No doubt you have heard about the prediction of mad genius Ray Kurzweil of the singularity, when machines will be smarter than people and we'll connect our brains to the cloud.
Well, that probably won't happen, for better or for worse. However, our unquestioning love of technological advances is a serious blind spot. It's trivially obvious that there are downsides to nuclear weapons, internal combustion engines, and hydrogenated vegetable oil, to name a few. And it ought to be just as obvious that if firearms were still muzzle-loading muskets we'd have less of an argument about them and a lot less to fear.
But I haven't heard very many people worrying about a disastrous technological singularity. As a thought experiment, what if teleportation became possible? It seems to me it would be the end of civilization, possibly of humanity. Door locks would become irrelevant. Anybody could remove any object or person from any place. You could knock down skyscrapers by teleporting away part of their footings, kidnap anybody from anywhere, kill anybody by removing the head, steal all the gold from Fort Knox. And anyone who had a monopoly on the technology would have absolute, unassailable power over all humanity.
Okay, that's probably impossible. Laws of physics and all that. But sci-fi writers don't seem to have thought it through. But technology that is possible is also pretty scary. Consider 3-D printing. It's a cool way to make customizable objects, including prostheses and other good stuff. And, as German Lopez discusses at the link, guns. Plastic guns that are untraceable and don't set off metal detectors. They can be made so they don't look like guns and won't be identifiable with x-rays. Anybody can make them without worrying about a background check. As Lopez explains:
So that was going to happen today, but a court has stopped it for now. Doesn't matter, they're already out there. Thousands of these blueprints have already been downloaded and they're being shared. And of course people can make new ones, and better ones. So yeah, you can now get on an airplane or enter a courthouse or other government building with a gun. What other capabilities will be coming along soon? People with chemistry sets making powerful neurotoxins, people gene-editing bioweapons in their garages -- this is possible right now.The wide release of the 3D-printed gun blueprints, however, has only become an issue now due in large part to the Trump administration. The previous administration, under President Barack Obama, had forced libertarian Cody Wilson to stop publishing these blueprints on his website, Defcad.com. Wilson sued the administration in hopes of republishing his schematics. The case seemed like an easy win for the government, with multiple courts initially ruling in the government’s favor.But once the Trump administration came in, with its gun-friendly politics, the Justice Department abruptly agreed to a settlement — giving Wilson and his nonprofit, Defense Distributed, “essentially everything they wanted,” Andy Greenberg reported for Wired. The deal allowed Wilson to publish his blueprints starting in August, and paid him $40,000 for his legal costs.
I'm not sure how worried to be but we probably ought to be at least a little bit worried. Our technological capabilities have run far ahead of our wisdom.