Surveillance and security

An extract from Chapter 5 of the book Transcending Politics:

5. Surveillance and security

Connectivity has its advantages. Consider the needs of hard-pressed parents, who must periodically break away from other tasks to check how well their baby is sleeping. Remote baby monitors, plugged into domestic networks, can cut these parents some slack, by guaranteeing to alert them if their child wakes unexpectedly. Other systems, using small sensors in a “smart sock” worn by the baby, can provide additional assurance about the baby’s heart rate and blood oxygen level. This can reduce anxiety about sudden cot death. The vendor’s website explains, “More data, less worry: 83% of parents report having better sleep while using the Smart Sock on their baby”.

What’s not to like about this innovative use of connected technology? Alas, some baby monitors unwittingly provide the means for outsiders to spy on the children, and even to speak to them. Commissioner Julie Menin of the New York Department of Consumer Affairs issued a stark public warning in early 2016:

Video monitors are intended to give parents peace of mind when they are away from their children but the reality is quite terrifying – if they aren’t secure, they can provide easy access for predators to watch and even speak to our children. There have been numerous reports by consumers, including those here in New York City, that these video monitors have subjected them to unwanted intrusions into the most private of spaces: their own homes. Internet-connected devices like video monitors provide convenience, but without proper safeguards, they pose serious privacy risks. We encourage parents to take steps to make sure their devices are secure and call on manufacturers to make security a top priority.

As we’ll see in this chapter, the problems of insecure baby monitors are echoed in an avalanche of similar examples from the fields of smart cars and smart homes as well as smart healthcare. It turns out that connectivity is a two-edged sword.

The perils of connectivity

Let’s reflect on the predicament experienced by more than 100 car owners in Austin, Texas, as a result of the actions of a disgruntled former employee of used car retail firm Texas Auto Center…

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Q3 sprint: launch the Abundance Manifesto

I’m writing to share early news of a planned pivot involving Transpolitica and/or the Transhumanist Party UK.

This pivot will taken place over the next few months. Progressing this pivot is the goal of the forthcoming Q3 sprint for Transpolitica.

The pivot is to place more focus on one particular idea: clarifying the forthcoming era of sustainable abundance. This will happen via the vehicle of a new document – a new manifesto – which (all being well) will be published as a short new book some time later this year.

I’ve been led to this change by reflecting on a number of developments over the last few months, including discussions at last Saturday’s London Futurists conference on Universal Basic Income and/or Alternatives. Another factor influencing my thinking is the responses to my book Transcending Politics. Whilst I’m pleased at the content of that book, I can see that many readers would prefer a simpler introduction to the subject.

Hence the new document, which bears the working title The Transhumanist Abundance Manifesto.

It is presently mainly text, but the idea is that it will contain graphics as well.

As you’ll see, the document contains a call-to-action. If you’re able to help improve the document – particularly the FAQ section at the end (which I envision will grow to at least one hundred questions over the next few weeks), please add your comments and suggestions in this Google doc.

The Manifesto is split into three parts:

  1. An opening invitation, “Advance!” (roughly one page of A4)
  2. Sections explaining “Abundance awaits” (roughly three pages of A4)
  3. FAQ (to form an extended appendix to the previous sections).

For ease of viewing, here’s a current snapshot of the first two sections.

The cosmos beckons

(Picture source: Genty on Pixabay.)

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