Monday, June 6, 2016

Is there a future view that isn't a security dystopia?

I recently finished reading the book Ghost Fleet, it's not a bad read if you're into what cyberwar could look like. It's not great though, I won't suggest it as the book of the summer. The biggest thing I keep thinking about is I've yet to really see any sort of book that takes place in the future, with a focus on technology, that isn't a dystopian warning. Ghost Fleet is no different.

My favorite part was how everyone knew the technology was totally pwnt, yet everyone still used it. There were various drones, smart display glasses, AI to control boats, rockets, even a space laser (which every book needs). This reminds me of today to a certain degree. We all use web sites we know will be hacked. We know our identities have been stolen. We know our phones aren't secure. Our TVs record our conversations. You can even get doorbells that can stream you a video feed. We love this technology even though it's either already hacked, or will be soon. We know it and we don't care, we just keep buying broken phones, TVs, blenders, cars, anything that comes with WiFi!

Disregarding the fact that we are probably already living in the dystopian future, it really made me wonder if there are any examples of a future that isn't a security nightmare? You could maybe make the argument that Star Trek is our hopeful future, but that's pretty old these days. And even then, the android took over the ship more times than I'd be comfortable with. I think it's safe to say their security required everyone to be a decent human. If that's our only solution, we're pretty screwed.

Most everything I come across is pretty bleak and I get why. Where is our escape from all the insecure devices we pretend we hate? The only number growing faster than the number of connected devices is the number of security flaws in those devices. There aren't even bad ideas to fix this stuff, there's just nothing. The thing about bad ideas is they can often be fixed. A smart person can take a bad idea and turn it into a good idea. Bad ideas are at least something to build on. I don't see any real ideas to fix these devices. We have nothing to build on. Nothing is dangerous. No matter how many times you improve it, it's still nothing. I have no space laser, so no matter how many ideas I have to make it better, I still won't have a space laser (if anyone has one I could maybe borrow, be sure to let me know).

Back to the idea about future technology. Are there any real examples of a future based heavily on technology that isn't a horrible place? This worries me. One of the best parts about science fiction is getting to dream about a future that's better than the present. Like that computer on the space ship in 2001, that thing was awesome! It had pretty good security too ... sort of.

So here is the question we should all think about. At what point do connected devices get bad enough people stop buying them? We're nowhere near that point today. Will we ever reach that point? Maybe people will just accept the fact that their dishwasher will send spam when it's not running and the toaster will record your kitchen conversations. I really want to live in a nice future, one where our biggest threat is an android that got taken over by a malevolent intelligence, not one where my biggest threat is my doorbell.

Do you know of any non dystopian predictions? Let me know: @joshbressers