Socio-Ethical Implications of Implantable Technologies in the Military Sector

Abstract:

The military sector has been investing in nanotechnology solutions since their inception. Internal assessment committees in defense programmatically determine to what degree complex technologies will be diffused into the Armed Forces. The broad term nanotechnology is used in this Special Issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine to encompass a variety of innovations, from special paint markers that can determine unique identity, to RFID implants in humans. With the purported demand for these new materials, we have seen the development of a fabrication process that has catapulted a suite of advanced technologies in the military marketplace. These technologies were once the stuff of science fiction. Now we have everything from exoskeletons, to wearable headsets with accelerated night vision, to armaments that have increased in durability in rugged conditions along with the ability for central command without human intervention. Is this the emergence of the so-called supersoldier, a type of Iron Man?

Nanotechnology in the Military Sector

The military sector has been investing in nanotechnology solutions since their inception. Internal assessment committees in defense programmatically determine to what degree complex technologies will be diffused into the Armed Forces. The broad term nanotechnology is used in this Special Issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine to encompass a variety of innovations, from special paint markers that can determine unique Identity, to RFID implants in humans. With the purported demand for these new materials, we have seen the development of a fabrication process that has catapulted a suite of advanced technologies in the military marketplace. These technologies were once the stuff of science fiction. Now we have everything from exoskeletons, to wearable headsets with accelerated night vision, to armaments that have increased in durability in rugged conditions along with the ability for central command without human intervention. Is this the emergence of the so-called super-soldier, a type of Iron Man?

Social Implications: Key Questions

This special issue is predominantly based on proceedings coming from the 9th Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security, co-convened by the authors of this guest editorial. The workshop focused specifically on human-centric implantable technologies in the military sector. Key questions the workshop sought to address with respect to implants included:

  • What are the social implications of new proposed security technologies?
  • What are the rights of soldiers who are contracted to the defense forces in relation to the adoption of the new technologies?
  • Does local military law override rights provided under the rule of law in a given jurisdiction, and 1 what are the legal implications?
  • What might be some of the side effects experienced by personnel in using nanotechnology devices that have not yet been tested under conditions of war and conflict?
  • How pervasive are nanotechnologies and microelectronics (e.g., implantable technologies) in society at large?


Recommended Reading

More broadly the workshop sought to examine socio-ethical implications with respect to citizenry, the social contract formed with the individual soldier, and other stakeholders such as industry suppliers to government, government agencies, and the Armed Forces [1].

  • F. Allhoff, P. Lin, D. Moore, What is Nanotechnology and why does it matter? From Science to Ethics, West Sussex, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
  • S.J. Florczyk and S. Saha, “Ethical issues in nanotechnology,” J. Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 107-113,2007.
  • A. Krishnan, Military Neuroscience and the Coming of Neurowarfare, London, Routledge, 2017.
  • K. Michael, “Socio-ethical Implications of the Bionic Era”, Academy of Science in Australia, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOOgep8ery8, Shine Dome, Canberra, 25/05/17.
  • R.A. Miranda, W.D. Casebeer, A.M. Hein, J.W. Judy, E.P. Krotkov, T.L. Laabs, J.E. Manzo, K.G. Pankratz, G.A. Pratt, J.C. Sanchez, D.J. Weber, T.L. Wheeler, G.S.F. Ling, “DARPA-funded efforts in the development of novel brain-computer interface technologies,” Journal of Neuroscience Methods, vol. 244, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165027014002702, 2015.
  • M. Murphy, “The US Military Is Developing Brain Implants to Boost Memory and Heal PTSD,” Defense One, 2015; http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2015/11/us-military-developing-brain-implants-boost-memory-and-heal-ptsd/123784/, 17/11/15.
  • M. Orcutt, “DARPA's New Neural Implant Has a Sneaky Way of Getting Inside Heads,” M.I.T. Tech. Rev., 2016; https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600761/darpas-new-neural-implant-has-a-sneaky-way-of-getting-inside-heads/, 09/02/16.
  • D. Ratner, M. Ratner, New Weapons for New Wars: Nanotechnology and Homeland Security, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 2004.
  • P.S. Saha and S. Saha, “Clinical trials of medical devices and implants: Ethical concerns,” IEEE Eng. Med. & Biol. Mag., vol. 7, pp. 86–87, 1988.
  • S. Saha and P. Saha, “Biomedical ethics and the biomedical engineer: A review,” Critical Reviews in Biomedical Eng., vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 163–201, 1988.
  • P. Tucker, “The Military Is Building Brain Chips to Treat PTSD,” The Atlantic, 2014; http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/05/the-military-is-building-brain-chips-to-treat-ptsd/371855/, 29/05/2014.

