What Does The Future Of Crime Look Like?
GUY RAZ, HOST:
OK, so after this point the future is looking pretty awesome, you know, all this incredible technology to cure disease and make us live better lives but like the force, there is of course a dark side. Which is what Mark Goodman worries about. He used to be a beat cop with the LA police department and now he studies the future of crime and terrorism.
MARK GOODMAN: Today I'm going to show you the flip side of all those technologies that we marvel at. The ones that we love. In the hands of the TED community these are awesome tools which will bring about great change for our world. But in the hands of suicide bombers, the future can look quite different.
RAZ: And Mark Goodman believes we all caught a glimpse of that future in November 2008, when 10 men - just 10 men - brought a city of 20 million people to a standstill in Mumbai, India.
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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: ...We're continuing to follow the deadly coordinated terror attacks there across the city. More than 80 people have been killed. Here's the latest report...
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GOODMAN: The men that carried that attack out were armed with AK-47s, explosives and hand grenades. But heavy artillery is nothing new in terrorist operations. Guns and bombs are nothing new. What was different this time is the way that the terrorists used modern information communications technologies to locate additional victims and slaughter them.
RAZ: So how did they do it?
GOODMAN: What was different is that the terrorists innovated a terrorist ops center. So at the very same time that the attack was taking place on the ground in Mumbai there was an op center back in Pakistan monitoring, in real time, Al Jazeera.
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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: The police have cordoned off all of the areas in south Mumbai...
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: Reporting live from the scene as the Taj Hotel...
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #4: What you're hearing is a lot of explosions...
GOODMAN: ...As well as the Internet and they were culling all of that data for intelligence related to the attack and relaying that information to their terrorist operatives on the ground in real time. And that was something that we had never seen before.
RAZ: The main target was a luxury hotel in downtown. It's called the Taj. And during the siege the terrorists went from room...
GOODMAN: ...to room and on the top floor of Taj there was a big suite.
RAZ: They found a man hiding in his room. They tied him up and they interrogated him.
GOODMAN: And they said to him, who are you? And what are you doing here?
K.R. RAMAMOORTHY: So I said that I am a teacher.
RAZ: This is that man, K.R. Ramamoorthy.
RAMAMOORTHY: Then they asked me, where from you come? I said I come from Bangalore.
GOODMAN: The terrorists were dumb but they weren't that dumb and they know that no Indian schoolteacher could afford to stay in the Taj, let alone in a suite.
RAMAMOORTHY: They say what is your name? I said K.R. Ramamoorthy. But I didn't believe at the time they are doing Google search.
GOODMAN: And what did they do? Using their smartphones, phoned it in to their terrorist operation center. And they began an open source intelligence search for the man. They were able to locate a photograph which matched the name and then over the phone they did a match comparison.
RAMAMOORTHY: Then back came the questions from them.
GOODMAN: The terrorist ops center asked the terrorists on the ground, your hostage...
RAMAMOORTHY: ...Is he bald in his head?
GOODMAN: Is he bald in front?
RAMAMOORTHY: He said yes.
GOODMAN: Yes he is.
RAMAMOORTHY: Is he wearing spectacles?
GOODMAN: Wearing glasses?
RAMAMOORTHY: Then they said yes.
GOODMAN: Is he heavyset?
RAMAMOORTHY: Is he heavy built? He said yes. It is at that stage possibly they identified who am I.
RAZ: The ops center had a match and they saw that K.R. Ramamoorthy was actually a top executive at a bank. And so when they figured that out, what did they tell the gunmen?
RAMAMOORTHY: I think they told him he's an important person. And kill him meant your life is under danger.
RAZ: Obviously, K.R. Ramamoorthy survived. A blast in another part of the hotel distracted the terrorists and he was able to escape. But Mark Goodman thinks that what happened in that hotel in Mumbai was almost like a template for the future of crime and terrorism.
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GOODMAN: We've all seen 3-D printers. We know with them that you can print in many materials. But I wonder for those people that strap bombs to their chests and blow themselves up - how might they use 3-D printers? We recently saw a case where some researchers made the H5N1 avian influenza virus more potent. And the researchers who did this were so proud of their accomplishments, they wanted to publish it openly so that everybody could see this. In the United States there are 60,000 people who have a pacemaker that connects to the Internet. All of the physical objects in our space are being transformed into information technologies. Criminals understand this. Terrorists understand this. Hackers understand this. If you control the code, you control the world. This is the future that awaits us.
RAZ: And you say this is the future that awaits us. And I saw that and I thought, that is not a future I want to be a part of. Like, that is frightening.
GOODMAN: It could and perhaps should be cause for concern. The goal is not to be alarmist. I am a huge proponent of technology. I work in Silicon Valley. But we are leading a life that is increasingly disintermediated through technology. We don't talk to people face-to-face anymore. We used to reach out to them on a telephone and then on a computer, and now it's on an iPhone phone, an iPad. When we look at our cars today the speedometer is not a manual speedometer, it's a computer. When you go into the hospital and they check your heart, that is a computer that is checking your heart. When pilots on aircraft look at their navigational signals and instruments, that's all a computer. And the one thing that we know is that there has never been built a computer system that could not be hacked. So when I look out into the future and see the technological horizon and the increased dependence upon technology, and knowing that all technology to date is fundamentally insecure, I do have some growing concerns about that future.
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GOODMAN: What to do? What to do about all this? That's what I get asked all the time. Policing doesn't scale globally, at least it hasn't. And our current system of guns, border guards, big gates and fences are outdated in the new world into which we're moving. Whether or not you realize it, we are at the dawn of a technological arms race. An arms race between people who are using technology for good, and those who are using it for ill. The threat is serious and the time to prepare for it is now. I can assure you that the terrorists and criminals are. My personal belief is that rather than having a small, elite force of highly trained government agents here to protect us all, we're much better off having average and ordinary citizens approaching this problem as a group and seeing what we can do. If we all do our part I think we'll be in a much better space. The tools to change the world are in everybody's hands. How we use them is not just up to me, it's up to all of us.
RAZ: Mark Goodman. Check out more of his predictions in his TED talk. Find it at TED.NPR.org. Stay with us - more predictions about our future in just a moment. I'm Guy Raz, it's the TED Radio Hour from NPR.
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