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Guest Thinkers

Introducing Future Crimes

Marc Goodman tells Big Think that in the future “the virtual agents of good and evil will do battle in cyberspace–making this a very interesting field to be in!”

“Should Virtual Suicide Be Outlawed?“Hacking the Human Heart” These two provocative headlines are from recent posts by Marc Goodman, the author of Future Crimes, a new blog on Big Think. Goodman is a global thinker, writer and consultant focused on the disruptive impact of advancing technologies on security, business and international affairs.
Big Think recently interviewed Goodman about what readers can expect to learn from reading Future Crimes. Among other things, Goodman tells Big Think that in the future “the virtual agents of good and evil will do battle in cyberspace–making this a very interesting field to be in!”
Big Think: What is the big idea behind Future Crimes?

Marc Goodman: Future Crimes is dedicated to studying and discussing the effects of scientific and technological progress on crime, policing and the criminal justice system.Criminals have always been quick to adopt new technologies, with the police often trailing behind. The unprecedented rapid rate of scientific progress is creating new opportunities for transnational criminal organizations to exploit these technological advancements for unintended nefarious purposes.

BT: Why have you taken this unique focus?

MG: While many are focused on the common cyber crimes of today, I have been taking a futurist’s approach that looks beyond today’s cyber crimes in anticipation of the next generations of criminality. Specifically, I’m working on matters involving the security, crime and terrorist implications of virtual worlds, augmented/hybrid realities, robotics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, synthetic biology and human genomics.
As a variety of new technologies come on board in our society, they will amplify and expand the potential security threats we face.  Nobody engineered security into the first iterations of the Internet because there were only a few nodes belonging to trusted universities and government entities online. That unfortunate, though understandable, lack of forethought led to the lack of an integrated and architected security posture as part of the infrastructure itself has led to the many crime and security challenges we face today.  Future Crimes exists to closely examine future technologies and consider their security implications now–before it is too late to do so.
BT: When you consider the next generation of security threats, what
concerns you the most?

MG: Biological threats. Biohacking or DIY (Do It Yourself Biology) are about to explode. For the first time in human history, we are beginning to understand how biology works. Decoding the human genome was just the first step, neurology will be next. There are significant groups of hackers out there “hacking” biology every day. While much of this work is going on for good and the betterment of humanity, that is not universally true. Bill Gates himself said if he were a kid again today, he would be hacking bio technology instead of information technology. The burgeoning fields of synthetic biology, genomics and nano tech may provide significant opportunities for criminals and terrorists to pursue a whole new bag of weaponry previously unavailable to them.

BT: Is there a basic rule of thumb that private citizens can follow to
protect their privacy today? (Or, to put it another way, do you think
the public at large is aware of the full extent of the threats to
their privacy that exist today?)

MG:  I strongly believe that the public is significantly unaware of the privacy and security threats they face.  While George Orwell worried about government as “Big Brother,” the fact of the matter is the threats to privacy, at least in the Western world, come mostly from non-government entities.  It is amazing how many people will gladly give up their phone book contacts, their location, their entire social network, family pictures and purchase history merely because somebody offers them the latest cool app. The big problem with users giving this information is that it often leaks out.  
When Sony was recently attacked, the perpetrators obtained the personal details and sometimes even financial data, of over 100 million people. Trusting users gave the information to Sony. Sony, for reasons still under investigation, had their customers’ information taken. Thus when one shares personal information, the information is apt to be used by others in unintended ways.  
To your original question, the rule of thumb private citizens should follow is that any information they provide, even so-called private information, will likely, at some point in the future, end up in the hands of a third party, authorized or not.  
BT: In your view, who are the most technologically-advanced criminals out there?

MG:  There is a significant amount of criminal “talent” out there. There are highly technologically-advanced criminals in many countries around the world. Though people might want to focus on one region over another, the fact of the matter is that organized crime is just that: organized. That means it functions just like a business and profits in the digital underground are at an all-time high. There is significant cooperation among criminal gangs online, regardless of their location. Thus an Asian crime group would readily collaborate with one from Eastern Europe or North America if there is a profit to be made for all parties.  

BT: With technology increasing exponentially, and humans unable to
keep up, to what extent will we have to rely on A.I. to protect and

MG:  I think increasingly Artificial Intelligence will play a very large role in crime, policing and security. Artificial agents will scour the net looking for criminal activity. Though it sounds very “Minority Report,” the fact of the matter is there is an emerging field of law enforcement known as “Predictive Policing.” Using a variety of AI techniques, machine learning and vast mounds of data, it is actually becoming possible to determine which criminals are most likely to offend and even those that are most likely to become victims of crime, such as homicide, themselves. Of course, AI is not only for the good guys. We have already seen attempts by criminal elements to script and automate criminality. Botnets and FastFlux technologies are perfect early examples of where we are heading. In the future, the virtual agents of good and evil will do battle in cyberspace–making this a very interesting field to be in!


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