DARPA's RAM Project

In 2012, the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) confirmed plans to create nanosensors to monitor the health of soldiers on battlefields [2]. In 2014, ExtremeTech [3] reported on a 2013 DARPA project titled the “Restoring Active Memory (RAM) Project.” Ultimately the aim of RAM was:

“to develop a prototype implantable neural device that enables recovery of memory in a human clinical population. Additionally, the program encompasses the development of quantitative models of complex, hierarchical memories and exploration of neurobiological and behavioral distinctions between memory function using the implantable device versus natural learning and training” [4].

Several months later, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) published on their web site an article on how DARPA was developing wireless implantable brain prostheses for service members and veterans who had suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) memory loss [5]. Quoting here from the article:

“Called neuroprotheses, the implant would help declarative memory, which consciously recalls basic knowledge such as events, times and places…”
“these neuroprosthetics will be designed to bridge the gaps in the injured brain to help restore that memory function… Our vision is to develop neuroprosthetics for memory recovery in patients living with brain injury and dysfunction.”
“The neuroprosthetics developed and tested over the next four years would be as a wireless, fully implantable neural-interface medical device for human clinical use.”

The U.S. DOD also noted that traumatic brain injury has affected about 270 000 U.S. service members since 2000, and another 1.7 million civilians. The DOD said that they would begin to focus their attention on service members first [6]. Essentially the program is meant to help military personnel with psychiatric disorders, using electronic devices implanted in the brain. Treated disorders range from depression, to anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder [7]. The bulk of the15 million) and the University of Pennsylvania ($22.5 million), in collaboration with the Minneapolis-based biomedical device company Medtronic [8].

More Information

Visual proceedings of the 9th Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security, including powerpoint presentations, are available [9]. The workshop was held during the 2016 IEEE Norbert Wiener Conference, at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Several DARPA-funded neurologists from the Vascular Bionics Laboratory at the University of Melbourne were invited to present at the workshop, including a team led by Thomas Oxley, M.D. [10]. (Oxley did not personally appear as he was in the U.S. on a training course related to intensive neurosurgical training.)

The military implantable technologies field at large is fraught with bioethical implications. Many of these issues were raised at the Workshop, and remain unanswered. If there is going to be a significant investment in advancing new technologies for soldiers suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the military, there needs to be commensurate funding invested to address unforeseen challenges. In fact, it is still unclear whether U.S. service members must accept participation in experimental brain research if asked, or if they can decline in place of other nonintrusive medical help.

References

1. K. Michael, "Mental Health Implantables and Side Effects", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 5-17.

2. B. Unruh, "U.S. Military Developing Spychips for Soldiers", WND, [online] Available: http://www.wnd.com/2012/05/u-s-military-developing-spychlps-for-soldiers/.

3. S. Anthony, "US military begins work on brain implants that can restore lost memories experiences", ExtremeTech, [online] Available: http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/176337-us-military-begins-work-on-brain-implants-that-can-restore-Iost-memories-experience.

4. "Restoring Active Memory (RAM)", [online] Available: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=925a0e2faf1c2e3c3782e1788fcc660d&tab=core&_cview=0.

