Whenever new technology is demonstrated, its uses are often presented in their loftiest form. This or that technology will allow vets to save more tree frogs or help the infirm lift their own body weight whilst keeping up to date with the latest Stephen Fry news. When people were still getting excited about Google Glass, I held to my conviction that it would prove a failure because it overlooked some essential truths about human nature. The majority of people are not the stuff of glossily-filmed ads by technology giants. Most people don't live in the perfect multiracial family gathered around the TV in the perfect home of the future where everybody is only too happy to watch Uncle Ron's holiday footage filmed on his Google Glasses. For every reasonable use of Google Glass, there were a thousand other uses which would eventually see the technology shunned and those that wore it demonised. And so it proved, with Google this last week closing the Glass project in its current form. I always thought Google Glass would fail but I was surprised that it did so before it even made it to the retail stage.
Yet looking at some newer technology than Google Glass makes me long for the days when things were as simple as privacy concerns.
Despite my loathing of Marvel's super hero films and the fact that I don't read comics, I am a geek. I love technology. Drone technology, for example, really excites me and I've enjoyed watching some of the HD footage that's already emerged. However, when one popped up over the top of the houses across the street, I realised that the rise of drones is an ominous change. It feels like one of those technologies which we'll look back on and say it was there that our world changed forever.
It's not simply the privacy issue that worries me, though that it definitely a cause for some concern given that my bedroom window faces the fields where the drones are being flown. Noticing on the news last night that somebody had piloted a drone into the White House gardens, I wondered to myself how long it will be before a drone is put to truly sinister use. When Amazon demonstrate how a simple drone can be used to deliver a package to a remote destination, I sat here thinking how idiots, fools and the psychopaths might use that very same technology to deliver something nefarious onto the public stage. A drone has already nearly sparked war between Serbia and Albania. How will the police combat the appearance of a drone at the Cenotaph or during a Cup Final? As these fun little gizmos develop and achieve greater range and power, their frightening uses will become more obvious to people who wish to commit evil. I find it hard to believe that the first use of drone by a terrorist is really that far in our future.
It's why I'm amazed that these drones have become popular so quickly and with so little government interest. A drone can bypass all security at an outdoor event and when fitted with remote cameras their controller doesn't even need a line of sight in order to guide it. Even without a payload, the damn things are causing injury, reportedly cutting off the tip of one woman's nose during a Christmas stunt at a popular pub chain.
Perhaps I overreact because a drone has suddenly popped up over the houses. Perhaps I've seen too many Hollywood thrillers. However, in my experience, there are very few technologies that aren't eventually warped by human stupidity.
Take, for example, the simple mobility scooter. They are a great invention and it's hard not to feel some sympathy for people forced to use them. However, I've noticed over the last few years how they've gone from being used by the old and the infirm to being used by the overweight and lazy. They're now being abused by people who are simply too bone idle to walk, to the point the other day I was standing in my local Tesco when a young woman beeped me to get out of the way. Ten minutes earlier I'd seen her walking around town. Later in the afternoon I saw her loading her car. She had no obvious reason to be in a mobility scooter except she was in every respect the model of a lazy, uneducated, boorish yob.
It's an example of how a good idea has been corrupted by human nature. There seems to be something inherently wrong when mobility scooters can move quicker than people who still have their mobility. It's not that these people have an advantage that bothers me but that they start to get frustrated when relatively able-bodied people don't move quickly enough for them. It's road rage on the pavement. I've been walking through local shopping centres, supermarkets, and streets countless times when a mobility scooter has come up behind me and forced me to get out of the way. I even recently watched two mobility scooters having an impromptu drag race down a Manchester street. I've lost count of the number of times I've had to negotiate my way around some fool driving their mobility scooter down the road. If a mobility scooter is meant to restore mobility, it should do exactly that. It shouldn't give them a top speed well in excess of what I can do on my heels or even (in one case) on my bike.
The danger, of course, is when somebody finally combines drone technology with the mobility scooter. What nefarious schemes might terrorists hatch, launching a strike of grumbling senior citizens on some national event? No a shin or ankle in the country will be safe. But these are thoughts about the future. Here and today, I'm going back to thumbing through this morning's Maplin catalogue. I want to see if they sell anything that can bring down a drone.