HP has wheeled out a futurologist to tell everyone we're going to need a lot more enterprise-class storage, printer ink and and branded glossy photo paper in the year 2057. As well as fattening photo albums, ubiquitous monitoring devices could be a threat to liberty, according to a groundbreaking speech by Martin Sadler, …
So the smart toilet leaked eh? Good to know future plumbing standards are set to remain at present levels.
More of everything, but hold the glossy
More storage, well duh, that one's a no-brainer for sure. More ink, well gosh, I wouldn't be too surprised by that, but the number of managers that have their secretaries print out their mail IS on the way down, I believe.
But more glossy pics ? When we are getting photo-sized LCD panels for less than €50 a pop that have all manners of smart card readers in them ? More glossy pics when even my father-in-law is going to buy a digital cam and already has a DVD player ?
I know that it's a shame for all those people in the glossy paper industry to lose their jobs, but digital is the way forward and that's it. Today the picture taken at the fair an hour ago can already be shown in all its glory on a TV screen, sent across the world and back and plastered all over God knows how many Web sites, and this guy wants me to believe that, in forty years from now, Government surveillance is going to guarantee glossy paper jobs ?
No chance. Government spooks are going to want digitized photo banks they can search through, not laborious paper bibles to endlessly turn pages in. Hey, I looked at my marriage album twice in my life, do you really think a spook will want to go check out stupid people pics BY HAND all day long ? No way.
My prediction on this is that, in 2057, cops will have their mug shot album on digital paper, one page per criminal category and wireless secure (ahem) access to the database.
Glossy paper ? Going the way of the dodo, man. And fast.
My toilet must be dumb... It's full of sh-t.
Next thing you know, our flying cars will (via the free municipal WiFi over cities such as Chicago and San Francisco) tell our bosses or spouses when we're late because we've stopped off for a cheeseburger on the way.
Tin foil pants anyone?
Personally I'm still reeling from the fact that I'm not living in space eating pills instead of food and wearing tin foil. Damned sixties propaganda. The closest I ever came was a microwave and that's broken
I like the toilet idea
Can we make it speak? So when my female boss drops by I can rig a tape deck to tell her she's pregnant if she asks to use the loo?
My worst fears confirmed - brother of none other than John "US Ambassador to Honduras during the worst of the vicious Reganite terrorist wars against the benighted people of Nicaragua" Negroponte.
The phrase "bad pennies" comes to mind, but doesn't seem vehement enough.
It's not the surveillance, it's the software
It's not so much the massive surveillance that scares me so much as the complex expert-system software that is being, and will be, developed to parse all of that information throughput. For the moment, while I am aware that every step I take outside my own house is recorded on at least one camera somewhere, with all of the millions of cameras taking footage, I am also aware that the likelihood of a person viewing any particular segment of it becomes vanishingly small. Only if a crime is committed in an given area at a given time is any given set of footage likely to be analysed, and then if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time you could be pulled in for it.
No, what really scares me is the idea that ALL footage will be analysed continuously by increasingly intelligent software designed to recognise faces and behaviours and to report on anything the software is told to look for. Then you really ARE being continously watched.
I was thinking about this actually a few days ago, while having lunch in a shopping mall. I noticed the dozens of cameras covering just my small area, and I thought about what I've just said above - what was the likelihood of the mall security watching any one camera at any instant, or of reviewing its recorded footage later? Then I noticed a woman wearing a rather short and low-cut dress that walked past me; she was rather nicely built, and naturally, being male, I had a good look (or perv, as the man-haters would put it). Being also a software developer, this put me onto an idea; one which the feminist man-haters and paedophile witch-hunters in our society would love:
Suppose software could be written that analysed footage from these cameras, such that it could identify male and female, adult and child. Suppose this software could then scan eye movements to compute "look-at boxes" (as used in The Sims 2 - there is a game setting that displays a green box on any object a Sim is "looking at") for each person. Said software then analyses where each man is looking, and flags those who look at schoolgirls, or women's breasts and legs, as potential child molesters and rapists. The same type of software could also be used to identify (or misidentify) potential terrorists by flagging people who spend a lot of time looking at the architecture, studying pillars and support beams, supposedly for determining the best placement for a bomb...
While this of course is purely hypothetical, it IS the direction that this kind of software development is taking. I myself would refuse to develop such software on principle; but there are plenty of programmers who would, if only for the challenge. Even I could map out the basic algorithms in my head, based on current facial-recognition and eye-mapping software, that would enable a system to do this. Granted, you'd need some mighty hardware to be able to process thousands of people at once, but with hardware development proceeding as it is, that's not too far off. Or you could use distributed computing. Suppose you launch some human-interest project like a "help spot child molesters/terrorists" website, where people download a distributed-computing program to use their spare CPU cycles parsing camera footage flagging people who look at the wrong things in public? You could even justify such a project. Think of the children! If it saves even one innocent life, it's worth it!
THIS, everyone, is what will make it possible to monitor all footage and track everyone at all times. It may or may not specifically include the "look-at" spotting software I described above, but software can be written to analyse all sorts of behaviour patterns. The possibilites are endless, and it's something even George Orwell could not possibly have imagined. The greatest danger in all this is the dreaded "false positive", where a person flagged as a potential sex offender or terrorist ends up on the SO register or even in the Gitmo Gulag, simply because they walk a certain way. Or looked at something in a shopping mall.
Don't laugh. This IS where we're going, make no mistake about it.
We're already halfway there...
A company we nearly partnered with earlier this year already has something worryingly close to this:
They have been bought by IBM.
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