The internet is a wonderful capability and has undoubtedly brought significant benefits to business and to people across the globe.  But within the human population circuit, there will always be a small percentage element who seek to exploit modern technologies for evil and criminal purposes and to cause us harm.  Trolls, on-line bullies, hackers, identity thieves, extremists, terrorists and pornographers are a few examples.  Still more evil groups make their living on the so-called ‘Dark Web’ where drugs trading, weapons buying and human trafficking are reportedly rife.

Future technological advances will undoubtedly also become a target for evildoers.  What is worrying is the wider effects which these new evils could have on our society.  The next generation of tech advances are significant and even now are about to begin influencing our lives.  There are 4 areas which are of concern.

The first is the internet of things – referred to as the IoT.  This will link machines and systems together and allow them to talk to one another and exchange data.  It will automate many processes, simplify logistics and make fault prediction much more effective – in short, a real force for good.  Someone commented recently that if the current internet is the size of a golf ball, then the IoT is the size of the moon.  The downside is that the IoT offers a huge surface area for malcontents to attack, to take control of systems, to sabotage entire programmes and generally cause mayhem.  Introducing malware into the IoT could begin digital pandemics which multiply and spread like wildfire.  Designers need to build in resistance and resilience from the start.

Secondly robotics.  Robots will no doubt relieve humanity of many of the more mundane and repetitive tasks which we presently must undertake – cleaning and long-distance driving being just 2 examples.  But this will only be achieved at the cost of thousands of jobs.  No doubt new opportunities will emerge, perhaps in the leisure industry which will soak up all the free hours we will gain.  But robots could be used in crimes and on the field of battle.  Already ‘sex-bots’ are being designed.  It was the author Isaac Asimov who wrote the 3 Laws of Robotics – but some individuals see laws there simply for breaking.

The third concern is human-level machine intelligence (HLMI).  We are quickly approaching the moment of artificial general intelligence (AGI) where machines achieve parity with mankind’s intelligence.  The point of artificial superintelligence (ASI) will soon follow – where a machine exceeds human intelligence.  Scary points in history that no doubt will soon become exploited by nefarious minds.

The fourth area of concern is the risk of what one US Defence Secretary referred to as a ‘cyber Pearl Harbour’.  We have already seen a denial of use attacks on IT systems being launched on a global scale.  The new concern is of an attack on particularly sensitive systems such as air traffic control, railway network signalling or chemical plant management systems.  Any of these could be used by organised crime or by terrorists to hold us to ransom or cause mass casualties on a huge scale.

To modernise a well-used truism, we should realise that whilst achieving a digital pathway to Heaven that the same codes may be used to open the gates to Hell.

Jeff Little


I look forward to your thoughts and comments on this article.

Jeff Little, OBE is an Associate of nStratagem.  We have a great deal of experience in helping organizations and leaders through these issues and challenges. Contact us for a discreet discussion on your resilience strategies.

** The views, information, words, concepts or opinions expressed in our blogs, articles and blog articles are solely the opinions of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of nStratagem, its employees or its affiliated companies.

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