Network Security in the Medium Term, 2061-2561 AD

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Thu, 18 Aug 2011 11:13:55 GMT  <== Computers ==> 

Charlie Stross at Usenix 2011 - Charlie blogs a transcript of his keynote speech. Predictions of network security in 2061. Good speech, but universal democracy? Gag me with a spoon.

Unlike you, I am not a security professional. However, we probably share a common human trait, namely that none of us enjoy looking like a fool in front of a large audience. I therefore chose the title of my talk to minimize the risk of ridicule: if we should meet up in 2061, much less in the 26th century, you’re welcome to rib me about this talk. Because I’ll be happy to still be alive to rib.


This is USENIX Security and I’m 10 minutes into my talk and I haven’t mentioned computers or networks. Some of you are probably getting bored or irritated by now, and it’s too early for an after-lunch nap, and I’m too low-tech to give you hypnosis by powerpoint. So let me get round to the stuff you came to hear about.


A brief aside on storage density is in order at this point. I’m throwing around fairly gigantic amounts of data in this talk – where are we going to store it all? The answer is, as Richard Fenyman put it in 1959, there’s plenty of room at the bottom. Let’s hypothesize a very high density, non-volatile serial storage medium that might be manufactured using molecular nanotechnology: I call it memory diamond. It’s a diamondoid mesh, within which the state of a single data bit is encoded in each atom: because we want it to be rigid and stable, we use a carbon–12 nucleus to represent a zero, and a carbon-thirteen to represent a one. How we read and write these bits is left as an exercise for the student of mature molecular nanotechnology, but we can say with some certainty that we can store Avogadro’s number of bits – 6 x 1023 – in 12.5 grams of carbon, or around 13 thousand terabytes in an ounce of memory diamond. Going by the figures in a report from UCSD last year, the average worker processed or consumed 3 terabytes per year, and there are around 3.18 billion workers; which works out at 23 tons of memory diamond needed to store everything without compression or deduplication. At a guess, once you take out cute captioned cat videos and downloads that annoy the hell out of the MPAA you can reduce that by an order of magnitude.


So, let’s approximate the upper limit on bandwidth to 2 tb/person, by postulating a mixture of novel compression algorithms and really tiny cells.

What can you do with 2 terabits per second per human being on the planet? (Let alone 2tb/sec per wireless device, given that we’re already within a handful of years of having more wireless devices than people?)

One thing you can do trivially with that kind of capacity is full lifelogging for everyone. Lifelogging today is in its infancy, but it’s going to be a major disruptive technology within two decades.

The basic idea behind lifelogging is simple enough: wear a couple of small, unobtrusive camera chips and microphones at all time. Stream their output, along with metadata such as GPS coordinates and a time sequence to a server somewhere. Working offline, the server performs speech-to-text on all the dialogue you utter or hear, face recognition on everyone you see, OCR on everything you read, and indexes it against images and location. Whether it’s performed in the cloud or in your smartphone is irrelenvant – the resulting search technology essentially gives you a prosthetic memory.

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I believe the concept

Submitted by Matt on Fri, 19 Aug 2011 01:15:50 GMT

I believe the concept of lifelogging holds a prominent place in the Niven & Pournelle novel Oath of Fealty:

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