“Technotyranny”: The Iron-Fisted Authoritarianism of the Surveillance State
By John W. Whitehead
“There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me.’” ― Philip Okay. Dick
Pink capsule or blue capsule? You determine.
Twenty years after the Wachowskis’ iconic 1999 movie, The Matrix, introduced us to a futuristic world during which humans exist in a computer-simulated non-reality powered by authoritarian machines—a world where the choice between present in a denial-ridden virtual dream-state or dealing with up to the tough, troublesome realities of life comes right down to a pink capsule or a blue capsule—we stand on the precipice of a technologically-dominated matrix of our own making.
We live the prequel to The Matrix with each passing day, falling additional beneath the spell of technologically-driven virtual communities, digital realities and virtual conveniences managed by artificially clever machines which might be on a fast monitor to replacing us and ultimately dominating every facet of our lives.
Science fiction has turn into reality.
In The Matrix, pc programmer Thomas Anderson a.okay.a. hacker Neo is wakened from a virtual slumber by Morpheus, a freedom fighter in search of to liberate humanity from a lifelong hibernation state imposed by hyper-advanced artificial intelligence machines that rely on people as an organic power supply. With their minds plugged into a wonderfully crafted virtual reality, few humans ever understand they are dwelling in a dream world.
Neo is given a selection: to get up and be a part of the resistance, or remain asleep and function fodder for the powers-that-be. “You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe,” Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix. “You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Most individuals opt for the pink capsule.
In our case, the purple capsule—a one-way ticket to a life sentence in an electronic concentration camp—has been honey-coated to hide the bitter aftertaste, bought to us in the identify of expediency and delivered by means of blazingly fast Web, cellphone alerts that never drop a name, thermostats that hold us on the good temperature without our having to boost a finger, and entertainment that can be simultaneously streamed to our TVs, tablets and cell telephones.
Yet we aren’t merely in thrall with these technologies that have been meant to make our lives easier. We have now grow to be enslaved by them.
Look around you. All over the place you turn, individuals are so hooked on their internet-connected display units—sensible phones, tablets, computer systems, televisions—that they will go for hours at a time submerged in a virtual world where human interaction is filtered via the medium of know-how.
This isn’t freedom.
This is not even progress.
This is technological tyranny and iron-fisted control delivered by means of the surveillance state, corporate giants corresponding to Google and Facebook, and authorities spy businesses such as the National Safety Company.
We are living in a virtual world rigorously crafted to resemble a representative government, while in reality we are little more than slaves in thrall to an authoritarian regime, with its fixed surveillance, manufactured media spectacles, secret courts, inverted justice, and violent repression of dissent.
So consumed are we with availing ourselves of all the newest applied sciences that we have now spared barely a thought for the ramifications of our heedless, headlong stumble in the direction of a world during which our abject reliance on internet-connected gadgets and gizmos is grooming us for a future during which freedom is an illusion.
It’s not simply freedom that hangs within the stability. Humanity itself is on the road.
Certainly, while most people are busily taking selfies, Google has been busily partnering with the NSA, the Pentagon, and other governmental businesses to develop a brand new “human” species.
Primarily, Google—a neural community that approximates a worldwide mind—is fusing with the human thoughts in a phenomenon that is known as “singularity.” Google will know the reply to your question earlier than you could have requested it, stated transhumanist scientist Ray Kurzweil. “It will have read every email you will ever have written, every document, every idle thought you’ve ever tapped into a search-engine box. It will know you better than your intimate partner does. Better, perhaps, than even yourself.”
But right here’s the catch: the NSA and all other government businesses will even know you higher than your self. As William Binney, one of the highest-level whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA stated, “The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control.”
Cue the dawning of the Age of the Web of Issues, during which internet-connected “things” will monitor your own home, your health and your habits as a way to maintain your pantry stocked, your utilities regulated and your life underneath management and relatively worry-free.
The key phrase right here is management.
In the not-too-distant future, “just about every device you have — and even products like chairs, that you don’t normally expect to see technology in — will be connected and talking to each other.”
By 2020, there might be 152 million automobiles related to the Web and 100 million Internet-connected bulbs and lamps. By 2021, it is estimated there might be 240 million wearable units similar to smartwatches, preserving customers related it real time to their phones, emails, text messages and the Web. By 2022, there might be 1.1 billion sensible meters put in in houses, reporting real-time utilization to utility corporations and different interested events.
This “connected” business—estimated so as to add more than $14 trillion to the financial system by 2020—is about to be the subsequent huge thing when it comes to societal transformations, right up there with the Industrial Revolution, a watershed moment in know-how and culture.
Between driverless automobiles that utterly lacking a steering wheel, accelerator, or brake pedal and sensible drugs embedded with pc chips, sensors, cameras and robots, we are poised to outpace the imaginations of science fiction writers resembling Philip Okay. Dick and Isaac Asimov. (By the best way, there isn’t any such factor as a driverless automotive. Somebody or something might be driving, however it gained’t be you.)
