Wednesday, August 10, 2011

USENIX: Charles Stross Opening Keynote

Charles Stross, two time Hugo Award winning science fiction writer, greeted us with a talk on Network Security in the Medium Term (2061-2561). He quipped that by setting his predictions so far out, we'll be unlikely able to prove him wrong - and if we can, then he'll be happy to just be alive.

His talk started out with stating the obvious, that we won't have to worry about network security if, for example, we have a global system panic - so, he's going to assume that doesn't happen. The other issues around seeing his predictions come to fruition depends on medicine meaningfully extending our lives, having stable political systems and managing society's increasing complexity.

In the future, we won't be able to ignore emerging countries like China and India, and, well, the whole of Africa, all of which will change how we manage security and interact together.

Stross told a story of a theoretical time traveler from the 1960s and how huge of a technology hurdle he'd have to overcome - no imagine how much technology change we can expect in the next 50 years! Children nowadays will never know the experience of being lost, always connected, always with GPS at hand. [of course, such an assumption presumes the child growing up in a home of means, don't forget the aforementioned Africa!]

Stross took us through a myriad of potential futures - like will we, as humans, have a lifelog like we have in modern cars? Will we have to fight super viruses, bacteria and cancer? Will genome sequencing computers be able to help protect us? But, will we want to share our own DNA in order to aid these computers? Give up our privacy in order to always have an alibi? Give our insurance companies access to vehicle harddrives so they can detect how people really drive?? It seems unlikely.

I've personally submitted my DNA into two systems: Kaiser Foundation's Genome Study and 23andMe. I did this both to advance science and to give myself valuable information about my gene profile, though my neighbor, a DNA forensic scientist, believes I was insane to share my DNA with anyone. Perhaps I should've consulted her before I spit in that cup.

Lots of interesting scenarios to think about, we'll definitely have to be more careful with our privacy as more information is put online and in storage.

The audio and video of the talk are now online.

This article is syndicated from Thoughts on Security, beer, theater and biking!