Walt Mossberg’s final weekly column. He started out in 1991 with “computers are just too hard to use”, and ends with the dangers of ambient computing and its power resting in a few companies:
…if we are really going to turn over our homes, our cars, our health and more to private tech companies, on a scale never imagined, we need much, much stronger standards for security and privacy than now exist. Especially in the U.S., it’s time to stop dancing around the privacy and security issues and pass real, binding laws.
But, as tectonic shifts like this occur in technology, oligopolies get shaken up.
And, if ambient technology is to become as integrated into our lives as previous technological revolutions like wood joists, steel beams and engine blocks, we need to subject it to the digital equivalent of enforceable building codes and auto safety standards. Nothing less will do. And health? The current medical device standards will have to be even tougher, while still allowing for innovation.
The tech industry, which has long styled itself as a disruptor, will need to work hand in hand with government to craft these policies. And that might be a bigger challenge than developing the technology in the first place.
Now it’s up to the rest of us to chart that journey.