Most of our heroes were rule breakers. Yes, virtually everyone that holds a prominent place in our history books was a rebel, rule breaker, and occasional criminal.
No, I’m not saying these people should have been arrested, but I think it’s safe to assume that others may have been imprisoned and perhaps even killed for committing similar crimes.
But crimes in the future will require even greater levels of sophistication. As technology explodes around us, rule-breakers will have far more rules to consider in their trailblazing efforts.
We are witnessing a decline in traditional criminal groups, a void that is being filled by a growing virtual criminal underground made up of individual criminal entrepreneurs, who come together on a project-by-project basis. Seasoned criminals will lend their knowledge, experience and expertise to the growing ‘crime-as-a-service’ business model.
This is already happening in the area of cybercrime, but will soon infect virtually every level of ‘traditional’ organized crime, involving everything from designer drugs, to circumventing immigration laws, to large-scale counterfeiting of brand name products.
As we consider the forces at play, I’d like to step you through a number of future crimes and the emerging technologies that will be used to perform them.
Future crimes that don’t exist today
The same technologies that enable us to 3D print our own guns, also gives us the ability to create our own drones, intimidation engines, signal jammers, spyware, rockets, and gene hacking equipment. Virtually every new technology, created with all the best of intentions, can and will be used against us at some time in the future.
Suffice it to say that criminal minds are working overtime to concoct new and unusual opportunities for exploiting each of these emerging crime fields.
Future drones will need to comply with thousands of unknown laws and regulations that are still in the process of being written.
1.) Transport of illegal substances – Bombs, poison, drugs, body parts, etc.
2.) Weaponized drones – Equipped with guns, lasers, Tasers, flamethrowers, and more.
3.) Voyeurism – Inappropriate spying on people in their residences or in restricted personal spaces.
4.) Disruptive marketing – Traffic-disrupting in-your-face messaging.
5.) Illegal shooting or destruction of drones – The anti-drone crowd is growing.
6.) Noise violations – Future drones with speakers and sound amplification systems attached (think flying concert speakers), can be turned into destructive weapons.
7.) Drone bullying – Acts of intimidation, threatening moves, or displaying images to shame or embarrass someone.
8.) Drones killing other drones – Drones specifically designed to capture or destroy other drones.
Mixed reality distortionaries
Imagine a mixed reality game showing the world we live in, only with visual overlays that make people around us unwitting players and pawns that we attempt to influence from inside this altered reality adventure. Think of it as the game of life, operating with a completely different rulebook.
9.) Mixed reality games designed to score points by injuring others – Users score points for physical bruises, verbal abuse, public shaming, and even physically disabling or killing someone.
10.) Purposefully distorted realities – Often times people stand to profit when they can get clients or customers to think something is wrong. Whether it’s visually distorting the dental work needed, the amount of treatment required for a medical condition, or your role in a criminal activity, there is a special place in hell for those who perversely benefit from the suffering of others.
We’ve long dealt with historical revisionists and blatant fabricationists, but as we move into the age of super news-fakers, it will become increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction. Over time we will develop a technology that enables us to replay an unalterable visual representations of past events. But even technologies like that can be abused in new and unusual ways.
11.) Bald-faced character assassination – Piecing together bad snippets of anyone’s life can make them look like a fool. We all have the frailties of being human, and good judgment is everybody’s shortcoming at one time or another.
12.) Blatant revisionists – For some, painting false realities, drawing false conclusions, and reimagining past events will become a new criminal art form.
13.) False memes – Perpetuators of false research, polls, and studies.
14.) Counterfeit conclusionists – The fine art of reaching false conclusions. Since it’s an asymmetrical relationship between researchers and those consuming the information, scientists need to be held to a higher standard.
In much the same way Google’s personalized marketing system delivers targeted ads, an intimidation engine can be invented for the sole purpose of delivering highly targeted threats. As cyber crime escalates, we run the risk of having our social structures deteriorate into invisible mafia-style communities with the blackmailers ruling the blackmailees. While most will be doing it for money, others for revenge, few, if any, will be capable of understanding the true behind-the-scenes turf wars taking place.
15.) Threatening children – With social media it will become increasingly easy to intimidate someone with the threat of harming their child, friend, or loved one.
16.) Threat of isolation – We’re all social creatures by nature and the threat of alienating, and thereby isolating, us from our friends may be a fate worse than death.
Artificial intelligence plagues
It will become easy to rely on artificial intelligence to make most of our decisions for us – where to go, who to meet, what music to listen to, and even how to entertain our kids. But what happens when our A.I. goes bad or is coopted by those with sinister motives?
17.) Traffic accidents – Since driverless cars and drones will be managed by A.I., corrupted software could disrupt the entire transportation grid through a series of crashes, accidents, and massive traffic jams.
18.) Operating system amnesia – It’s what happens when information losses, alterations, and purposeful distortions take place.
19.) Power and data outages – Brownouts, blackouts, and information sieges designed to cut certain people off from the utilities, help, and services they need.
20.) Analysis paralysis – A.I. will soon become a crucial part of our daily decision-making processes, but system “overload” hacks, equivalent to “denial of service attacks,” will cause enormous problems.
