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Eye On The Target

Technology has made just about everything we’ve ever imagined doing possible.

Through the collective brain power of generations of engineers and visionaries we have conquered the challenges of long-distance travel, food spoilage, communication, computing, physical disabilities, space travel, manufacturing, agriculture — you name the sector and I’ll tell you how technology has made it easier, more efficient and safer.

Then we have the sector of violence. Nothing has changed the approach to warfare and the efficiency of killing other human beings more than technology.

Albert Einstein, after devoting years of his genius to developing the atomic bomb, reflected on his work and concluded, “I made one great mistake in my life.”

Einstein recognized that science and technology were tools for good but can easily be used for evil.

This past CES I attended a number of keynote addresses from some of the most prominent leaders in technology. If there was an overwhelming theme to these keynotes, it was that the continued development of technology and innovation will make the world a better place.

Driverless cars will change the world, making it safer and more economically forgiving. Computing power will change the way people with disabilities can navigate their daily lives. Drones will deliver medicine and resources to devastated areas after a natural disaster, as well as improve the science of agriculture so fewer people go hungry. Inspiring stuff, and I came away with a deep appreciation for the vision of our technology leaders.

What was missing was one single word about the problem of violence. If I am to believe that technology will allow us to innovate our way out of the world’s everyday problems, then why isn’t the technology industry tackling the problem of gun violence, which is literally — at least in this country — an everyday problem?

It takes me less than a second to unlock my iPhone through fingerprint recognition. Adding this technology to a gun, so that only the legal owner can fire it, would put a nice crimp in the illegal gun trade that permeates because of the “gun show loophole.” Not only that, it would put an end, fullstop end, to the problem of little kids shooting other little kids because their parents were too irresponsible to lock their guns away safely.

But I realize that’s an overly simplistic approach. Plenty of mass shootings, probably the majority of them, were carried out by people who owned their guns legally. Most were bought online. How can technology stop that?

Try big data. I can’t do a Google search for a hotel room without immediately getting bombarded with personalized ads for hotels on every web page I subsequently open. If Google can develop an algorithm predicting my future actions for commercial purposes, it sure as hell can develop one to identify likely perpetrators of gun violence. Is that some deep violation of privacy? You have the right to not use search engines. If you have something to hide, don’t use them. Otherwise, read the fine print: Google owns your data.

But what about the powerful gun lobby and its absolute intolerance for restrictions on gun sales? The technology sector has a pretty powerful lobbying force of its own and if Silicon Valley, CTA, Wall Street and the retail sector could join forces to develop technology solutions that make guns safer to use, but harder to use illegally, there will be no reason to restrict gun sales.

Money talks. Meantime, more blood spills.