Science fiction has a huge following because it is escapism and fun and planets get blown up, while good guys have their minds read by evil geniuses. The problem is that some of the coolest science fiction ideas are becoming fact.
And this is worrying, not just because of the technology itself, which is mind-blowing, but because suddenly we are faced with how to control it all.
The first science fiction to fact item is the satellite that can ‘see’ into buildings. One of these satellites is already up there and happily scanning things on Earth come cloud, rain or shine. The theory is great. If you look at something on Earth and it is cloudy, all you will see is cloud. Using something more sophisticated than echolocation (but the same principle) satellites can now see through cloud, as well as into certain buildings.
Which is great for spying.
The second science fiction to fact item is just how sophisticated hacking has become. We have said before that it has soared up the priority lists of nation-states keen to keep an eye on their rivals. And recently Russia (allegedly) pulled off a big one. A cybersecurity company called SolarWinds was hacked. The hackers then put a back door into their new upgrade so when companies and Governments did the upgrade, they unwittingly inserted the back door into their own systems. The clever part was that they didn’t try and hack thousands of companies; they let the upgrades containing the back door trickle out so that data breaches happened slowly and went virtually unnoticed.
What was funny (if you have a weird sense of humour) is that the company said that fewer than 18,000 companies had been affected. That may be true but SolarWinds serves 450 out of the Fortune 500 and many Governments across the world. All of whom are racing to see whether they are now sharing their data with the Russians.
Which is great for spying, if you are Russia.
The third science fiction into fact item is Facebook. Not the social media company itself (although might have a view on that) but a leaked internal conversation about a neural device they are developing that allows communication direct from the brain. During the discussion, the subject of privacy and responsibility did come up and obviously; the company will need to look at this closely (yer think!). You have to wonder since Facebook and Elon Musk owned Neuralink have been developing this stuff for commercial use, how much longer Governments have been developing this technology and whether they envisage the first battle in space to resemble Ender’s Game.
Neural devices are also great for spying.
Finally, in this list of science fiction into fact, is Amazon and more specifically, Alexa. The company is beginning to discuss the future of this device that sits and controls your house and its future is, apparently, moving out of the house into cars and neighbourhoods (Alexa, pop next door and borrow some sugar).
Which is also great for spying.
Science fiction is about entertainment and carries little responsibility. Science fact triggers various critical discussions across many aspects of our lives, the central one being our privacy, in the age when companies can see pretty much everything we do.