5. T. M. Cronk, DARPA Developing Implants to Help with TBI Memory Loss, US Department of Defense.

6. T. M. Cronk, DARPA Developing Implants to Help with TBI Memory Loss, US Department of Defense.

7. John Hamilton, "Military Plans To Test Brain Implants To Fight Mental Disorders", Npr.org, [online] Available: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/05/27/316129491/military-plans-to-test-brain-implants-to-fight-mental-disorders.

8. Tanya Lewis, "US Military Developing Brain Implants to Restore Memory", LiveScience, [online] Available: http://www.livescience.com/46710-military-memory-brain-implants.html.

9. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, J.C. Galliot, R. Nicholls, "The Socio-Ethical Implications of Implantable Technologies in the Military Sector", The Ninth Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security (SINS16).

 10. "Minimally Invasive “Stentrode” Shows Potential as Neural Interface for Brain: Implantable device repurposes stent technology to enable direct recording from neurons", Darpa.mil, [online] Available: http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2016-02-08.

 

Citation: Katina Michael, M.G. Michael, Jai C. Galliot, Rob Nicholls, "Socio-Ethical Implications of Implantable Technologies in the Military Sector", 15 March 2017, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 7-9, 10.1109/MTS.2017.2670219.

IEEE Keywords: Special issues and sections, Military communication, Military technology, Implantable biomedical devices, Nanotechnology

INSPEC: ethical aspects, nanofabrication, night vision, radiofrequency identification, social sciences, implantable technologies socio-ethical implication, military sector, nanotechnology, internal assessment committee, RFID implant, fabrication process, military marketplace, night vision,durability, super-soldier

Gone Fishing

Figure 1. Packing for a full month away. Everything but the kitchen sink.

Figure 1. Packing for a full month away. Everything but the kitchen sink.

On the 9th of December in 2015, I set out for a camping trip with my three young children to the Sapphire Coast of Australia, toward the New South Wales and Victorian border (Figure 1). The last time I had driven through this stunning part of the world, was when my parents decided to take their four children across country in a Ford Cortina station wagon to visit their first cousins on apricot and citrus farms in South Australia.

I turned eight years of age over that summer, and the memories of that trip are etched into our hearts. We've laughed countless times over events on that holiday, all of which were borne from a “lack of access” to technology, resulting in “close-ess” and “togetherness.” Loxton, South Australia, only had two television channels back then-the ABC news, and 5A which showed endless games and replays of cricket. While we grew to love cricket — we had no choice - we welcomed every opportunity to physically help our cousins gather fruit using nothing but ladders and our bare hands.

It was the festive season, and I remember lots and lots of family gatherings, parties, and outdoor lamb-spit barbecues. We gathered to eat, and dance, and our elders reminisced over what life was like in the village in Greece, and tell us funny stories about growing up with hardly any material possessions. Highlights included: when a photographer visited the village once every other year to take pictures with his humungous boxed contraption, which he would hide behind; the memory of the first time a car was spotted trying to come into the village; walking to school one hour away with shoes made out of goat skin (if not barefoot); and the harsh unheated winters and boiling hot summers over scenic Sparta.

It was a kind of celebration of life when I think back. It was so carefree, clean and pure, and joyous! Everyone lived in the moment. No one took pictures of their food to post to Instagram, no one had their head buried in front of a screen watching YouTube on demand, and we were outside in the fresh air awestruck by the beauty of the glistening stars that shone so bright in the night sky (and getting bitten by mosquitos while doing so). It was a kind of SnapChat without the “Snap.” On that trip I gained an appreciation for the land, and its importance in sustaining us as human beings.

As I reflect on that time, we travelled through remote parts of Australia with nothing but ourselves. We were too poor to stay at hotels, so dad ingeniously turned our station-wagon into a caravan, or so it seemed to us when the back seat folded forward and the travelling bags were placed on the roof rack secured with a blue tarpaulin.

Figure 2. The great Australian outdoor toilet, proverbially known as a “dunny” Used in one camp site the kids endearingly nicknamed “Kalaru Poo.”

