Friday, December 28, 2012

How savvy and sceptical we have become

There was quite another article on the ABC (Australia) website lately on the emerging technology of drones or UAVs as they are also called. These along with the google car might have been the hyped technology of 2012.

The article itself is a bit over-cooked. Here is a taste...

Today's hobbyist's plaything is tomorrow's gadget for the rest of us. As the cost of a drone drops below a hundred dollars, we'll see them used everywhere. Their mounted cameras will give us eyes in places we can't reach easily ourselves, and will find countless industrial uses. We may not have personal jetpacks, but we will be able fly with our eyes.

Suddenly we can see everything, everywhere. We are stumbling into the Age of Omniscience almost accidentally, and before we know it there will be no place, high or low, where we can not be seen.
This will vex celebrities first - think of the helicopters that hover over every important event; now imagine them as quadcopters, in their hundreds and thousands. Within the next year, a jealous husband will be able to hire a private detective to track his wife by drone, and be able to witness her comings and goings for himself.

Creepy men will stalk their ex-girlfriends by drone, leading to an expansive application of restraining orders to cover 'personal airspace'. The right not to be seen will be debated in the courts, the public sphere, and on the floor of Parliament. It will all come to nothing, overwhelmed by an emerging army of cheap drones.

But what caught my attention is the comments, as always a combination of the shallow, the fearful and the insightful. Not so very long ago the patterns of technology - the early hype, the slow delivery, the reduced expectations of the emerging products and the unintended consequences were not topics widely discussed and poorly understood.

Now we know that almost anything made for good or ill can be reconfigured to serve the other purpose. What's more the general public knows it.

But the question is - as we have have improved the awareness of technology's 'issues' in the general public - there is much more scepticism than there used to be, BUT how do we now  use that to 1. raise the profile of the moral issues around technology and 2. actually force this debate back into the sphere of the makers to get better thinking through of technologies as they are created.

The tired well worn pattern of comments like those below are both seeds of hope and the fruit that can feed despondency and anomie. We need to raise the horizon of the vision somehow. Technology is our creation and we are responsible for it - not someone else we are all responsible.

  • Yes. This is the scary part!
    Now, ANYBODY can have one.

    28 Dec 2012 1:52:59pm
    Sorry to be practical and disrupt the techno-wow ... with a sky full of drones how will crashes be avoided? For the current 'planes we limit the skies and control what kind of 'planes can fly. I imagine we'll do the same for drones. That will mean regulation and that regulation will undoubtedly limit the kinds of uses you can make of drones in much the same way we limit the kinds of uses and places you take your terrestrial vehicle - you can't yet get a private license to drive your tank down the local street, deliver a pizza and fire off a few shells!
    • 28 Dec 2012 1:47:57pm
      The implications of what you are writing about are well explored in an Arthur C. Clarke book I am reading at the moment, 'The Light of Other Days'. It is about the invention of the 'WormCam', a wormhole technology that allows constant surveillance, even across time. Personally, I find the book to be milking its theme, the ramifications of a technological breakthrough, perhaps a little too much, but it is still an interesting read. Did you read it yourself

    • 28 Dec 2012 1:28:17pm
      So how long before we start getting these things dropping bombs or balloons of acid or something nasty in suburban Aussie streets? The one that eventually does it in Australia will be easily tracked and have a traceable serial number wont it? I mean it's little more than a toy with weapons capability, I'm positive after any terrible event we all will know exactly where the pilot was located, why they did it and when the next one will happen....Wont We? With several thousand of them soon in Aussie skies I'm sure the Government is monitoring each unit very carefully. (insert wry laughter here) Fortunately in Australia there are no people with evil intent, bitter breakups or downright stupidity...

    • 28 Dec 2012 12:25:04pm
      Time to dust off the air rifle. The homeowners version of 'tank plinking'. And I thought that just getting rid of the Indian Mynas could provide the kiddies with endless entertainment...
      • 28 Dec 2012 12:22:52pm
        To take one aspect of this debate (there are many) If shots of people skinny dipping or sunbaking nude around their backyard pool becomes common such shots will loose their clout (for whatever reason). People adapt, any initial indignation will be replaced by "so what" by most.

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