Brave New World in a Black Box

(essay in progress, feedback welcome)

The recent and growing ransomware virus trend has been raising the levels of concern for the safety, integrity and accessibility of our information; in one second, the wrong click may wipe out our personal digital heritage once and for all. Yet even more concerning may be the ways in which it has managed to wreak havoc on certain public infrastructures and private core companies: on the May 2017 cyberattack, the UK National Health Service was forced to revert to manual prescription among the infochaos, just as Portuguese emergency services reverted to radio communication as a preventative measure.

This sequence of events may be regarded as a manifestation of a broader set of challenges we face nowadays; on one hand, it exposes an ironic frailty at the core of the hyper-complex state of technology we have developed and subscribed to as an unquestionable paradigm. On the other hand, and equally as ironically, it sets a reversion into analogue, even manual procedures, that reveal themselves ultimately more reliable in times of crisis. So much for deterministic progress, then: Brave New World ends up in a black box, and the black box is bursting at the seams, and the black box is encrypted. Now, shall we wait until AI has woven itself effectively into our bodies and we have fully delegated our cognitive and vital functions? In this ever-more-likely scenario, a hacking might just turn out to be the last one.