Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Archive for the tag “drones”

Spies Like Us

Not too long ago, I suggested drones were out of control. I had no idea. Saw an ad on TV last week for the High Spy Drone. You can continue reading this post or go to their site.

If you’ve seen the video and paid attention, you heard the announcer say “… spy on your neighbors.” Yes, folks, for the small price of only two payments of $19.95 (plus S & H), you too can invade the privacy of anyone living next door.

Why stop there. You can take it on vacation (as the ad suggests) and spy on total strangers. Why not pull up outside a house with a pool and spy on the sunbathers? (Just be prepared to abandon the drone and made a quick getaway.)

Okay, so it’s just a toy (less than a foot square). And it’s likely that the batteries won’t keep it airborne for its full 75 minutes of video. But for that low, low price you get TWO high spy drones.

Like I said, it’s just a toy and you couldn’t add an ounce of payload to cause any real (physical) damage. The damage will depend on the pictures you take and what you do with them.

Speaking of pictures, the ad says the device’s range is 160 feet. So if you want video from 50 feet high, you can be up to 152 feet away from your target. You might even be able to spy on people two houses away.

Speaking of ads, I didn’t catch the product name in the ad and my online search failed the first day. The next day I came up with a better search phrase, “spy drone tv ad,” and wondered if anyone had a site for things seen on TV.

They did. It’s called and here’s the link for the high spy drone. However, this site is not just for toys. It’s for “Real-Time TV Advertising Metrics.” It’s an actual tool for media planning, ad effectiveness, and competitive analysis.

Interesting, but I digress. The issue here, the non-toy, non-joke concern is privacy. The fruits of the ever-shrinking world of digital are just beginning to appear. The technology that stabilizes this drone is very high-tech—and getting smaller.

As for privacy, the odds are against us. Since it wasn’t mentioned explicitly in the Constitution, government is slow to derive, and enforce, privacy rights. It’s not much help when it comes to electronic invasion, so why expect any when it comes to physical spying?

If you find your airspace being invaded by a spy drone, I don’t recommend the family shotgun. Instead, I’d get a T-shirt gun, like they use at concerts. For ammo, you’ll need a net with small weights in the corners. Maybe you’ll see it advertised on TV.


Technology’s Fatal Flaw

Two ideas came to me last week and I struggled with them until I realized they were both the same idea, just expressed differently. For this post in Digital Minefield, it is expressed as “Technology’s Fatal Flaw.” For my post in Pelf and Weal, it is called “Gambler’s Paradise.”

Daily in the news we hear of technological failures. Only the problems are attributed to separate specific sources, like drones and abandoned mines. No one sees the risk-taking of technology as the common element.

It’s easier to blame technology, that is new technology, for society’s inability to control drones. It’s not so easy to see that exactly the same moral approach has lead to a quarter of a million abandoned mines here in the US.

Where do we draw the line between scientific experimentation and technological innovation? In the eighteenth century, chemists rushed to discover new elements. Often they did so by smelling the results of chemical reactions. It killed some of them.

Many, however, got rich. In England, the best were made peers of the realm. Most were not simply chemists but also inventors, lecturers, and famous authors. We remember the successful ones and forget the risks they took.

No one has forgotten the risks taken by Marie Curie. The radioactivity she discovered—and that killed her—made her famous in her lifetime (two Nobel prizes). We forget such risk-taking was the norm.

Most of the risk-taking in the days of get-rich-quick mining centered around success or failure. Less discussed were the actual physical dangers. Never mentioned were the costs to posterity.

This was true for the precursors of the chemists, the alchemists, so it remains true for their modern day atomic wizards. Society has committed to the risk of nuclear reactors without any viable solution for its extraordinarily dangerous waste product, plutonium—deadly for 25,000 years.

It is obvious that any new technology (and science) has always been ahead of laws to regulate it. By definition, if it’s really new, how could there be laws in place to deal with it? We have no answer, because we are technology’s fatal flaw.

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