The purpose of these internet-connected units, as Nest proclaims, is to make “your house a more thoughtful and conscious home.” For example, your automotive can sign forward that you simply’re in your method residence, while Hue lights can flash on and off to get your attention if Nest Shield senses something’s flawed. Your coffeemaker, relying on knowledge from health and sleep sensors, will brew a stronger pot of espresso for you when you’ve had a stressed night time.
Web-connected techno devices as sensible mild bulbs can discourage burglars by making your home look occupied, sensible thermostats will regulate the temperature of your property based mostly on your activities, and sensible doorbells will allow you to see who’s at your front door with out leaving the consolation of your couch.
Nest, Google’s $3 billion acquisition, has been on the forefront of the “connected” business, with such technologically savvy conveniences as a sensible lock that tells your thermostat who is house, what temperatures they like, and when your property is unoccupied; a house telephone service system that interacts together with your related units to “learn when you come and go” and provide you with a warning in case your youngsters don’t come house; and a sleep system that may monitor once you fall asleep, once you wake up, and maintain the home noises and temperature in a sleep-conducive state.
It’s not simply our houses which are being reordered and reimagined in this related age: it’s our workplaces, our well being methods, our authorities and our very bodies which might be being plugged right into a matrix over which we’ve got no actual management.
Moreover, given the velocity and trajectory at which these technologies are creating, it gained’t be lengthy earlier than these units are operating completely unbiased of their human creators, which poses an entire new set of worries.
As know-how skilled Nicholas Carr notes,
“As soon as you allow robots, or software programs, to act freely in the world, they’re going to run up against ethically fraught situations and face hard choices that can’t be resolved through statistical models. That will be true of self-driving cars, self-flying drones, and battlefield robots, just as it’s already true, on a lesser scale, with automated vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers.”
As an example, just as the robotic vacuum, Roomba, “makes no distinction between a dust bunny and an insect,” weaponized drones might be incapable of distinguishing between a fleeing felony and someone merely jogging down a road.
For that matter, how do you defend yourself towards a robotic cop—such as the Atlas android being developed by the Pentagon—that has been programmed to answer any perceived menace with violence?
Unfortunately, in our race to the longer term, we now have failed to think about what such dependence on know-how may imply for our humanity, not to mention our freedoms.
Ingestible or implantable chips are an excellent instance of how unprepared we are, morally and in any other case, to navigate this uncharted terrain. Hailed as revolutionary for his or her potential to access, analyze and manipulate your physique from the within, these sensible drugs can remind you to take your medicine, search for most cancers, and even ship an alert to your physician warning of an impending coronary heart assault.
Positive, the know-how might save lives, but is that each one we need to know? Have we accomplished our due diligence in coping with the ramifications of giving the government and its cronies entry to such intrusive packages? For instance, asks reporter Ariana Eunjung Cha, “How will patients be assured that the technology won’t be used to compel them to take medications they don’t really want to take? Could what started as a voluntary experiment be turned into a compulsory government identification program that could erode civil liberties?”
Let me put it another means.
Should you have been shocked by Edward Snowden’s revelations about how NSA brokers have used surveillance to spy on People’ telephone calls, emails and text messages, are you able to imagine what unscrupulous authorities agents might do with access to your internet-connected automotive, residence and drugs?
All of these internet-connected devices we simply should have (Forbes refers to them as “(data) pipelines to our intimate bodily processes”)—the sensible watches that can monitor our blood strain and the sensible telephones that permit us pay for purchases with our fingerprints and iris scans—are setting us up for a courageous new world the place there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to cover.
Imagine what a SWAT group might do with the power to entry, monitor and management your internet-connected house: locking you in, turning off the lights, activating alarms, and so on.
So far, the public response to considerations about authorities surveillance has amounted to a collective shrug.
In any case, who cares if the authorities can monitor your whereabouts on your GPS-enabled gadget as long as it helps you discover the fastest route from Point A to Point B? Who cares if the NSA is listening in on your telephone calls and downloading your emails as long as you will get your telephone calls and emails on the go and get lightning fast Web on the fly? Who cares if the federal government can monitor your activities in your house by tapping into your internet-connected units—thermostat, water, lights—as long as you’ll be able to management these issues with the flick of a finger, whether you’re throughout the house or across the nation?
It’s onerous to really recognize the intangible menace of technology-enabled authorities surveillance in the face of the all-too-tangible menace of police shootings of unarmed citizens, SWAT staff raids, and authorities violence and corruption.
Nevertheless, each dangers are just as lethal to our freedoms if left unchecked.
Think about that on any given day, the typical American going about his every day business is monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in nearly every means by each authorities and corporate eyes and ears.
