another excerpt from the book I'm writing on technology, terrorism, and
time at DHS, tentatively titled "Skating on Stilts." (If you want to
read the excerpts in a more coherent fashion, try the categories on the
right labeled "Excerpts from the book." I'm afraid I can't fix the bug
in TypePad that prevents me from putting them in the category in
reverse-chronological order.) Comments and factual quibbles
are welcome, either in the comments section or by email:
firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Howard Crank would never have let a con man into the quiet life he and his wife were living. But the Internet that brought the world to his doorstep brought the world’s con men as well. Information technology empowered Howard Crank to search the world for old buddies. And it empowered fraudsters to search the world for the handful of people who might be ripe for their scam.
In the end, for Howard Crank, the exponential growth in information technology turned out to be a disaster. It was great for a while. He loved what the new technology did for him, and how cheaply it performed its miracles. But in the end, nothing he gained by embracing it was worth what he lost.
It is still an open question whether the rising curve of information technology will eventually leave the rest of us where it left Howard Crank. That it hasn’t happened to us yet is cold comfort. As William Gibson once said, “The future is already here. It's just not very evenly distributed.” He was thinking of the wonders of new technology, but bad futures are distributed as unevenly as good ones.
About now, you’re probably thinking that Howard Crank, sympathetic as his story may be, just wasn’t savvy enough. You would never fall for such a scam. And you will never suffer the harm that he did.
Well, maybe not. But Howard Crank was ruined because information technology made it cheap to screen millions of people to find those who were susceptible to the lottery fraud. That same technology will make it cheap to screen the world for people and machines that are susceptible to other forms of fraud as well. You may not fall for the Spanish lottery, but you’re probably susceptible to something. And even if you aren’t, your machines are.
Are you really sure the fraudsters won’t find you in the end?