Few things in life are more disturbing than having a person’s legacy destroyed after they’re dead. Character assassination of dead people can be relatively easy, with living children being the primary subjects of this kind of attack.
21.) False motives, false intentions – If a person is no longer alive to defend their actions, it’s relatively simple to distort their motivations.
22.) Made-up involvements – With social media, our circle of loosely associated friends and acquaintances has expanded exponentially, so contriving intimate affairs with virtually any other person on the planet becomes a relatively easy hack.
23.) Fabricated consequences – Altering cause and effect relationships has become a common instrument used in political circles to twist people’s thinking to draw the wrong conclusion.
24.) Rewriting conclusions using incorrect assessments of impact – Most spin masters have a massive set of tools in their toolbox, including the ability to turn any tiny blip on the radar screen of life into the appearance of a full blown nuclear-style holocaust.
Every military strategist knows the extraordinary advantage a destructive person could have directing an attack from a near earth vantage point, and it’s only a matter of time until amateur rocketeers are capable of exploiting this opportunity.
25.) Launch-from-space EMP blast – Capable of bombing a country’s financial systems into the stone ages.
26.) Launch-from-space pandemic – Deadly contagions and viral outbreaks will be easier than ever to fabricate, distribute, and infect over the coming decades.
27.) Launch-from-space communication blackouts – As we become more reliant upon data/voice communications, our key points of vulnerabilities become increasingly obvious.
28.) Launch-from-space incendiary bombs – One carefully directed blast could cause immeasurable damage.
Black hat robots are coming. With our growing imbalance between the super rich and the super poor, a likely scenario will be a scaling up of techno-stealth warfare of the clandestine kind, with black hat technologies used to disrupt our systems, industries, and government in new and unusual ways.
29.) Black hat drones, black hat robots, black hat car crashers, and black hat data manipulators – Terms like this will soon become a common part of every future criminal’s vocabulary.
30.) Hacker psycho-bots – One slightly deranged psycho-bot can easily be a thousand times more destructive than a single suicide bomber today.
Cryptocurrencies have become the perfect tool for hiding transactions. As an example, Monero is a cryptocurrency that was launched in 2014 with enhanced privacy features. Monero leverages identity-obscuring ring signatures to paint a super-confusing picture of which funds have been sent by whom and to whom.
31.) Secret transactions – Cryptocurrencies open the door for truly secret communications and money transfers.
32.) Clandestine wealth storage – It becomes impossible to deter criminal activity when there’s no way to understand how the transactions are made and how the money is being stored.
CRISPR gene hacking
Genetic engineering has long promised cures for diseases and general improvements for the human condition, and CRISPR has emerged as the gene designer’s tool of choice for making it happen. At the same time, gene manipulation is a tool that can be used in all the wrong ways.
33.) Creating destructive new life forms – We have no idea how harmful new life forms can and will be.
34.) Fabricating super contagious new diseases – This will include anything that compromises the health, security, or long-term viability of people.
35.) Sadistic human editing – Without checks and balances we can expect fringe scientists to attempt risky schemes such as adding multiple sex organs, heightened levels of fear, anxiety, paranoia, or self-destruction.
36.) Super-baby hackers – People wanting to make a name for themselves will test extreme theories by designing babes with four legs, five eyes, grotesquely large heads, super short or super tall, etc.
We like to think of our own mind as a safe haven for our thoughts, but what if it isn’t? What happens when our own grey matter becomes hackable.
37.) Implanting false memories – As our understanding of the human brain improves, hacking memories or inducing memory blackouts may become a common occurrence.
38.) Merged memories – Without our knowing, our minds could simply become co-mingled with someone else. The voices in our head may be coming from an elderly French woman with no understanding of who we are.
39.) Using false directives to supersede our free will – Our highly valued free will may not be so free after all. We may be forced to commit crimes even if we physically resist.
40.) Embedding dominant personalities – For domineering criminals, if we ever object to what they’re doing, an embedded dominant personality will overrule our objections and force us to conform.
Sitting needlessly at stoplights, or watching the minutes tick away as we wait in some line, or being forced to fill out yet another form, our precious time is being coopted by everyone from inconsiderate businesses, to overbearing government, to painful security checks at the airport.
Little by little, whatever tiny amount of control we thought we had over our day becomes infested with new life-sucking time-barnacles that congest our mind and adds surface-scratching aggregate to the smooth day we had planned. Like a leaky sieve carrying our daily time supply, however much we started with is never even close to what we end up with.
If someone steals our money, it’s an obvious crime. So why isn’t it an equally obvious crime if someone needlessly squanders our time?
41.) Time scarcity laws – Needlessly wasting our time will soon become a crime.
42.) Lost time penalties – Since time is a scarce commodity we will soon see time penalties to reimburse for lost time.
43.) Onerous time-limit laws – Very often people are forcing us to fail by creating situations with “far too little time to make something happen.” When situations fail a “reasonableness standard,” it will be considered a criminal act.
44.) Destructive Deja vu – Will we soon have the power to cause someone’s life to happen in random order, shifting from childhood, to retirement, to teen dating, to job loss, to your deathbed? Time hackers can be a vicious lot.