Whether or not you’re strolling by way of a retailer, driving your automotive, checking e mail, or talking to family and friends on the telephone, you’ll be able to make certain that some authorities agency, whether the NSA or another entity, will probably be listening in and monitoring your conduct.
This doesn’t even begin to touch on the company trackers that monitor your purchases, net searching, Facebook posts and other activities happening within the cyber sphere.
In different phrases, there isn’t a type of digital communication that the federal government can’t and does not monitor: telephone calls, emails, text messages, tweets, Fb posts, internet video chats, and so forth., are all accessible, trackable and downloadable by federal agents.
The government and its company partners-in-crime have been bypassing the Fourth Modification’s prohibitions for therefore long that this constitutional bulwark towards warrantless searches and seizures has largely been rendered antiquated and irrelevant.
We at the moment are within the ultimate stage of the transition from a police state to a surveillance state.
Having already reworked native police into extensions of the army, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Division and the FBI are in the strategy of turning the nation’s cops into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, physique scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar units, facial recognition packages, license plate readers, cellular phone Stingray units and a lot extra.
Add within the fusion facilities and real-time crime facilities, city-wide surveillance networks, knowledge clouds conveniently hosted abroad by Amazon and Microsoft, drones outfitted with thermal imaging cameras, and biometric databases, and you’ve acquired the makings of a world during which “privacy” is reserved solely for presidency businesses.
In other phrases, the surveillance state that came into being with the 9/11 assaults is alive and properly and kicking privacy to shreds in America. Having been persuaded to trade freedom for a phantom promise of safety, People now find themselves imprisoned in a digital cage of cameras, wiretaps, sensors and watchful government eyes.
Just about every branch of the federal government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Division and every company in between—now has its personal surveillance sector, approved to spy on the American individuals.
And naturally that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, till we’ve got no extra knowledge left to mine. Certainly, Fb, Amazon and Google are among the authorities’s closest rivals in relation to carrying out surveillance on People, monitoring the content material of your emails, tracking your purchases and exploiting your social media posts.
“Few consumers understand what data are being shared, with whom, or how the information is being used,” stories the Los Angeles Occasions. “Most Americans emit a stream of personal digital exhaust — what they search for, what they buy, who they communicate with, where they are — that is captured and exploited in a largely unregulated fashion.”
It’s not simply what we say, the place we go and what we buy that’s being tracked.
We’re being surveilled right right down to our genes, because of a potent combination of hardware, software and knowledge collection that scans our biometrics—our faces, irises, voices, genetics, even our gait—runs them by means of pc packages that may break the info down into unique “identifiers,” after which provides them as much as the federal government and its company allies for their respective uses.
As an example, imagine what the NSA might do (and is probably going already doing) with voiceprint know-how, which has been likened to a fingerprint. Described as “the next frontline in the battle against overweening public surveillance,” the gathering of voiceprints is a booming business for governments and businesses alike. As The Guardian stories,
“voice biometrics could be used to pinpoint the location of individuals. There is already discussion about placing voice sensors in public spaces, and … multiple sensors could be triangulated to identify individuals and specify their location within very small areas.”
The NSA is merely one small a part of a shadowy permanent authorities comprised of unelected bureaucrats who march in lockstep with profit-driven firms that really runs Washington, DC, and works to keep us beneath surveillance and, thus, underneath management. For example, Google brazenly works with the NSA, Amazon has built an enormous $600 million intelligence database for CIA, and the telecommunications business is making a fat profit by spying on us for the government.
In other words, Corporate America is making a hefty profit by aiding and abetting the federal government in its domestic surveillance efforts.
Control is the important thing right here.
Complete management over every facet of our lives, proper right down to our internal thoughts, is the objective of any totalitarian regime.
George Orwell understood this. His masterpiece, 1984, portrays a worldwide society of complete management during which individuals are not allowed to have ideas that in any method disagree with the corporate state. There isn’t a personal freedom, and advanced know-how has turn out to be the driving drive behind a surveillance-driven society. Snitches and cameras are in all places. And individuals are topic to the Thought Police, who cope with anybody responsible of thought crimes. The government, or “Party,” is headed by Massive Brother, who appears on posters in all places with the phrases: “Big Brother is watching you.”
Make no mistake: the Web of Things is simply Massive Brother in a more interesting disguise.
Now there are nonetheless those that insist that they don’t have anything to hide from the surveillance state and nothing to worry from the police state because they’ve finished nothing flawed. To these sanctimonious few, secure in their delusions, let this be a warning: the danger posed by the American police state applies equally to all of us, lawbreaker and law-abider alike.
In an age of too many laws, too many prisons, too many government spies, and too many firms wanting to make a quick buck on the expense of the American taxpayer, there isn’t a protected place and no watertight alibi.
We’re all responsible of some transgression or other.
Ultimately, as I make clear in my guide Battlefield America: The Struggle on the American Individuals, we’ll all be made to endure the same penalties in the electronic focus camp that surrounds us.