Ever since 1968’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” science-fiction films and books have carried a similar theme: computers gaining enough artificial intelligence to outsmart human beings.
For the majority of people who don’t live in the computing world, the idea of machines overtaking humans has always been an entertaining premise that’s only somewhat haunting. Because while it seems plausible, we don’t know enough about technology to ever believe it possible.
In other words, we have a hard time processing a threat that our brain doesn’t fully understand.
It’s a reason why few people legitimately fear the scientific dangers presented by global warming. In general, we know that climate change is happening, and it’s bad, but we don’t know why, and therefore we do little to stop it besides complaining about it on social media.
Take the 1983 film “WarGames” starring a young Matthew Broderick. In the film, he operates an oversized computer to discover a backdoor into the U.S. government’s defense systems. Simply by pressing a few buttons — which he thinks are harmless — he accidentally sets our computer systems onto an unstoppable path towards nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
That was 34 years ago.
The reason why this has been such a reoccurring topic in science fiction is because it was only a matter of time.
Look how far we’ve come technologically since then. Now in the 21st century, the new arena for warfare is online.
And more people should be afraid. Or at least care.
Russian interference in our elections was not simply a hack, or an inconvenience, or “fake news” — it was an attack. We were attacked by a hostile foreign nation.
And this time, they ain’t just trying to stop a movie.
To avoid getting too technical, ransomware is basically a hack that scrambles your files with encryption, and then demands you pay a ransom to unlock the encryption — aided by the anonymity of Bitcoin.
The attack, performed with software by the name WannaCry, may have cost lives. Among the victims was the servers for the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, which relies on IT systems to perform urgent, life-saving operations.
WannaCry targeted Microsoft, taking advantage of a vulnerability that had recently been leaked by a hacker group in April after it obtained hacking tools compiled by the National Security Agency. Before that, Microsoft had released a software upgrade fixing the issue, which most people did not utilize. And now they’re screwed.
This is the era we live in. Everything is automated. And around the clock, hackers are trying to infiltrate these computers. Yes, groups are working equally as hard to safeguard computers simultaneously, but it’s an endless cycle. The fabrics of our world now lie within computer codes and operating systems.
And those who still naively believe that computers aren’t capable of bringing about our downfall, well, I suggest you pop an old Matthew Broderick flick into your VCR.
Then after you’ve watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, watch WarGames.