Walt Mossberg, who’s been covering technologies for assorted periodicals since the advent of the dandy horse, just retired from his brilliant career, filing one last column for the Verge about what will come next in the Digital Age.
He foresees “ambient computing” becoming prevalent and that’s a safe bet. The problem is, such seamlessness almost invites abuse. Mossberg advises there’ll have to be an intensive tandem effort by private industry and the federal government to ensure safety and privacy, but as we are currently witnessing with the Trump Administration, the public sector can also introduce surprising disruptions, and such unfortunate twists may be even more punitive when the tools that quietly surround us, barely making a hum, become infinitely more powerful and intrusive.
I expect that one end result of all this work will be that the technology, the computer inside all these things, will fade into the background. In some cases, it may entirely disappear, waiting to be activated by a voice command, a person entering the room, a change in blood chemistry, a shift in temperature, a motion. Maybe even just a thought.
Your whole home, office and car will be packed with these waiting computers and sensors. But they won’t be in your way, or perhaps even distinguishable as tech devices.
This is ambient computing, the transformation of the environment all around us with intelligence and capabilities that don’t seem to be there at all. …
Some of you who’ve gotten this far are already recoiling at the idea of ambient computing. You’re focused on the prospects for invasion of privacy, for monetizing even more of your life, for government snooping and for even worse hacking than exists today. If the FBI can threaten a huge company like Apple over an iPhone passcode, what are your odds of protecting your future tech-dependent environment from government intrusion? If British hospitals have to shut down due to a ransomware attack, can online crooks lock you out of your house, office, or car?
My best answer is that, if we are really going to turn over our homes, our cars, our health, and more to private tech companies, on a scale never imagined, we need much, much stronger standards for security and privacy than now exist. Especially in the US, it’s time to stop dancing around the privacy and security issues and pass real, binding laws.•