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Personal security has taken a number of recent hits, most notably with the reports of recent hacking into the databases of Target, Home Depot and other national retailers. Financial institutions are finally concluding that the U.S. needs to start using chip-embedded credit cards to better protect their funds and identities.
On the heels of that, the iPhone 6 has been released with an encryption system that (supposedly) no government or agency can break, keeping anything stored therein private from prying eyes. On one hand, law enforcement agencies are complaining that this will only make their jobs more difficult. On the other, agencies are realizing this makes their operatives’ data better protected. And, of course, private individuals like the idea of being able to secure all of their data, allowing them to, as law enforcement puts it, “place themselves beyond the law.”
But as secrets become easier to keep, we run the risk of ne’er-do-wells attacking us more often, targeting our institutions, our money, and even our lives, using the same security measures we rely on. Does my need for privacy include allowing a terrorist an easier time destroying my plane? Is the collection of internet porn on my cellphone so important that we should also allow foreign agents to store their collection of bomb making manuals and list of suppliers on their cellphones? Do we have to allow people to keep whatever secrets they have, only to examine them within an inch of their lives every time they approach a public place?
Invasive technologies, by definition, tend to have the most initial resistance to their introduction to society. It can be hard to imagine a future world in which new and sometimes disturbing, often painfully-disruptive technologies come to be accepted, even common, parts of our lives.
Sarcology, recently updated and re-released, depicts a future world full of these invasive technologies, making it easy for the reader to question the likelihood and desirability of this future reality.
But given time, and often contrary to public perception, we have seen that even the most invasive of tech can overcome initial resistance and become accepted, even ubiquitous, in society.
I was recently informed that a whopping 40% of the American population under age 40 wear tattoos. This is, to me, an impressive figure, considering tattoos have always been essentially permanent and unchanging… and in a society that is dedicated to variety and choice, you’d almost think tattoos would be the antithesis of that. Of course, medical science has discovered ways to remove tattoos (though not well), so maybe all those under-40s are just assuming they’ll be able to ditch the tattoo whenever they feel like it.
I recognized the fact that tattoos are becoming more mainstream—and, someday, possibly be even more prevalent—in Sarcology, wherein Perry Collins, one of the main characters, has a bald head covered in tattoos of religious symbols. It is part of his everyday activities to reach up and touch a tattoo that represents one of the religious guidelines he is thinking about at that moment.
Though many have doubts that biometric technology will become the prevailing ID technology of the future, replacing passwords and PIN numbers… it’s already being rolled out. In some places, it’s been active for a decade.
Palm vein ID technology, a system most Americans are not yet familiar with, has been gaining in usage and popularity abroad, and now beginning to reach domestic shores. Palm vein technology uses an infrared scanner to identify the veins inside one’s hand, compare it to a complex algorithm of data points, and okay (or decline) the user. The system has been tested extensively, demonstrating a .0001% error rate in over 75,000 user tests. (More info here and here.)