We are only just starting to discover what our upcoming technologies will be capable of, and already, through fear of possible future threats, bombs are being sent to physicists. Emerging technologies are set to revolutionise our world during the next few decades; could this lead to the rise of anti-technology terrorism becoming even more of a threat than radical Islam?
Anti-technologist worries are though certainly warranted: Emerging technologies, if utilised as weapons, pose a great threat to our planet. To find out more about the technological threat, read our article, 5 Emerging Technologies That Could Destroy The World.
The Security/Freedom Debate
Great debate is needed in government to ensure we balance our securities with our freedoms. The increasing emergence of the debate will undoubtedly raise social concerns. A concern will be for the maintenance of our freedoms and privacy. Already we are seeing a rise of movements such as Anonymous, who pledge to defend the people from any type of oppression or perceived injustice.
These movements consist of people who are eager to ‘make a difference’; to contribute to something important. The problem is, their eagerness is at an intensity where they are susceptible of judging, what is not likely to be a threat, as something that is an assured threat that must be fought against; they need to have something to work towards and so they convince themselves into an ignorant state of overreaction.
Same will be the problem with the anti-technologists.
Who are the Anti-Technologists? (Luddites)
The debate about our securities/freedoms will also spark concern that security will never defend against the threats, without proving as too much of a compromise to freedoms and privacy; this is one reason that we will see movements form, which hold the aim of halting technological advance.
Modern anti-technology and the opposition of innovation, as a general philosophy, is called neo-Luddism (new Luddism). Those who currently follow the philosophy, for whichever reason they do, are most often referred to as neo-Luddites or simply, Luddites. The name ‘Luddite’, originated in the 1810’s, when a group of British workers rioted and destroyed laborsaving textile machinery in the belief that such machinery would diminish employment.
Luddites may also be labeled as anarcho-primitivist. Other more specific terms exist, such as bio-Luddites, who oppose certain biotechnologies. You can read more about bio-Luddites, here. And here is a good article which opposes the views of the neo-Luddites.
The new Luddites will come from all types of backgrounds, but the growth of the movement can be pinpointed to the extremities of the political spectrum; both the left and the right. To the extremes of the left and more intensely with the anarchistic, a fear will exist that the technology will be used by governments and corporations to exert increased control over individual lives, while also increasing inequality. Over to the extremes of the right, the cultural conservatives will worry that their way of life could be damaged/destroyed by an outside ‘oppressor’.
The future 21st century rise of the Luddites has been written about in The Artilect War, a book by Hugo de Garis. In the book, de Garis proposes a future where the world is divided by the question of whether or not to activate self-aware super intelligent artificial minds. He predicts that people will fear that the technology will turn against us, and that the difference of opinion will result in humanities most devastating war.
Currently, with there being absolutely no sight of an imminent threat, anti-technology social movements are not popular and so remain to be very small fringe groups. The likely future of anti-technology movements though, can be predicted through the understanding of the current situation, and the observation of global trends and predicted future technologies.
The Current Anti-Technology Threat
In our article, 5 Emerging Technologies That Could Destroy The World, we discuss the potential threat of Gray Goo, which is best described as a swarm of rapidly self-replicating nanobots, which would consume the entire biosphere until nothing remains but an immense, sludge like robotic mass. Because of how difficult Gray Goo is to build, the threat of the runaway nanobots will not be prevalent for at least another century, by which time a security system would probably have been created to protect against a possible release.
Nethertheless, in 2011 two Mexican physicists received a mail-bomb, which exploded causing serious injuries. A note found in the parcel was signed by a radical anarchist anti-technology group known as, Individuals Tending to Savagery (ITS), and read, “If this does not get to the newspapers we will produce more explosions. Wounding or killing teachers and students does not matter to us”.
ITS opposes nanotechnology, as they believe the technology will inevitably lead to the release of Gray Goo. The danger of Gray Goo is not even thought credible by many physicists; if credible, it will not become a security problem at least for the foreseeable future. By comparison with the other technological threats that will rise in the next few decades, the Gray Goo problem is the least of our worries. And yet, it has been of enough concern to spark terrorist resistance.
The Increasing Anti-Tech Sentiment
So, we could imagine then how popular Luddite movements will become during a time when technology really does show as a credible and imminent threat to our securities.
Increasing Technological Threat.
