Francis Fukuyama isn’t your standard tech guy. He’s a policy guy at Stanford that writes hefty books on very philosophical topics.
That’s why his detailed blog post on his efforts to build a surveillance drone are so cool. Here’s a little video of the test of his drone outside of his office at Stanford.
Francis makes two simple observations that are worth repeating. Here’s the first one:
“I don’t have to spell out the implications of this. I want to have my drone before the government makes them illegal.”
The Inevitable Ban on Drone Tech
I agree with Francis, it’s pretty clear that drones will become illegal sooner than later. Let me run through a scenario for you. I’m going to have some fun with it:
The ban will likely start by closing down the drone flight amateur loophole — under 400ft, line of site, away from built up areas (which Francis obviously violated with his test flight). You will need a license to fly even small drones. Commercial licenses will be very restrictive (right now it’s illegal to take pictures from a drone for commercial purposes).
However, that’s not going to last. There will be too many violations as people build and use drones without regard to the legal restrictions. It will then be made illegal to own a drone w/o a very restrictive license.
Of course, that won’t last long either. People will continue to build and use them using generic parts. This technology will prove way to useful and too easy to access. At that point, like we have seen recently with efforts to put limits on general purpose computing (ACTA, SOPA, etc.), we are going to see the following:
- Bans on general purpose robotic technology from hardware to software.
- Controls on general purpose fabrication technology (since parts can be made with these technologies). There will be lots of support from commercial patent and copyright holders for government bans on 3D fabrication.
- Controls on people that know how to build drones. Dangerous people must be tracked and monitored (I had a physics teacher once who designed nuclear bombs, he couldn’t travel more than 50 miles w/o government authorization — it would be much easier to do that for many more people now using modern tech).
Now, all of these steps will accelerate to the end point if a single terrorist incident is based on drone tech.
So, what should you do?
Build yourself a drone. Before they are made illegal.
One big reason is that drones/bots make the emergence of police states (as my tech thriller post on this topic shows) more likely since they allow a very small number of people to automate their control over a great many people. So, in order to ensure the future doesn’t careen in that direction, we should democratize the technology as a counter-weight.
The second observation Francis makes?
“One somewhat worrying thing is that virtually all of this [drone] equipment comes from China or Taiwan.”
I actually think this is a good thing. It will slow down efforts to ban them.
So, follow the trail blazed by Francis and build yourself a drone. If only to understand more about them. Before the government makes them illegal.