There will be little need for suicide bombers in the future as the hacking of driverless vehicles will open the door to a whole new set of perils.
45.) Destruction fanatics – Driverless vehicles equipped with bombs, dangerous animals, chemical agents, Saran gas, etc.
46.) Child abduction/kidnapping – With kids traveling unescorted to their schools, friends, or after-school activity, an abduction is only a hacker’s algorithm away.
47.) Communication jammers – Future communication jammers may be totally undetectable with their ability to block all forms of light, heat, sound along with virtually every fragment of the visible and invisible spectrum.
48.) Self-destructing fear generators – Think in terms of mobile land mines designed to intimidate people, blatantly obvious, casually driving through neighborhoods, but set to explode if anyone messes with them.
Gone are the days where people are impressed by projects costing $10-$50 million or even $100 million. We are witnessing an explosion in the number of $1 billion+ projects with some, like the artificial archipelago being built in Azerbaijan, Turkey’s massive Urban Renewal project in Istanbul, and the new construction of Masjid Al Haram in Saudi Arabia each exceeding $100 billion.
But along with these mega-investments comes a new breed of money manipulators and con artists hoping to capitalize on flaws in the implementation process.
49.) False job claims – Most countries will be heavily invested in keeping their people employed so most proposals will come with bogus job claims, something that is not easy to prove until after the fact.
50). Deceptive economic benefits – Claims of large-scale economic benefit are always attractive to politicians, but good intentions do not make viable business operations.
51.) Fabricated need – Infrastructure is usually an easy sell, especially when existing infrastructure is failing, but bogus “need” is a slippery slope that giant project con men will exploit.
52.) Fictitious accounting – The startup world has been a magnet for those who can make unattainable number look doable, and the world of megaprojects is creating an even stronger magnet.
All industries are a bell curve with a beginning, middle, and an end. Yes, all industries will eventually end.
Along the path of our increasingly volatile business landscape will be many winners and losers. As a result, industries on the verge of gasping their last breath, will try to reinvent themselves in the role of a viable new industry. Many will be able to accomplish this unless there’s menacing people causing interference.
Invariably the demise of certain industries will benefit one country over another, turning industrial warfare into a new criminal battlefield sanctioned by governments.
53.) Manipulate global demand – When the buyers are forced to go away, an industry will simply cease to exist.
54.) Remove financial backing – Refer to my comments on blackmail to understand how financiers can be manipulated into backing away from a deal.
55.) Hording of parts or materials causing costs to skyrocket – Most successful products are formed around critical components that are often hard to make and hard to get. Arranged shortages become an easy pinch point in a manufacturer’s supply chain.
56.) Causing all stocks in a specific industry to tank – We’ve only scratched the surface on fake news. Well-crafted rumors, designed to spawn other rumors, can easily force even the best stocks to slide. In the future it won’t take much to remove the valuation floor altogether, sending stocks into a total freefall.
When the darknet goes super dark
Have you ever run across a situation so frustrating that you wish you could hire a “fixer?”
Maybe it has to do with gangs moving into your neighborhood, or the local slumlord not willing to repair a dangerous situation, or a local politician taking bribes, or finding out that your husband is also married to someone else in another state.
My guess is that we’ve all run into problems that are outside of our ability to deal with and we need help. But the help we need is not the normal kind. We don’t have millions to throw at lawyers and we don’t have the time, patience, or resources to go though official channels.
Reasons like this are why the darknet has evolved into a place where less-scrupulous people offer less-scrupulous solutions. But the darknet has the potential to go super dark.
57.) Destroy the economy of an entire country – This is already happening on certain levels. By adding a few new tools, this will only get easier.
58.) Instigate a massive natural disaster – In the future, our ability to control hurricanes, earthquakes, hailstorms, or locust infestations will all be within reach.
59.) Forcing a nuclear power plant to self-destruct – Every new technology gives master manipulators additional capabilities.
60.) Remove a world leader from office – Once the playground of secret government agencies, the super puppet-masters of the future need only make a down payment on the super darknet.
Oddly enough, the reaction to most future crimes will transition from “Oh my god!” to “What the hell just happened?”
On one hand we’re putting more and more power into the hands of an individual. On the other, we are witnessing something of an arms race with governments and enforcement agencies pushing intrusiveness to whole new levels. This can be both good and bad.
It’s good if we catch the bad guys before their sinister plot unfolds, bad if we don’t want the government constantly peering over our shoulder.
The downside of a super-connected society is that we can easily connect with others who share our frustration, and shared frustrations often ferments into unusual forms of conflict.
This is where the ‘crime-as-a-service’ business model will evolve into sophisticated business operations with literally thousands of unwitting people engaged on multiple levels, but few if any knowing the exact nature of the plan for deniability purposes.
Battlefields of the future will continue to morph along with our tech cultures, and many of the weapons of the future will be unrecognizable by today’s standards.
In much the same way we never want to show up with a knife for a gunfight, our police forces are a terrible match for tomorrow’s criminal undergrounds. We are a long ways from having the right tools and tech needed to deal with tomorrow’s criminal enterprises.
Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future”