Saturday, 27 February 2010

Technology and Violence

It is so much easier to be violent now than it was before "civilisation". First we used our fists, sticks and stones. Then came knives and swords. You had to be face-to-face with your enemy and within their reach. Violence was a purely physical activity and risk was very high. So you had to be reasonably sure that you could win. This is the time when many martial arts were evolved.

The invention of the gun changed everything. It is so much more accurate and effective than previous weapons (bows arrows etc). Your enemy just needs to be in your direct line of sight. You do not have to invest any physical effort. The ancient act of murder that used to put you in equal risk to your opponent has now been effectively reduced to the squeeze of one finger against a trigger. With the invention of intercontinental nuclear missiles, it is now possible to destroy the city your enemy lives in from another country by the press of a single button.

This is old news. Guns have been with us for a couple of centuries, and nuclear technology since the 2nd World War. With technology comes power, and with this power comes the responsibility to use it wisely. So what has happened recently to change the rules of engagement?

With the rapid innovation of computers over the last 20 years, it can be argued that we live in a new age of information technology. Never before have communications and intelligence been so accessible and so easily disseminated to whoever you like. This is great news for the empowerment of the individual, but that also gives people more opportunity to exploit others. Espionage or spying is the covert acquisition of information for use against an individual or organisation. People can abuse or steal without coming anywhere near their victim. So what risks do people face from modern technological espionage and how can we protect ourselves?

Cyber-attack: The internet is rife with viruses that can damage the performance of our computers or trojans that steal personal information. I'm not going to make many friends here, but the main reason for the proliferation of viruses is that we have all chosen the same kind of operating system - microsoft windows. If you are really interested in ensuring your PC is virus free, don't use windows. Find another operating system. There are a lot out there - some of which are free! If more people used windows alternatives, viruses would not spread. If you cannot do without your windows operating system, more information can be found here.

Cyber bullying: Why stand in front of someone and insult them when you can do it from your home? So much more convenient... The main source is social network sites like facebook, bebo or via email or SMS on your mobile phone. The main thing to remember is that you should not answer back. Mainly because this means you can be implicated as being part of the problem. Remember, all their activities can be recorded. Save emails, take screen prints. Don't delete abusive texts. They are all evidence. When you have enough evidence, go to your school, local authority or police. It is abuse, and there are laws against it. More advice here.

Robbery: Firstly, don't publish your home address. Secondly, don't go on facebook and tell everyone you are going on holiday for a week. You might as well put a sign on your house saying 'rob me'. Avoid putting your smart-phone location on twitter or facebook for the same reason.

Identity theft: Another reason why you can't publish your personal details is that others can use your details to get loans from banks etc. Also, get a shredder and shred all the mail that goes into your bin. That way, people cannot steal your identity.

Bank account details: Don't put them on your computer or smart phone. Need I say any more?

Smart phone: Make sure it is password protected. If you have it stolen and you haven't locked it, you may lose more than the phone. Your address book contains all your details and all your friends' addresses. Nice list of places to be robbed or identites to steal.

Make sure you use these new technology and communication skills to your advantage.
  • Children - use your communication networks to warn each other where bullies are so you can all avoid them.
  • If you don't like walking through that tough neighbourhood, you can use your smartphone to order a safe taxi home.
  • Text ahead to let people know when to expect you.
  • Access national statistics to find out how crime is dealt with in your area. If it's not good enough, lobby your political representative.
  • Email police websites to report public disorder.
Let's all work together to ensure our communications are effective and safe.

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