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Will Technology Make Privacy too Dangerous to be Tolerated?

  1. Mar 30, 2016 #1
    Date 20??: Full plans for the first DIY design your own genome 3D printable LifeMachine are posted on line.

    Date 20?? + 2: 214 million people are killed when a terrorist bio-hacker releases a variant of a Small Pox virus they created using the now ironically named LifeMachine.

    Date 20?? + 2.5:
    Government is given power and authority to track everything everyone does.

    Doesn't this general kind of thing seem inevitable? Or is it just that my dyspeptic, dystopian disposition deludes me here?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2016 #2
    It's inevitable and has already happened, hasn't it? Consider Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union where everyone was watched all the time. To a large extent this kind of thing exists in China right now.

    It would be more widespread around the world and throughout history, except that there are always people who see that granting "power and authority to track everything everyone does" is flypaper for people who'd abuse that power for their own benefit. The trackers have to be, themselves, tracked, the police policed, the governors governed. There has to be a strong system of checks and balances.
     
  4. Mar 30, 2016 #3

    russ_watters

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    What does privacy have to do with that scenario?
     
  5. Mar 30, 2016 #4
    Isn't that going on now?
     
  6. Mar 30, 2016 #5
    Privacy: the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.

    The idea here is that there will be a perceived need to observe and monitor every thing every one does as the only method of guaranteeing that some individual does not use technology to destroy civilization.

    And no, Hornbein,I don't think it has gone nearly as far as it can/will.
     
  7. Mar 30, 2016 #6
    It would be impossible in practice to track EVERYTHING done by EVERYONE because most of the collected data would have no value at all, and you'd need probably around six trained analysts to study the data for each person.
    Obviously whatever level of tacking does go on must be related to what extent an individual might be considered suspicious for some reason.
    That being said, it's already shockingly obvious that terrorism inclined individuals do get away literally with murder, despite that there might be a good reason to consider them as suspect.
     
  8. Mar 30, 2016 #7
    Yes, but it won't be humans doing the monitoring, it will be AIs and humans will only have to bother with the important stuff.
     
  9. Mar 30, 2016 #8
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 31, 2016
  10. Mar 30, 2016 #9
    Yea, pretty much. But the level of detail of observation is still fairly primitive and so is AI.
     
  11. Mar 30, 2016 #10

    Ygggdrasil

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    You don't need a science-fictional "LifeMachine" to do this. Such work has been possible for about a decade:
    (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stewart-abercrombie-baker/smallpox-in-the-garage_b_596340.html)

    Given that 20?? is circa 2005, you hypothesis seems incorrect.
     
  12. Mar 30, 2016 #11
    You are neglecting the fact his scenario includes an actual terrorist use of the virus. That is the thing that would trigger a crackdown on privacy.
     
  13. Mar 30, 2016 #12
    The date of the (excellent) article to which you posted a link is "06/03/2010 01:43 pm ET" and the prognostication of the author was:

    Within ten years, any competent biologist with a good lab and up-to-date DNA synthesis skills will be able to recreate the smallpox virus from scratch. Millions of people will have it in their power to waft this cruel death into the air, where it can feed on a world that has given up its immunity.

    Adding 10 to 2010 I get 2020. And that was for "competent biologist with a good lab and up-to-date DNA synthesis skills" so I think the hypothesis stands. What am I missing?
     
  14. Mar 30, 2016 #13

    Ygggdrasil

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    Even though the technological capabilities for bioterrorism exist, such a terrorist attack not occured likely because using such technologies requires specialized facilities. It is one thing to synthesize and assemble the smallpox genome. It is another to culture the cells required to produce physical samples of the virus. It is likely that governments could stop such attacks by regulating access to some of the specialized equipment required without having to go full on 1984. This could work in a similar way to existing laws and practices to prevent access to the material for "dirty bombs."
     
  15. Mar 30, 2016 #14
    Does it matter? I took your smallpox example to be just that: an example, and not a scenario you specifically want to discuss. Your point was that technology could be used by criminals leading to a reactionary crackdown on privacy: a philosophy to the effect that everyone has to be watched at all times.
     
  16. Mar 30, 2016 #15

    russ_watters

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    Ok, well, there exists today some risk that a small group of people could get ahold of a nuclear weapon. I guess you were just trying to find a doomsday scenario to apply your privacy logic to.

    So, my opinion on the privacy logic is that AI and surveillance technology (not to mention cost) does not make 1984's Big Brother feasible/possible and even if it did, it could never be reconciled with the US's concept of privacy rights.
     
  17. Mar 30, 2016 #16
    I was trying to give an example of the increasing "power" that technology bestows across domains and that projecting forward it does not look good to me.

    I used to believe that before the attacks on 9/11 showed how deeply we are actually committed to privacy rights.

    I truly don't like my conjecture and hope I am wrong but am still haven't heard a convincing hopeful counter argument.
     
  18. Mar 30, 2016 #17

    russ_watters

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    Counter-argument to what? I don't see that you've provided an argument, you've just described a scenario. You haven't provided an argument as to why you think the scenario would happen the way you describe.
     
  19. Mar 30, 2016 #18
    I don't really have an argument, I have a set of tentative assumptions backing a weak hypothesis. My intent was to provoke thoughtful conversation from which I could learn. But I have obviously failed and so will leave it with the general tacit assumptions behind the example scenario and my apologies for the lack of rigor in my post.

    1. The power of science driven technology is increasing non-linearly and without obvious near limits.

    2. Humans are a disparate lot psychologically. Some are intelligent, effective sociopaths.

    3. Make enough destructive power available to everyone and someone will certainly use it with catastrophic results. (For the scenario given eco terrorists would be the likely actors.)

    4. Given the publics response to the attacks of 9/11, a death toll of millions will lead the general public to reject the right to privacy altogether.
     
  20. Mar 30, 2016 #19
    1,2,3 have effectively been the case since we learned how much damage can be inflicted by controlled use of fire.
    4. WW1+2, actual catastrophic events on a bigger scale than 9-11 and ultimately involving the use of nukes, did not result in a general desire to abandon individual privacy as a right.

    Nevertheless I think your example scenario is a great idea for the next James Bond movie :))
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
  21. Mar 30, 2016 #20
    Thanks rootone. I think I will take the answer to be just my dyspeptic, dystopian dispositional bias. At least for now:smile:
     
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