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Connectivity

What’s Wrong with Techno Optimists, and Other Comments from Readers

Top comments on our stories from the past week, collected from our website and social media platforms.

Here’s a look at what people have been saying about MIT Technology Review stories over the past week. Some comments have been upvoted or prominently liked by other readers, while others have been selected by the editors. Comments have been lightly edited. 

"Your Future Toyota May Know Where You’re Going Before You’ve Told It"

There are pros and cons to this. The pros are everything you mentioned and they're fantastic. The cons are when government and law enforcement get hold of the data and send you a speeding fine based on the fact you were doing 65 kilometers an hour in a 60 km zone.—dcleminson

"Tech Slowdown Threatens the American Dream"

Gordon scornfully derides the explosion of social media and mobile apps as not being particularly helpful at boosting productivity.  

But the next 15 to 20 years will be filled with powerful changes that will certainly produce real, meaningful, and persistent productivity gains. I offer a reinvigorated domain of artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, 3-D printing, and robotics as examples. CRISPR and related technologies will permit us to custom-redesign existing organisms and design entirely new ones to suit existing and emerging needs and wants.

Gordon closes his eyes and complains that he cannot see any meaningful progress, stops his ears and complains he cannot hear any meaningful progress. Nor do touch, taste, or smell reveal anything when he quite deliberately and willingly refuses to use his senses.—mgm4480

"What If Apple Is Wrong?"

Suppose I'm a bad actor and the authorities get a warrant to search my home. In my home I have some sort of physical safe which can only be opened by some active biometric mechanism which requires me to be alive. However, I was killed during the perpetration of whatever illegal act of which I am accused. Without me being alive, there is no realistic way for the local or state law enforcement authorities to open that safe. If they try, some combustion or chemical process will destroy everything in that safe. How would the authorities react to such a situation? Would they ask the safe manufacturer to redesign all future safes so that there was a method to open them in the event of the owner's death just in case?

Would you ever buy a physical safe which anyone with a skeleton key could open? I know I would never buy such a safe and this is exactly what digital safe manufacturers like Apple, Google, et al are saying.

We are now entering an era where people are putting all of their personal documents into digital safes rather than physical safes, and modern law enforcement needs to come to grips with that reality.—PhilipKearney

@PhilipKearney There is no need for safe manufacturers to build that into the design because police have pretty much always been able to get into them, and in fact they often help police to do so. “Digital safes” are different because they are significantly more available and difficult to crack into. There is nothing stopping technology companies from baking in a multi-factor key which would require Apple, courts, and law enforcement all to turn the key at the same time, where all keys are different for every handset, and the user of the key is authenticated with a digital signature. Given the infrequent operation of such a system there is no reason why it can't be made far more secure than a user's password.

I think there are decent geopolitical and economic arguments to made against developing a back door, and these must also be included in the discussion. Damaging the reputation of U.S. technology companies is a real risk and the cost could be at the expense of national security if development moves overseas. At the same time fears on a technical level are in my view overstated and the potential upside ignored by people who have already taken a firm ideological stance on the issue.—userm

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