Orwell’s paradise

This is in continuation from the previous post “A prison for the mind…” discussing how our technical systems, influenced by social values have come to control us; without us knowing. If you haven’t read it, please read it now:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — John Dalberg-Acton

It has happened many times before — People, in their moments of greed, desire and apparent desperation, elect leaders who promise they will deliver them all their dreams. Those leaders discover their new power, and the control and influence it brings. Driven mad by that power, those leaders work to actively harm the society that elected them. It is the vicious circle of human moral evolution [1] [2] [3] [4].

It has happened many times before — Just not on a planetary, absolute scale!

The $1.5 billion NSA data center, completed in 2014. It is designed to hold data of the orders of Exabytes or more. One Exabyte is one billion Gigabytes. What this means: Wholesale blanket surveillance — forever!

As we have come to learn in the last few years, our thoughts and actions have come to be watched, stored and analyzed by a system whose reach is unlimited and oversight next to none [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]. All our dreams, desires, aspirations are now stored forever in computer servers, where natural learning algorithms working tirelessly around the clock decipher its meaning, and reveal that to our ‘elected’ leaders, corporate and social media overlords. If information is power, we the people have never been as powerless as we are now.

The effects of blanket mass surveillance have been widely researched, but are not as widely known in public circles. According to one article [10] quoting numerous research works, mass surveillance:

  • Impairs mental health and performance,
  • Promotes distrust between the public and the state,
  • Breeds conformity, silences minority opinions [11], and keeps the populace cowed by fear [12]
  • Can actually undermine the influence of authority,
  • and paves the way for a pedestrian future.

Let’s take a moment for that to sink in.

Now consider that when asked whether they value their privacy, many people say that if they have done nothing wrong, they should have nothing to hide, presumably agreeing to let go of their privacy. This chain of thought is not only wrong, it is quite dangerous and has been debunked by numerous experts. Here is one example:

Glenn Greenwald: Why Privacy Matters (TED)

In sum, we have come to inhabit a world where we implicitly agree to our lives being under constant surveillance. The knowledge of this fact further implicitly restricts the boundaries of creative human thought, and action-boundaries largely set by Social Media companies, and the US Military and Intelligence industrial complexes. We are largely unaware of the problems this can give rise to and are quite ill equipped to fix it. This perversion of our thinking abilities without us knowing is one of the gravest challenges facing us.

When Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948, even his darkest imagination of where humanity was headed was not dark enough for where we are. And the bad news is that we just seem to be getting started on this path. Again, like previous posts in this series, it is becoming clear how this ties into the larger narrative of homo sapiens on planet Earth.

[To be continued…]

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