Saturday, 15 July 2006

Julian Pistorius - Technology, the internet, privacy, and freedom. What does the future hold?

A freshly shaved and shorn Julian Pistorius. Bob Jones' comment must have been taken to heart.

Technology advances at a huge rate. Two years ago his mother didn't even know what the internet was. Now she has three email addresses, two websites and a member of several online communities. The change with this new technology has happened quickly, but almost imperceptible for many.

No new crimes with the internet, just new tools. Amazing advances, but some worries. A 1984-like uber-state is possible, but we haven't got it. But it's possible. For example:
  1. Software that can monitor screen radiation, interpolate results and view what's on your screen from quite some distance away. Will become more widely
  2. Laser audio surveillance: Point a small laser at a window in which conversations happening, and can use the vibrations from the window to record audio.
  3. Tiny cameras, pinhole-sized.
Should we be worried? Time for the tin-foil hats? [That, by the way, was a joke.]

A legitimate concern. Can't outlaw this: people should be free to innovate. Can't return us to the stone age. Technology isn't evil, just how some people use it. If outlawed, then only outlaws and governments will have this technology.

Why can we be free to say what we wish here today? Freedom is not a technological problem, it's a cultural problem. What really keeps us free is our cultural aversion to being bossed around. We don't need to worry NOW as long as we do still have the freedom to criticise and we do still have the western cultural tradition that values freedom.

Technology will keep improving, but it's not something to worry about. But we should remain vigilant.


  1. PC said:
    [Laser audio surveillance:- Point a small laser at a window in which conversations happening, and can use the vibrations from the window to record audio.]

    PC, this sort of technology is old. I would say that it has been around for the last 15 years or so. This technology has been shown in movies all the time. I mean good thriller movies. I know that sometimes you chuckled when you asked me of what movie that I had been to see , after informing you that it was a 'Tom Clancy' thriller or something similar such as CIA plot. Obviously, you prefer movies at Rialto than technology-based movies (mostly thrillers) in mainstream theatres.

    If you have seen Tom Clancy 'Clear & Present Danger', then you would have seen this technology. In that movie, a team of FBI agents were doing surveillance of a meeting between the President's national security advisor (or chief of staff) in a Washington hotel and a rep from a south american Drug cartel, where the FBI team stationed in a different hotel across the street were beaming a laser beam that bounces off the window of the meeting room, thus listening to everything they said in that meeting.

    The same technology exist today, but laser is not used anymore, because it is easily detected or seen by the party that is under surveillance. That is , if a laser beam is pointed to someone's window, someone would likely to see the laser ray. Today, such devices use a cousin of laser known as MASER (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation). It is exactly the same physics as laser (which is light rays), but it is based on invisible microwave electromagnetic spectrum. Thus using MASER will avoid anyone seeing the beam when it is being directed to an unsuspecting window of a room full of crooks discussing an evil plan for the world.

    Wikipedia : Laser

  2. Falafulu Fisi said...
    [Today, such devices use a cousin of laser known as MASER]

    Wikipedia : Maser

    I have pasted a wrong link in the first post, so the correct one is shown above.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.