Is Cyberpunk Becoming Reality?
By Lyan Ware Contributor
The Matrix, Terminator, and Bladerunner film franchises are all futuristic dystopian movies categorized under the science fiction subgenre called cyberpunk. The appeal of cyberpunk comes from our shared fear of a looming future where we’ve lost control over the technology we ourselves created. These fears manifest on the screen as sentient programming and robots who’ve outsmarted us with a learning capability that far exceeds our own. But the actual threat is something that is far more covert: cyber warfare and digital attacks. So, even though we’re becoming more and more dependent on automation and AI, even though we’re able to use self-driving cars, and hold conversations with self-learning robots, the enemy remains human.
Last year, several major security breaches occurred globally. Big companies, like Kaiser Permanente, SHEIN, Twitter, Uber—just to name a few—all endured significant data breaches. In May 2022, Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves declared a national emergency after the ransomware group Conti attacked and compromised several integral government systems, some of which included their finance ministry and social security agency. None of it looks as menacing or as glamorous the way it does in a gritty cyberpunk film, with cool-toned neon lighting and an attractive protagonist, but the stakes—the dangers are just as profoundly epic, perhaps even more so because it’s very, very real.
So, while the question of whether the reality of experiencing an imminent cyborg-related dystopia remains largely subjective, the fact remains that increased AI use and dependency is creating new problems for the future. For example, an emerging advancement in AI called ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) can take detailed prompts and generate sophisticated, humanlike responses.
While this software has already proved very useful in academic and web development applications, it has also already created some major ethical debacles. Hordes of students have implemented the technology to plagiarize their writing assignments, while hackers have been able to create convincing phishing emails and malware after some manipulation of the prompts they feed the AI.
In the meantime, while we wait for defensive AI software to catch up to the learning of ChatGPT, we as users can equip ourselves with the tools necessary to address the threats posed by such innovations. In order to combat these threats, we must first become competent in securing our systems, which is why the cybersecurity field is now more relevant than ever. Having effective compliance training, paired with a vigilant team of information security analysts is an organization’s best chance at protecting themselves.
Articles in Forbes, Business Insider, and even the AARP project ‘Information Security Analyst’ as being in the top 20 jobs for 2023. This is because there are millions of cybersecurity roles companies are needing to fill in order to bridge the gap between rapidly evolving technology and the new vulnerabilities they expose in systems infrastructure. Luckily, with certification bootcamps and training institutions, a career transition into the cybersecurity job market is a lot easier than the layman perceives.
Is cyberpunk becoming reality? Well, that will entirely depend on the world’s preference for life-size interactive neon holograms and the vigilant work of cybersecurity professionals everywhere.