Monday, June 22, 2015

The Trouble with Technology

We’re finally past Moore’s law. Gordon Moore claimed, decades long ago, that the number of transistors which could be placed on a microchip doubled every eighteen months, and because of that, the life cycle of a tech product was eighteen months before a replacement with improved tech was practical.

But, technologists discovered that the S-curves of new product replacements were each built on top of the previous product’s S-curve, making the life cycle for a practical replacement less and less. This placed a severe impact on product testing cycles. From a one-year testing cycle several decades ago, tech products have gone to nearly no testing cycle now, with the only exceptions being the FDA and the cycles for operating systems like Microsoft Windows. Most tech products are now tested by customers, after purchase.

With no testing cycle, “zero-day” flaws have become more common. A program that you bought might now sit in your computer, and contain bugs that make it easy for a hacker to exploit. If you install it, soon, your bank account might get hacked, and your identity might be stolen. As you sit and wonder what has happened, the IRS sends you a letter requesting you return the refund they claim they sent you… but you never received. Suddenly, your home is set for auction. Banks want you to repay credit cards you never applied for or received.

Over a hundred-fifty million Americans have had their identities compromised. Almost all of us are unaware of their “problem.” The hospitals, banks, stores, utilities and other companies that permitted the identity thefts might not have even reported the problem. As a consumer, you have little recourse.

Technologies that might have prevented the thefts are often left unimplemented, because they cost too much, need their own testing cycle, or require personnel the company no longer employs.

In the United States, our own government is pro-business, anti-consumer. The people we elect to represent us have little interest in what happens to us; after all, only our votes count. Since crypto that might help us has been deemed to be able protect terrorists, I believe our representatives have been more responsive to intelligence agency requests to “back door” our computer products, even though this makes us easier targets for hackers.

Technologies will continue to evolve and become more complex. Corporations will continue to squeeze all the cash they can from the development cycles of their products.

In order to remain safe, it’s incumbent on us, the consumers, to find ways to protect ourselves. Remember, caveat emptor! Buyer beware!

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