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  • Hubert Marlin

Technology and Secrecy


What is useful must not remain a secret, however usefulness does not always imply freedom of use, so many inventions remain secret, not always because they are not profitable enough, but often because they threaten to destroy an established order, or simply by the fact that the secrecy which plumbs them makes it possible to ensure the power of one State, or of a group of individuals, over the others. Technology thus, becomes a tool of domination and deterrence, an observable paradigm in the military field, where the most sophisticated weapons are often classified top secret. The conspiracy literature abounds on secret technologies, that would be the prerogative of Western governments, or of some elites. However, in fact there are still laws today that proscribe the publication of certain inventions, in the United States for example.

The secret on inventions in the United States goes back at least to the 1930s, but it really took off in the 1940s, when the development of nuclear weapons was at the center of the struggle for military hegemony. Secret became an official policy in 1952 with the Secrecy of Inventions Act, which allows a specialized structure to seal any invention it deems detrimental to the national security of the United States. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is this agency that is linked to the US Department of Commerce. It issues patents to inventors and companies for their inventions, and registers trademarks for product identification, and intellectual properties. . Under the 1952 law still in force, the USPTO's Commissioner of Patents is empowered to report patent applications (even those developed by private citizens) for consideration by government defense agencies, which may request to keep secret some inventions... Patents covered by such "orders of secrecy" may be restricted to export, placed at the exclusive disposal of defense organizations, or even closed down. Patent owners can appeal secrecy orders, but the power to rescind these orders remains in the hands of the agencies that made the requests. Although it is possible that these agencies reconsider the issue, the statistics are not promising: according to the figures of the Federation of American Scientists, between 2013 and 2017, only 25 old secret ordinances were canceled on average each year, while 117 new secrecy orders are imposed each year. With so many inventions considered secret, it is clear that scientific progress in the United States has a certain drag. However, this censorship over inventions is only superficial, even if, again, one will find in the conspiracy literature, various facts, which prove the opposite. It should be emphasized that many inventions developed by private inventors, often end up being developed in laboratories under the control of the US government, and censorship over inventions is especially useful for not disclosing processes of inventions, even if some of the most important ones are often developed elsewhere; and even often without the consent of the original inventor. When filing an application for a patent, the inventor must, through concise explanations, prove that his invention works, and forcibly disclose the essence of his creative process, which sometimes ends up being used by other entities often for a purpose away, from the intent of the original inventor.The secrecy imposed on inventions by the states at this point, is always marked by theft of intellectual property even for reasons of national security. In 2017, according to statistics published by the US Patent and Trademark Office and published by the Federation of American Scientists, there were 5,784 hidden patents. They constitute the cache of the United States government's inventions under "confidentiality orders".

The philosopher Martin Heidegger rightly pointed out that: “ technology is a process of discovery. Nobody owns it. Once published, it is here to stay, and while we are excited about the possibilities, we also need to be aware of what we are launching”. States also ensure that technologies deemed dangerous do not harm public order. However, there are technologies that develop in a gray area, that is often difficult to classify as technology because they are based on behaviorism, and use technologies that already exist such as computation, and biochemistry to have unthinkable results. We are all accustomed to hear the following phrase: "This call can be recorded or controlled for quality and training purposes " and it is comforting to note that our destiny was not left entirely in the hands of a with minimum wage clerk, in the call center. It's good to know that someone else may be listening to make sure they take good care of ourselves. But, in reality it is not a person who listens, but a machine capable of analyzing our personality in one of the six categories that determine our reaction to different approaches. And what if this same technology was used to monitor our company's email traffic to detect when arguments might break out? This is what Mattersight calls, a predictive behavioral routing. As reported by Forbes, this technology has gained ground among large companies and has already been deployed in more than 30,000 call center locations in the United States. It is highly plausible, that you have already been analyzed by Mattersight's algorithms, probably several times.

Somewhere, a computer knows you. Not only your name and address, but at least some of your business activity and important facets of your personality. And this deep knowledge of humans does not benefit the large numbers but a caste of individuals who, because they have access to a certain knowledge, can easily manipulate the masses to achieve specific goals. The Cambridge Analytica scandal during the 2016 presidential elections in the United States is there to illustrate it better. And well before, in 2010 after having urged to vote more than 60,000 people previously targeted by their pro-democrats profile, in 2014, Facebook scientists manipulated newsfeeds of 689,003 users, removing all positive or negative posts to see how it affected their mood. The researchers, led by data specialist Adam Kramer, discovered that emotions were contagious. "When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive messages and more negative messages - when negative expressions were reduced, the trend was reversed." These results would indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions...

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