Think of cybersecurity today as you would an 8-track tape player. And, think of 8-track cartridges as the equivalent of Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. Then, fast forward about 5 years and imagine a digitized version of music delivery (as in iTunes) taking the form of a passive social media embedded in an augmented reality world
Huh? Here’s what I mean: Many technology analysts predict that today’s concept of actively “posting” or “sharing” will be frowned upon in the future and will be entirely replaced by a passive stream of your life’s experiences, whereabouts, and media consumption. Andy Warhol’s droll prediction of 15 minutes of fame will be expanded to 24×7.
We will have a 24 hour channel of “you” that is always live (or automatically programmed), and always accessible to your friends (or if you’re born in the age of transparency (post year 2000), accessible to anyone), and always completely “authentic”. Any effort to actively post something will be seen as “manual editing” and will be broadly perceived as a huge negative no-no. Quality of streams will be community and algorithmically-determined, surfacing the highlights of your experience in ways that are determined through machine-learning and as a result will be assumed to reflect the “real” you as opposed to today’s “Facebook” you. The wisdom of crowds will enforce the authenticity by calling out clever fakes and workarounds.
In addition, we will all be riding a layer of augmented reality where our experiences will be enhanced by Geo-centric assistance/suggestions for food, beverage, entertainment, transportation, relaxation, stimulation, elimination, learning, exercise, sleep, housing, shopping, clothing, etc., in ways that we have selected through intelligence, machine learning and/or crowd sourced filtering to provide us with only the things we “like” and none of the things we “don’t like”.
These two emerging paths will merge to create a slew of social products and new forms of media advertising designed to entice not just you the traveler but also in the form of a natural viral infection, the people following you on your life journey. Whatever you are doing or consuming will become a catalyst for others’ discovery.
This means that today’s forms of paid user acquisition will become obsolete, and will instead be replaced by “product and “experience placement.” This will be great for you because the prices you will pay for products and services in your life will be offset by the exposure you bring to the brands you use. The cooler you are, the bigger your network and the better your conversion from viewers (CFV) measures become, the less your life will cost.
The relevance for social networks will be perishable and will rely entirely on context. They will move in and out of your augmented reality as they are useful. For example, you take a trip to New York City in April. Your social network will come to life enabling Big Apple navigation, events, connections, restaurants, friends, hotels, etc., and then just as suddenly disappear when your trip is over to be replaced by the next passive network infestation. Given the absence of manual editing, these networks will be trusted and become an effective form of empathy and truth. We will fall in love with machine learning.
Setting aside whether you think this all sounds “amazing and awesome” or “nightmarish”, not only will your augmented reality be continually under siege by advertising and product placement wars, but more importantly, you will not be able to distinguish truth from reality even more than you can’t today. Our current versions of ad blockers may advance in tandem with conventional advertising or product placement technologies but ideas will be more difficult to deal with than products, machine learning or otherwise.
If our inability to attend to the cybersecurity issues around IoT to-date is any indication, our future augmented realty platforms will become giant petri dishes for fraud and misdirection. Imagine what happens to your cognizant awareness if you receive all of your “information” from Fox News, or conversely from MSNBC? It is one thing to have a million records containing personal identifiable information stolen from a company’s databases via a cybersecurity breach, but it is quite another to be able to continually influence the direction of purchasing decisions of billions of consumers. A product marketing manager’s wet dream? Sure.
But the implications are obviously much greater and widespread and elevate the issue of cybersecurity to a different level.
I am sure we will all be able to install adaptive artificial intelligence combined with instant crowd-sourced filtering that will override unwelcome parts of our augmented reality experience and these will work fine right up until the moment that the bad guys figure out how to work around the defenses. This, in today’s world usually takes about 30 days. I see nothing in the way of technological advances that will shore up or lengthen that cycle.
The recent technology advances that have enabled this rapid evolution to a new world of spontaneous and copious information served up through our augmented reality platforms (our iPhone as today’s version of the 8-track player) is exciting and loaded with opportunity for both consumers and entrepreneurs and for capitalism as a whole.
It would be useful however, if we could just slow things down a bit and seriously address the cybersecurity risk associated with this direction before we plunge ahead. Because if we don’t, I don’t worry so much about bad guys being able to influence consumer behavior or even global politics as I am about our own government finding the rationalization to swoop in and “protect” us all by erecting another institution to regulate our collective behavior.
Whether it’s the future of passive social media and augmented reality or the present state of IoT defenses or even our immediate inability to protect our national infrastructure (vis-a-vis the October 21st DDoS probe) or the sensitive data that resides in most small and medium sized businesses, or medical and surgical devices in hospitals and treatment centers, we need to address the issue seriously and begin to implement technology and service solutions that can mitigate these attacks and deal with them appropriately.
If we don’t start sending that message now, we will be forever doomed to this cycle of probe, attack, breach, exfiltrate and conquer with no end in sight. And the really big prizes for able cyber-criminals are waiting in the wings.