Figure 2. The great Australian outdoor toilet, proverbially known as a “dunny” Used in one camp site the kids endearingly nicknamed “Kalaru Poo.”

We had no mobile phone in the car, no portable wifi-enabled tablet, no gaming DS, and certainly no down-screen DVD player or in-car navigation system to interrupt the ebb and flow of a family confined to a small space for six weeks. Mum would put on a few Greek cassettes for us to sing along to (Dad's “best ofs” which he had dubbed from the radio), and we paid particular attention to the landscape and wildlife. Mum would tell stories nostalgically about the time before we were born and how she left her homeland at seventeen on her own. And dad would talk about the struggles of losing his mother just before the start of World War II, and how his schooling was interrupted in third class as towns were burned to the crisp by the invaders, and how lucky we were to have a chance at education in a peaceful nation. All the while my brother Arthur was pointing at how far we had driven with his AO mapliterally thousands of kilometres-which gave me a great sense of space and time that has stayed with me to this day. And of course, I do recollect the unforgettable chant of my little sister and big sister in near unison, “are we there yet?”

Last December 2015, after a demanding year in my various roles that included bi-monthly long-haul travel, I was determined to “shut down” the outside world, and give my children what my parents had given me, in all the same simplicity (Figure 2). I somehow needed to give my children my full attention for a four-week duration without a laptop in tow, ensuring that my body and mind would recover from the year that was. I knew I was drifting into overload in September 2015, when on one occasion, I found myself asking my husband which side of the road I should be driving on, even when I was in my home town.

Figure 3. The most spectacular and secluded Nelson Beach down the trail of Nelson Lake Rd near Mogareeka, NSW.

Figure 3. The most spectacular and secluded Nelson Beach down the trail of Nelson Lake Rd near Mogareeka, NSW.

Figure 4. My youngest walking near the most spectacular Wallagoot Gap. We spent the day out at this magical place, swimming with the fish.

Figure 4. My youngest walking near the most spectacular Wallagoot Gap. We spent the day out at this magical place, swimming with the fish.

When one loves life and what they do, it is easy to feel so energized that you don't feel the need to stop… but “stop” I did. I wanted to reconnect with the natural environment in a big way, with my kids, and my inner self. I found myself asking those deep questions about creation - who, what, when, how? What an incredible world we live in! How does it all work and hang together as it does? I felt so thankful. Thankful for my family, my friends, my work, nature, life, Australia. It is so easy to take it for granted.

Each day, we'd choose a different place to visit, not excluding unsealed roads that led to secluded beaches, lakes, and inlets (Figures 3 and 4). Every morning we were awakened by the birdlife - a strange creature would call out at 4:30 a.m. for about 15 minutes straight, and then give it a rest; spotted lizards a few meters long on the road, and lots of kangaroos coming out of hiding at dusk to socialize. While we swam we could see the fish in the sea (with and without snorkels), and we got to speak with complete strangers, feeling like we had all the time in the world to do so.

At historical places, we learned about indigenous people like “King Billy” of the Yuin clan who would often be seen walking unheard distances in the 1950s in the dense shrub between Jervis Bay and Eden − 300 km (Figure 5).

 

Figure 5. The Yuin people (aka Thurga) are the Australian Aborigines from the South Coast of New South Wales. At top are images of legendary “King Billy” as he was nicknamed.

Figure 5. The Yuin people (aka Thurga) are the Australian Aborigines from the South Coast of New South Wales. At top are images of legendary “King Billy” as he was nicknamed.

My kids began to make comments about how resourceful the aborigines would have been, catching fresh fish, making new walking tracks, and being blessed to live in a pristine world before the built environment changed it so radically (Figure 5). It was not difficult for me to imagine throwing in my current lifestyle for the serenity, peace, and tranquillity of the bush. The kids and I would be outside under the sun for at least 12 hours each day, and it was effortless and filled with activities, and so very much fulfilling (Figure 6).

