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Goodwill Technologists Should Forgo The Utopian Clothes Of All-costs Innovations Advocates.

There was some criticism on my last 5G article. That is good, and I thank all commenters. Lupei Marcel wrote:

Please stop being socialists. As technologies become wider spread, it trickles down in the hands of the tinkerers and private individuals. And by its structure, 5g networks are quintessentially decentralized and modular, an ideal baseline for cheaper and more flexible private networks and parallel internets.

So. Being socialist is not in my top priorities. I don’t see anything terrible in being socialists provided that they don’t want to influence me other than reasoning. 

Cheaper networks, more flexible, decentralized and modular, or whatever else, are good. 

But not if ransomware or other viruses can destroy them in a while. Surely not if they pave the way for an obtrusive and opaque surveillance mesh. Definitely not if all this decentralization means that very few have all the technology power and can control the net, and the others are captives. All these three hazards are real in 5G.

Cheap (or free) products sometimes mean less freedom and wealth for people. We know it.

So I’m only suggesting to best evaluate these risks. 

In 5G, as in “free” platforms like Facebook, or “free” email like Google’s one, we will have to check if this “free” is on the side of freedom or otherwise. Doubt is my primary religion (and paranoia is a virtue, I remember).

5G design is excellent? Its implementation can turn in a nightmare. 

For sure, 5G networks have to be much more supervised than existing telco systems. Most telcos are simply not in shape to do this and will delegate to equipment producers, some of them will in turn delegate to a notable red party. 

That is a real-world problem, non a theoretical one. We face it, and we cannot bury our head into the sand.

Leaving all these choices to providers freedom could not be safe. 

Much more than now, communication networks will be critical infrastructure nationwide. 

What if, in a sort of “dirty war”, China would quietly attack an entire national network, where are hooked all autonomous vehicles, medical equipment and so on. How? Chinese Communist Party has only to order Huawei to inject a virus in its own devices. That’s all. Is this unlikely? Do you really know what Huawei and other Chinese firms are doing worldwide?

On the other side, want we really restrict competition by taking out Chinese producers from the networks? Are we freedom believer or not?

So far, the problem is not only with Chinese providers. We cannot be so naive to believe that even good protocols cannot be hacked. 

We cannot believe 5G is far more secure than the Internet is. And the Internet is hacked every day. Sometimes it’s raped by well known national hacker militias or even military online forces. 

As a software-defined thing, 5G is just as critical as every programmed tool, but this is the very first-time telcos have that kind of equipment widespread. And again, it is likely that providers will delegate network security to manufacturers as well.

Geopolitical issues are rising with the Xi Jimping appeal to “internet domination” to make it a safe place for Chinese Communist Party ideology. And the similar foolish move of Trump to follow him on the digital sovereignty side. To me, Europe is playing very weak in this field. We have to help European decision-makers to raise concerns about that.

Protocols also can be broken or even nasty by design (as New IP proposal, for instance) mostly if they serve more geopolitical interests than technical ones. The resurgence of ITU-T dinosaurs, playing in the field of authoritarian regimes, is worrying to me.

Also, the will to engineer the Internet to bully geopolitical issues is all new. We never faced this *into* internet protocols. But now this is a well open front.

As goodwill technologists, I think we need to forgo the utopian clothes of all-costs innovations advocates. We have to better understand the real impacts on society and assess the risks to be manipulated. By ending the phase of childhood romance with technology, we have to behave like adults; adult politicians. Risk assessment is an integral part of innovation, let’s do it.

Technology is poisoned by the useless solutionism of capitalist overproduction. Now, the geopolitical reality is also getting into technology. And that pollutes it more. 

Techno-utopian aptitude isn’t much better than digital scepticism. Tecno-utopists makes promises that, if ever achieved, will quickly turn into nightmares.

Our goal is not to have all over the spreading of more computers, robots, or software, but to live a better life together for humans an all other lifeforms. 

We should choose to always remember this.