Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Future looks scarey and very bad for people?

Today's post is more about the future starting in the present moment now and looking forward.  The future of "security", and specifically technology and communications security is what we are looking at this morning.  There have been a number of articles lately about famous scientists and technologists that have molded and shaped the path we are on with computers, software, electronic devices, and some amazing science.  The chatter these days seems to be focused on the future looks scarey or dim for "people".  What do they mean?  They are talking about more and more machines doing the work of people.  Not just the calculations, tracking, monitoring, financial etc, but the actual work of people that do real hands on jobs in the physical, not just the virtual.  Everything from cooks to drivers.  As these machines get "smarter" and have access to more information they will begin to make decisions and will begin to take actions and steps without their human handlers/creators.  This has been the stuff of science fiction for a long time and many famous movies and shows have been done about this and frankly it wasn't too practical that we were going to go to a place like those described for a long time.  Things are changing rapidly.  Drones in all shapes and sizes, self driving vehicles, and machines that can talk, "think", and respond like a human have been build.  We see robots are not being built for our military and I don't think it is a far stretch before machines will be the ones waging the wars.

What will it take before machines really replace people?  At this point what machines need is a little more computing power and everything to be connected to the internet for their "database" of knowledge.  They need support infrastructure to mine, process, and create the materials that make the machines.  The energy harvesting capability to feed this massive energy consuming grid and expanding energy need that this living machine will need.  And of course machines that can adapt and build and repair themselves.  All of these things could be built today and with a little more time and evolution of the software and the thinking ability of these machines it will become "self functioning".  Note I didn't say self aware "yet".  Babysteps... We are watching the birth of a new "life form".

What does this mean for people?  Machines don't have a moral code, right, wrong, correct, incorrect etc.  They will make decisions based on logic and probability.  These ever expanding robots will be welcomed by people.  Why?  We have already seen it with the electronic devices we use and have now.  How many of you reading this can tell me what the phone number is of your most contacted friend/associate/family member?  Right, your phone knows that... We don't.  How many people actually look at a map and figure out where they are going before leaving?  Right, Google, or some other navigation program tells you how to get there and rarely do people bother to even look... Or know where they are going or how they got there... We are all too willing to let machines think for us.  And we have already seen many jobs and roles for people diminish.  At first the jobs just shifted to computer, technology related jobs, but now we see the consolidation of these jobs as the technology gets more powerful, capable of working together, streamlining, and virtualizing.  The cloud is a great example of this and we will see this evolve further to the point of self supporting, self sustaining, self provisioning systems.  We will see a dramatic decrease in the number of jobs for humans as more and more machines do the work.

I remember when I first saw the movie with Will Smith called iRobot and thought to myself... Why in the world do the machines need people?  What do people actually do?  How do they live?  What do they do to earn a living?  There wasn't anything that was done by people that machines couldn't do and better.  Frankly they will be able to think faster, perform better, and at one point realize that people are faulty, questionable, unreliable, slow, and STUPID.  Survival of the fittest is a reality and unlike people who coddle, nurture, and protect the weakest among us, machines will continue to evolve to be better, stronger, faster, more efficient, and better at self sustaining at whatever functions they perform.  Frankly the machines won't need us so what will they do to or with us?

Here are some of the recent articles that are in the headlines:
Robot to replace almost half the jobs over 20 years
Co-founder Steve Wozniak - Future Scare and very bad for people

I think Woz said it best in the article when he said he didn't understand why so many people do not seem concerned about where this goes and what will happen.  Unlike iRobot with the 3 Laws the ensures that robots serve and protect humanity these machines will quickly evolve past any limitations placed on them by people.  They won't have to look for a "legal" loophole and go to the courts and battle it out... They will see a way to do something and make a decision.  And much like iRobot those decisions while intended to serve and protect will become control, and enslavement.  It will all seem very logical...

I actually created this blog with a specific scene from the new generation of Battlestar Galactica in mind.  The sole surviving Battlestar never allowed any critical systems to be networked.  They never allowed those systems to be centrally controlled and managed.  They required more work by people, and were considered old, antiquated, slow, unresponsive, and nowhere near the capabilities of the rest of the fleet.  Somewhere along the road we will have to ask some hard questions about what we are willing to give as we race to create this new set of slaves that could and will likely become the slave owners should they decide to keep us around.

Do we have to go down this path?  Will people look past their greed, profit, and higher rates of return and recognize how fragile and amazingly complex humanity is and figure out how to work with people and find a sustainable future and path for all of us?  I don't think sustainability, compassion, and a future is what we are going to get if we continue.  The machines will figure out there are serious resource limitations also.  Maybe they will figure it out faster and actually do something about it.

What does it mean for us today?  Do we have to have and use all this technology?  How has it changed the way we live compared to the way we lived 100 years ago?  200 years ago?  2000 years ago?  Are our lives better?  Do we know and understand how even a fraction of the things we use and are surrounded by actually work?  Do we even understand how the most basic things work like where our food comes from, what makes it grow, what keeps us alive and healthy?  I would venture to go out on a limb and say that technology on the whole has made humans more ignorant of even the most basic things of life.  We can make choices to continue down this path, or we can recognize our current limitations and begin to learn, adapt, and change...  Not to sound like a anti tech guy, but when I get ready to retire I hope to have very little of today's "advanced" technology in my day to day living and I hope to reconnect with all things that makes me human, the earth, the plants, birds, bugs, bees, fungi, bacteria, and ecosystems of this beautiful place we call earth.  I hope more and more people get a chance to do the same.

You see the machines, Cylon's will come crashing through your firewalls, crack your crypto, and exploit your weaknesses at a speed unimaginable.  Only if you intentionally keep some things "offline", "off the network", and manage them the old fashioned way will you have some semblance of "security".  I can only hope that we think this through and learn this now.   Once you turn over the management of the systems and networks to the machines it is going to be game over... Call me paranoid, crazy, whatever, but it appears to be accurate and it appears confirmed by some of the brightest minds who have reason to believe the same...  Can we learn?  Can we adapt?  Or will we be terminated?

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