As an over-educated, over-caffeinated technologist with an over-active imagination, I get scared when I hear the press compare Trump to Hitler because I see the perfect storm brewing on the horizon. A triangulation of emerging technologies, a supremacist leader, and an America population so starving for change that they would be easily convinced to follow blindly.
A Review of History (Very Brief): I have always wondered how one single man (Hitler) was able to convince a nation of others to ruthlessly persecute and murder six million Jews. One trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, taught me that Hitler rose to power following a period economic discontent in
Germany. Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933. At that time, Germany was facing substantial economic challenges. The citizens were desperate for economic reform and were easy prey for Hitler’s empty promises that appealed to emotions instead of reason. Hitler blamed Germany’s problems on the Jews, “corrupt politicians” and communists. Hitler pushed forward with a strong viral media
campaign that declared the Jews (and other minorities) as “Inferior and Dangerous.” The people of Germany heard what they wanted to hear, and ignored the growing swell of violence until it was too late. By 1934, anyone who showed signs of resistance to the Nazi Regime was persecuted by the Gestapo (Germany’s Secret State Police).
Fast forward to 2016, and imagine if Hitler had access to the same technology in 1933 that we have in 2016….. If Hitler had access to social media; Facebook and Twitter. The vile little man would spend his days monitoring posts, tweets and #hashtags. He would know exactly who was for or against the unconscionable acts of the Nazi Regime. He might even get stealthy and add inflammatory posts in order to collect more data.
Hitler’s strategy would leverage “Big Data Analytics” and digital drills-downs to access individual demographics.
He would know YOU as a person. He would know if you shared an Anti-Nazi post, or if you liked/commented/retweet an Anti-Nazi post. He would jump over to Google search to learn more as necessary; using Google Maps to find out exactly where you live, or Eventbrite and Meetup.com to find out what events and groups you attend. Luckily, YOU are smart and stealthy. You saw the perfect storm approaching and deleted your social and digital presence. You have chosen to live OFFLINE in an ONLINE world.
Unfortunately, you are not immune to his digital reach for several reasons. First, online/digital data never goes away even if accounts are deleted. Second, you may have hidden your online social activity, and your photos; but there are many new mass-market technologies that provide electronic bread-crumbs for Hitler to follow: the Internet of Things, Radio Frequency Identifiers (RFID or Microchips) and GPS are ubiquitous tracking mechanisms that are already embedded into your life, and these technologies are not so easy to remove. The are interwoven into today’s modern lifestyle. Removing them from your life is as painful and tricky as removing gum from of a young girl’s long hair.
For example, without GPS you would have to navigate the globe with a map and BTW convenience stores no longer sell maps. Specialty items like vintage maps are readily available on Ebay, but wait, you now live offline…. Even if you could acquire a map, would you even know how to read one or fold it back up? When navigating your directions with your map, you will want to avoid tolls. All the highways are going to a cash free system and the electronic tolls are recording your travels.
You will need to pay in cash because ATMs and credit cards not only track your transactions, but your location as well. Strip yourself of your fitbit, apple watch – remember no check-ins, no Starbucks app to get a free coffee in 10 visits, actually use NO APPS at all because APP data is collected and analyzed so you could be tracked. Next you will need to worry about what is implanted in YOU or your clothing.
RFID are little chips that are put in products to communicate with sensors. Passive RFID chips communicate with readers ubiquitously for up to 10 feet. RFID chips expedite commerce and offer more secure transactions. Right now (2016), they are in many common high value products and credit cards. RFID offers such enormous benefits in human welfare, convenience, and safety that they are becoming increasingly popular – so popular, that some employers in world are putting them into their employees. Yet, you don’t need to implant the tiny RFID chip under your skin to be tracked offline. Your phone may be telling the world exactly where you are without your knowledge (but you can disable that function under “Settings”). It’s harder to disable the tiny RFID chip if they are embedded in your shoes. The big benefits of RFIDs for shoe manufacturers is to monitor the Product Life Cycle of their shoes, but also the benefit for shoe stores is that RFID will help them find missing/mismatched shoes. A problem that has plagued the industry since its inception.
The government will know that statistics show that people don’t share shoes. They will know where your shoes are, and therefore where you are. SO, If you sneak off to attend and a clandestine Anti-Nazi meeting, it would be best to go barefoot. You may also want to take the wheels off your car, because most tires have RFID chips and modern sensors are so small and they could go undetected in the entrance to the nearest parking lot. They would know of the meeting because of email surveillance enable by the Patriot’s Act in 2001 (although revised in 2015).
Currently the government requires due process to access and collect data. However, many conspiracy theorists worry we are just one terrorist attack away from giving up additional rights. The Patriot Act was signed as a result from the 9/11 attack in 2001. This act provided ease of surveillance, expedited intelligence collection, and gave more control to government while at the same time violating freedoms of US citizens. I am convinced the next terrorist act won’t involve airplanes or collapsing big buildings; but will be a stealthy attack of malicious code on our banking system. The economic power of the United States will crumble overnight if the US electronic financial and banking system is compromised.
There is no escaping the wrath of a heartless, supremacist, and ruthless leader with access to technology. The next concern is the power grids in the USA are all digital. There has been evidence of terrorists penetrating the US power grid systems with malicious code. What if the government were to create their own version of malicious code? Based on online social data and analytics, Hitler might discover entire geographic communities of “Inferior and Dangerous” residents. Rather than absorb the costs of gathering these residents up and hustling them off in cattle cars to concentration camps, he might opt to shut off their electricity in the dead of winter.
OR Hitler may opt to control each household’s access to the power grid based on their willingness to comply with the Nazi Regime. Driving around the neighborhood of houses with Lights ON versus Lights OFF would act as an influence to behavior similar to theories in business of “GroupThink.” AND, there will be no stories of survival like Anne Frank. Hitler’s Big data analysis will reveal exactly how many people live in each home based on statistical usage of common household products like toilet paper. A spike in the number of rolls a household purchases might be an indication that there is someone hidden inside. Hitler may look at a simple Data Analytics dashboard to see who might have hidden guest in the same way Boston trash collectors look at a digital dashboard to determine which trash cans need to be emptied on a Saturday night.
So let’s further our example and say that despite your efforts to remove your online footprint and dodge the GPS & RFID sensors, you get caught being Anti-Nazi. You gather your remaining belongings and flee to the nearest train, bus or airport. Technology in 2016 is so ubiquitous and persuasive you just can’t sneak away undetected. Tracking is not just online clickstream, and offline GPS & RFID tracking, there is also surveillance video and facial recognition in cities and airports. There will be no escape routes. The world has become a very transparent place and history has taught us that power is a very dangerous thing. SO vote wisely in November, 2016. Remember, there are no quick and easy answers for our economy, our lives or the problems we face ahead.
Email Janine.Jacques@NECB.edu to learn more about MBA concentrations or Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics.