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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

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The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Google and Government -- Who Owns that Data, Anyway? -- Soc, Tech

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For those who haven't been keeping up with the news, the Bush Administration recently requested data from the major search engines -- data on all of the searches performed in a particular week -- in the expressed hope of finding enough proof of child exploitation on the Web to revive a broad-based law protecting children. Of the major search engines, only Google has refused to comply.

Whatever you may feel about this particular issue, I think the situation is relevant to this site in two ways -- one, showing us how our own actions can leave us exposed to future data mining, and two, reminding us of how much power can accumulate in the hands of a very small number of people even without access to radical augmentation tech (note, for example, Google's genetic research, or their genetic and AI research).

This particular exchange during a question and answer session with David Vise, the author of The Google Story, is particularly revealing:

Boston, Mass.: To what extent can Google identify users if the user takes "reasonable" steps to guard privacy, such as (1) not having a Gmail acct, (2) not accepting cookies, and (3) turning off the search history function?

David A. Vise: Under those circumstances, Google says it cannot readily identify users. Having said that, Google still may have some IP address data. But taking the steps you describe is definitely a reasonable set of safeguards against Google, or some third party, identifying individuals based on data from the search engine.

Google, itself, has spoken of giving users the option of doing these things if they want to use the search engine but are worried about their privacy.

I believe what you are describing reflects the kind of approach Google is likely to take in China to protect the identies of individuals in the event it must comply wth a Chinese govt request for information.

I point the above information out not to make some random reader feel computer-illiterate, but because it's an example of how much you can do to protect yourself with absolutely minimal knowledge and effort. In other words, you don't have to be a genius, much less some kind of a supergenius, to be able to protect yourself from this form of surveillance. These kinds of issues will become ever more important as technology steadily expands in the future, and will be even more critical if dramatically enhanced intelligence become prevalent.

We can do a great deal to keep unnaturally-brilliant-but-not-omniscient beings under control. But in order to handle extraordinary technology and extraordinary beings, we have to be a bit extraordinary ourselves, both as individuals and a society.

So, are you ready to step up? Because we can't hide in this dugout forever...


Future Imperative

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