Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Big Brother is Watching

Isn't technology great? In the past hour I have chatted via MSN with my son who is at home with a cold, and via ICQ with a relative in Russia. It wasn't all that many years ago that it would take weeks to send a letter abroad. Now it takes seconds via email. Chat is instantaneous.

Several decades go, I would scribble out something in my horrible handwriting and chances were pretty good that no-one would ever read what I wrote. Maybe that was a good thing. Now I can post to this blog and anyone can read what I write. And I can read what others write in posts to their own blogs. These tremendous changes, in such a short period of time, make me wonder what else will be invented and developed in the years to come.

Will all the things that appear in the years ahead be good for us? I suspect not. The one major fault I find with all of the technological advances is that they make it easy to penetrate any last veneer of privacy. The placing of cookies on our computers by websites wishing to track our preferences and habits is fairly benign, but even that information could be potentially embarrassing to some people. What I fear more is that governments will increasingly use the internet and our emails, chats and general web use as ways to spy on us. After all, the die has been cast, hasn't it? When everything is filtered through the rubric of the 'greater good,' then anything is permissible. Want to catch a drug pusher or a terrorist? Monitor his email, watch the web sites he visits. In order to do so, though, it pretty much requires official licence to spy on everyone else at the same time. That's not good, folks.

I am, believe it or not, a pretty shy person. I am also somewhat reclusive. I am perfectly comfortable among people usually, but given a choice of whether to be on my own or mixing with a bunch of people with whom I have little or nothing in common, I'd rather be by myself. I don't have any big secrets. I'm not ashamed of myself. I just don't think that as a matter of principle everyone needs to know everything about me. I share what I feel like sharing about myself, and expect others to be similarly circumspect. That is not to say that I am not interested in the lives and struggles of others, it just means that I don't want to pry into anything that isn't any of my business.

When I see someone I haven't spoken to for a while, my wife often asks something about them that I don't know. Why don't I know? Because I didn't ask. Why didn't I ask? Because then they would have felt compelled to tell me. I try to respect their privacy.

My attitudes about these things are increasingly considered 'quaint' and 'behind the times.' That may be so. The problem is that once the systems and attitudes about these things make spying commonplace and expected, it will be impossible to wind things back.

So, while I may appreciate the technology and enjoy its benefits, it also scares me just a bit. Big Brother is watching.


  1. I agree that it is scary, the whole big brother thing.

    I think micro-chipping your kids and finding them via your pc via a satelitte and looking them up on the street-cam, once you've located them is a gross indecency. The parents who are going to be doing this better be up for giving their bosses their chip info, because essentially what they are saying is, 'if you are supposed to be somewhere, the person who has the authority over you at that moment has a right to witness just exactly where you are and what you are doing'.

    Having said that, if microchipping Ophelia was ever an option, I would do it, yes I would.


    Because I never want a child molestor to steal my child and have myself thinking, 'if only I'd chipped her, we'd know where she is right now'.

    Hard call.

    I also, enjoy people with whom I have little in common, at times.

    And, like your wife, I always answer the 'I-saw-such-n-such-today' with 'oh really? Is he seeing anyone? How is his mother? Where is he living now? What are his plans for his immediate future? School? Work? Girl? Health? How does he seem/feel? Still having a problem with that person/addiction/depression?" And, TDOW and those before him answered invariably, "I don't know." Which was anticlimactic and frustrating for me.


  2. This is one trend that makes me quite grateful that I'm getting to an age where I will be long since dead before it reaches its logical conclusion. Since I will be in Thailand, it will take even longer to get there.

    It's not too difficult to imagine all the tracking possibilities available, all under the guise of "protecting" us.



  3. I agree. I don't like the way we are heading. I work in a US government office and they track every keystroke we make when we are online.

    I had to submit to a very extensive background check in order to gain access to the network and it frightens me that all of my financial and personal information is in their hands.

  4. And then there are the cameras, everywhere. Private security cameras, traffic cameras, even cameras in 'high risk' areas, just in case. And cameras in space, on satellites, that can 'see' incredible detail down here on earth. Have any of you played with Google Earth and zoomed down to see the street on which you live? It's fun, but scary too because you know that Big Brother has much more sophisticated equipment and enhancing software available to them.

  5. Oh, yes.. very true! You can only imagine what the national security establishment has in place. Most of the stuff we see, stuff that's been made public, is outdated software.

  6. the fact that every page you browse can be tracked - i try to ignore it but damn if it isn't freaky.

    all of it. lulled into complacency.

    have you read The Grand Chessgame?

    it's all in there, At.

  7. I read so much business and investment stuff these days that I rarely get to more recreational reading these days, Jen. Is that a Chomsky book? I googled it briefly but couldn't find anything on it in the few seconds I had.

  8. Atavist, the book is by Zbigniew Brzezinki. The premise is that the focus of US foreign policy on the Middle East is related to the fact that Eurasia is the hub of energy source production.



  9. Thanks, Chani. That would make sense, wouldn't it? If all of the money that is pissed away in the mid-east in political interference, wars, foreign aid, etc., were spent on exploration at home, we wouldn't need oil from the mid-east or anywhere else.

  10. I google-earthed my place.. I could see the swing out my front door. Wow.

  11. All this is hidden behind countless stupid pieces of paper sent to you via snail-mail from everyone assuring you "We care about your privacy".
    Right now, a bill is making its way through Congress dedicated to taking away every gun from American citizens that is not "sports-related".
    One of these days, the paper facade is coming down, not too far after we are stripped of the right to defend ourselves, I suspect.
    Sure BB you can have my gun, I say. Just wait till I'm done "unloading" it first.

  12. The world has sure chnaged in the last 30 or so years, hasn't it?