The last year has seen a huge debate in society about what levels of privacy, if any, we can expect to have. Digital information tools have enabled us to communicate with each other like never before but these systems leave a trail that other can follow. A person who has access to our email inbox can reconstruct most of our lives. Mix in our cell phone records and you pretty much know everything.
There was a story from last month about the mayor of Peoria launching a vendetta with the full power of government against a person who created a parody account of him.
When news broke that the mayor of Peoria, Illinois, had called upon his town’s police force to shut down a fake Twitter account opened in his name; that local police had responded with search warrants against Twitter, Comcast, and Google; that they had at last raided a local home and seized four iPhones, four computers, two Xbox game consoles, an iPad, and a “large gold gift bag with five sandwich bags containing a green leafy substance;” that the homeowner hadn’t created the account but was ultimately suspended from his job as a result of that “green leafy substance;” that Peoria’s next city council meeting descended into outright acrimony over the heavy-handedness of the entire episode; and that the entire episode turned out to be a colossal waste of time and resources in which no one but the pot owner was ever charged with a crime
We already know that the National Security Agency routinely spies on it’s own citizens electronically. They say there are safeguards in place to prevent abuse but those can be removed or circumvented. This information can be misused to coerce people to change their behavior.
You might think that because of the vast amount of information being gathered there would be no way to monitor it all right? Well, that process is being automated too. The various technologies I have been talking about for the last 3 years such as realtime voice translation, voice recognition and image recognition are all applicable to monitoring communications. So this technology exists and is going to get more powerful in the future.
So where does this go?
Wearable technology is going to become much more prevalent in the next few years. We already have phones that can listen to us at all times in order to respond to commands. Could it also be used to suggest things? The phone already has all our emails, so could it use that to determine what we have purchased lately and offer coupons or sales to us when we pass that store again? That’s possible now.
But what about thought control? How do you control what a person thinks and why would you want to? A government’s main purpose is to maintain a civil society. One of the ways it does this is by making sure the citizens don’t get out of line. How far out of line depends on the type of government. A totalitarian government for example would do the following:
- Monitor and regulate all communications.
- Control the curriculum being taught to students.
- Discourage individual thought.
- Make public examples of people who do not conform. Destroy them.
- Make the citizens dependent on the government to the maximum extent. They will not bite the hand that feeds them.
I have often said that technology is a double edged sword. It can be used for both good and evil. The same technology that lets me collaborate with someone on the other side of the world can be used to monitor that same person. Societies tend to move towards more control as the collapse. The government tends to become more heavy handed and desperate in it’s methods and don’t forget, every society in history has collapsed eventually. There is no such thing as utopia therefore the imbalances in the system eventually destroy it. This can be a good thing (the American Revolution) or it can lead to chaos (the Arab Spring, sort of).
I guess the point I am making is we are starting to see all this happen in the US. Steps 1-5 are happening and are speeding up. #2 is Common Core. I think most people would agree that we should break the law but do you want a computer monitoring your every action to enforce that? I think most people would agree that we should try to be kind to each other. Do we want a computer monitoring what you say and notifying the government when you say something not politically correct? I’ll tell you folks, that’s the road we are on right now and it leads to thought control.
There are always those who strive for utopia but it cannot be achieved by humans, who are after all, flawed.
I hope this dystopia won’t happen but I know enough now to realize that anything is possible. Humans have been responsible for some horrible atrocities in history. I don’t necessarily think we have outgrown that.
Ok that’s it for the dark side week. Tomorrow I’m going to post something happy!