I started watching a really interesting show recently called Almost Human starring Karl Urban and Michael Ealy. The show is about how 30 years into the future, crime has progressed at such an accelerated rate that there are no longer enough police officers to monitor it. As a solution, they create android police officers instead that are capable of human emotion. They assign each human officer with an android officer and together they carry out their policing duties in the modern world. Because of this new advanced police system however, the crimes have become advanced as well. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill robbery or kidnapping…this is intellectual cyber crime only made possible in a world ruled by technology.
Recently, I saw an episode that made me think a lot about technological possibilities. In this world, the richest citizens have ‘SMART Homes’. These are homes with fully operating security systems complete with holographic windows, security cameras, temperature and air regulators, and security features that could save your life. For example, in case of a fire, the house begins to warn the inhabitants to exit, and upon exit seals the house shut and sucks out all the oxygen, thus killing the fire- great right? But what happens if this system is hacked? What if the SMART Home system calculates that there is a fire and the inhabitants have safely exited but cannot detect that they are still inside? It seals the house and sucks out the oxygen…the inhabitants then suffocate and die. This is exactly what happened to a wealthy citizen when their system was hacked by a vengeful criminal.
My point is…are we really so far away from something like this being a possibility? For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction: Newton’s third law of motion. How does Newton relate to this? Because every time a brilliant mind invents a new technology that can benefit the world, there will be an equally brilliant criminal waiting to subvert it and use it to the detriment of society. This show got me really interested in the future of crime and what it will look like. I did some research and came across a very interesting individual named Marc Goodman on TED talks who had a lot to say on the topic. He brought up several compelling arguments that closely resemble the potential plotline of an Almost Human episode. There is no stopping the acceleration of technological growth…therefore it is up to all of us to stay one step ahead.
All the Possibilities…
Currently working as a consultant and author focused on the effect of disruptive advances of technology on security, Marc Goodman worked in the cybercrime units of Interpol, the United Nations, NATO, LAPD and the U.S Government as an officer, undercover investigator and a counter-terrorism strategist in over 70 countries. In this TED talk, Marc talks about why he is worried about where crime is heading. Technology that a criminal could use was once limited to a pager or (non smart) cell phone. Now criminals have started building their own mobile phone networks and operations centres. They track targets through a quick Google search which can reveal everything about a person and monitor their effects on live social media.
Given the new circumstances, there has been a shift in crime which allows criminals to commit more of it and more often. From robbing a person, to robbing a hundred people on a train, to robbing 100 million people’s online accounts, the internet has allowed greater access to a greater amount of people to be exploited. The more connected we are, the more vulnerable we are. Not only that, new technology is creating new avenues for criminal activity.
Goodman’s website FutureCrimes.com is dedicated to discussing the effects of the scientific and technological progress of crime and the criminal justice system. The goal of the group is not to focus on the current trends of cybercrime, but to look beyond today’s crime to anticipate the next wave of criminal activity including robotic, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and biotechnology related crimes.
3D Printers gone wild
The world watched in shock and awe as scientists began using 3D printer technology to create functioning human organs. Since it began, there has been a wave of articles featuring how scientists and researchers at Harvard, Princeton, The University of Sydney and others have used the 3D printer to create a beating heart, a functioning ear and how the first 3D printed liver is expected in 2014. Along with the bio printing are all the fun experiments such as the first 3D printed Lego house and the first 3D printed bicycle. It is overall evident that the 3D printer has become revolutionary and the world has yet to see its fullest potential.
However it doesn’t take very long for this technology to be manipulated by a criminal. As Marc Goodman woefully brings up in his talk, you can also use a 3D printer to make a gun. During a raid in Manchester, officers discover several components of a firearm including the trigger mechanism and magazine alongside a high end 3D printer. In essence, there is a new underground black market in the works which allows criminals to create their own weapons in the comfort of their own home. The weapons are functional and made of plastic allowing them to avoid x-ray detection and making it easier to smuggle. Not only that, the cost of 3D printers has also drastically reduced and can now be sold for a thousand dollars or less.
