ACM - Computers in Entertainment

From “Total Recall” to World Peace

By Andrew Price

Disclaimer: The author of Counterterrorism and Cybersecurity: Total Information Awareness is Newton Lee, Computers in Entertainment’s Editor in Chief. The following is a commentary of 15-year U.S. Air Force veteran Andrew Price in reaction to Lee’s book.

In the aspect of Hollywood versus cybersecurity, one can only find the humor in how blind the public can actually be. In his book, Counterterrorism and Cybersecurity: Total Information Awareness, Newton Lee brings up a short list of items that could lead to a better understanding of other countries and the varied cultures, there within. One could find it quite interesting or possibly extremely hilarious when Lee mentions the film “Total Recall” in his caption on foreign travel in relation to the overall subject of world peace. In the recent wake of a big Hollywood studio’s email leak, or the unintended release of intelligence information from the United States government, it leaves us to wonder: How can we really get along with one another if we keep such cautious secrets from one another other? The premise of “Total Recall” is a corporation/government is hiding valued secrets from their population. The 1990 film was based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” Dick wrote about these types of conspiracies, which was an obsession up until his death. His stories ventured into the realm of science fiction, with all the gadgets and gizmos one could only imagine. But thanks to the technology of today information is constantly being liberated to the public, with nearly devastating results.

 Keeping secrets allows people the ability to work unopposed to outside interference. When it comes to breaching that security, it creates a backlash that could harm all involved. Whether it is the government stealing secrets from other countries and being exposed for doing so, or a corporation being infiltrated by a hacking group and then having its questionable business practices exposed, someone loses. Although, not all information leaked pertained to a crime, the people who were caught in the middle suffer just as much, because jobs were lost and operatives in the field were compromised. When it comes to world peace, knowing too little about anyone can hinder the relationship between them. That is why a population tends to ignore the mass of issues, up until the very point that these kinds of occurrences appear for all to see, only for them to pick apart the remnants and villainize, even the victims.

Like those victims in the Sony scandal and NSA data breach, the military have also been placed in the category of being the villain. The lower echelon has been tainted by the decisions of the upper reaches of the government, who seem to hold all the cards. In the 2013 film “Ender’s Game based on the book written by Orson Scott Card, Lee explains how the antagonist Ender Wiggin is deceived into playing a game that turns out to be a reality. In which the overall goal just so happens to be mankind’s very survival. The military is very arm of the government that has been tasked with the very complex job of defending the safety of a nation, where many are not always given the choice to refuse an order, however questionable it may be. Technology has increased the accuracy of the aim, but it has also created more subsystems that require monitoring. Given that a system operator only knows a fraction of the big picture, Edward Snowden’s revealing NSA leaks have created  a psychological barrier in the force that is meant to protect the nation.

In time, computers will mainly handle information, making human interaction nearly obsolete. Simulations, such as the one in the 1983 film “WarGames,” might control the way economies and governments maintain themselves—minus the world destruction, one could always hope. In Counterterrorism and Cybersecurity, Lee names a string of fictional references to films that help inspire the road to this sort of technology: the Isaac Asimov inspired 2004 film “I, Robot,” the 2001 film “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,” and the robotic character HAL from the 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” These films spark the fear that in the near future computer technology will eventually lose sight of our own value and ultimately decide to surpass us as a creator. In time “technology” could decide to wipe humans from existence after a realization of our imperfections. Humanity would cease to exist and robots would become the dominant entity for this planet.

As the plot of a science-fiction story, it does not sound so good for all of mankind, sort of like any Hollywood movie. Entertainment has led technology along a creative path for quite some time now. From the pages of a book to an episode of a television series, we have made several strides. Lee, also makes mention of “Star Trek” as a positive goal for the implementation of computers in society—from the translation of foreign communications to interactions with a form of artificial intelligence to help to solve complicated issues. We have already managed to bring to life several forms of technology displayed in these sorts of fictional worlds: cell phones, tablets, and touch screens. It is amazing what we have available today; one can only guess what will be available tomorrow.

Leaps forward always seem to have a downfall. A society is better off if kept informed, which is the main problem with secrecy in our governments. When things are left unsaid we create enemies. When that information eventually gets released out into the public, people tend to take sides and wars are fought for selfish reasons.

In retrospect, one may think that world peace sounds like a great idea but the fact remains that shared information is not a currently accepted practice, and many countries have their own unique cultures that will in fact clash with one another. There are those who have set agendas on how to communicate their dissatisfaction against those of differing political positions, religious ideologies, and cultural norms—putting great strain on a society and others as a result. Hollywood needs to continue to stand strong on these heavy issues in hopes that people will eventually imitate art, to help combat intolerance and help relieve the hate in the communities that surround the globe. Cybersecurity breaches and corporate attacks could possibly cease once the information that is in need of protecting is no longer considered private but is instead considered public domain.

I am inspired by the prospect of world peace. I'd fully recommend following the author's steps, reaching beyond our borders, making friends outside our norm, and helping to foster world peace and a better tomorrow.

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