wearing togas and living a wonderful life (as Donald Fagen would sum up so well in his ironic song IGY).
Looking in the news, however, it seems that technology, for the Nth time, has backfired. The most recent cloud of acrid technological blue smoke that has belched from the electronic smokestacks was the recent hack and network shutdown, caused by the ‘Internet of Things’ and an interesting piece of software called Mirai. Here’s an interesting quote, from that article, showing how totally screwed up how some people connect with others:
Setting aside the shoddy security of these devices, yesterday felt incredibly weird. I spent most of my work day without access to Twitter and it was a miserable experience. The service has become an important part of my life, it’s where I communicate with my friends and first hear about important news. Without it, I feel eerily disconnected. I actually had to type a URL into my browser to find out why the service was down.
Luna: PLEASE ! I WANNA GO HOME ! I'M GETTING A HEADACHE. I'M HUNGRY ! I HAVEN'T HAD A STRESS PILL ! I HAVEN'T HAD A BATH IN SEVEN HOURS ! I'M TELLING YOU, I'M NOT ACCUSTOMED TO THIS ! I NEED MY ORB ! I WANT TO RELAX ! LOOK AT ME ! LOOK AT ME ! I'M SHAKING ! Miles: YOU KNOW, YOU'D BE GREAT TO TAKE ON A CAMPING TRIP.
It is for this sort of reason that keeping all your technological eggs in one basket, by hyper-connecting your life, and relying on security promises from firms that tell you all is well is the sure road to ruin. Oh, and being connected 24-7 by an electronic leash. Do we really need Internet connected toasters, fridges, stoves, thermostats, and so on? This hack (which may have been simple or brilliant), like the first worm that was released a long time ago (before the Internet became what it is today), is truly the real shape of Things To Come, if this insanity continues.
The future (before it comes crashing down on us, from the usual suspects of financial chicanery, climate change, and resource depletion) is more likely to look like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (Tuttle-Buttle, and all that); a surreal and never-ending cross between Monty Python and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Sure, it might be terrifying, but it might be that if the bureaucracy has its way, it’ll lose your paperwork.
- What will the next big Internet of Things idiocy?
- If this is what happens with DVRs, imagine what will happen with self-driving cars or self-driving delivery vans. Does anyone smell a problem here?
- How long before we realize that the expression ‘Internet of Things’ could wind up like nuclear power’s ‘Too cheap to meter’?
- Crime is already quite readily committed by computer; when will we get our first homicide using an IOT device? The Internet (via social media) has already caused people to be shamed, shunned, and to commit suicide. What device might be the culprit? (Update: The Michael Hastings incident might have been one; now, the next barrier is “When will something like this become public knowledge, if someone does this who doesn’t have great skill at hiding their crime?”)
- There are rumblings of the US conducting cyber-warfare against its ‘enemies’. Doesn’t this seem like the modern day equivalent of poison gas on the battlefield? An attack on a hyper-connected network most surely will backfire, won’t it?