Figure 6.  The sun setting on New Year's Eve celebrations in 2015 in Merimbula, NSW

Figure 6. The sun setting on New Year's Eve celebrations in 2015 in Merimbula, NSW

Figure 7. Pre-bedtime entertainment in our tent. Another game of Snakes & Ladders anyone?

Figure 7. Pre-bedtime entertainment in our tent. Another game of Snakes & Ladders anyone?

The kids didn't watch any television on this trip even though they had access to it in one camp spot (Figure 7). I spoke on the cell phone only a handful of times, and on some days I did not use electricity (they were my favorite days). Many times we did not have any cell phone coverage for large parts of the day. I learnt some important things about each of my children on this trip and about myself and the world we live in (Figure 8). And I'd love to do it all again, sooner than later.

We've been sold the idea that technology provides security for us but I am of the opinion that at least psychologically it leads to insecurity (1). It is a paradox. My eldest kept asking what we would do if we got a flat tire or engine trouble deep down a dirt road where we had no connectivity, or what we'd do in the event of a bushfire (Figure 9). Good questions I thought, and answered them by driving more slowly and carefully, avoiding sharp rocks and potholes, and more than anything, turning to prayer “God, keep me and my children safe. Help us not to panic at a time of trouble, and to know what to do. Help us not to be harmed. And help us not to have fear.” For all intense and purposes, technology which has been sold to us for security, breeds a false sense of security and even greater fear. We have learned to rely on mobile phones or the Internet, even when we don't need them. It has become a knee-jerk reaction, even if we have the stored information at hand readily available.

 

Figure 8. The kids posing for a photo with a big snail at Merimbula's Main Beach. Such a great opportunity for all of us to bond even closer together.

Figure 8. The kids posing for a photo with a big snail at Merimbula's Main Beach. Such a great opportunity for all of us to bond even closer together.

I am thankful I turned to art on this trip - a decision I made a few days before I left my home (see cover image of this issue). I loved speaking to real people, in person, and asking them to participate (2). Being able to hear their laughs, and see the expressions on their faces, and listen to their respective stories was so satisfying. On a few occasions I embraced people I met after opening my heart to life matters, challenges, joys, and sorrows. The cool thing? I met lots of people that reminded me of my mum and dad; lots of people who had three or four or more (or no) children - and felt connected more than ever before to the big family we call “society.” We'd sit around at the beach, at the rock pool, or the camp site, listening and learning from one another, and somehow indirectly encouraging one another onwards. We soon realized these were shared experiences and there was a solidarity, a “oneness,” an empathy between us.

Figure 9. Going down a steep and narrow unsealed road with lots of potholes at Mimosa Rocks National Park. One way down and only one way up.

Figure 9. Going down a steep and narrow unsealed road with lots of potholes at Mimosa Rocks National Park. One way down and only one way up.

We returned home a few days early due to heavy rains, and unexpectedly I did not feel the drive to return to my email trove that I figured had grown substantially in size. The thought crossed my mind that I could get heavily depressed over the thousands of messages I had missed. But I controlled that temptation. The last thing I wanted at that point was to get bogged down again in the rhythm of the digital world. Friends and colleagues might have been shocked that I did as I said I would do - utterly disconnect - but I learned something very fundamental… time away from the screen makes us more human as it inevitably brings us closer together, closer to nature, and also brings things into perspective.

Depending on our work, we can feel captive behind the screen at times, or at least to the thousands of messages that grace our laptops and mobile phones. They make us even more digital and mechanical - in intonation, action, even movement and thought. Breaking with this feeling and regaining even a little bit of control back is imperative every so often, lest we become machine-like ourselves. It is healthy to be “Just human,” without the extensions and the programs. In fact, it is essential to revitalize us and help us find our place in the world, as sometimes technology leads us too quickly ahead of even ourselves.

