Cadillac has debuted their latest ad campaign in a new thirty second television spot in which they state that, “we’ve been waiting for the future for a long time,” which is followed by clips of the Jetsons’ and other imaginings of flying cars and the like. Quickly, they proclaim that, “the future is here,” and a man is seen drinking water while behind the wheel of an autonomous vehicle.
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The problem? The man is still behind a wheel. Sure, progress is slow and before we head into the furthest depths of Elon Musk’s imagination we must make small steps toward fully autonomous driving.
But while watching this ad for the first time I couldn’t help but think that the big reveal fell a bit flat after the montage of 21st century science fiction dreams that have long been awaited. “Where’s my hover board?” kind of thing. The scenes depicted in films like Back to the Future fancied lofty expectations for a digital world. A world filled with lasers, space travel, and helpful household robots.
Except, we do have all of those things. They just haven’t materialized in a certain cinematic fashion that we were all secretly hoping for.
This concept extends to other parts of our culture as well. Despite growing nuclear tensions with a certain Korean dictator, our anxieties revolving global nuclear disaster have long been relaxed in the decades following the cold war. Our battles are not being fought amongst space as some screenwriters had wagered.
As far as I know, laser guns have not been manufactured for our military yet.
Cadillac was right, the future is here. But perhaps, the less glamorous arrival of our future has made it harder for us to grasp what our greatest adversaries in the year 2018 actually are.
Automation and AI aren’t going anywhere. Promising jobs to dying industries may serve to illicit good short-term political headlines, but hundreds of thousands of people are headed toward job displacement. The future is here, and it’s making our lives easier. It’s also robbing people of not only their livelihoods but in many cases their source of dignity in a society that insists the pot of gold is yours with good ole American hard work.
What about the American war of the 21st century? Despite our longest one in Iraq and Afghanistan (a war that’s turned out to be an act of slow sinking quicksand) coming to a close, we are facing a new kind of war - one of disinformation and erosion of privacy. A war being fought not amongst stars and galaxies, but between 1s and 0s and on social media.
Look no further than the biggest example of this digital warfare. Russia, as proclaimed by the entire American intelligence community, interfered in our 2016 presidential election. Let’s also be clear about something: special counsel Robert Mueller has yet to reach a conclusion in his investigation; but he has already either issued indictments or received guilty pleas from over 19 parties.
You can believe, and may ultimately be right about, the Trump campaign not having nefarious collusion with Russian operatives. That is not the same as believing Russia did not meddle in our election. They unequivocally did.
That aside, hacking and releasing the emails of one of our major political parties is an act of interference in our most sacred democratic process. That’s an act of digital warfare. The future of subterfuge is here. It may not be as sexy and glamorous as we may have been promised but here it is nonetheless.
Another sleeping gigantic adversary in 2018 is brought to you by social media, and most prominently Facebook. The latest development in their privacy sagas revolves around the data firm, Cambridge Analytica, that was hired by the Trump campaign.
In reporting first issued by the New York Times, we learned that the firm gathered data first through surveys from 270,000 people, under the pretense of academic research, and then used the data from their friends to build over 30 million psychographic profiles for political purposes.
Now let’s step back from the political implications and minutia of data collection and privacy terms and conditions.
Take away the impact on our election. The votes were cast, congressional hearing will be held, and verdicts will eventually be issued.
The looming threat comes from the nature and power of the data Facebook holds in the first place. Cambridge Analytica was successful in its targeting, not to mention the data savvy campaigns of Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012, because the data was so rich in building these profiles to begin with.
As explained on The Daily by New York Time’s reporter Matthew Rosenberg, these profiles could predict your stance on gun control, sure. But that could change over the course of your life. What won’t change are your neurosis and and traits that encompass your personality. Absolutely invaluable lifetime data to advertisers, political consultants, etc.
This data doesn’t need to be weaponized for it to be a modern threat to society.
A major international cooperation (Facebook) has information on the majority of Americans’ personalities that is so valuable it influenced an election.
The future is here, but privacy is not.
When millions of us signed up for a platform that emerged as a chance to see cute photos of friends’ children or follow a musician we liked, we were unknowingly handing over an amalgamation of ourselves through data. Data that has already been issued.
We have surrendered a part of ourselves unknowingly, and the genie is not going back in the bottle. The future is here; we are on this ride. It may not be a flying car but the trip has already started. The destination, or consequences, however, have yet to be seen.
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