Looking through old family photo albums, I’ve noticed an unmistakable trend.
Each generation has more and more snapshots to show off. Of my grandparents, there are only a handful of pictures. Of my parents, there’s somewhat more—important occasions like their graduation or their wedding day. When I was 21 my grandmother sent me a thick photo album filled with dozens of baby photos, and I’d say there have to be at least a few hundred photographs of me in existence, many of them on social media.
Then there’s the current generation growing up. Half my cousins are busy making babies right now, and rarely does a day go pass I don’t see some new photos or video of them posted to Facebook. Anyone can see the increasing prevalence of cheap portable cameras, computers, and hard drives. In just the last fifteen-odd years we’ve gone from PCs to laptops to tablets to smartphones, but this trend is far from over.
We can only imagine the level of scrutiny our children and grandchildren will be subjected to. Already there are estimated to be as many as six million surveillance cameras in the United Kingdom alone—one for every ten people. But what comes next after a picture-taking smartphone you can carry around in your pocket? Lately there’s been talk of Google glasses and watches, but even that won’t be the end.
The era of neural implants
Already, we’re on the verge of developing implants which can link directly to a person’s brain. At the moment the technology is still rudimentary—meant for dealing with certain medical conditions and so on, but mass marketed versions will be coming soon. Already, scientists are developing the technology to scan and read people’s thoughts. Such implants would be connected to the internet and capable of constantly recording not just what your brain sees and hears, but perhaps even what it thinks.
To those still skeptical of this future, you simply have to look at the way social media has taken the world by storm in the last few years. South Park already had an episode on this last year. Neural implants would take a similar route.
Initially, they will be something only real “nerds” will be into, like the internet back in the ‘90s. Then, however, that rich kid down the street gets one, then somebody at your school. You start begging your parents because all the cool kids are getting them. Pretty soon, politicians are calling for implants to be provided for all schoolchildren free of charge.
It won’t stop there. Big corporations will spend billions saturating the media with advertising. Customers will stampede through the doors of shopping malls on Black Friday 2030 hoping to snap up the next generation of cyber implants. The dangers of having inserted an all but irremovable tracking device into your body will be dismissed at the time.
Sure, they’ll be a few holdouts here and there. Maybe the Mormon Church will come out against them, but within five to ten years this process will be complete, at least here in the west. The rest of the world will take a generation or two to catch up.
The older generation (i.e. us) will complain about the dehumanization of our children as they are changed more than ever into a race of group-thinking zombies, but “health experts” paid off by the government will stress that the implants are safe. Like the internet or a mobile phone today, soon not having an implant will be a serious liability—one employers are hardly going to overlook.
A one terabyte hard drive can store several hundred hours of video. A thousand terabytes could store a whole lifetime.
If ever-present surveillance truly becomes the norm, this transformation will dramatically affect our day-to-day lives. For our children and grandchildren, this would mean the end of almost all privacy. From infancy to death, every second of their lives could be monitored and stored away for future inspection. Gone are the days of kids playing alone away from the prying eyes of their parents. It could also be the end of sub-cultures where like-minded people can gather and converse in their own private world. Every word they ever utter would be subjected to political correctness.
Eventually, if you live in a major western city, it will be all but impossible to leave your front door without someone in the Department of Homeland Security potentially watching you. Even wearing a full burqa, biometric identification will give you away instantly. We will be told that this intimate knowledge of our thoughts and daily routines is still safe from hackers, but like naked airport scanners, this promise eventually proves hollow. If you value your privacy, moving to the countryside or a non-western country may soon be the best option.
Of course, there may be some positive effects. Our society already seems to have decided that the health and safety benefits of such constant monitoring alone will make it worthwhile—it would be the end of losing your kid in a supermarket. Many would also cite combating crime as a major benefit. Certainly cases of “he-said, she-said” will become rarer, hopefully reducing the number of false rape accusations. Recent examples show that just because something is caught on tape however, doesn’t mean justice will automatically follow.
We all saw the chilling example of the Ray Rice scandal earlier this year. Here we have caught on camera an argument between two people—a man and a women, that escalates to violence. The women initiates physical contact first and is knocked out in retaliation. But who is charged with assault, has their career seriously damaged and their reputation dragged through the mud on national television?
Pictured: An innocent victim minding her own business
The Eric Garner case is worth a mention as well. Here we saw police officers attempting to arrest a man who had apparently committed no crime (unlike the Michael Brown case) and upon meeting resistance placed him in a choke-hold, a nominally banned technique, that eventually killed him despite his pleas for them to stop. This is all on video, yet there was not so much as an indictment. What lesson can we draw from these incidents?
That even in an all-pervasive surveillance state, a women can still get away with assault—and the police can literally get away with murder.
Clearly, a dominant narrative can trump all the evidence in the world. If women are never responsible for violence, then by default it must be the fault of by men, regardless of the circumstances. Recording everything only makes it easier for them to provoke men and have them thrown in jail—a place they languish ten times as often—when they retaliate. Violence, being primarily a weapon of men due to their larger physical size, must be stamped out by every means necessary. Meanwhile deception, emotional manipulation, and shaming—primarily tools of women—are allowed to run rampant in the name of freedom.
We can only hope that cases like these are aberrations, and that this new, Orwellian reality remains beholden to constitutional limits and common sense. I certainly would not trust today’s generation of feminists, and the spineless politicians they are so good at cowing, at deciding how to use these emerging technologies sensibly.
Of course in theory either gender could suppress the other, but these days any criticism of feminism will see you shouted down in the mainstream press, no matter how justified. If unchallenged, who knows to what lengths women will go to ensure men are effectively castrated in our society?
So of course certain groups, women foremost among them, will support the surveillance state. In a society that refuses to judge them, and thus where they can do no wrong—what do they have to fear?