In the past few weeks I have made several discoveries. On a trip to Boston, I discovered that you can print out DNA, using lasers. I discovered several days later that scientists have discovered how to ‘translate’ DNA into binary and back again. We know that you can print almost anything with the now proven 3D printers. There is now ‘clickable’ paper, augmented reality and private phone networks run by narcotics rings.
This is stunning, sensational and amazing. We can email someone the ‘recipe’ for local beer and he can print it out and plant it in yeast. He can also grow squalene (the new wonder cosmetic) at the same time and scrape it off the top of the beer. We can email the recipe for grass or wheat to the Mars Rover and it can print it out and grow it – assuming conditions make it possible. If your bicycle is stolen you can print out another one. Closer to home, telcos can send one piece of paper as a bill and if customers want to examine their bill then they just point and click and there is the analysis – the same with adverts. Packaging companies are now making packaging itself as compelling as the contents of the box in which the toy sits.
Now, bad guys do not have to smuggle weapons across borders. One guy can steal 100 million identities in less than a morning. Terrorists can use MMS to identify targets in sieges and kill the right people. DNA is not just emailable but hackable and therefore changeable and therefore it can be turned into a weapon. Fraud becomes more sophisticated by the day. The forces for good can only hope to keep up, to be close enough behind the bad guys as to be able to minimize damage. Every day it seems another scam is uncovered. The latest works like this: you receive a phone call from your ‘bank’. The ‘bank’ person tells you that your debit or credit card has been hacked and that they will pick it up by courier and send you a new one. You are asked not to trust them but to ring them back. You ring them back, except the call was never cut off, it was held open by the person on the other end. You are asked to enter your PIN number in order to identify yourself. Some hours later the courier arrives to pick up the card for which they have the PIN number. Then they go shopping.
The real problem is that we invite it in. We enthusiastically share our lives and weaknesses on Facebook, telling people where we are, where we live, everything. We put passcodes on our smartphones but do not shield them as we enter the code. We do when we enter our PIN codes at the cash machine but we are hopelessly naïve and waiting to have stuff stolen when we use our smartphone.
We are in a weird, wonderful age to which we must adapt. We will have to re-learn the rules of survival as we pass through the membrane into a new and completely digitally controlled world. The learning curve will be steep and quick and we must be agile in order to keep up and to keep our customers safe in this new environment. We must, because they will expect us to protect them.