Since I started this blog last year, people often come up to me and ask, “Why are you so concerned about the monkey apocalypse?” (Disclaimer: No one has ever come up to me and asked me this question.) “Why not be concerned about more tangible, immediate threats, like government spying by the NSA and the IRS?” (Disclaimer: The IRS and NSA are valuable organizations that fund the government and protect us from terrorism, respectively. Neither of these crucial missions would be furthered by sending a drone to my house.)
The main reason I don’t worry about massive intelligence gathering is that it never seems to result in any intelligence. Once you start putting together enough bits of data, you can create any picture you like, and the chances that it will be correct are nearly infinitesimal.
Let me give you an example. As you know, the total sum of human knowledge is owned by three companies: Microsoft (which controls everyone who doesn’t like Apple), Apple (which controls everyone who doesn’t like Microsoft), and Google (which controls the flow of information between Apple/Microsoft and us mere humans). (Disclaimer: This is a sign of a utopian society. Please do not send an e-drone (or an Apple iDrone for that matter) to my house.)
Everything and everyone on Earth gets its information from this electronic infrastructure. (Disclaimer: Everyone in the Kepler Space Empire still gets their information from TV signals we broadcast in the 1950s.) In spite of this, I have been receiving a spate (more than a smidgen, less than a plethora) of e-mails which clearly indicate that the hive mind is drunk-dialing me.
For the past few months, LinkedIn has been notifying me that my various contacts have “recommended” me for my proficiency in certain skills. The most common of these skills is “device drivers”. Device drivers are the software that interacts directly with computer hardware (spin the CDROM drive, notice that the mouse moved, etc.). In more than three decades as a software engineer, I have never worked on device drivers, and yet I have multiple recommendations from former co-workers, many of whom have watched me never work on device drivers. More to the point, I have also received device driver recommendations from a woman I studied financial planning with and the decorator who remodeled my house. Coincidentally, none of these people actually remembers making the recommendation.
The risk that any person or (apologies to Harold Finch) Machine can extract useful information out of that much data debris is well within my comfort zone. The thing I’m most worried about is that some shadowy government black-budget entity will ask me to fix their device drivers.