In Rory Cellan-Jones’ new book captioned “Hope and fear in the age of social smartphonesRory illustrates too well the unexpected turns that new technologies have taken. Rory is the BBC’s tech correspondent and seems to attract more than his fair share of unusual situations.
Take for example, in Chapter 10, Rory witnessed an attempt by Craig Wright to prove he was Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of Bitcoin, or a ploy by Baroness Michelle Mone to sell a property for the price. Bitcoin, or meet Elon Musk who claimed that one day you will be able to summon a Tesla from New York across the country to LA to the SpinVox company that Rory revealed uses mostly humans to transcribe audio rather than the automated technology they claimed.
The book covers the period from the iPhone’s launch in 2007, including the rapid expansion of social media and their data collection, to the UK government’s attempts to use phones to conduct close-range surveillance for the Covid virus. .
On the surface, the book is easy to read, and Rory’s involvement in some key behind-the-scenes tech moments is instructive. I was left with a deeper sense of unease that personal technology, data collection, and crypto platforms are taking us to places we never anticipated and were unprepared for.
In our video interview, I asked Rory whether social media platforms need regulation, and Rory summed it up by referring to an attempt by the UK government to put in place a plan to online security law, a set of laws that govern are harmful but not illegal ”- a difficult knot to unravel.
We discuss the evolution of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and smartphones and how this led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal in the 2016 US presidential election, as well as the influence on UK politics. Arguably, there is growing momentum to change focus on data collection and privacy in order to give ordinary people more control over when and how their personal data is used.
The final chapter deals with fake news, 5G and the virus and how personal opinions can now be spread widely and instantly, causing huge reactions among ordinary people. We all have a voice now that has democratized communications, but it has sparked a torrent of opinions that is allowed as free speech but can be harmful without some sort of checks and balances.
The combination of internet technology and new platforms, along with the portability of smart devices, means we now have a tiger by the tail. Read the book and watch the interview: What’s the net benefit of the last 14 years of innovation?
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Chapter markers can be found in the video, but for reference:
- Q1 00:32: Rory intro
- Q2 01:36, When did the technological revolution start?
- Q3 04:49: How has technology changed politics
- Q4 12:28: Do social media platforms need regulation?
- Q5 15:14: How have tech CEOs changed?
- Q6 16:38: Are cryptocurrencies and NFTs the future?
- Q7 21:31: How do new technologies appear in the economy?
- Q8 25:10: How will the structure of the Internet change?
- Q9 28:52: What magical device or service would you like to see invented?
- Q10 30:09: What are your biggest fears and hopes for technology?