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SANS Security Insights

Technology for Technology's Sake? Or for the Good of Humanity?

Interview with Carlos Moreira, co-author of The transHuman Code

By Deb Radcliff, Creative Director, SANS Analyst Program

We've seen it before in 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator and other Hollywood blockbusters: Artificial intelligence (AI) gets smarter and overtakes humans as the dominant life-form. And while that day may never actually come to pass, AI and technology's impact on our everyday lives is coming to a crucial junction, says Carlos Moreira.

Moreira, a technology pioneer who in the early days of the internet served 17 years at the United Nations advising on cybersecurity and trust models, says he and co-author David Fergusson felt compelled to write about this tension between good, indifferent and evil uses of tech based on in-depth discussions with other thought leaders around the world. Many of those recorded conversations are included at the end of their new book, The transHuman Code.

"For the most part, technology has become dehumanized, and we have to put the human back into the equation," Moreira says. "Otherwise AI gets smarter than we are, and we race to disappear."

In the book, the authors look at new technological developments that can help with uniquely human problems like hunger, health, and even employment. But most of the investment money, he points out, goes toward platforms that collect and consolidate human data for the purposes of marketing and sales.

"This is a very poor way of utilizing human capital. There are so many other problems to solve with technology, rather than just mining data and selling us advertising," Moreira explains. "We need new investment, innovation and momentum. But that can't be generated while you have a $10 trillion economy around reuse of our data through social media platforms."

Not to mention the value of selling our personal data on the dark web, which represents $160 billion of a $1.5 trillion underground economy.

The book contains several calls to action, from using financial incentives to drive business away from data mining platforms and toward more R&D, and putting users in control of their own data through blockchain-based usage contracts.

Moreira also points to stronger data protection laws in the EU. He is involved in a number of groups supporting tech industry collaboration, such as Cybersecurity Tech Accord, as well as discussion around the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is ongoing through the World Economic Forum at Davos.

Don't look to AI to completely solve the world's problems, he warns. AI developing its own AI is already happening, but human emotion and perspective, as well as their paths to critical thinking skills, will always place humans above technology.

"Tech is blind. It is not good or bad. But you will always have a world where tech is used for good and for bad. It's basic human nature. What's very dangerous is to use tech for bad, while people think that the tech is for their good," Moreira adds. "That is what TransHuman Code is trying to get business, IT and government to start thinking about-before it's too late."

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