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I came to a realization when I recently watched Mr. Zuckerberg talk to CNN regarding the exploding revelations regarding Facebook divulging confidential member data to Cambridge Analytica for the Trump campaign. That realization was two-fold. The first is that the creators of these social media apps that become popular and turn into mega-companies have young owners who do not fully grasp the impact of their creations. The second realization is that our nation is very likely going to suffer some technological calamity within the next 20 years. Let’s explore.
Kid Programmers Can Be Like Kids Playing With A Loaded Gun –
What truly amazed me about Zuckerberg’s recent interview trying to explain and apologize for the current lapses in Facebook security was how little he seemed to understand the social consequences of what he created a decade ago. He’s 33 years old.. pretty young by mega-corporation CEO standards… and he’s worth something like 60-70 billion… within like 12 years… starting when he was in his 20’s to develop Facebook. I am totally sure that all he cared about in the beginning was developing Facebook, getting it to market, and making it a revenue stream. He totally did all that with better than outstanding success. But what he failed to understand.. and what many garage or basement programmers fail to understand when developing their own app ideas is what kind of effect their app product would be as it became increasingly popular and part of the daily culture.
Zuckerberg is worth billions but that in NO way guarantees he’s a businessman (much like Trump, actually) with strategic business acumen. I have no idea who Zuckerberg has as a professional staff nor if they are even effective. Facebook could very easily be one of those companies that end up being huge cash cows in spite of any strategic planning. But the young man seems to have never considered the predators in the real world who might use his product to their ill ends. This is far more than just understanding Facebook could be hacked and some code will keep that from happening. You’d think he would understand that given his product is such a part of mainstream life, what might happen if it suddenly stopped. What might happen if someone “got into it” in some form to affect content, harvest data (beyond normal hacking attempts), even introduce over time huge numbers of false members in an effort to dump huge amounts of what appears to be normal traffic, but containing variants of negative opinion about a potential political candidate to affect election results (similar to the Russians). I can’t even imagine all the potential real world threats. Obviously someone at Facebook didn’t fully comprehend enough to monitor Cambridge Analytica.
How many of these huge social media products are out there.. like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, yada, yada, that are totally in tune to the potential risks of their popular products being hijacked in some form? Do they understand they need certain levels of quality control when they sell their data to third parties? Oversight and follow thru is necessary. They have all the power to demand that. Even in selling data WITH the approval of members, these companies need to make sure their data is being used accordingly.
Given the immense universal popularity of Facebook, if it shut down tomorrow.. what does that do to the nation? I have no idea personally. To simply presume that Facebook is simply a happy venue for people to share benign social interests and make “friends” and is not somehow linked to the greater internet is a big mistake. And as these kinds of apps increase in the years ahead the unintended effects will grow.
Who watches these kids? I dunno if even anyone can.
Is A Great Tech Calamity Looming On The Horizon?
I think it is. I won’t go so far as to suggest it might be something apocalyptic like the artificial intelligence “Skynet” taking over the world by killing all the humans (ala “The Terminator” franchise). I will suggest tech could lead to some conflict between nations or a manipulation of vital resources (utilities) or the ability to interrupt trade, or transportation (air or rail or both). Society is like the Titanic… cruising along with no one in the lookout seat, and suddenly hitting an iceberg (no, not a “Zuckerberg”)… a threat that initially didn’t look so bad on the surface, but what is unseen could threaten to sink us.
Why the fatalism? It’s not for the sake of some fatalistic preference that I make this prediction but because it’s the nature of man to push forward and create, adapt, and explore all that in our environment that makes us curious. While artificial intelligence will be the next tech explosion to greatly enhance our lives… it will also be VERY vulnerable to both intentional and accidental abuse… and the margin for some great error is very large.
Just consider for the moment vehicles driving by themselves. It’s inevitable. But common sense tells us as human drivers the huge amount of potential threats we guard against when driving does not seem to easily fit into bytes and bits. Yet we will press ahead to make driverless vehicles. Recently as last week an automated Uber vehicle (human was behind the wheel but had switched on “autonomous mode”) killed a pedestrian. This will not be the last death for sure. If it’s determined that there was no human error in the death (I can only imagine the legal mess in all this; is the guy behind the wheel legally responsible?) do we then suspect a “problem” with the vehicle’s hardware or software, or both? Is it too far a Hollywood stretch to imagine the computer making a “decision” to hit the pedestrian, then quirk its own code to misdirect the investigation to something less suspicious? Of course… for now.
As each year progresses our world becomes increasingly more vulnerable because of our dependency on technology. I recall some years back when our company had some fire drill and the follow up review on tips for survival if trapped inside the building. One such tip was to hide in the rest room.. use paper towels to seal the door cracks… then turn on the water faucets and breath the air escaping with the water. Well, when was the last time you were in a public rest room with a faucet that stayed on?
Then there was the recent issue with two Chinese cell phone manufacturers having fiddled with the chips. It’s not a far stretch at all to imagine a foreign country manufacturing some electronic product with compromised integrated circuitry that tracks and/or controls the population. Back when we invaded Iraq our intel people inserted “bad” computer chips into printers being shipped to Iraq prior to the shock & awe that ended up taking down certain anti-aircraft systems. The threat is real.
There is going to be a lot of bad coming along with all that good technology brings to us. I’m not sure I wanna be around for that.
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