This opens up a whole new world of possibilities as journalist and Director of Research for the Flow Genome Project Steven Kotler discusses how 3D printing will revolutionize crime. He states that the website Have Blue reported that a blogger printed a .22 pistol and fired 200 rounds to prove that it worked. Also a chemist at Glasgow University also used a 3D printer to make a universal chemistry set. The idea was to use it to make prescription medication at home after downloading a recipe…but what’s stopping someone from making some homemade meth or ecstasy? What happens when these illicit trades harness the full power of technology?
The bionic hack attack…will you see it coming?
Marc Goodman talks about how now a defibrillator can be connected wirelessly to the internet in order for a medical profession to give a shock to a patient in need. However if the patient is not in need and receives a shock…this is a problem. Barnaby Jack of IOActive, a security vendor known for analyzing medical equipment, showed in a demonstration how an 830 volt shock could be administered through a pacemaker due to poor programming of wireless transmitters used to instruct these implanted parts. Another issue with the devices is that they also contain personal data about patients such as name and personal doctor.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a non-partisan agency that works for U.S Congress, suggests that the FDA who approved these devices really dropped the ball when it comes to security. They recommended that the FDA make security risks a mandate in the approval process.
What happens now?
According to Goodman, there might be a way to thwart these criminals. We live is such an open world that criminals can use all our information against us…but what if we again use this principle against them by opening up security to the public? Currently there is a project where Mexican citizens are crowd mapping the activities of local drug cartels in an attempt to convict them at great risk to their own safety. The OCCRP (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) currently runs a similar operation where they monitor what dictators and terrorist are doing with public funds around the world.
Aside from this, there are also new waves of policing technology being brought to the justice system to contribute to the anticipation of techno- threats. Various police forces are in the process of testing Google Glass, wearable cameras and tracking devices for front line police officers. One of the major implementations of the future are body cameras that officers will wear that will include facial recognition programs and can monitor regular offenders (Robocop anyone?).
The Santa Cruz Police Department in California is also developing a police precognition program to predict crime…and yes it was inspired by The Minority Report. Using crime analysts and an algorithm based on anthropology and criminology, police can predict potential crimes using the same “aftershock” theory of an earthquake and applying it to crime (“aftercrime”) within 500 square feet of the original crime. The FBI states that the program “puts law enforcement in the right place at the right time”. Other departments that are experimenting with the program include, Washington, South Carolina, Arizona, Tennessee, and Illinois.
The future of crime is upon us and as Marc Goodman puts it, “We are at the dawn of a technological arms race”, therefore it is up to all of us to stay one step ahead.
In the digital age the most concerning thing is how easily accessible information is. At any given moment everything about our private life can be manipulated and used against us if perceived as some kind of threat. We claim the right to knowledge, freedom of speech, self expression, and justice and yet it seems that these common rights can be twisted and even blatantly taken away when it comes to the internet.
Even in North America where we get to choose our leaders and our lifestyles, the government still has access to all of our information and the ‘land of the free’ seems to be not so free after all.
In fact we are more shackled than ever. You can’t post a video on a website without being blocked for copyright infringement, you can’t have a conversation over the phone without it being potentially recorded by your own mobile device, and you can’t share something on social media that isn’t documented and subsequently becomes property of the social media site. So who do we turn to in this day and age? This is where the digital vigilantes come in, or better yet “hacktivists”.
The Origins of Hacktivism
Hacktivism is a term that dates back to 1996 and was first used by the hacker group The Cult of the Dead Cow. The merging of the words activism and hacker became a natural reference to those who performed computer hacking but with a political agenda for institutions such as governments, copyright protection agencies, and large corporations. Typical Hacktivist attacks include:
- DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service): where large government or corporate websites are littered with page requests until the site crashes
- Exposing highly classified information for the betterment of society
- Using the internet as a means to form protests or rallies
Perhaps the most well known Hacktivist group that has made a name for themselves over the past few years is Anonymous. Anonymous began on the message boards of the interactive website 4chan around 2003. Unofficially they were an online collective with no leader, membership or initiation. What started off being a series of highly organized pranks against extremist organizations like The Church of Scientology or The Westboro Baptist Church, eventually became public support towards social movements like WikiLeaks, Occupy Wall Street, whistleblowing cases like that of Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning as well as local cases that were believed to be unjust.
