An abundant future is a theme we hear a lot about these days. However, it’s usually described under the context of eliminating poverty, providing resources, and generally just making the world a better place. Indeed, there is much validity to these sentiments. Our technology gives us the power to make tomorrow better than today; but with this power comes great responsibility. If abundance truly is impending, we must be prepared for the negative externalities that will arise with the new world order. More than just worrying about spam mail in your inbox or spending too much time on Facebook, there are serious threats on the horizon that we collectively fail to properly acknowledge. It’s important to remember that technology is a double-edged sword. This has always been the case – the same fire that cooked our food also burned down the village. And as technology continues to become more powerful and ubiquitous in our lives, it is essential we understand all of the potential ramifications.
The Policy, Law and Ethics Track Chair at Singularity University, Marc Goodman recently spoke at TED Global about his unique perspective on our future and why it keeps him up at night. He opened his talk matter-of-factly: “I study the future of crime and terrorism. And quite frankly I’m afraid.” Although Goodman is currently immersed in a world of techno-optimists at SU, his career started off as a law enforcer on the local, national, and international level. He’s had a front row seat watching the world’s criminals adopt the latest technology to benefit their personal agenda. It started with pagers and mobile phones, but lately he sees criminals utilizing the transparency and reach of the web, and anything else they can get their hands.
From his perspective, Goodman perceives abundance not just in the way Peter Diamandis describes it, but also an abundance of ways criminals can severely damage the well being of society. He explains, “There is no operating system that can’t be hacked,” and as everything moves into the digital realm, we are serving the criminals a free lunch. With a few lines of code the world is at a hacker’s fingertips. Stolen passwords and government-led operations like Stuxnet are just the tip of the iceberg. Goodman points to the emergence of new technologies like 3D Printers and synthetic biology as just another way for criminals to do harm.
Adding to the predicament is our lack of defense for this sort of technological-based crime. Governments and police forces are limited to their specific domain and geography, while hackers know no boundaries. It is a global problem we have on our hands and it needs a global solution. Goodman implores for all of us to get involved. He explains, ”The tools to change the world are in everybody’s hands, and how we use them is not just up to me. It’s up to all of us.” As we accelerate forward in all of these dimensions, we need a system that is not reactive but one that is proactive and preventative. Goodman proposes the creation of some type of open-sourced platform that encourages collective participation from citizens around the world. By creating a bottom-up defense system we can go toe-to-toe with the criminals, and feel safer knowing that we have more people on the good side than the bad.
But I’m not the expert – and that’s why I caught up with Keren Elazari, a globally esteemed Cyber Security & Hacking expert and Teaching Fellow at Singularity University. Keren reigns from Tel Aviv, Israel and has been developing some innovative methods and tools for detecting advanced cyber threats. We spoke about the state of cybercrime today and what we can expect moving forward…
Photos: James Duncan Davidson