I would like to thank the ATS Debate Forum for hosting this debate, and my opponent, vkey08, for suggesting the topic and taking the "con"
The subject for this debate is "The United States is too reliant on technology."
vkey08 proposed this debate after I weighed in on a thread -- "Chinese hackers have control
of US power grid
" -- with the somewhat sardonic comment that critical systems needed to "cut the cord", get off of shared networks and that
the idiocy of such systems being reachable from outside boggled the mind.
While we crow about the ability of our military to operate Taliban-killing drones from the comfort of an operation centre in the United States, and
delight in the technological marvels that turn every aspect of our lives into "systems", we often fail to recognize that there are those who plot to
turn our automated systems against us, and we're handing them the keys to doing just that.
Anyone remember Red Dawn
? I am sure that the 1984 movie has more than its share of fans on ATS
(including myself,) but its premise today seems almost bizarre -- invasion, thirty years ago, was an event of physicality -- boots on the ground, guns
in hand, blood, terror, death. Today, the United States is under constant invasion by foes from around the world, who sail on copper wire and fibre
optic cable, seeking vulnerabilities and areas of exploitation in our technological infrastructure.
Whether Islamic militants, upset over a YouTube video,
, the aforementioned Chinese hacking into the power grid, the possibility that
a person's pacemaker could be
, or thousands of other instances that were estimated to have a cost in the United States of over $100 billion in 2011, it should be
abundantly clear that the United States is in a very vulnerable position.
How deeply has this flawed technology insulated itself into people's lives? Almost completely… from
, we are being surrounded by a cocoon of
electronic concierge. We learn from it
, we meet our spouses
through it, we
hand our money
over to it, we are doled out our worldview
it, and we argue about it… through it
But beyond those obvious instances of technology's omnipresence in most people's lives, there are far more problematic systems that affect us and we
barely know the first thing about. The most significant is the United States power grid, a complex system by which electrical plants are connected to
boost efficiency and redundancy. The downside of such an interweaved system was readily apparent in August 2003, when a cascading failure resulted in
30 million people losing power in the northeast states and Ontario. Eleven people died, and it took several days to get the system back up and running
again. The IEEE undertook a study of such complex systems and determined that future blackouts are not only unavoidable, they are inevitable
In other words, a naturally
occurring widespread blackout is not a matter of if, but when. This does not take into account man-made disasters,
whether through negligence (which played a role in the 2003 event) or through maliciousness, domestic or foreign. And such vulnerabilities are not
limited to the power grid -- similar issues have been identified in other distribution systems, including petroleum, natural gas and water
Finally, the increasing urbanization of the American population, which has gone from about 5% at the nation's founding to over 82% today, has
resulted in a populace which is not only overly dependent on a smooth functioning infrastructure to feed them, but which also inherently lacks the
skills that would be necessary to fend for oneself in the face of a collapse of that infrastructure. America is always about five days away from urban
famine, and the likely societal upheaval that would result from such an event could destroy the country.
How did we get into this position? Largely it is the result of poor planning, unexpected application and responses that are not commensurate with the
actions. Our computer networks are built on one of the most insecure platforms imaginable, Windows/DOS (in Microsoft's defense, both are legacy
systems designed in the 1980s, and it is unfeasible for them to just chuck it out and start over.) We have a bulletproof global computer network that
was designed for the military and to withstand a nuclear assault, and which naturally resists efforts at regulation and restriction. And we have
corporate and government mentalities that are reactionary, rather than preventative, as regards security.
And it doesn't stop here. We know about the downside of Fly-by-Wire
technology, but are we ready for Drive-by-Wire
? Well, ready or
not, it's here
. Intel is designing a chip to
implant into your brain to control your
and in the wake of Oscar Pistorius' appearance in the 2012 Olympics, people are beginning the
healthy limbs, in order to benefit from technically advanced prosthetics.
And, for those who are not yet sold on the over reliance of our society on technology, may I present the ultimate embracement of it, Transhumanism.
Transhumanism takes a multidisciplinary approach in analyzing the dynamic interplay between humanity and the acceleration of technology. In this
sphere, much of our focus and attention is on the present technologies, such as biotechnology and information technology, and anticipated future
technologies, such as molecular nanotechnology and artificial general intelligence. Transhumanism seeks the ethical use of these and other speculative
technologies. Our theoretical interests focus on posthuman topics of the singularity, extinction risk, and mind uploading (whole brain emulation and
substrate-independent minds). (Source)
How much more reliant can one become than when your very existence is dependent upon technology? But, for some, this is our utopian future, the goal
of a slippery slope that is daily greased by convenience, marketing and an increasingly ethically devoid world.