Ever since I was a young boy, I embraced technology to the fullest. And I found every technology exhilarating – every advance fascinating. Unfortunately, one of the terrible things that you discover – and I’m shocked to say it because I could not be a greater proponent of technological growth and of new methods of communicating, and things that the Internet has provided – but there is a dark side.
There is a dark side in the following sense, that the ability for individuals to create weapons of mass destruction has become radically democratized. What does that mean? Prior to the First World War, scientists were not heavily involved in killing people in mass numbers. But it took large governments to finance efforts to allow scientists to create things like chemical weapons, which were initially developed in Germany, to kill an awful lot of people all at once. And then biological weapons and nuclear weapons were next stages in military development, requiring huge government, insanely large government projects.
What has happened in the past few years – and what is inevitable to happen in the future – is that technologies to democratize destruction are becoming easily available to a greater number of people, who require less finance, less control, less oversight, no government funding. And I am very, very, very concerned that the Pandora’s boxes that governments used to have the control and lid on will now be opened by individuals.
There are a number of technologies, all hitting at the exact same time, that have fundamentally changed the dynamic of why weapons of mass destruction are more democratically available. The Internet has allowed a greater amount of information to pervade, and it is harder to police that information. People are exposed to science education around the world in much more aggressive ways. And I am a huge proponent of science education. Science education is the most fabulous thing that
mankind can aspire to, in my mind.
But the democracy of knowledge, and the availability of technologies – do-it-yourself biology technology is available on websites that you can purchase certain technologies that are useful, or critical, in the manufacturing of biological agents, for example. It is not easy. It is not simple. It is not happening at this present moment in any clear way that demonstrates an immediate, instant risk.
But the inevitability of this kind of information, and this kind of technology, makes it imperative for us to be aware of the risk, and to work toward understanding that, as individuals become more and more powerful, and capable of doing things with less oversight, with less money, with less government intervention, we have to, at the same time, use those same wonderful technologies to combat the threat. And so I raise the threat but I don’t say we are hopeless, because at the same time, the same technologies that are unveiling this – revealing these data-leak technologies – are the same technologies that will be useful in stopping some of this because they are wonderful things.
Crowd sourcing, the ability to give the crowd to whistleblow on people who are working on things that are terrible, is a wonderful technology. We can now learn about areas of the world that once were off-limits by asking people, all around the world, what they’ve seen, how they’ve seen it, and verify information much more rapidly. Individuals are becoming more and more powerful in being able to do bad things.