The Future Just Isn’t What It Used to Be

Predicting the Future

I view much, probably most, of the conversation/predictions about what the future holds with a generous amount of skepticism. But some predictions hold a believable level of certainty and, frankly, are worrisome to me.

Google's self-driving carSelf-Driving Cars, for Example

I believe that self-driving cars are in our not-too-distant future. And this frightens more than comforts me. For example, if an unavoidable accident scenario would cause fewer people to die if the software, driving my car, killed me, would I have already agreed to my death, without really understanding that fact, by accepting the “terms of service” when I bought my vehicle? Could the government demand self-driving auto manufacturers allow the government access to the software’s “backdoor” without our ever knowing it the way they have attempted to do with our cell phones? Could the government weaponize our car against us or someone else without our knowledge? In other words, having an accident is no longer the misjudgement of individuals but could easily be the calculations of titanic corporations and governments of whom people are merely pawns.

MtDNA Haplogroup: T2b (Likely ancestry 25% European)  SRY Gene: absent Gender: Female rs12913832: AA Likely Eye Color: Brown rs4648379: CT  Slightly larger nose size rs6548238: TT  Slightly lower odds for obesity
Sample #4
MtDNA Haplogroup: T2b (Likely ancestry 25% European)
SRY Gene: absent
Gender: Female
rs12913832: AA
Likely Eye Color: Brown
rs4648379: CT
Slightly larger nose size
rs6548238: TT
Slightly lower odds for obesity

Surveillance on Steroids

If pervasive surveillance doesn’t bother you now, with all of the cameras on every corner and now in our homes on our computers, tablets, and TVs, and in our pockets on our phones and in your car’s GPS1, let’s talk about DNA surveillance.

You realize that you have been leaving tiny pieces of yourself everywhere you have gone, right? Skin cells fall from our bodies at a rate that would be deafening if we heard them all hitting the floors. Hairs drop from our bodies every day. We have no idea where, just every where we go.

Heather Dewey-Hagborg, an artist in NYC, collects discarded DNA (from cigarette butts, chewed gum, hairs, etc.) that she finds in public places all over that city. She then analyzes that DNA and creates portrait sculptures based on that analysis. These are then 3D printed for her Stranger Visions exhibit. She wishes to call attention to how our society will find genetic determinism and biological surveillance irresistible.

Designed as an exploratory project based on emerging science, the forecast of Stranger Visions has proved prescient. For an example of DNA phenotyping at work in forensics check out the companies Parabon NanoLabs and Identitas and read about their collaboration with the Toronto police. Also see Mark Shriver’s research at Penn State on predicting faces from DNA.”

Source: Artists Recreates Strangers’ Faces From Discarded DNA On NYC’s Streets by Jacob Sloan

Stranger Visions 2012-13 from biogenfutures on Vimeo.

Does this concern anyone besides me?

My Back Is Killing Me

We recently and unexpectedly sold a property in Atlanta. A buyer appeared out of nowhere. We had to move all of that furniture. In the process, we replaced our older mattress with the much newer one from the condo we sold.

After the move, my back started killing me. I assumed I had pulled it the wrong way while moving furniture around the house. Then it occurs to me: no, it’s this new mattress. My body seemed to be having an allergic reaction to it—much too soft. So, we bought a new mattress, a Sleep Number with SleepIQ. I can make my side of the bed as soft or as firm as I need it to be.

The mattress arrived yesterday. The new bed connects to the web and can therefore be controlled by smartphones or tablets. It monitors my sleep, tracking the number of hours I sleep soundly, restlessly, and am out of bed. It graphs this information throughout the night; so, you can try to figure out when and why you are sleeping less well, including adjusting the firmness of the mattress.

The bed reports my average breaths per minute as well as my average heartbeat. I can even watch it in real time. It’s astonishingly accurate and actually works in real time—actually showing that breath you’re taking as you take it. Amazing.

But who all has access to my data?! Stop and think for a second, this data can get really personal in a “heartbeat!”

Sleep Number from SleepIQ

Another Election Cycle Is Rapidly Approaching

By now, many of you have come to the very, very unpleasant realization that Facebook is tracking everything you do online. Based on what you do, they tailor your online experience to make as much money as possible from their advertisers.

On TV, when we see an advertisement, a commercial, we pretty much know someone is trying to influence us to do something they want us to do. But on Facebook, that’s simply not the case.

I actually hate election cycles. I want to go into hibernation during them.I hate the political advertisements. But, on TV, I know when I’m watching one. On Facebook we don’t.

A party, a candidate, can pay for Facebook to use all of that information they have collected about you to craft the perfect ads in your timeline. But they don’t look like ads. These crafty little ads appear to be recommendations from your friends, who, because Facebook knows a lot about them, would probably like anyway—if they knew about them.

It’s not just the commercial transactions of buying and selling, it’s persuading you to vote the way candidates pay money for you to vote. And coercion goes way beyond what they share with you. It includes what they keep from you as well. Candidate X supports banning abortion and supports marriage equality. You have a strong detestation for abortion and marriage equality. Guess what Facebook will make sure you may never know about Candidate X unless Candidate Y pays a little bit more…

This level of coercion, in my humble opinion, can rapidly become unethical. All political ads, even in Facebook timelines, should be clearly labeled as such. But, they won’t be. And, this practice will only get worse and more sophisticated.

Once Upon a Time…

Binary-Me-GifAbout 15 years ago, I was asked to give a presentation at a local university on any topic related to technology about which I chose to speak. The title of my presentation was “How Much Data Does It Take to Replace You?”

And that’s exactly what the presentation was about: how much information is needed about you to replace your free will with the will of someone else who will, in some way, profit/benefit from controlling you?

It might still sound a little bit crazy and way out there, but I think we are, more quickly than we realize, approaching that level of mass population control. I’m not so sure this is some grand, diabolical plot, some conspiracy theory. Rather, I think that our inability to have meaningful conversations about these topics of ethics and technology allows the marketplace to create a future in which I for one would not want to live.

I think that once the cat is out of the bag, you never get the cat back in the bag without tearing it to shreds. We have torn privacy to shreds to our great detriment.

  1. and I use the word “now” because I think it will eventually become a huge issue for everyone