Homo Digitalis - Part Two

Posted on: September 9, 2016 by Thomas Hoberg

If you missed the first part of my blog post, please go here.

But something is rotten in the state of Denmark:

Many of the vendors believe that because they invented and produced these servants and smart things it means that they should be more loyal to them than their owners: They keep them on a lash, have them report on their masters and even make it illegal to break that bond (jail-breaking or rooting).

Worse yet, it has become public knowledge, that not just criminal organizations, terrorists and mafias are intent on compromising your servants or brain extenders: Every government on the planet, whether it be a “democracy” with or without “people’s”, theocracy or good old fashioned dictatorship, considers it their right and mission to know and keep copies of everything you might have ever issued or uttered, publicly, in what you might consider the confines of your privacy or indeed your sleep, because you might be a terrorist, a fugitive from justice or the tax authorities, an infidel, a journalist or just the competition.

And if any future generation of these devices were able to integrate with your brain further, be able to look inside or even steer you (no more issues sticking to that diet!), they’d demand or simply take that right as well.

They must be quite afraid of us and our power.

Ironically privacy and power have quite a long tradition of odds: While the lowliest serf might have spent his life without coming under the eyes and scrutiny of his liege, the potential repercussions of playing with the blood lines of a divine absolutistic monarch touched the lives of an entire people so even the most private acts had to be performed in public.

Consequently in a day and age when any single determined individual can unleash an atomic, biological, chemical or digital Armageddon on humanity, none of us can enjoy more privacy than President Obama may keep for himself.

But the underlying assumption is that the controlling collective would inherently be altruistic, fair and only interested in maintaining the peace, not as ruthless, determined and self-serving as the individual it fights.

During the last century millions were sent to an early grave as evidence that the collective can be misguided by determined individuals and will fail the people it is supposed to serve, because absolute power corrupts absolutely.

A balance of power is both required and demanded at least in a democracy, where individuals are responsible and required to stand up against a collective turning against its people or other peaceful nations. And that requires that the collective normally refrains from exercising the full powers at its disposal, like it demands from the individual to be civil.

Protecting the sanctity of our homes, our letters, our person and our free speech against the interference by other individuals or collectives up to the agents of state is at the core of our laws and constitutions. Abuse of these rights is very visible so neighbors and the public who can and should come to our aid. Lack of visibility means lack of public control and balance and that unfortunately characterizes these newer spheres such as the Cyberspace or Internet of Things.

The first effect is distrust: How dare we delegate portions of our mind and memory to a device, which can be compromised and turned against us under the very eyes of the public without anyone noticing?

The second effect is fear: How dare we walk any step, sit on any seat or even walk open spaces, when every single thing may turn against us and hit us with things far worse than hot coffee?

The first consequence is that we cannot evolve to the next major computer aided upgrade of civilization after the invention of writing, unless we can be assured of the loyalty of our devices.

The second consequence is that the Internet of Things won’t sell until we know that the Five Laws of Robotics won’t ever be violated.

The first should make citizens rather unhappy, because they cannot evolve their tools and skills, earn more money and pay more taxes.

The second should make businesses rather unhappy, because they cannot sell the smart new things they devise, earn more money and pay more taxes.

Which collective or government can afford to make enemies of both?

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About Thomas Hoberg
Technical Director R&D, Worldline and member of the Scientific Community
Thomas Hoberg has spent 35 years or his entire adult life in IT. Responsible for Technical Architecture inside Worldline R&D, the European leader in the payment and transactional services industry, he led the transformation of all Linux based production services in Frankfurt and became part of the global Technical Strategy Innovation and Governance leadership team. His passion for innovation and education has made him a founding member of the Worldline Innovation Network, a long-time member of the Atos Scientific Community, a frequent lecturer in Worldline Techforum and Explore conferences. His other hobbies are singing in world class classical concert choirs (active), swimming (active) and diving (awaiting budget).