While it is an intuitive thing to do, you might find yourself having to work that little bit harder to make the unplugged time happen. But breaking free of all the tech (and associated expectations) occasionally, reinforces what it once meant to be human.

References

1. M. Lacy, "Cities of panic and siege psychosis" in Security Technology and Global Politics: Thinking with Virilio, New York, NY:Routledge, pp. 69f, 2014.

2. K. Michael, "Unintended consequences 1–100", [online] Available: http://www.katinamichael.com/call-for-papers/2016/1/14/unintended-consequences-1-100-artwork.

Citation: Katina Michael, "Gone Fishing: Breaking with the Biometric Rhythm of Tech-Centricism", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine ( Volume: 35, Issue: 4, Dec. 2016 ), pp. 6 - 9, Date of Publication: 19 December 2016, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2016.2618738.

Putting Technology into Perspective in Asia

With almost four billion people, Asia comprises about 55% of the world's population and 45% of the world's Internet users [1]. Internet penetration in Asia is estimated at almost 28% compared with the rest of the world at 43% [2]. The number of mobile users in Asia at the end of 2012 was estimated at about 3.2 billion subscribers. Eighteen countries in Asia have saturated mobile markets exceeding 100% penetration, while Macau and Hong Kong have mobile penetration levels of more than 200% [3]. India and China account for over 60% of the telecommunications market in Asia which is why so many companies are vying to be there.

But all of this needs to be factored against some humbling statistics. For example, 66.7% of people living in South Asia in 2010 earned less than$2 a day compared with 30% in East Asia and the Pacific [4]. According to the World Bank, more than a third of these people did not earn more than$1.25 a day, placing them below the poverty line. An estimated 80–90% of this population is rural, with rural poverty especially endemic in Southern Asia [5]. However, between 1990 and 2008 the number of people living in poverty in the world halved [6]. One question to ponder is how much of this reduction in poverty was as a direct result of technology?

When I worked for Nortel in Asia I had the opportunity to study voice and data teletraffic flow maps published by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). I was always intrigued by the fact that thick arrows representing large volumes showed information flowing in and out of developed nations [7]. Poorer nations in Asia and Africa especially had very thin flows. Sometimes this signified that a market was predominantly “closed” and had not yet formally deregulated, or that internal conflict caused it to remain troubled instead of outward looking and global. The poverty cycle, also known as a spiral, is difficult to break. Initiatives like one laptop per child (OLPC) surely provide hope [8], as do open data initiatives to give access to information to anyone who has an Internet connection of any type [9]. However when there is no one to pay the electricity bill or to even guarantee the underlying infrastructure, even these promising ventures will fall short.

There are numerous ways to consider technology within a framework of progress. For example, some point to genetically modified (GM) crops that can provide food for those in need [10]; enabling technologies in the manufacturing industry giving workers a chance to earn a living; transportation technology like containers on ships and rail that enable global supply chain processes; sophisticated private and public exchange banking systems that allow for electronic commerce from anywhere in the world; and a high tech industry that is continually reinventing itself with new innovations to keep the retail sector moving.

Nonetheless, resources are limited as populations continue to rise at an increasing rate in developing nations, placing pressure on fossil fuel reserves. On the one hand these limited resources have meant that we are continually seeking to harness new alternative means of energy such as solar and wind, but on the other hand, we may be quickly approaching a crisis far greater than that of the 1973 oil embargo and subsequent stock market crash, if we do not back renewable resource initiatives with serious and ongoing research funding.

The externalities of technology are not only felt on a global scale with respect to climate change as a direct result of carbon emissions, but are vividly obvious in other activities from the exportation of e-waste disposal to countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, and in the contamination of waterways through industrial chemical waste within organizations situated within Asia and Africa [11].

In other cases, technology change has equated to business process optimization so harsh on employees that inhumane practices have been discovered in sweat shops and white good manufacturing lines. We might be paying significantly reduced prices for our computers, toasters, and clothes, but somewhere up the “chain” someone has had to get the component parts to a finished good. We have a responsibility to ensure that child workers are not being exploited on cocoa farms to bring us our favorite chocolate bars, and that pregnant female workers are not bound to their sewing machines from dawn to dusk, among a great many other worker issues.

