Sometimes it all comes down to how you view the world. When Vint Cerf, known as the “father of the internet” first developed this vast system we all rely on, he was initially trying to create a system for scientists and academics to share data. Later, when he saw that businesses were jockeying to make money off the internet, he was happy because he thought everyone should be able to take advantage of its capability. He never imagined the downside of this new world — or that it might inspire profiteering by hackers and cybercriminals.
“They made it possible to surf the Internet anonymously — unlike a telephone, you don’t have a unique number that announces who you are. We know how that turned out. People with less lofty ambitions than Cerf used that loophole for cybercrime, international espionage and online harassment,” writes Sydell.
Around the time that Cerf and team were focused on their work, a science fiction writer named William Gibson was taking note of the rising industry of technology. His book, Neuromancer, envisioned what would happen in a world of connected computers. As it turns out, it’s not a whole lot different from our non-fiction present.
Sydell reports, “Gibson says he didn’t need to try a computer or see the Internet to imagine this future. ‘The first people to embrace a technology are the first to lose the ability to see it objectively,’ he says.”
While Gibson’s book came out in 1984, it seems the torch has been passed to imagine an even darker world where technology is exploited at the cost of society–the Netflix series Black Mirror, which explores the consequences of pushing out technology without forethought.
As Sydell points out, “Our tech entrepreneurs are focused almost exclusively on how their devices will be used by individuals — not how those devices will change society.”
Get the full story at NPR.