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Reporters' Roundtable: How 9/11 changed technology forever

MIT Technology Review editor and publisher Jason Pontin joins Rafe Needleman to discuss how the terrorist attacks 10 years ago changed the direction of technology and policy development mostly for the better, but in some cases for the worse.

Ten years ago, our world changed. Terrorists in hijacked jetliners brought down the World Trade Center towers in New York and crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth hijacked plane was forced down in Pennsylvania. A total of 2,819 people were killed. Since then, politicians and technologists have tried to create systems, products, and procedures to make sure we're never attacked this way again. Or if we are, that we can save lives affected by such an attack. There are positive results from this effort in how we react to all kinds disasters, but also downsides relating to privacy and money diverted from other programs.

To discuss the effects that 9/11 had on the development of technology, we're joined for this show by Jason Pontin, the editor and publisher of MIT Technology Review. Jason and I were both working at Red Herring on 9/11/01.

Now playing: Watch this: Ep. 91: How the 9/11 attacks changed technology forever


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Discussion points

What were the immediate effects on the tech industry of 9/11? What was happening in the industry then?

What did entrepreneurs and technologies pivot to?

What got derailed?

What military and intelligence technologies were direct responses to the Long War?

Discuss the "security theatre" the came out of 9/11.

Any peaceful dividends?

Effects of 9/11 on out communication infrastructure. A more robust internet?

Mobile technology: Why don't we have a mesh network? What's the status of the First Responder radio network?

The growth of social networks: A reaction to 9/11? Or, Jason, as you say, "The response to a fearful and atomized society?"

Privacy. Let's talk about the change in law enforcement from targeted, warrant-based surveillance to drift-net data collection and mining. Can this be unwound, politically or technologically?

Changes in materials science or engineering?

Given the tech we have now, could it happen again? Why or why not?

Related reading:
• What Has Technology Fixed Since 9/11? (Tech Review)
• How 9/11 attacks reshaped U.S. privacy debate
• Can we count on cell networks in disasters?
• A decade later, public safety still lacks national network
• TechRepublic: IT and life lessons from the South Tower
• Ten years after 9/11