I first read Player Piano in college, although I had been introduced to the world of Kurt Vonnegut in high school, courtesy of his hilarious sci-fi novel The Sirens of Titan. Player Piano was actually Vonnegut’s first novel, published in 1952 after he’d spent some three years working for GE in Public Relations. Apparently, it was there he learned how managers and engineers were held in such high regard, changing the world one machine at a time.
Vonnegut’s cautionary tale, filled with the dark comedy of a wise, plain-speaking jester from Indianapolis, was perfect for a postwar American audience moving inexorably toward an automated society. But reading it again now, I see a new relevance. We are in the midst of another transformation led by the Internet of Things and pricey wearables. And if you can believe the predictions of Ray Kurzweil, soon we will become the machines—a perfect blending of flesh and titanium.
Player Piano is brilliant and still relevant. If you haven’t read this book, I encourage you to give it a try. Sure, you’ll laugh, but watch out. The next time you are chatting up Siri, you’ll shudder. Long live the Ghost Shirt Society!
Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines. Paul’s rebellion is vintage Vonnegut—wildly funny, deadly serious, and terrifyingly close to reality.
Okay, you can read a bunch of reviews about how scary and real this book is—about how it will open your eyes to what is really going on in cyber-hell, and how we’re probably all going to die, broke, exposed and asking for our mommies. But I decided to go in a different direction with this review. Yes, this book scared the crap out of me with its thorough exploration of the Dark Net and all of the sleazy characters who inhabit it. And yes, we do have a lot to fear regarding our computers, smart phones and wearables, which I am henceforth referring to as “hackables.”
But as an author who is interested in dark things, I found this book to be extremely valuable as a reference guide on how the bad guys—whether individuals or nation states—actually get away with so much. For me, that’s the real value of Future Crimes. So if you are an author who likes to write thrillers and who wants to accurately depict just how things work in the darkest regions of the Internet, then buy this book. Just do it.
Technological advances have benefited our world in immeasurable ways, but there is an ominous flip side: our technology can be turned against us. Hackers can activate baby monitors to spy on families, thieves are analyzing social media posts to plot home invasions, and stalkers are exploiting the GPS on smart phones to track their victims’ every move. We all know today’s criminals can steal identities, drain online bank accounts, and wipe out computer servers, but that’s just the beginning. To date, no computer has been created that could not be hacked—a sobering fact given our radical dependence on these machines for everything from our nation’s power grid to air traffic control to financial services.
Yet, as ubiquitous as technology seems today, just over the horizon is a tidal wave of scientific progress that will leave our heads spinning. If today’s Internet is the size of a golf ball, tomorrow’s will be the size of the sun. Welcome to the Internet of Things, a living, breathing, global information grid where every physical object will be online. But with greater connections come greater risks. Implantable medical devices such as pacemakers can be hacked to deliver a lethal jolt of electricity and a car’s brakes can be disabled at high speed from miles away. Meanwhile, 3-D printers can produce AK-47s, bioterrorists can download the recipe for Spanish flu, and cartels are using fleets of drones to ferry drugs across borders.
With explosive insights based upon a career in law enforcement and counterterrorism, Marc Goodman takes readers on a vivid journey through the darkest recesses of the Internet. Reading like science fiction, but based in science fact, Future Crimes explores how bad actors are primed to hijack the technologies of tomorrow, including robotics, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. These fields hold the power to create a world of unprecedented abundance and prosperity. But the technological bedrock upon which we are building our common future is deeply unstable and, like a house of cards, can come crashing down at any moment.
Future Crimes provides a mind-blowing glimpse into the dark side of technological innovation and the unintended consequences of our connected world. Goodman offers a way out with clear steps we must take to survive the progress unfolding before us. Provocative, thrilling, and ultimately empowering, Future Crimes will serve as an urgent call to action that shows how we can take back control over our own devices and harness technology’s tremendous power for the betterment of humanity—before it’s too late.