Confluence, part 2

This morning I gave a talk about the future. It was one of my sunny optimistic talks, focusing on the possibilities, the excitement, the wonder of what we might all be able to do as advancing technology permits. In fact, it was much like this talk that I gave a few months back.

But then during the Q&A somebody asked me about the larger implications for society. I said that until three days ago I had been very optimistic, but that my views had darkened considerably this past Tuesday.

As I indicated in yesterday’s post, two things happened on that day. One of them I wrote about the other day: The Republican majority in Congress passed a law that allows Telecoms to gather and sell your digital data. The rather odd argument used to justify this vote was that Google and Facebook already do this.

But of course that is a false parallel. You can live your digital life just fine without Google or Facebook, but in most parts of this country you must use a Telecom even to connect to the internet.

The other thing that happened this past Tuesday was that Elon Musk publicly announced Neurolink — a company which proposes to develop neural implants that will allow people to directly connect their brains to the world. The goal, as I understand it, is that everything which now requires you to perform a physical action, from shopping to hailing a cab to turning on lights and opening doors, will eventually be a mere thought away.

If you put these two events together, we are now on a direct path to an interesting world: The very thoughts you think will soon create a digital footprint, and will therefore become part of Telecom traffic.

So the Telecom which carries your thoughts — a Telecom that you are most likely stuck with — will be legally entitled to listen in on those thoughts, store them as its property, look for patterns in them, and sell them or otherwise exploit them for commercial gain.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Soon everybody will.

3 Responses to “Confluence, part 2”

  1. MW says:

    Yes, to everything you say. But you are being too rosy and optimistic. The lesson of the Telecom law was that we can count on government to destroy any privacy right if it makes money for large corporations. Of course some of this knew this already but the point is, we *might* be able to conceive of ways that we could have privacy or mitigate whatever issues may exist with Neurolink and telecoms, or whatever new concern there may be, but the reality is that we can be sure our government will always side with the large corporation and do the wrong thing.

  2. Stephan Ahonen says:

    Unsettlingly well-targeted advertising

  3. sally says:

    It’s also strange because Elon Musk (one of the more dangerous humans we have at the moment) keeps hand wringing about how afraid he is of AI, whilst simultaneously funding _that_.

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