So we had to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is a huge problem. I have a son—he’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers. It’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe, it’s hardly doable. But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing.
2. The Critical Engineer raises awareness that with each technological advance our techno-political literacy is challenged.
This second point in the Critical Engineer’s Manifesto was the most thought-provoking for me, because it underscores a point that goes so often unacknowledged in discussions of new technologies: Not only do advancements in technology pull us father from understanding the mechanics of the new technology, but abstract and obscure our ability to discuss the ethical, political, and social implications of their implementation.
One of the most significant examples of this comes in the form of politicians discussing the relatively recent phenomena of cyber-warfare. Listening to almost any politician discuss their opinions or policy surrounding cyber-warfare, it becomes apparent that usually lack an even shaky understanding of cryptography, hacking techniques, much less how the internet fundamentally works. But the thing is, you can’t blame them! The average citizen doesn’t have any of this knowledge either, hardly anyone does except discipline experts, and even then, you would need a panel of specialists to explain every part of it.
While these layers of technological abstraction, buildings blocks on building blocks that afford us everything that the internet offers us on an essentially hourly basis, it makes us as a society, policy makers and citizens, largely unable to have any sort of informed or sophisticated conversation about the ethics, limitations, and boundaries of these systems. Arguments get boiled down to meaningless phrases and rhetoric that lack any real substance.
While I don’t exactly see a solution to this growing divide between knowledge of tech systems and legislation relating to them, I think those who are working and studying in the sphere of tech need to be much more firmly brought into conversations about ethics, understanding the immense power and scale of their field.