Recently, an instalment of WikiLeaks’ Vault7 documents came to light that exposed two CIA malware programs that specifically infect Microsoft computers with the purpose of carrying out tasks on infected computers, checking for scheduled events, and collecting data.
The revelation put Microsoft in the hot seat, with people speculating that the tech giant may have been aware that the CIA works with features specifically built into Microsoft computers to collect data and perform tasks.
Microsoft’s history would suggest the worst, from Edward Snowden’s 2013 leaks that revealed Microsoft had “collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users’ communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company’s own encryption,” to the NSA bragging about their newly acquired ability to triple the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism just nine months after Microsoft bought Skype.
Microsoft’s CEO had an intriguing and controversial response to the new WikiLeaks documents. At the company’s 2017 Build conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella warned the technology industry against creating a dystopian future, which authors including George Orwell and Aldous Huxley have predicted in the past.
“I’m an unrepentant tech optimist, there’s no question of that,” said Nadella. “But I’m also grounded. There are unintended consequences of technology.
“And it’s not that we can just use more technology to solve those problems, and technologies by themselves cannot solve these. But I do believe that it’s up to us to ensure that some of the more dystopian scenarios don’t come true.”
The main screen in the conference hall then lit up with Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World.
“[Think about] what Orwell prophesied in 1984, where technology was being used to monitor, control, dictate,” said Nadella. “Or what Huxley imagined we may do by just distracting ourselves without any meaning or purpose.
“Neither of these futures is something that we want. So the question is: what are we going to do? Are there practical ways we can make progress?”
He urged the importance of people trusting in technology.
“I think it starts with us taking accountability. Taking accountability for the algorithms we create, the experiences that we create, and ensuring that there is more trust in technology with each day.”
“We want to think about people,” Nadella concluded. “But we also want to think about the institutions people build.”
While well-spoken, is it possible that Nadella’s words are empty, and merely just a diversion from the truth? Examining Microsoft’s history, and acknowledging how much the company has worked with the government, it seems possible Nadella is only trying to keep people from realizing Microsoft is, indeed, prepared for such an Orwellian future.