Scanning Retrospective, No. 23

Foresight Snippets – No. 23

[Originally published in] prospect no. 8, June 2002

  • “War driving” and the coming of Wi-Fi
  • Look out, Prime Minister, that napkin could be dangerous!
  • Forget bio-tech, what about neuro-tech?

“War driving” and the coming of Wi-Fi

Wireless connectivity is going mainstream, giving rise to new forms of  time-wasting activity. (Remember how weird the idea of “surfing the Net” once was?) Well, “war driving” involves roaming around looking for the “hot spots” where high-speed Internet access is beamed to a small area by a low-power radio signal, thanks to a system called Wireless Fidelity (“Wi-Fi”). There is also the story of an engineer who fell foul of a toilet-paper shortage in a cubicle in the men’s room of his company — but was able to order some more, online, while maintaining his position (he took his laptop?!). Many wireless networks are unprotected by encryption or access control, so some Wi-Fi addicts “war drive” to find places to gain free access. Ah, Silicon Valley! How I miss you! 🙂

Security Focus Online

Look out, Prime Minister, that napkin could be dangerous!

The Chronicle of the Future has a “news story” from the year 2010 where a strand of Bill Gates’ hair is used to clone him, and a false paternity suit for billions of dollars is filed against him. Although this story is fiction, the idea of stealing someone’s DNA — say, from a napkin they used at a dinner — and then using that genetic material for illegal or unsavoury purposes is now becoming plausible. New Statesman suggests that people in or seeking public office might need to clean up after themselves very thoroughly at public events, lest the information contained in their genome be stolen and used against them. For example, what if Ronald Reagan’s high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease had been detected in this way during his presidential campaign of 1980?

The Chronicle of the Future
New Statesman web site

Forget bio-tech, what about neuro-tech?

While the debate about bio-technology and human cloning rages, the question of how neuro-technology may be used is somewhat overshadowed. Neuroscientists may soon be able to screen people’s brains, possibly to assess their mental health; to distribute that information, possibly accidentally, to employers or insurers; and to “fix” “faulty” personality traits with drugs or implants. The ethical, moral and legal issues are manifold. Potential dystopias (like bad news in general) often get a lot of press, so we can expect blazing headlines about “mind control” in the near future, generating more heat than light. What we should be focusing on, instead, is the genuine difficulty in finding a balance between necessary therapy and discretionary enhancement. And that calls for much wisdom.

The Economist web site

prospect is a quarterly publication of Foresight, Planning & Review, Swinburne University of Technology.

Futura tenaciter in prospectu tenemus

This publication is intended to serve the broader Swinburne community, by highlighting areas of interest and concern to Swinburne stakeholders, by helping us take a long-term foresight view, and to expand our perceptions of our strategic options as we move forward together into our common future.

This collection is © 2002 FPR and Swinburne University of Technology. Copyright for the individual articles resides with the original authors and/or the original sources as listed. All articles have been used either with express permission or, where express permission is not required, following stipulated re-use guidelines.

NOTE: In all the posts in this series, the original source URLs are left exactly as they were when published 20-odd years ago. This means they will almost certainly be dead links (or good ol’ 404 errors). I do not have the patience or inclination to follow-up or find any archived or re-located versions of those web pages (because, well, life is too short). But, if it really bugs you, I invite you to see if you can find archived or relocated versions of those dead-link pages. And if you do, let me know, and I’ll update these posts with due credit to your detective work.

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