I observe around my neighborhood during rubbish collection days, electrical appliances such as printers, abandoned on the roadside because it is cheaper to purchase a brand new one than to take the effort in purchasing color toner and installing it for use. Little by little we have become the throw-away generation, and the side effects from this thoughtless consumerism will cost us heavily in years to come. How much more prevalent this behavior might become with the onset of 3D printers and downloadable computer-aided designs (CAD) is anyone's guess.

While I do not wish to cast any shadow on this significant special issue dedicated to “Technology and Society in Asia” for which I thank the tremendous efforts of ISTAS12 organizers Greg Adamson, Michael Arnold, Sophie McKenzie, and guest editors Martin Gibbs, Philip Hall, and Shiro Uesugi, a counter-balance is necessary to place the special issue in perspective [12]. Yes, technology is the answer to so many of our problems today, but it can also be the source of our woes. That which has had such a positive impact on the production functions of so many processes, i.e., technology, can also carry with it negative intangible and hidden costs to the individual, the household, the factory, and society at large. We need to think past the first ripple effect, to far-reaching consequences, ensuring that we take the longer-term view, before that which immediately benefits profit margins.

References

1. United Nations Population Information Network, 2009, [online] Available: http://www.un.org/popin/data.html.

2. Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics, 2013, [online] Available: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm.

3. P. Evans, P. Budde, "Asia-Mobile broadband and digital economy overview", BuddeComm, 2012, [online] Available: http://www.budde.com.au/Research/Asia-Mobile-Broadband-and-Digital-Economy-Overview.html.

4. "Poverty and equity data", The World Bank, 2013, [online] Available: http://data.worldbank.org/topic/poverty.

5. "Rural Poverty Portal: Asia", International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), 2009, [online] Available: http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/region/home/tags/asia.

6. M. Tuck, "Poverty Reduction and Equity", The World Bank, 2013, [online] Available: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/.

7. "Measuring the Information Society" in International Telecommunications Union, 2012.

8. one.laptop.org, OLPC Foundation.

9. Interaction Design Foundation.

10. S.K. Moore, E. Strickland, "GM foods grow up", IEEE Spectrum, 2013, [online] Available: http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/environment/gm-foods-grow-up.

11. StEP Solving the e-waste problem, 2012, [online] Available: http://www.step-initiative.org/.

12. ISTAS12 Technology and Society in Asia IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society, 2012.

Citation: Katina Michael, "Putting Technology into Perspective in Asia", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 32, Issue: 3, Fall 2013, pp. 5 - 6, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2013.2276662

Privacy - The times they are a-changin'

Introduction

This special section is dedicated to privacy in the information age. In particular, since the rise of mobile social media and the advent of cloud computing, few can dispute that the times have indeed changed. Privacy is now understood “in context” and within a framework that is completely different from what it once was. The right to be let alone physically seems to have been up turned by the right to give away virtually as much information as we like.

What kind of inherent safeguards can be introduced into the data driven society? We cannot argue for privacy as a natural right if we ourselves do not respect the laws that govern the use of personal information - except for those instances when we become the victims of our own folly (or otherwise through security breaches). We cannot ask for the application of law only on those occasions when we find ourselves on the wrong side of the new openness, so as to escape the consequences of being defrauded or having our identity stolen, or when we are the subjects of blackmail or cyber bullying.

Police services must also be held accountable when there are surveillance laws that are not being enforced as a consequence of new technologies. These laws do not suit the new range of high-tech policing capabilities - everything from body worn video recorders for “always on” surveillance of the citizenry to the use of opinion net monitors on social media such as Facebook. For the most part we are struggling with out-of-date and outmoded listening and surveillance device acts, privacy acts, telecommunications acts and interception acts, and we are moving toward data retention legislation that will make audit and compliance of every transaction mandatory in business and government. And if the laws are not outdated then they will often contradict one another or overwrite each other, providing those chartered with authority the continued ability to engage in mass surveillance.

