Price of Progress

It used to be thought that Facebook was just another bright idea that came to life and gave joy to everyone. But not anymore. Today, it’s more like an out-of-control behemoth that threatens mankind by the millions.

Not that Facebook itself is bad. It’s what’s being done with it — and by whom. Overall, it is The Great Communicator. But every now and then – and now too frequently for most – the Big Blue IT King Kong does something that puts the confidentiality of users’ private information at risk, or someone raids its global information treasure trove and robs what users always thought (and most still think) was or is safely held.

The Cambridge Analytica saga is just the latest in a continuing series of related transgressions that have riled-up more than just the over 87 million Facebook users whose information was pilfered.

But the revelations again show just how easy it is for those with the required technical IT knowledge to steal goldmines worth of information by simply fingering the right keyboards in the right way, at the right time.

Where users have been led to believe their oceans of volunteered confidential information is all safely stored in one of many ‘clouds’, it’s now turning out that not even outer-space information banks are safe.

The Cambridge Analytica brouhaha is just another chapter in the continuing cycle of discovering the down sides that come with every upward and forward move in today’s IT world.

When the Internet started flowing into the Caribbean on the World Wide Web (www) in the 1990s, one of the main concerns was about the ease with which children would be able to access pornography. Back then, nobody thought of WiFi or WhatsApp, Video Calls or Snap Chat.

Ditto Facebook, which no one saw becoming so big that it would be simply impossible to store all its information in any place safely.

Likewise, no one saw the Internet being what it is today, when young people are finding it very difficult, near impossible, to imagine what life is like without it.

Our lives are now basically hooked to technology. Today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next (or current) IT wave.

We can ride in driverless vehicles while robots are being developed to do most of what we do. The machines are also being made intelligent enough to take our jobs, but also to help make life so much easier for us, in so many ways.

Here again, the downside is in the absence of answers to such questions as: What if machines are made to become intelligent enough to think independently? What if a seeker of new worlds to conquer invests in developing an army of artificially intelligent robots capable of working together and acting independently?

What’s most bothering to most IT users today is the increasing realization that nothing communicated via the Internet has ever been safe. But instead of being more careful about how we use the new global post office and what we reveal about ourselves in today’s increasingly expanding global public square, we prefer to let it all hang out — and quarrel with the gatekeepers when our information is robbed by IT pirates.

But if depending on others to take care of our business is a normal feature of modern human intelligence, then why are we at all so scared that artificially intelligent technology can (and just may) be able to outdo us sooner, rather than later?

Yes, those who didn’t know are quickly learning – and the hard way too — that progress always comes at a price!

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