"I’ve logged over 90 [incidents of verified human causalities of a control-system computer incident] in all industries worldwide. The damage ranges from significant equipment failure to deaths."
Thus spoke Joe Weiss, managing partner at Applied Control Solutions, to those gathered at the information tech industry’s huge RSA Conference in San Francisco, California, on Tuesday April 8th.
Like other tech systems experts, Weiss is concerned, as some have been for quite a while, that as we human beings become increasingly reliant on ever-more sophisticated and wide-spread automated and computer-controlled security and other control systems, the odds for major malfunctions, including those resulting in human deaths, just go up.
"Until eight years ago, my whole life was making control systems usable and efficient, and, by the way, very vulnerable. It is exactly what you will find today in many, many industrial applications. This isn’t just 1999. No, this is June 2008," says Weiss.
Yet, at the very same conference, the United States Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called on Silicon Valley to increase its efforts and even dispatch some from the private sector to Washington, DC to develop yet more intelligent technology for the government in order to fight against what has already become a large-scale techno-problem: the possibility not only of huge identity theft, but the wiping out or stealing of massive amounts of financial data from large institutions, all at once.
"Imagine what would happen if a sophisticated attack on our financial systems caused them to be paralyzed. It would be a shaking of the foundation of trust on which commercial intercourse depends," Chertoff said to those gathered.
For many, all this machinery and artificial intelligence that is being entrusted with more and more of our daily functions, industrial activity, security, and important transactions threatens much more than the loss of jobs. For them, it’s got all the potential to get out of human control, or be taken over by malicious humans who make it their purpose to control the rest of the world by taking complete control of all the wires, interfaces, and computer chips which have made our society faster, more informed, and even wealthier, but at once more dependent upon them for our way of life.
In one of the most successful science-fiction novel series ever written, visionary writer and thinker Frank Herbert laid out a future for mankind living in a far-flung galaxy over 8000 years in the future—and yet one void of artificial intelligence. The people of that far-distant universe abide by a commandment in their Orange Catholic Bible: “Thou shalt not make any machine with the mind in the likeness of a man.”
The people of this far-future, technologically-sophisticated, space-faring galactic empire had learned a hard lesson the hard way in their past…a past which might become our future. Especially when we recognize that Herbert’s epic sci-fi drama was intended as commentary on our present world.