Snowden and Secrecy
One of the most controversial whistleblowing cases is that of Edward Snowden. While employed at the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), Snowden leaked several classified documents to news outlets like The Guardian and The Washington Post detailing surveillance programs by the NSA (National Security Agency) on the general public as well as the collection of U.S and European telephone data.
A hero and whistleblower to many, Snowden was also labeled a traitor and was subsequently charged with theft of government property and espionage. After flying to Hong Kong to give a final interview and release the NSA documents, Snowden claimed “I don’t want to live in a world that does these sorts of things”. Following the controversy and after fleeing to Moscow, Snowden continued to receive anonymous death threats from the Pentagon and NSA.
Manning Comes Clean
A fellow whistleblower who also made headlines is Bradley Manning- an ex U.S Military soldier and intelligence analyst who released over 700,000 military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. Manning stated that he revealed the documents out of “love for his country and concern for the world”. He also stated that the U.S military needed to accept responsibility for the damage they caused to innocent civilians and that he would “gladly pay the price” in order for society to be free.
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison with the eligibility of parole in less than 9 years. Many believe that he should be celebrated and rewarded and yet he has been imprisoned. According to Nathan Fuller a member of Bradley Manning’s support network, the sentence sends a message to future whistleblowers that if they disclose government secrets, they will also face the wrath of the U.S government.
Anonymous shows their support…and is targeted for it?
Following the coverage of Snowden and Manning, Anonymous released videos showing their support. In a video called “Operation Support Edward Snowden”, Anonymous makes several valid points regarding privacy and the violation of citizens by the NSA. How would we feel if someone broke into our house at night and stole personal information? It is the same offence in a digital sense, the only difference is that we were unaware of it until people like Snowden and Manning brought these issues to light.
Due to the threats against the U.S government, PayPal, Visa and MasterCard cut off donations to WikiLeaks which led to Anonymous’ “Operation Payback” where they launched cyber attacks against the websites for the persecution of Bradley Manning leading to temporary shutdowns. Incidentally, the documents leaked by Snowden revealed that Anonymous was the target of a cyber attack by British spies as retaliation for the attacks on PayPal, Visa and MasterCard.
Source: Anonymous Facebook page
Fighting Rape Culture
Anonymous continued to make headlines with their involvement in the Steubenville and Maryville rape cases. In Steubenville, Ohio, a high school girl was allegedly raped by 3 or 4 athletes from a high school football team. Two of the boys were arrested but several others were involved in the crime. These members were formerly unknown until a hacker from Anonymous was able to uncover and leak a video that was taken on the night of the crime which features several boys discussing the act callously and even joking about it. The most disheartening aspect of the case however was the level of sympathy garnered by the criminals as opposed to the victim where the football coach refused to bench the athletes. Anonymous continued to leak information on a potential cover-up where judges and prosecutors are closely tied to the town’s football culture. The town itself was quite divided over the case with several even blaming the victims.
A similar case happened to Daisy Coleman from Maryville, Missouri who was raped by a high school football player at a party. In the town square, hundreds gathered in a rally launched by Anonymous as well as a Facebook support group to call for justice. Most of the work that has been done regarding these cases has been to fighting rape culture– a culture where violence is so common that “people aren’t taught not to rape, they are taught not be raped”. The cultural phenomenon has garnered so much attention particularly because of the viral component in most of these cases.
We are Legion
As far as the potential of Anonymous, it is limitless. They have indeed proven that they are powerful and have a cause, and they can be anyone at anytime. They fight for free speech; they right to share knowledge and the blatant injustice that occurs in everyday society. Many people see them as disruptive and undermining the law. But in this day and age, maybe we need people who are willing to take the hit for the people who are unable to make their voices heard. Maybe it’s time we take the right to privacy and fair treatment into our own hands.
