There’s a lot of interest in the surveillance society. People don’t like it. Or I should probably say some vocal people don’t like it. There might be plenty of people on the “I’ve got nothing to hide so I think it’s good” side of the aisle though I’m not sure I know many. This usually comes up in discussion of video cameras placed outdoors. It also comes up in discussion of police having drones. Lately it’s come up in discussion of Google Glass.
I’d like the try to consider what the possible positives are rather than the negatives. First off, let me say, I think it’s inevitable that nearly everything will be recorded at all times. Google Glass is just the start. Within 10-20 years we’ll be embedding cameras and computers in our heads. It will start as artificial eyes for blind people but at some point the tech will make those artificial eyes better than natural eyes. By that time, something like Google Glass will likely already be popular and it seems obvious the 2 will be combined. At that point it’s no longer a camera, it’s just “augmented memory”. You have no right to decide how I remember things whether it’s just in my head, or I take notes, or I record. You also arguably have no right to decide who I share my memories with or how I share them. I think that makes it pretty clear that once we get here there will be very little privacy.
That scares a lot of people. It scares me too. I don’t want the police or the government to be able to spy on me. I’m not doing anything wrong but I don’t trust them not to make shit up as in look at something innocent as proof of something non-innocent. Example: You read an article about some group in the middle east and they claim that’s proof your sympathizing with the enemy. That’s the scary part.
But, what about the good parts? Part of the scary part assumes the government is only spying on us but that same technology lets us spy on them. If implanted cameras were as common as smartphones then every government conversation would likely be recorded, every police interaction recorded, every corporate leadership meeting, etc… it would be much harder for police to abuse rights, for governments to implement illegal policies and for corporations to make evil decisions if every person attending every meeting could potentially be recording that meeting and posting it online.
If most people walking down the street were constantly recording what their eyes see would muggings stop? If every car had cameras pointing inside and out would car theft stop? If every child had one early on would children be safer from predators?
If embedded cameras were common then you’d have to trust your lovers not to share your intimate moments together. Or maybe it would become common to share them? On the other hand, would that end all rape? All sexual harassment? Maybe even some racial and sexual discrimination?
Yes, it’s a scary future but it seems inevitable so it’s interesting to try to guess what will end up happening when we get there. Will the positives outweigh the negatives?