Six Things I Learned While Writing Surveillance
Like a lot of writers, I tend to think about my life not so much in years but in books. Whatever book I happen to be writing at the time casts its shadow over everything else that I happen to be doing. The things that I’m learning writing the book tend to seep into my personal life, and my personal life certainly seeps into the books. Here are six things that I learned while writing my new thriller Surveillance:
1. Spy vs. Spy. In researching the NSA for Surveillance, I learned that a state-of-the-art laser microphone can reproduce a conversation from the vibrations of sound waves against the glass of a window. Of course, for every surveillance tactic there’s a countermeasure. The NSA employs dual-pane windows in its offices and pipes music in between the panes to block the sound waves from conversations.
2. No Quantum of Solace. In my books, I’m always trying to look over the horizon to the next scary privacy and cybersecurity issue that might provide fodder for a thriller plot. In Surveillance, I speculated that quantum computing, which seems like something out of science fiction, could become a reality. Unlike traditional computing that is based on ones and zeros, quantum computing uses “qbits,” which can be both a one and a zero – at the same time. A quantum computer could theoretically perform calculations at such blinding speeds that it could break any form of encryption. In Surveillance, I suppose what might happen if the NSA developed a quantum computer and what that might mean for its surveillance of U.S. citizens.
So far I’ve managed to stay ahead of the headlines with the subjects my books. However, it’s often a close call — earlier this year, a few months before the release of Surveillance, Google announced that it had tested the first quantum computer.