March 31, 2013    /    by

Futurists: In-body computers and higher-stakes for security

What are futurists predicting regarding technology? And for security, what is coming down the road?

The book 1984 was written by George Orwell in the 1940s. Words and concepts such as; “Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak and even Orwellian” come from this famous literary work.  

More than sixty years later, philosophers still argue about what Orwell would say about the Internet, technology in 2013 or our future, if Orwell were alive today. Students continue to read and learn from Orwell and debate questions about security, privacy and monitoring on the Internet today.

Taking a step back and shifting the focus to tomorrow, what are today’s futurists predicting? And for security, what is coming down the road? I believe that this is more than just a fun daydreaming exercise. Indeed, we can learn some lessons to apply today by thinking more about tomorrow.

The Future According to Kurzweil

Futurist Ray Kurzweil says we’ve only just begun to innovate. He predicts a world with in-body computers to detect and fight disease and a world dominated by artificial intelligence.

After founding several companies, Kurzweil was recently hired as director of engineering for Google, so his ideas are not just far-fetched dreams. Here’s an excerpt from a late-January 2013 interview:

You have said that by the 2030s, people will have blood cell-sized computing devices in their bloodstreams and brains that connect directly to off-site computer data servers. What makes you think that?

We already have computerized devices that are placed inside the body and even connected into the brain, such as neural implants for Parkinson’s disease and cochlear implants for the deaf. These devices can already wirelessly download new software from the cloud. Technology is shrinking at an exponential rate, which I’ve measured at about 100 in 3D volume per decade. At that rate, we will be able to introduce blood cell-sized devices that are robotic and have computers that can communicate wirelessly by the 2030s.

How would such devices be regulated to ensure that outside forces can’t manipulate people’s thoughts and actions through the Internet?

Privacy and security are already very significant issues, considering the personal and intimate things that people do with their computers. This is an issue we will never be able to cross off our “concern list,” but we’re actually not doing that badly. Relatively few people today complain that they have been significantly damaged by privacy and security breaches. ...

Near-term Predictions: AOL’s ‘Digital Prophet’ David Shing

But Google’s engineers aren’t the only ones thinking about the future. AOL has their own futurist - Digital Prophet David Shing. In a recent presentation which focused more on the next decade than twenty or thirty years out, the ‘shock-haired Australian’ described ten predictions.

Here are a few of those:

  • There will be a backlash in social media as it starts to get too diluted and, dare we say it, stalker-like – e.g., allowing you to pick your seat on an airplane beside someone you spot on LinkedIn who you want to connect with. The backlash will take the form of defriending, unfollowing, culling our social networks.
  • “Attention is the new currency”: the Web has become “overwhelming” so curation of niche interests will be important.
  • It will be all about video calls on our phone by 2015

The Future of Marketing?

And how will this change Internet Marketing over the next few years? I found this post on the future by “Dan (@Tropical MBA)” to be fairly compelling.  While this topic of marketing trends may seem irrelevant to security and technology professionals, remember that we need to pay for our Internet content somehow. Business marketing of products is a major driver in technology innovation and service delivery.

This entire article is worth reading, but here are three of his seventeen trends:

  • Your customer’s track record will become more important than yours. More than ever before, you need to have a home run answer to the question how much money do you make and what have you done? That’s just the beginning, in the coming years it’ll matter even more how your customers are faring.
  • Cultivated and proctored communities will start popping up everywhere. The readers of the TMBA often cite “100 True Customers” as one of our most useful articles. There you’ll find a pretty clear plan for making $40,000 a year as a content producer. I think this approach will get utilized a lot more in the coming years
  • University educations will start to look more like internet marketing training, and internet marketing training will start to look more like university educations. They’ll converge and find a middle ground in the coming decade.

The Future of Cybersecurity

So what does all this mean for the future of cybersecurity? A few months back, I articulated my views on what it will mean to be a security leader in 2020 for CSO magazine. One key message is that roles within security will only increase, as we depend more and more on technology moving forward. We are already witnessing the growth in the importance of embedded technology within critical infrastructures.

Another message: Security leaders should strive to be trusted advisors.

One perspective (which I believe is flawed) is that once we “figure out” identity management, current Internet holes and ID theft (possibly with biometrics), we will start to see a dramatic reduction in the role of cybersecurity. I disagree.

The list of future technology trends listed will mean that hacking and computer security concerns will evolve to include social media attention, imposters infiltrating trusted networks, the delivery of university education, devices implanted in the body, cars that drive themselves and much more.

For the foreseeable future, we will have what Kurzweil calls, “Personal and intimate things that people do with their computers.” Thus the need for continued security and privacy protections.

Or as Orwell once wrote, “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”