In which we look at the past, present, and near-term future of the incredible new machines that threaten to overwhelm us — their creators.1

It’s easy to point at stories of tech-gone-wild like Black Mirror, The Circle, and The Terminator and say, “Spooky! But that’s just fiction.” The nonfiction version, though, is more insidious and terrifying. Like a modern version of Shelley’s Frankenstein monster, most of the parts of our new Monster are already assembled on the lab table. All we need is the right kind of spark to get it twitching, off the table, and chasing us across town with bad intentions.

These sparks are already flying. Coronavirus and social unrest are adding nitroglycerin.

People with scopophobia (the fear of being watched) are going to have a tough couple of decades. If you assume only public cameras and web browsers are tracking your actions and thoughts, we’ve got some bad news. As we predicted in our first book, Code Halos (published in 2014), literally every thing is now generating code — data — about you, your parents, your kids, your dog, your car, your home.

Where you go is tracked by the mobile surveillance device in your pocket that we still call a phone (which is kind of quaint and adorable). Toys your children play with are spitting out data to help fine-tune targeted kiddo marketing. If your car has a telematics device, your insurance company ...

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