We all know the power of tech for changing the world, and there’s no doubt that it can provide incredible tools for activists, organizers, and other enemies of authoritarian oppression. Videos of government crackdowns, police brutality and other injustices can go viral and spread like wildfire, Twitter users can give live updates of protests and advise demonstrators of hazards and tactics being used against them, and Facebook pages can be used to spread ideas and concepts that would otherwise be difficult to insert into the public consciousness. But ultimately, the role of consumer tech has become a kind of “opt-in” surveillance system, and it is up to the users to maximize the good and minimize the evil of these products and technologies.
The CIA invests big in all kinds of tech startups, because supporting the creation of a culture where we publicly broadcast all of our opinions, consumption patterns, preferences and even the minutiae of our daily lives is of enormous interest to a government more and more patholgically obsessed with monitoring its own people. There is a known (albeit secretive) relationship between Google and the NSA, an agency which recent whisteblowers warn has a profile on nearly every single American citizen and has the capability to monitor all our communications, from the “private” emails, telephone calls and text messages sent from our phones to the “public” Facebook posts, pictures, likes and Google searches. Think you aren’t “politically active” enough to be watched by the government? Former NSA officials say you’re dead-wrong.
Consumer tech has become an integral part of the complex web that is the Military-Industrial-Security complex, and the target of this complex has now turned fully inward to the American people. The War On Terror was sold as our eternal response to 9/11, but was always meant or least destined to become a war on America itself. We have Microsoft teaming up with the City of New York to design the tech behind an “all-seeing” surveillance grid. This system combines security cameras both private and public, license plate readers, radiation detectors (which are sensitive enough to go off on someone who just had an x-ray, resulting in false positives for detecting threats), and can incorporate facial recognition technology. In an interesting twist, the NYPD has a profit-sharing stake in this system where they even get paid by hawking the system to other cities.
Of course, the idea is not just that tech is here to protect us and make our lives more convenient, but that it’s all really incredibly cool and has pretty much no downside. Some of it is pretty cool, but even Silicon Valley types are now warning we’ve moved forward too fast without fully considering the “dependence factor,” not to mention any other implications of a culture where one can barely tell where the Facebook profile ends and the human behind it begins. The ubiquitous introduction of Facial recognition technology is the logical next step in the complex’s opt-in surveillance grid. One company is already pushing the technology to place facial recognition cameras outside of stores which, as you enter, read your face and then use your Facebook likes to offer relevant discounts. Similar tech will be able to tell if you’re male of female, your approximate age, and use RFID scanning to see what products you’ve already purchased to flash you personalized ads a-la Minority Report. “Cool?” I guess it depends on your perspective.
Furthermore, we are seeing “Smart Tech” more and more being pushed as a cool way to pack humanity into what we’re told are the Perfect Megacities of the Future, or “Smart Cities.” These cities are described as eco-friendly utopias, but on their face they’re nothing more than open air Techno-Gulags where our every movement, purchase, and maybe even thought is recorded and the city is micromanaged by an all-knowing central supercomputer. The ostensible impetus is to make us more green, conscious and sustainable, but when these efforts are funded by the likes of Royal Dutch Shell, City of London Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Cargill, Bank of America, et. al, a thinking person can only laugh out loud at the irony.
These are the kinds of entities funding the green movement, and genuine environmental concerns aside, the reason they’re doing it is to guilt us into accepting a global Smart City reality. To get a feel for what I’m talking about, check out Planned-Opolis, a utopian vision for a sustainable future funded by these guys (scroll to “Our Partners” near the bottom.) Notice how the elite still get to drive around in fancy cars while the average folk has an assigned job and their every movement is limited and recorded. Of course, the entire premise of the Planned-Opolis is the assumption that we will still be dependent on fossil fuels in 2040, making these Megacities a necessity for humanity’s survival. This is not surprising given that funding the idea are companies that need us to be dependent on oil and fossil fuels to exist, such as Royal Dutch Shell.
Cities like Detroit, Chicaco and Pittsburgh are already implementing “smart streetlights” linked wirelessly to local law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, and each other. Intellistreets is working with DHS creating smart lights outfitted with cameras, audio recorders to snoop on your conversations, motion sensors and targeted advertising, and can actually talk to you as you pass by. Again, the justifications are that they’re more eco-friendly, save money and will make life safer and more convenient for everybody.
The point is, technology can be a tool for battling tyranny or strengthening it. Without the right perspective and a vigilant, mindful approach, we’re destined for the latter. Instead of making tech the giddy bride of a possessive, abusive husband, let’s slow the hell down and think for a minute. We need our tech to make humanity more free and to fight tyranny – not to collectively opt-in to it.
- Wearable “Smart Patch” interfaces with Smartphone, PC or tablet for medical purposes – for now, anyway. This .pdf shows how the idea is meant to be rolled out not just to help people with diseases get the right medication and treatment, but for the general population for identification, evacuation in disasters and even for expediting check-in processes at amusement parks, stadiums and exhibition centers.
- Rockefeller Foundation document “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development”: Notice how each of the scenarios involves either economic collapse, mass disease, widespread terror, resource wars or general chaos, with the presented possible “solutions” being weakened national governments, technological “Planned-Opolis” megacities, increased authoritarianism and micro-management of society.