We were gutted by the news from Paris on Friday evening, when over a hundred people were slaughtered, and hundreds injured, including a hundred critically wounded, in a coordinated terrorist attack. All, in the shadows of a suicide bomber in Beirut who killed 43 and the explosion of a Russian commercial airline that killed 224 people.
While the world stopped to react – to mourn, sympathize, reflect, and express its outrage and heartbreak over the attacks, the world did not stop. People tweeted their condolences. French flags appeared across Facebook profiles – again – in sympathy and solidarity. And tech and other news was reported, even as the social media pipelines exploded.
Then there was this: Mizzou Campus Activists and Black Lives Matter Complain About Paris Stealing the Spotlight. “Not to take away from Paris at all but how just how they’re getting news coverage & the worlds support, we deserve it too,” tweeted @darlene_deona.
Those of us who were here in NYC on September 11, 2001 know only too well what the people of Paris – and people from around the world who lost loved ones in Paris on this past black Friday the 13th – are going through. Literally, in flash, your life is changed forever. The passage of time helps, but when events such as what happened in Paris happen yet again, it all comes flooding back. Memories are forever. When you read about coordinated attacks in another city, you know that it can not only happen here, but that you’re in the terrorists’ sights. They’ve promised as much, and lest we forget, the Islamic State reveal(ed) it has smuggled THOUSANDS of extremists into Europe.
Those of us who have lived through this before salute the areas of the tech world who are using their skills for more than just monitoring the public: (Anonymous vs. the Islamic State “For nearly a year, a war has been unfolding in strange corners of the Internet. But can a bunch of hackers really take on the world’s deadliest jihadi group?” https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/13/anonymous-hackers-islamic-state-isis-chan-online-war/), while college campuses are currently seeking to eliminate free speech in the name of providing a ‘safe environment’ at the price of one of our most important Constitution guarantees. We defer to a member of Anonymous, who, when “asked (in the article) if their destruction of Islamic State websites sets a bad precedent for freedom of speech online, the answer is immediate: “No,” said @DigitaShadow. “Free speech isn’t murder.”
Murder is murder, and hearing about the senseless slaughter of innocents, unarmed and unsuspecting, who were out for a night on the town in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, is heart wrenching. Really, #Mizzou?
The events of the last few days demonstrated technology – particularly, social media – at its best and worst, with the world showing its solidarity for the French by posting the country’s flags, and the Eiffel Tower peace sign, which quickly went viral, across social media, and crybullies chiming in to claim their inappropriate 15 minutes of fame. It was stunning, but then again, there’s no predicting human nature – or how technology will be used – once it’s out in the wild, lest we forget that the attackers also used technology and social media – and Playstation – to coordinate their movements. With artificial intelligence creeping into more and more aspects of our lives and with some of the greatest minds in science and technology, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, warning humanity to put on the brakes in this case, it may well be time to listen. AI out in the wild is potentially more dangerous than anything we’ve witnessed to date – and as we’ve seen, not everyone wishes to unleash the powers of technology for good instead of evil. Something to consider as we go, hopefully a bit more circumspectly, onward and forward.