Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

The Downside of Expanding Digital


Everybody talks about the great future of the Digital Revolution. They marvel at what computers can do today and thrill to the possibilities of tomorrow. (The day after tomorrow is beyond imagination.)

We expect this future to be unlimited. These, of course, are its positive aspects. Not many pay attention to warnings about the negatives. Some of these are obvious and cannot be ignored.

You may, and should, ask what is so obvious. As digital expands, so do opportunities for disasters, from personal (identity theft) all the way up to global (expanding terrorism).

These possibilities arise from a number of causes: from programming errors to individual hackers to criminal break-ins and theft to attacks on national security by other nations.

Let’s take one example from a subject recently discussed in this blog, automated cars. What’s obvious here is that the more complex the system, the more different ways it can be manipulated, deceived, or hacked.

A system of automated cars is so complicated, it defies comprehensive description. For example, what vehicles will be part of the system, and how will the system deal with the others?

What is a bicycle to an automated vehicle system? Must it be controlled, too? Since the system must use existing roadways, how does it handle pedestrians crossing its streets? And what about obstacles like roller blades, skate boards, and stray dogs?

As you see, even if the system could be perfectly protected from error, hackers, break-ins, and massive attacks, there are still many things outside the system threatening its stability.

It’s easy to envision rogue vehicles disrupting the system. While these may be illegal, this country has a rich history of modified vehicles breaking the law. Even one such vehicle could cause havoc. How much protection will an automated system need?

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