The rise of the Luddite terrorist threat would depend on the extremity of the technological threat. These technological threats are so plentiful and likely to occur, that it would be needless to evaluate them here. The threats include the possibility of bioengineering environmental damage, morality issues of bioengineering (playing god), bioengineered super-diseases, harmful nanomaterials, rouge nanobots, robotics illegally used to cause harm, robots raising unemployment, 3D printing raising unemployment, 3D printed weaponry, and the possibility that an artificial intelligence could turn against humanity. The scenario where a terrorist response arises from the resistance against artificial intelligence, will feature in a 2014 movie starring Johnny Depp, called Transcendence. There is a Transcendence Facebook Fan Page, and you can find out more about the real predictions that will feature in Transcendence, here.
Governments will Support Technological Advance
A possibility exists that governments themselves will ban certain technological advances to protect against a technology that they consider as too much of a threat. Perhaps this banning of technologies will be implemented early on in the research process, it is unlikely though that bans will be maintained; the primary reason for this is global competition: Should one country ban a dangerous technology, another country could see it as beneficial to develop the technology, in order to gain the upperhand on the global stage. Plus, banning may result in driving development underground, where it cannot be regulated.
The advantages of advance would not only be for military might, but also for economic growth; therefore, the research and development will not be contained within the security of government agencies; the private sector would need access to the tech to enable innovation on the public market, and give a well needed boost to global economies.
The potential of the economic boost can be foreseen when learning about what innovations will emerge from the upcoming nanotechnology revolution.
An All-New Face of Terror
Should the resistance against technology radically increase, the resulting face of Luddite terrorism will be far unlike the current radical Islamic threat.
Terrorists Rising From Any Culture
The radical Islamist threat of course only arises from the extreme of one religion. The Luddites will rise from all countries, all religions, all cultures, all classes, all professions. The one identifying feature, as explained above, is that they will, more than often, rise from the extremes of the political spectrum; which coincidentally is what will make them more dangerous, because they will have little voice in mainstream politics. Where a voice is ignored, a voice will demand to be heard, whereby radically increasing the propensity towards violence.
Due to the emergence of revolutionary and disruptive technologies, we may see the occurrence of companies being threatened by a new technological capability which would damage their profits and potentially put them out of business. This may give rise to covert corporate-sponsored terrorism, with the corporate hope that either governments will give in and ban a certain technological advances, or that the terrorists will slow down the development of the disruptive technology. This funding could also inspire a bigger following, for the actions of the Luddites would receive monetary reward.
Individual Empowerment: Greater Chance of Attack
Current technologies and security procedures force radical Islamist terror tactics to own a relatively high level of professionalism; the might of intelligence services, in comparison to terrorist groups, is at a level high enough to prevent the great majority of planned terrorist attacks: Terrorists are almost completely incapable of causing mass destruction.
The might of the intelligence services in comparison to the terrorist though, looks to be progressing towards balance. The potential of this balance can be seen through the study of global trends. One major trend is the increasing of individual empowerment. The US National Intelligence Council describe individual empowerment as one of 4 ongoing ‘megatrends’. They believe the increase of individual empowerment over the next 2 decades to be a certainty. The empowerment will accelerate owing to poverty reduction, growth of the middle class, greater educational attainment, widespread use of new communications and 3D manufacturing technologies, and healthcare advances. You can read more about the individual empowerment megatrend, and other global trends, here.
Should security agencies not gain a significantly enhanced set of resources, terrorist groups could begin to either outsmart them, or take advantage of new potentially dangerous technologies which have not been secured with sufficient regulatory parameters.
With well established democratic governments constantly facing intense backlash when they try to enhance security parameters, such as surveillance, it is likely that authorities will not gain the necessary resources to tackle new terror tactics; at least until that threat has been proved with the incidents of WMD attacks. We are already seeing how difficult this regulation could become through our observation of how 3D-printers, in May 2013, became able to print functional pistols, of which more can be read about, here. And just 2 months later, a functional assault rifle was created, details here. These 3D-printers are available to the public, from the price of $1060 (£700), details here.
The Luddites Would Rise in the 2020’s
Should the above described future become reality, we would begin to see the rise of the Luddites during the 2020’s – 2030’s; during the early stages of major innovations in nanotechnology, 3D-printing, robotics, and big data. The threat could be coupled with the ongoing radical Islamist threat. And new means of causing mass destruction will exist. Perhaps then one day, for the sake of our safety, we will agree that our governments should have a much wider access to our privacies.
What do you think?
Do you think we are likely to see the rise of anti-technology terrorism? What do you think will be the causes? Please comment below with your thoughts and connect with us on facebook by clicking Like at the very top of the page.
Update: A brilliant response to this article has been written by Nick Nielsen, which you can find on his blog, Grand Strategy: The View from Oregon.