Biohackers hack their biology. But who will hack the biohackers?
I spent ten minutes trying to turn that into a fun children’s rhyme before I decided to get on with writing this. It’s a scary subject, so forgive me for attempting to bring the cute.
The future of hacking is on my mind lately; on yours too, I’d guess. I don’t know the first thing about the guts of it; I couldn’t write a program if you gave me
a computer an electrified programming machine. But I do have an addiction to speculative fiction, which is guaranteed to make you write what you don’t know.
My chief curiosity in hacking runs toward biotech and cybernetic implants. What cultures and systems will arise from insecurity about the safety of our own organs?
We’ve seen the idea bleed into pop fiction a number of times. Pacemaker-hacking showed up on Showtime’s Homeland a couple of years ago. There is no evidence that this has been attempted yet, but DHS has launched real-world programs to prevent it.
I hope they can. But the challenges are many. Artificial implants will proliferate like mad, and a wide spectrum of parties will want to tinker with them. Private individuals motivated by personal gain or jerkishness. Rival governments seeking using chaos as a weapon. Biotech corporations sabotaging the product of rival corporations.
It’s odd to think that organ-hacking could theoretically happen today, a time when people still use six-digit passwords written on napkins.
Biotech has answers for the password, too—how about a password that you keep in your stomach? Prototypes already exist for the password pill, a tiny electronic device that remains in your belly, runs on stomach acid, and projects an encrypted signal through the lining. Oh, I cannot wait to get one of these.
“Walker, cover your mouth.”
“Sorry. Needed my password for Amazon. I’m buying more password pills.” Burp.
“Checking bank account now.” Burp.
Note: Sadly, this ridiculous technology may no longer be in the works. The linked article was from 2014, and I haven’t found anything about it in the last year. It was a real thing, but the world may have moved on. PayPal even issued an official statement declaring that they were no longer “pursuing ingestible password authentication.”
What other miracles can we expect the future of hacking to bring us?
Armies. Our AI robot armies will be prime targets. Perhaps we won’t even have to launch them at the enemy. They will hack our army, and we will hack their army. It cuts down on travel time.
Pranks. The pranking industry is headed for some major boom years. Think those aggressive/cruel youtube prank videos are bad now? Wait until hackers can take control of your home camera feed and your toilet at the same time. (And yes, home security systems will require camera feeds in every room.)
Nukes. Yeesh. Let’s not think about that one.
Toothbrushes. Hackers could take control of your sonicare toothbrush and alter the pre-programmed brushing timer, increasing your risk of cavities by .02% over five years.
FitBit (or the future equivalent). This has already happened. No one took control of the FitBits; they just stole the data. That is scary enough, but what if someome captured your device and altered your step counter data?
It could destroy your self-esteem. Your goal is 10k steps every day, and even though you make that goal, the counter always reads in the 9k range at bedtime. Tragic!
Your Personal Fantasy Universe. Everybody will have one, tailored to your specifications or spun right out of your cerebellum. Your purest expression of happiness.
Until a hacker gets in and fills it with your nightmares: hot sandy beaches, sushi buffets, and social gatherings that last more than three hours (those are mine; nightmares will vary by user).
Scary stuff, the future hack. It’s enough to make you long for Terry Gilliam’s computer-free nightmare future in Brazil, where righteous analog hacker Harry Tuttle—a “heating engineer”—does his damage with pipes and wrenches instead of code.
Sigh… a simpler imaginary time.
Author note: Half the reason I posted that clip was to show De Niro in his prime. Isn’t it glorious?