Commercial entities create privacy policies that are seldom read - more a shortcoming of the trust and indifference of some subscribers and complete ignorance of others about the collection and use of personal information. Internet search giants are now joining numerous product-focused policies into a single policy, and in so doing limiting their liability while increasing that of their subscribers. It is evident enough that consumers cannot win, they go with the flow to keep au courant of the constant change, never quite being in control even if they believe themselves to be. The network increases in stealth and size as more and more personal data is fed into it.

We are told there are a number of solutions to the current privacy problems - 1) build in privacy to the design of new technologies at the engineering and commercialization stages, 2) ensure that appropriate crimes legislation and provisions are in place so that there are harsher penalties for people who breach the privacy rights of others, and/or 3) leave it to commerce itself to deal with using a number of ways to protect consumer privacy through technical standards and industry codes of conduct.

Some of the articles in this special section address these issues from a variety of stakeholder perspectives including government, non-government organizations, industry, and consumers. If we have privacy problems then we remain hopeful there must be solutions. But clearly the solutions are limited, if only because of the insatiable nature of the beast.

There is also a discernible movement between what was once considered a brave new world, to the open innovation model that is heralding an even “braver new world.” We are correspondingly doing away with the familiar George Orwell motifs and sentiments, and moving toward that of the Big Data “all you can eat and stomach” model. This new practice is supposed to give rise to a collective intelligence never before seen, a global brain of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate discoveries and increase productivity. Anyone still stuck on the existential and privacy concerns raised by 1984 might as well give up on the debate. at least this is what we are being pushed to believe by the transnationalist capitalist class which has globalized at unprecedented speeds. Recently G.T. Marx has again reminded us of the technique of normalization. And so for those gloomy students of Thomas Hobbes, for their numbers have also been increasing, Leviathan will take on newer and more sinister connotations.

There is for sure much to be gained from Big Data, from open innovation, from sharing our knowledge as one global community. Yet sharing openly might be the utilitarian approach that serves the greater good at the expense of the individual. In terms of consumerism, this is and will in all probability forever remain one of the great paradoxes of our post-industrial society. Making certain individual claims about health and disease for example will inevitably help communities overcome or become more resilient to them, but they will also impact the individual asymmetrically by lending them to even more detailed forms of scrutiny such as social sorting and potential insurance typecasting. Our online searches reveal more about us than what we might like to think - we could to some large degree be determining our own destiny by what we enter into that little space we call the search box.

So what are we supposed to do then? We cannot simply give up the battle for maintaining our right to privacy. This special section is not about giving it up without a good fight. It is about finding inspiration in how we can offer something that works for all parties - but mostly for citizens if we are to embrace user-centered engineering approaches that are secure and long lasting. There is indeed much to gain from new and imaginative online business models if they are used for the right purposes and in the right way. Conversely, we are headed for dangerous waters if these models are abused and mismanaged by those who are in charge.

We have endeavoured here to offer an international Special Section with a wide range of perspectives. Some articles digress on viewpoints, but all of our expert authors are willing to have open dialogue and to seriously engage in the public forum. We must capture these and other consonant opportunities to speak now while we can, that we might together come up with a global approach to arrest alarming developments that threaten to turn privacy into a thing of the past. Privacy does matter. It is both the stuff of dreams and of identity.

IEEE Keywords: Privacy, Data privacy, Security, Social network services

Citation: Katina Michael, 2012, Privacy- the times are a changin', IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 31(4),

Converging and coexisting systems towards smart surveillance

Automatic identification technologies, CCTV cameras, pervasive and mobile networks, wearable computing, location-based services and social networks have traditionally served distinct purposes. However, we have observed patterns of integration, convergence and coexistence among all these innovations within the information and communication technology industry.

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