Have you ever noticed that a police car, ambulance, or fire engine, will have sirens blasting at full tilt when they race down a road with no traffic and no intersections? It seems that anyone who can make noise, will make noise.
Likewise, it seems that legislators love to pass laws, even if they are not well thought out, effective, or useful. As a matter of fact, many laws being passed take away from our society by curtailing freedom and choice. So, another truism is that anyone who can legislate, will legislate.
While technology has done a lot to make our lives safer and more comfortable, there are many cases where it's application is not for the common good, and actually causes grief, pain, and unjust treatment of ordinary citizens.
This is not unprecedented. Already in New York City, motion detector based traffic lights will photograph anyone who runs a red light and automatically send out a ticket. This happened to a friend of mine. At a light, an ambulance with lights a blazing and sirens a screaming was behind him. As a good citizen, he edges forward to let it pass. Snap, a photo is shot, and a ticket mailed out to him.
When he tried to fight it, it was to no avail. "We have a photo of you running a red light, there is no discussion, you are guilty".
Another not well thought out proposal is underway thanks to the advances in technology. Because of the densities, flexibility's, and extending of temperature ranges, many manufacturers are looking to use FPGA's in next generation automobiles. This is a big thrust for FPGA vendors who are actively packaging and targeting the automotive industry.
Take a proposed use of FPGA's in the automotive arena in Europe. There are discussions to make cars monitor their emissions and transmit this data automatically to toll booths or relay stations on the road as they pass through. You can see that the underlying intent is to make the air cleaner which is a good thing.
But, this is not well thought out and can and will lead to innocent people being charged and convicted of things they are not guilty of. With no recourse I may add.
As it is now, cars are 'programmed' to run most efficiently in the target areas where they will be sold. A car sold to a high mountainous area will use a different air/fuel mixture than a car sold in a hot and arid desert area for example.
It is foreseeable that an unsuspecting person will buy a car legitimately that initially came from an area where the climates are drastically different than the area he/she lives. Then, just by driving it in their area, the emissions will not be optimized. As a result, they could find themselves getting ticket after ticket for something beyond their control.
Many of the new FPGA automotive applications do not take advantage of reprogrammability. It's just the opposite. They want fixed non volatility. They don't want you to be able to buy an after market performance booster for example, again, because of environmental concerns. As a result, a not to well thought out implementation will help convict the innocent.
This is happening against a backdrop of our politicians selling us out every step of the way. Case in point, power plant political contributors have been successful in rolling back clean air initiatives. Older power plants do not have to conform to clean air standards anymore, even if they are upgraded. This one example lets older power plants emit more toxins in one day that 100 drivers with out of tune cars in a year.
As engineers, we have a responsibility to make sure that the creations of our mind and efforts are not misused. We need to be aware how stupid or corrupt people will twist our creations to make them a detriment to society. We need to make some noise of our own.