- About the risks that abound, in the world of technology when everything is connected and snooped upon, one way or another. Are you safe?

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Augmented Security

The following are notes I have taken from the book launch of "Augmented - Living Life in the Fast Lane", by Brett King on the 8th June 2016 in Singapore. I have taken efforts to make sure that the information here is as close to what he had said during the launch as possible. If there are any misrepresentation of facts, they are probably mine.  Please accept my apologies in advance.

Fundamentally Moore's Law has been proven right since it was coined - that computer processing power will double every two years. What we have in our pocket mobile phone is many times the processing power of the early computers that occupied an entire basement of a large building.

Four points that the book is based on:

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) - that it will take over many aspects of our life. It executes many tasks better than humans. For instance, automatically driven cars are safer. It has a lower accident rate than cars driven by humans; AI diagnoses cancer with a 90% certainty, whereelse a  human oncologist can achieve only a 50% certainty. This is because AI is fed a lot more information to execute the tasks than a human being can handle. Besides, AI remembers the data and a human-being may forget some data during his analysis or diagnosis.

2. Internet Of Things (IOT) - Everything will be connected via the internet by the year 2030. There will be more robots than humans by then, though the former comes in different forms. That is, not all robots will look like humans, nor should they be. It depends on the tasks the specialise in.

3. HealthTech and Genome - The progress of HealthTech and Genome, thanks to the computer processing power will result in more early detection of diseases and fixing the problem via genetic engineering. This may cause a upheaval with Big Pharmacies, who now face a challenger that can fix health problems better and faster.

4. Smart Infrastructure - Solar power will be half the price of the nearest cheapest fuel by the year 2030. Coal mines will not be economical. Eg. Recently, China has laid off 1.5m mine workers. They know that it will not be economically feasible to mine coal.

The cheapness of solar energy and other alternative free energies, will disrupt the commodity markets and decimate it.


Every leading company will be a technology company by 2030. If you are not, than you are not making profits. Profitability in large technology companies like Apple, has a profit per employee of around $0.5m, compared to $30k for walmart or $50k for banks.

The service industry will be disrupted dramatically in employment patterns. People will not live their life "working for a living". Governments may be compelled to give a universal basic income (covering lodging, food, electricity...) to everyone for free. Humans will adjust to this new state.  There will be new jobs like geo-engineering, that aims at reversing the climate change, while many traditional jobs or jobs that are here now, will be gone. Perhaps some of us will be re-invented as robot psychiatrists to counsel misunderstood and mishandled robots!

Global population growth will flatten by the year 2050 at around 9.5 billion people. People will be living longer and longevity itself will be a challenge. For instance, if we are all going to live till 200 years old, then all of us here in this hall are mere 'teenagers' within our lifespan. Major culture shifts will be needed.

If you do not have a digital persona, you may be treated with suspicion, pay a lot more for things,...etc. It will  be impractical. In ten years time, 60% of our online purchases will be handled by an AI agent.

Banking will be required in the future, but not banks. Banks that base their business on the conventional business streams of credit cards, POS,... etc will be gone. There will be contextual credits evaluated when you walk into a store that will handle your transaction.

Not all entities that hold a bank account will be humans. For instance, autonomous driving cars will have bank accounts to get on with their 'life', like to pay for their Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) fees, electricity top ups, for receiving payments for ferrying people around like an Uber cab,...etc.

AI, robotics...etc will become so much part of the system that we will not even think about it, like electricity - we just switch it on and use it and hardly (if at all) think of it as 'technology'.

Governments will be the last industry to be disrupted and replaced by technology.

Do you agree with Brett King's projection of the future?

But let's just say we take it just as an exercise for now. That should the projections come true, how will we protect our information?

Some of the security issues that I predicted 15 years ago are now a reality.

  • For instance, wearable computers are now easily available and affordable by the man-in-the-street, so it won't be practical to check them at the gates. 
  • About collaborating for collective intelligence among big companies, especially banks. This is now happening via cloud-based Web Application Firewall providers.

Pervasive Security

With IOT, the hacker playground has enlarged. Whoever hacks in will have connectivity to hack the next adjoining device, affecting another community which will be likely dispersed worldwide. Surely this sounds much more fun to the hacker than it is now.

With device getting very small and many of them embedded, it will be impossible to rely on perimeter security. Security controls will have to be pervasive. Already in the present day, every business process will trigger six or seven other security processes. 

For instance, just to transfer money in an ebank, the following non-business processes are triggered:

  1. Identification - the user is a bot or human.
  2. Authentication - if the user is the user he claims to be.
  3. Double authentication - to make sure that the user device is not hijacked. This possibly using technologies like cognitive biometrics. 
  4. Authorisation  - to check the extent of the privileges the user is entitled to access.
  5. Central data logging - to log all transaction data such that if need be the transactions can be easily reconstructed.
  6. Prediction - with the large amount of data logged, it becomes possible to predict if the transaction is a fraud. If suspected, then transaction logging will be stepped up.
  7. Notification - notifying the user by an alternative channel of his transaction. 
Many more processes will be added over time to make the transaction even more secure. And even item 1, will have to be re-assessed when non-human entities legitimately have bank accounts, eg. autonomous cars. 

How will we be able to safely identify one robot from another? Do they have unique characteristics and behaviour, like humans, beyond their (encrypted) id tag? Will accumulated machine learning in the robot develop habits and character in them?

Data Ownership

Also, in an IOT world, who owns the data? When there is a hack, who is the custodian that has not kept the data well and had resulted in some people (or robots) violated? With so much data generated, it will be impossible to manage data ownership. To compound the problem, some legitimate data owners may not want to own the data, as ownership comes with responsibilities.

Quantum Computing
When Quantum Computers come into the market, many computers will be hacked in the interim period, before information systems had time to convert to quantum cryptography to protect their systems.

What are your thoughts?

I am sure you can come up with many other scenarios from now to the next ten years and how we can pre-empt security breaches.


Brett's view of the future seems to be solely based on the advance of Moore's Law. That computers will get more powerful and progress is mostly enabled by more number crunching and processing. 

There are other visionaries that embraces, in my opinion,  a wider scope of how progress may come about, like Buckminster Fuller, Alvin Toffler and Peter Schwaltz. They dwell into the future with scientific fundamentals and a scope beyond computers. Not surprisingly, many of their projections have even come true.

Here are other technologies that we may see in the future:

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