Is the singularity even closer than we think? While Glenn was once again out today because of a family emergency, Pat and Stu dove into the potential ramifications of IBM executive Peter Waggett’s recent comments about biometric data. According to Waggett, who is a program leader at IBM’s Emerging Technology Group, it’s time to stop worrying about how to prevent the collection of this data and start looking at how to better utilize it.
“We’re fighting the wrong battle when we ask should we stop people being observed. That is not going to be feasible. We need to understand how to use that data better,” Waggett said during a Nesta panel debate on what biometrics mean for the future of privacy. “I’ve been working in biometrics for 20 years, and it’s reaching a tipping point where it’s going to be impossible not to understand where people are and what they are doing. Everything will be monitored. It’s part of the reason why when we put together the definition of biometrics it included biological and behavioral characteristics — it can be anything.”
As Waggett further explained, biometric systems are becoming “much more accurate and ubiquitous.” We are reaching a time in which it will be impossible to not be “identifiable by some kind of signal you are leaving behind. As a result, Waggett believes we are fighting the wrong battle:
“[T]rying to stop this would be fighting the wrong battle. The information is out of the bottle already — we have to deal with the issues surrounding it now,” Waggett said. “Embrace the challenge of what we’ve got, embrace understanding it and focus on what we can do with that new data.”
The technological advancements really are a double-edged sword. On one hand, the biometric data Waggett refers to has the ability to save lives via GPS tracking or the reading of vital signs. At the same time, the idea of constant tracking seems to be at odds with the Bill of Rights.
“Don’t even worry about your Bill of Rights. That’s already gone,” Pat joked. “Forget it. The fight now is: How far gone are they.”
When you consider how far technology has come in such a short period of time, Waggett’s argument makes a lot of sense. At the same time, Pat questioned the danger of being so reliant we have become.
“ It’s nice. But if this ever goes away – and it might – then where are we… I mean, look how reliant we are on all of this stuff,” Pat concluded. “I was thinking about this the other day when I was at the airport on the way here. There were still a bank of five pay phones on the wall at the airport at my gate and no one using any of them ever… Why? They’re obsolete… Look how far we’ve come and how quickly. And think about where we’d be if all of this went away. We’re so reliant on all this stuff now. It’s really amazing.”
Front page image courtesy of the AP