As a futurist I have consistently posted most of my forecasts on my website. I am one of the few to do so. I do this to be accountable and to document what I said and when I said it.
18 months ago, in March of 2015, I stated that: “For the next several years we will continue to live in a hacked world”. Since then in Q&A sessions after speeches, I have often been asked what I meant by this statement even though to me it was obvious.
Well, recent and frequent news stories have certainly proved the validity of that forecast on a superficial level. The hacking of the DNC computers that showed a bias towards Clinton over Sanders. The hacking of 500 million Yahoo accounts putting that many people at some level of risk. The increasing use of the phrase “state sponsored” agent relative to a big and potentially damaging attack on organizations and corporations. All of this is almost a daily part of the news in 2016.
There is clear evidence that both nation states and autonomous groups of hackers are searching the world for digital back doors of entry. In 2013 I forecast that increasingly warfare would be waged in cyberspace with ‘boots on the ground’ soon becoming an archaic and barbaric phrase.
So as humanity transitions to an ever more digital based society and economy there will be continued hacking of web sites and databases.
There was breaking and entering in the physical world but as we have learned in the positive sense, the Internet and the connected world provided scale and global reach never before experienced. Unfortunately the bad comes with the good as it has throughout history.
The question is what can be done to stop it. Unfortunately I think it will be a cat and mouse game that will escalate until such time as the nation state players realize that a ‘non-hacking’ treaty is needed. That will not stop rogue groups but the collective power of the nation state intelligence agencies could become a significant deterrent. Not unlike anti-proliferation nuclear treaties.
Of course one of the things lost in the digital age is privacy. When Snowden felt an alarmed sense of duty to serve the public rather than the government in 2013, it prompted me to write “Is Privacy Dead: The Future of Privacy in the Digital”. The conclusion was that basically we have no privacy relative to any point prior to this century.
There were, are and will be two dominant trends that decrease privacy. First, as technology increases, privacy declines. The second is that we all choose convenience over privacy. An old cell phone, which increased the convenience of communication, allowed anyone using one to be quickly located. The touch screen hand held computer we still call a phone is where we have sacrificed our privacy the most. Many apps relate to where one is or what one wants. Every time we use these transformative devices we give up something about ourselves to people we don’t know.
So what to do? Go completely off the grid and make all payments in cash if you want your privacy, and security against being hacked. Other than that, it is basically low-level common sense. Change passwords regularly. Use different passwords for every account you have. Decline having your location be connected to an app.
So everything so far in this column is relative to being hacked via the Internet relative to personal usage and data storage by those we clearly can no longer trust to protect our data. As we move through the Shift Age, as we move to ever more reliance on digital versus physical, and as we move into the disruption of the old realities, there is a higher level of hacking.
We will see the positive effects of hacking the old reality. We are now “hacking DNA”. This means that we can hack genetics and prevent diseases being passed along to the next generation. There will be many scientific hacking that can benefit humanity, assuming that old outdated religious and moral belief systems can be overcome [Up until the 1960s the Catholic Church had the position that heart surgery was an intrusion of God’s work]
We also will see the negative aspect of hacking. As cars become ever more software centered, they can be hacked. Not a great thing to consider as you are cruising along at 70 mph. Consider the coming of the Internet of Things where everything is connected and thus capable of being hacked. Such things as altering deliveries of goods, the hacking of “smart” appliances or the control of utilities will occur.
The Internet and cellular technology gave us connectedness, convenience, a developing global consciousness and has changed almost every part of our lives. Just remember that, for now, this wonderful new world we now live in, is one that can, and will, be hacked.
Some forecasts, while accurate, can also be problematic and present new risks to be accepted.