Perhaps the digital robin hoods are on the verge of true freedom after all.
Artificial Intelligence…closer than we think?
My favourite movie of all time is The Matrix. I remember seeing it for the first time when I was about 8 years old, and having no idea what the hell was going on. But one thing I did know was that I loved it. I didn’t understand why but I knew that this was something I would remember for the rest of my life, and it would still have meaning years later.
For those who for some bizarre reason have not seen this cinematic masterpiece, it is ultimately the tale of a computer hacker who has always felt like something was off with the world. Through a strange series of events, he is led to a man named Morpheus- the person who will provide him with the truth. What truth? That the world we live is not real. It is a seamless computer program created by machines that has been activated in your mind. Humans essentially became slaves to the machines once they gave birth to Artificial Intelligence. There was a war and the humans lost and ultimately we became numb to reality, drifting through a virtual world called The Matrix. Along the way many questions about reality, philosophy, human nature and technology are raised.
The Matrix was not the first film to depict the downfall of the human race due to technology and it certainly won’t be the last. Call me crazy, but I happen to me one of the many weary citizens who think that we may go too far at some point. But exactly how close to that point are we?
Man Vs Machine
The year was 1997, and here was the battle that many dubbed “the brain’s last stand” (Pink, 2006). Since winning his world chess championship in 1985, Gary Kasparov remained undefeated for the next decade, and in this time, many researchers began building computer programs that could play chess (Pink, 2006). In 1996, Kasparov then beat the most powerful computer that was currently available (Pink, 2006). Finally the following year, Kasparov had met his match in a 1.4-tonne super computer named ‘Deep Blue’ (Pink, 2006). Unable to settle, Kasparov set up a rematch against another more potent computer named ‘Deep Junior’ in 2003 and after six matches, he settled for a draw (Pink, 2006). When Kasparov lost his second match with ‘Deep Junior’, he lost his confidence and started to hesitate, and the realization that the unfeeling machine would never second-guess itself or get tired was what plagued him for the rest of the matches (Pink, 2006). This monumental moment had a distinct realization that maybe we can be outsmarted by a machine. Maybe we can build machines that can outsmart anyone. And maybe we are too smart for our own good.
This concept of technological intelligence that may surpass humans was deemed “The Singularity” in the 1993 paper by scientist and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge (The New York Times, 2009). He posited that rapid change in technology would lead to a new era comparable to the rise of humans (The New York Times, 2009).
The idea that machines can become self aware would need further advances in technology, however several automated machines currently exist that can read and understand instruction, learn techniques and answer questions. The Google Self-driving car is one example, along with personal assistants like the iPhone’s Siri. Ten years ago YouTube did not exist. Today it can bring you current events while they are still happening and certainly before they end up on the news. Twitter and Facebook can bring down a nation’s government regime and social media has exploded to the point that we literally depend on it. In other words, internet communication has advanced exponentially…so who’s to say that the next 10 years won’t give rise to another technological growth spurt?
Here’s another example. A Canadian inventor named Le Trung spent $24,000 on an anatomically correct, life-sized female robot named Aiko seen in this photo (Newsline, 2013). Apparently she can read newspapers and maps, recognize a face and even clean your ears (Newsline, 2013). Thank God because we really need our ears cleaned.
Although Aiko is again a step closer, she still lacks a certain something- human intuition (Newsline, 2013). As long as she doesn’t have that, we still remain smarter…although it seems like we are doing everything we can to make inanimate objects as smart as us.
The human brain has about 10 to 100 billion neurons, about 70,000 thoughts a day and can register and read emotions (Newsline, 2013). So how is it possible for a machine to ever reach this capacity? Scientists at the Blue Brain Project in Switzerland are on a mission to discover this as they attempt to recreate the human brain neuron by neuron virtually in a super-computer (Newsline, 2013). Crazy right? We are still in the process, but many people believe that not only will we one day create intelligence equal to our own, but we will create intelligence that exceeds our own…and who’s fault is that really?
