Some say technology is a blessing; others say it's a curse. Which is right? They both are. Think about it: Technology can give you cancer, and technology can cure your cancer. So it's not about whether technology is good or bad; it's about what we decide to do with technology that matters.
Today, thanks to exponential growth in processing power, storage, and bandwidth, we have the ability to do things that were literally impossible just a few years ago. For example, for several years now the military has been increasingly using drones, which are robotic planes controlled from a remote distance, for surveillance flights over Iraq, Iran, and other areas of the Middle East. And they have kept many humans from being put at risk. In addition, they have also been used for targeted bombing missions in areas that would have put human flight crews at high risk. Describing drones as good or bad becomes harder to answer when you see the many shades of grey underlying the subject.
Taking this a little further, the companies that make drones have recently expanded their markets and now our boarder patrol, as well as an increasing number of police departments, has found drones to be a cost effective way to accomplish surveillance tasks.
The next step has been to make drones much smaller, and the U.S. military has been pouring huge sums of money into miniaturized surveillance drones.
Recently, they're developing micro aircrafts that can swarm like bugs. Think of them as bug-sized flying spies. For example, Johns Hopkins University, in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force Office of Science Research at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Arlington, Virginia, is jointly developing what they're calling a Micro Aerial Vehicle (MAV) that can undertake various tasks. They are robotic insects that can effortlessly infiltrate urban areas, even where there are dense buildings, a lot of people, and unpredictable winds.
When people control the MAVs, they wear a special helmet and are in what's like a butterfly cockpit. They can virtually see exactly what the drone-insect is seeing. The MAVs are equipped with cameras and built-in microphones, meaning they have the capability of hearing what is being said and seeing what they want to see.
But they've gone even beyond that with the technology in that they're capable of landing the MAVs precisely on the human skin. Then, using a super-micron-sized needle, it can take a DNA sample and fly off at top speed. The person who has been bitten by this drone insect only feels the same pain as a mosquito bite, but they don't have the burning, itching, or swelling.
Not only that, but this little injection can place a micro-radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking device under the skin. And, theoretically, it could be used to inject toxins into the enemy during wars.
Keep in mind that we're not the only country developing these. France, the Netherlands, Israel, and many other countries either have them or in the process of developing them. And once the military develops and uses something, it usually spreads to other markets such as police departments. It is also easy to predict that at some point they will be used by private detectives, and eventually by people who shouldn't be using them at all (criminals, terrorists, drug cartels, etc.).
Should we be upset with the military for developing this technology? No. Remember, our military leaders understand that if it can be done, it will be done, and if we don't do it someone else will. However, we as the human race have to ask ourselves, "What kind of planet do we want to live on? Can we use technology to become more connected, or will we use it to make ourselves more disconnected?"
If we want a more human world, rather than a less human world; if we want to be a more enlightened planet of human beings, rather than less enlightened; and if we want to use technology to do more good than bad, then we have to take action to make it that way.
For example, a middle-aged woman who spent most of her life unable to hear now has a micro-implant that is allowing her to hear for the first time in decades. Likewise, a child being treated for cancer who could no longer attend school received a computer with a built in video camera and a high-speed connection linking her to a high-definition video conferencing system courtesy of a local telecom company so that she can now attend class with her classmates even though she is too weak to go to school. These are just two examples of using technology to do something wonderful and human--to make the world even better. There are literally countless stories of how technology has helped make the world more human, but it took a human with a vision to do good to make it happen.
This article isn't about protesting the military's use of drones. That's not what I'm asking anyone to do. What I'm asking people to do is to play an active role in using technology to shape a positive future for yourself and others. You may not be able to control how large institutions such as the military use it, but you can control how you and your company use it.
So let's take the time to think through what we can do, because we can do a lot. But there's a could-do, should-do, and must-do filter. There are a lot of things we could do, but should we? And what are the things that we must do? We need to make sure our must-do's are creating a better, more human, and more enlightened world. Let's get involved and do whatever we can on an individual level to create a better tomorrow.