We're still coming to grips with the amazingly fast rise of personal drones, and it's hard to find science fiction that deals with the implications of that tech. But there is one book that explores the implications. It was published 40 years ago, and it's called Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy.

As Clive Thompson explains over in Medium, this book is part of the popular Danny Dunn book series, about a teenager who's obsessed with science and engineering. Danny lives with a scientist named Professor Bullfinch, who's always inventing things that Danny and his friends wind up abusing.

Advertisement

And the invention of a personal drone raises all sorts of ethical questions in the book, as Thompson explains:

The freaky privacy implications of drones raise their serpentine heads when Danny takes the controls. He flies around the neighborhood, spots his mother running an errand, and decides, mischievously, to follow her. His sneaky delight turns sour when he discovers she's buying some lemons to make a surprise pie for him and his friends. "It's not a surprise any more," he realizes. Later in his flight, he flies the drone into his school and finds the local bully inside, secretly planning to cheat in the next day's spelling bee. Busted!

The use of a drone for a good purpose — exposing unfairness, right? Except as the Professor points out, Danny discovered the nefarious activity by invading someone's privacy. He cannot go inform on someone by using evidence he obtained by illicit voyeurism. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book, though, is how it predicts the overreach of military and law enforcement.

Advertisement

Read the whole thing over at Medium. [via Adafruit]