For your consideration…
Here’s a video by Newsline in Austrialia:
And just for fun…here is my favourite scene from The Matrix 🙂 Enjoy!
1. Markoff, J. (2009). The Coming Superbrain. The New York Times.
2. Pink, D.H. (2006). A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. New York, NY: The Penguin Group Inc.
3. West, K. (2013). True Artificial Intelligence not so far away. Newsline.
What a whirlwind it’s been! I have to say that this course has been one of the most intriguing and engaging courses I have ever taken (seriously, I’m not trying to score points here). I would have to say that beyond the interesting classes which often consisted of playing with Lego, the most important parts were the occasional blog posts where we had to self reflect. Being introspective about myself and focusing on answering specific questions that were asked made me really think about who I am and what I want. After all not everyone can start a successful business. The biggest takeaway that I received was what I learned about myself which is that that I do have an entrepreneurial mindset; however I’m not going to be an entrepreneur. I believe in doing something you care about that gives you joy and is your passion. I believe in starting something from scratch and building it piece by piece (whether it is your business or your skills), and I believe that I can make a difference in some way, even if it is simply empathizing with someone else’s pain. I don’t however want to start a business because that’s not what I care about the most. I want to use my creative skills instead to make some kind of impact and make people feel more connected to each other.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense, but I’m just writing what I feel. I have truly valued this experience and would like to thank M.J D’Elia for understanding what it’s like to be our age and how we learn best. Often the best way to learn is to actually to do something and get your hands a little dirty. This is my last semester and I will miss Guelph, but I don’t think I will realize how much until I am actually gone.
Good luck to all our future entrepreneurs- you are all brilliant, and I hope I read about you in the news some day! 😀
One memorable failure that I have experienced (which is relatively small in the grand scheme of things) is something that I discussed in my Self Understanding Activity at the beginning of the semester. Before I completed the goal of getting my Google Analytics certification during my co-op term at Softchoice Corporation, I failed the test the first time. The test required and 80% passing grade and cost $50.00 to take which was paid for by the company. So it’s safe to say that when I failed, I panicked. I had just wasted $50.00 from my boss’s own pocket (he gave me his credit card info to buy the test) after an entire month of studying. The next day he asked me how it went and I told him I hadn’t taken the test yet. He seemed very disappointed and said that I needed to “get on that”. I went home in a flush and after talking to my sister, the only sensible conclusion was to be honest with him and retake the test, this time paying for it myself. So the next day I braced myself and asked to speak to him. We sat in a conference room with my heart pounding, and told him that I had failed but was planning to redo the test and pay for it. What he said afterwards is a lesson I will carry with me for the rest of my life. First of all, he wasn’t angry at all, but was wondering why I was so worried about telling him. Then he said something along the lines of “…shit happens, but no matter what, don’t be afraid of failure”. I retook the test and passed and was never prouder. This experience taught me a lot about persistence, and the idea that we all need to fail a little sometimes, to appreciate what we are capable of 🙂
The feedback that we received for our practice pitch was very helpful. Our assessment by QuickTrip pointed out some concerns that our group had discussed as well including the large amount of competition with other food-related apps. Their biggest concern for us to consider was the usability since this is solely a mobile app and they believed that consumers might prefer to use their laptops instead. Although this may be true, our group felt that instead of taking your laptop into the kitchen where you will be cooking anyway, they would much prefer taking their phones into the kitchen and would be in fact much more convenient for them. The main feedback we received was to clarify certain questions that consumers might have within the pitch itself which we will definitely take into consideration.
Our feedback from MoBo was very similar in terms of what they understood about the app and their clarity concerns. Their biggest critique was that the app would not survive if we tried to find recipes that use all the ingredients inputted to create one dish. This however was not our intention and was not clear enough in out pitch. The app is designed to optimize and will use the best combination of (potentially all) ingredients to find a recipe. They also did not understand our premium model and this is something we will further work to clarify.
Overall things we need to work in include our clarity in defining revenue streams and the functionality of the app.