Fox News Opinion: Make your life more human, and tell Alexa and Siri to take a hike!

Make your life more humanIt wasn’t exactly the happiest New Year’s news from our tech overlords. In the first week of 2018 we learned that “most of the computers in the world” have dangerous security flaws that make them vulnerable to hackers, criminals, authoritarian regimes, our own security services –you name it.

For months the tech giants have been aware of fundamental design problems in the tiny microprocessors that power everything from smartphones to laptops to commercial servers.

It means that pretty much anything you do online is at risk. Your data, your money, your privacy.

We’ve been told there are actually two different problems with these processors. Delightfully enough, the geeks responsible – while failing to prevent these disasters – have at least managed to come up with some catchy names for them: Spectre and Meltdown. Thanks a lot guys (and yes, it is mainly guys we’re talking about).

What staggers me about all this is the almost total lack of accountability or contrition. Indeed, we’ve seen the opposite: in an incredibly suspicious piece of shady dealing, the CEO of Silicon Valley icon Intel (one of the world’s biggest chip makers and one of the main culprits in this catastrophe) is reported to have sold a huge number of shares after he was informed of the problems but before they were made public.

Putting our faith in big, centralized, technocratic and technological systems is enormously risky because they are inherently fragile. And the bigger they are, the bigger the risk.

Can you imagine the reaction if we learned that Boeing knew about dangerous design flaws affecting every single one of the company’s planes? Or closer to home, if Campbell’s was aware of dangerous design flaws affecting every can of soup? There would be a national outcry.

Yet we have become so dependent on tech, and so used to massive security breaches and hacks, that when something as momentous as this happens we just shrug our shoulders.

Indeed, at the same time it is telling us we can’t trust the safety or security of any computer, anywhere, the tech industry is busy also telling us that we should get ready for a world where computers are literally everywhere.

In previews of the giant annual consumer electronics jamboree to be held in Las Vegas beginning Tuesday, the tech companies are breathlessly promoting all the innovations they’re about to force down everyone’s throat, like it or not.

Artificial intelligence, we are told, will be “everywhere” – running your home, your kitchen, your bath. No aspect of life will be untouched by the robot revolution.

And this is supposed to be progress? What a disaster in the making. The more dependent we become on technology, the more we put ourselves in danger. Do you really want to give giant tech companies like Google and Amazon such control over your life, especially now that we know that the design of all this computing power is fundamentally flawed? Yes I know, they’ll surely fix these flaws – but what about the next ones, and the ones after that?

Putting our faith in big, centralized, technocratic and technological systems is enormously risky because they are inherently fragile. And the bigger they are, the bigger the risk.

So stay safe in 2018: ditch those computers – say goodbye to Alexa and Siri, resist the temptations of Google Home and make your life more human!

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