A friend of mine just had a drug test. I used to get them in the Navy, years ago, but they were crude by comparison. In looking over the results, he was shocked at how many substances they could test for.
In contemplating this, I was struck by the recurring idea that our technical abilities far exceed our ability as a society to use them properly. As Don Henley says “Space Age machinery, Stone Age emotions.”
Shoshana Zuboff brilliantly makes the case that surveillance undermines our autonomy and democracy in “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.” Google, Facebook, and others have claimed our online experiences as the raw material they mine for their profit.
How long before you have a smart toilet to discover disease (and other things like who’s using drugs or is pregnant)? Who else will see the results? What might parents discover? Do you want the FBI to have a backdoor into your results? Even with a court order? Just a few of the trillions of privacy questions we’re no where close to knowing the answers to.
Fortunately, there’s lots of activity on this topic. The links in this week’s issue revolve around this idea. In Identity, we see technologies that support minimal disclosure and censorship resistance. In Internet and Society, stories about why Facebook (as an example) is too big to solve its own problems and the ongoing attack by the FBI and others on encryption. In Crypto, stories on Visa going deeper in support of cryptocurrencies, programmable money, and the subtleties of decisions in decentralized governance.