The CIA’s Chief Technology Officer, Gus Hunt, is telling us, “The value of any piece of information is only known when you can connect it with something else that arrives at a future point in time. Since you can’t connect dots you don’t have, it drives us into a mode of, we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever.”
That’s a direct quote from him. They’re now working with Amazon.com, buying storage and computational power on their super computers. What are they storing? Your phone’s GPS data, all the websites you’re browsing, all your blog and Facebook posts, any comment you leave in a forum, your emails, texts, phone conversations, and need I go on? Even if you delete your old posts, they archive it all and file it away under your FBI and CIA profile. They’re working tirelessly to create super AIs which will pilfer, scout, and watch all of us.
Just look around at the cameras on every street corner. Those are linked up to sophisticated computer vision software which is tracking everyone who walks by, identifying people by their faces, license plates, and the like. Watch this video. It’s unreal.
During a recent presentation, one of Hunt’s slides read, “It is nearly within our grasp to compute on all human generated information.” We scientists build this sort of technology to build cars which drive for the blind, empowering them, giving them freedom. We don’t build this technology to enslave people, to watch them, to monitor them like animals in some giant social experiment.
“You’re already a walking sensor platform,” Hunt said, noting that mobiles, smartphones and iPads come with cameras, accelerometers, light detectors and geolocation capabilities. “You are aware of the fact that somebody can know where you are at all times, because you carry a mobile device, even if that mobile device is turned off,” he said. “You know this, I hope? Yes? Well, you should.”
Are we going to end up in Orwell’s 1984? Are we quickly being thrown into a world where we’re being watched no matter where we are or what we’re doing? Never a moment’s privacy?
Am I simply overreacting? Does this sort of technology have the capabilities to keep us safer? Sure, I guess. Then again, I don’t want to end up like Winston.
I think a quotation from the novel would be fitting.
“The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinised.”
– George Orwell, 1984
That’s how bad it could get if we let it. Little nanodevices everywhere, hidden in everything, transmitting audio and video to servers all over the country. You’ll never know if you’re being watched or not. Eventually we’ll become fearful and just assume that we are, and we’ll be scared to have serious discussions with one another about politics, religion, science, or anything of that matter.
A world without privacy is a world without ideas, individuality, or any serious thought of any kind. There can be no real happiness. No real authenticity. Nothing. If you take away privacy, if you take away the ability for people to build their own worlds with one another, you’re taking away everything worth living for. Love. Deep intellectual discussion. Friendship. Everything.