Right now, five companies are trying to get every last piece of data they can about you, so they can ultimately target advertisements to you that are so unbelievably personal that it virtually guarantees that you purchase their products, or sell this ability to someone else.
While the goons slave away in the Utah desert building a Privacy Doomsday Computer, the same computer scientists have effectively pulled the rug out from under social scientists over the last decade. Instead of studying human behavior for the sake of understanding and exploring the human condition, these applied scientists used computers to track it and then used the data to for something that most social scientists would not do: shape human behavior for the betterment of the Allmighty Corporation.
So when the rest of us went and got degrees in sociology and anthropology and graduated college only to find out that unless we wanted to join the CIA and use our knowledge for evil, we basically just paid handsomely for a 4-year bartending class, the computer scientists were getting jobs and becoming company men. Our professional ethics prevented us from taking the jobs with the DOJ, but lacking such a system of their own, the computer scientists picked money over soul and now they’re rolling in it.
At what cost? What happens when you gather so much data that you can control individuals, and in so doing, entire populations? Was this point in the human story inevitable? Did science let the genie out of the bottle, only to be eventually co-opted by the darkest sides of human nature, just like everything else? Are we responsible for the applications of that which we discover?
The first decade of the 20th century was not just the decade of the Death of Privacy. It was also the decade during which, under the watchful guidance of the computer science community, human identity turned into a commodity and citizens of developed nations became the least free people on Earth. It was the decade of the death of all decency of authority. It was the decade of fear and preparing for war. It continues into its 13th year.
I live in a nation that is supposedly founded on the idea that we have certain inalienable rights that are bestowed on us by our Creator. Life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness are among them. Also among them should be the idea of freedom from being treated like a criminal in a hyperparanoid 21st century technoindustrial society. (Of course the Founding Fathers thought of this, but they neglected to include it in the Constitution because it was wholly irrelevant in the late 18th century.)
In an era in which 59% of mobile device apps collect GPS information about their user’s whereabouts, in which every time you pass a cellphone tower your cellphone pings your location to it even when it’s off, and when many big cities have ALPR systems that function as well as a GPS locator to track the whereabouts of every citizen through their car’s license plates, the choices for opting out of this yucky data-grubbing behavior are nonexistent. Big Brother is watching you, and if he’s asleep at his terminal, then your neighbor is hacking into his spreadsheet. Also, you scare the shit out of him so much he’s stockpiling ammo, and developing the means to record your every move, even when he’s broke and facing a “fiscal cliff.”
Can you believe that the authorities are so paranoid that they’re building the apparatus necessary to track every single citizen? Not just their online behavior, but their physical whereabouts, also? How long do you think it will be before your boss can find out you visit a dispensary weekly because of job-related debilitating back pain that regular pharmaceuticals have been worthless in treating? How long until “John, you purchased too much alcohol last week because I’ve been trying to fire you, so now I’m actually firing you”? How long until your health insurance carrier dumps you because they found out you have a weakness for chicken wings?
I’m sorry, but we’re dead. The American Experiment is officially over, and it ended horribly.
And you can thank the white hats for “protecting” us so damn well, as they enriched themselves royally by selling the rest of us literate computer users (and our children) out.
And why, fucking why? Why go to all this trouble when we can’t afford it and only the most naive people alive think that all the information being generated will be mostly used for good?
I think we ought to give the authorities a lot more to worry about if they’re going to go to all this goddamn trouble. Now is a better time than any to turn over your neighbor’s ugly, decrepit car that he always leaves out on the street and light it on fire.
Try to do that next week or next month and they will have pre-empted you, Minority Report-style…
…and once again saying “I told you so” will do no one any good.