September 21, 2019
by Doug “Uncola” Lynn:
In the movie “I, Robot” the actor Will Smith played a detective who distrusted robots. But all of the other characters in the film believed he was paranoid because, after all, what could possibly go wrong? And therein lies the irony of technology today: The human mind can conceive of the most imaginative ways to apply science while simultaneously ignoring the warnings from history and the pernicious potentialities of Pandora’s Box.
The fifth article I posted on my blog was dated three years ago today. It was titled “How to Transplant a Human Head” and remains, even now, as one of my favorites; perhaps because it so directly addressed the Pandora’s Box of my own fear. In that article, it was described as follows:
… therein lays the dilemma of opening Pandora’s Box. …Because, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein gives rise to Philip K. Dick questioning if Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. The next thing you know, Harrison Ford is a Blade Runner tracking down a robot that crushed the head of its creator with its own hands while using its human-like, hydraulic digits to gouge in the creator’s eyes.
There seems to be a pattern here. First, the seed of mankind’s imagination impregnates reality and soon a premature Zombie Baby is born with black eyes and a cannibalistic desire for its own parents.
So what’s the point, you ask? It’s about technology being like fire; how it can both warm and burn. And it seems for decades now someone has been turning up the heat. In fact, so much so, I often find myself wondering if our nightmares will soon come true via hellfire and convenience and by the vain imaginings of mankind.
Since the 1980s there has been a concerted effort toward the development of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architectures for computer processors. Also called ARM (Advance RISC machine) architecture it is, today, used in the world’s fastest super computers as well as many of our modern smart devices such as phones, tablets, iPads and Androids. Although there have been many RISC designs, the “most public” of these were, according to Wikipedia:
…the results of university research programs run with funding from the DARPA VLSI Program.
Of course, The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is, according to Wikipedia:
…an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military.
And VLSI is, according to Wikipedia, “DARPA’s Very-Large-Scale-Integration (i.e. VLSI) Project which:
…provided research funding to a wide variety of university-based teams in an effort to improve the state of the art in microprocessor design.
Isn’t it something to see when a plan comes together?
Because in the early 1990’s I was using a Motorola bag phone in my car complete with a cigarette lighter plug-in, a magnetic portable antenna on the roof, and 20 free minutes a month. Later, I had a Nokia hand-held phone with more coverage and better reception, as well as an illuminated LCD display and an alphanumeric scroll feature.
Then, sometime in the mid-nineties, I read an article that I wish I could read again, but it is now just a memory. The piece discussed a breakthrough of sorts in micro-processing that would allow our phones to become mini-computers and with various functions that, at the time, seemed incredulous.
But, within a year or two, the Nokia 6110 became the first GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) cellular phone to use an ARM (Advance RISC machine) processor – and this rig even came equipped with games, a calendar, a clock, and a calculator.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Now, in addition to self-driving vehicles (smartphones on wheels) and breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, we hear daily reports of our smart TVs and devices “leaking sensitive user data” while Amazon’s Alexa listens to people having sex and as the U.S. government “builds biometric identification systems that can single out individuals from hundreds of yards away or more”.
Of course, the latter-mentioned biometric identifiers are being developed under the auspices of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) of which Wikipedia describes as:
…an organization within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence responsible for leading research to overcome difficult challenges relevant to the United States Intelligence Community. IARPA characterizes its mission as follows: “To envision and lead high-risk, high-payoff research that delivers innovative technology for future overwhelming intelligence advantage.”
As for we, the consumers, however, Pandora’s Box comes gift-wrapped in convenience and for our own comfort and well-being.
Consider the following short commercial presentations:
Apple face recognition (:40)
Apple: Your face is your banking password (1:38)
Apple: You will be notified before you get sick (1:02)
Delta VoiceIQ (:30)
So, in closing, I ask you Dear Readers: What could go wrong?