is another excerpt from the book I'm writing on technology, terrorism, and my
time at DHS, tentatively titled "Skating on Stilts." (If you want to
read the excerpts in a more coherent fashion, try the category on the
right labeled "excerpts from the book.") Comments and factual quibbles
are welcome, either in the comments section or by email:
email@example.com. If you're dying to order the book, send
mail to the same address. I'm still looking for an agent and a
publisher, so feel free to make recommendations on that score too.
As the risks of future misuse emerged, a failure of imagination started to look pretty good compared to actually, you know, having an imagination. Because the question for DHS was what we were going to do about these risks now that we saw them.
I knew one thing. We couldn’t call timeout -- turn our backs on the technologies and the harm they can do.
Tokugawa Japan is famous for giving up firearms in the early 1600s, a hundred years after guns had been widely adopted throughout the country. For the next 250 years, it is said, Japan was ruled and wars were fought by the sword, even though guns were acknowledged to be more effective weapons.
But Tokugawa Japan is famous because its story is so uncommon (indeed, some say it isn’t true). Certainly no other nation is known to have denied itself an important technology for so long and survived.
If we can’t give these technologies up, we knew, we would have to find ways to manage their risks. We’d have to begin now to think about how to bend the rising curve of exponential change away from the most deadly consequences. How could we do that? We weren’t sure. But we started with travel -- the technology that had already caused so much death on September 11, 2001