Brad Templeton is the Track Chair for Computing at Singularity University, developer of and commentator on self-driving cars, software architect, board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, internet entrepreneur, futurist lecturer, writer and observer of cyberspace issues, hobby photographer, and an artist.
Templeton has been a consultant on Google’s team designing a driverless car and lectures and blogs about the emerging technology of automated transportation. He is also noted as a speaker and writer covering copyright law and political and social issues related to computing and networks. He is a director of the futurist Foresight Nanotech Institute, a think tank and public interest organization focused on transformative future technologies.
Templeton was founder, publisher and software architect at ClariNet Communications Corp., which in the 1990s became the first internet-based business, creating an electronic newspaper. He has been active in the computer network community since 1979, participated in the building and growth of USENET from its earliest days, and in 1987 founded and edited a special USENET conference devoted to comedy.
Templeton has been involved in the development of important pieces of software including VisiCalc, the world’s first computer spreadsheet, and Stuffit for archiving and compressing computer files.
In 1996, ClariNet joined the ACLU and others in opposing the Communications Decency Act, part of the Telecom bill passed during Clinton Administration. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the plaintiffs and ruled that the Act violated the First Amendment in seeking to impose anti-indecency standards on the internet.
Brad Templeton: We went, and by we I meant all of us, we went and built this wonderful Internet thing you've heard of. And we're all using it all the time for all of our lives. We're buying things on it, we're having sex over it, we're communicating with our friends, just so many aspects of our life are all going on this network and we've spent immense amounts of money to build it and build all the handheld devices and the computers, all the software. But what has the government done and what has big business done? They've turned it into the world's greatest surveillance apparatus, a surveillance apparatus that even George Orwell probably wouldn't have dreamed of. And that wasn't why we built it. We didn't make it to be a surveillance apparatus. But unfortunately we've learned, thanks to Edward Snowden, who has revealed what the NSA has been doing, that the NSA and other spy agencies around the world are doing is, they're making it a surveillance apparatus; they're tracking all of the phone calls you make in terms of records and where you were and who you talked to, and in many cases recording the actual voice.
They are, because they say they need to find a needle in haystack, looking at the entire haystack. They're looking at everything innocent people do in order to find guilty people. And nobody thinks that we shouldn't have police and intelligence agents whose job it is to find bad guys and stop bad guys. That's not a question. But a free society makes a decision for itself. It makes a decision to limit the power of its police and its intelligence agents. It makes the decision to let some bad things happen, to let some guilty people get away in order to avoid punishing innocent people, doing surveillance on people who are innocent and there's no reason to suspect them. But unfortunately that's not what happens. And unfortunately Mr. Snowden has shown us just the depth to which it's going on. And that's the biggest challenge we're facing, how to make societies realize that we do need our privacy and we do need to limit the power of these organizations. We do need to draw a line somewhere. And more then draw a line, we need to make people think there's not necessarily some trade-off between privacy and security, that it's possible sometimes to keep your rights and gain security at the same time, it's just harder. The easy thing to do is just make everyone give up their rights. So that's one of the biggest challenges going forward.
Now, we also have challenges in free speech. We're seeing more and more countries around the world trying to sensors their Internets, trying to censor what people do. Getting as extreme as Hosni Mubarak shutting off the Internet when a revolution was coming. And you may think that "Oh, well that's Egypt," but in fact just before that President Obama had asked for an ability to have a kill switch for the Internet. Now, not of course doing a revolution, he said if we're being attacked or something and we need to shut off we would like to have that. So we're seeing people as well self censor. Disturbingly, because of the Snowden revolutions, we're seeing the press afraid of what might happen to them if they report these stories and they're starting to censor themselves and that's affecting free speech. We're also seeing a big effort for people to take control of our computers and have them do things that we necessarily don't want them to do, all in the service of protecting a movie when you download it so that you can't easily copy it to someone else. Which has never worked; it's never actually stopped people from copying movies. But we have a lot of forces pushing for laws and technology to basically lock down your computer so not so that you can trust it but so that movie studios and governments and so on can trust that you can't do things on it. And that is something that computer engineers all know is never going to work and is just going to make things broken.
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Dillon Fitton, and Elizabeth Rodd