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How does this “smart grid� attempt to achieve reduction in energy use and peak load reduction? Evidently by sending detailed data on people’s moment-to-moment home electrical activities to Maui Electric Company, and by giving MECO central control over people’s “smart grid enabled� electrical devices. I can’t think of anything more Orwellian.

This is another example where technology is created and deployed to solve a problem where the engineers and advocates were narrowly focused on achieving certain functionality, while the unintended consequences, vulnerabilities, and potential adverse effects were unattended to. Other famous examples include asbestos, Thalidomide, Agent Orange, DDT, Diethylstilbestrol, lead paint, X-rays in shoe stores, X-rays for acne. Light pollution and obesity are emerging unattended and unintended consequences of technological innovation. Cybersecurity is plagued by the fact that software is almost universally designed to produce functionality and “features� first, with security as a later add-on. Financial derivatives are another example; having only partially learned this lesson in the 2008 financial crisis, we are reminded by JP Morgan’s $2 Billion loss this week.

Smart meters and smart grids are clever applications of Internet, wireless, and digital technology toward energy efficiency. But smart meter functionality intrinsically makes them “wire tapping� devices in the most literal sense, exposing a second-by-second diary of the activities inside the home to outside parties. On their face they violate “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.�

The only possible way this technology can have gotten as far as it has in the United States is that vast portions of the population are ignorant of our principles of government, and these include engineering graduates and the MBAs that developed the technology. Fortunately, civics classes did sink in to enough of the population to spawn a growing political opposition to the technology.

This is to say nothing about the unknown health effects of new levels of exposure to radio waves. Nor the vulnerability of smart grids to hacking and solar storms. Norton calculates the cost of global cybercrime to be $114 billion annually, and we want to shove our power systems into this wild wild west?

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