A warning for mankind: Beware the new Big Brother

From Daily Maverick – I think its too late they have us in hand already – we’re hooked lined and sunk and most of us love it for now anyway!

We’re already living a future where our desire to use technology to share and interact freely with others has been perverted, according to a privacy expert. Increasingly, the devices and software we use listen to and watch us, potentially for nefarious purposes. The worst of it is that we allow it. This is the future Eben Moglen, Columbia University law professor and Software Freedom Law Centre chairman, foresees. By OSIAME MOLEFE.

It’s 2112 or so. A near-perfect copy of every human being exists and has been cached and copied to servers all around the world. The copy is perfect in every way, mirroring not only people’s thoughts and actions, but behaviour too. Like the real-life versions, this copy is alive and refreshes with every minuscule update to the real-life self.

It has, for example, a binary-coded heartbeat thanks to an app on one of the many devices that have proliferated and become a necessary part of human existence. That app monitors the heartbeat and sends each cardiac cycle into the worldwide web because people have invited it to. The culture of sharing has reached maturity.

Billions of people – the entire planet, in fact – live like this because technology has allowed mankind to make the leap from the digital to the digitised age, where information flows between people in ways never before possible.

This is the future Eben Moglen, Columbia University law professor and Software Freedom Law Centre chairman, foresees.

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How smart should a city be?

From the perspective of a skeptic I often feel the dream of the ‘smart city’ equates tot the idea of Big Brother and the controls of the police state, the more smart it becomes the more controlled we are – indoctrinated by our media and our tools (smart phones) we buy and live as some “other’ global media conglomerate determines and never forgetting the nightmares of incipient intelligence a la “Minority Report” and other science fiction classics…. I thus welcome a more balanced and user friendly vision of technology in cities and the participation they might afford us by Gravitymax on [polis]

Imagine a city that can anticipate your needs and desires, and provide you with information you’ll need to know based on what it knows about you. Such is the vision of many in the field of urban and ubiquitous computing, and it is a discourse that is becoming more popular and powerful.
User experience designer and writer Adam Greenfield challenges this vision of techno-utopia. Instead of cities that are smart, he prefers ones that make us smarter. Greenfield believes that people will always be much better at making sense of the world than artificial intelligence. He proposes a network of open public “objects” (data collected from, and generated in, public space) that can be understood and used by the public.
Of course, this model is not without its challenges. Government policies surrounding privacy, corporate interests in ownership of data, and standardization of a presentation layer are just a few that come to mind. Tackling these challenges may seem like a daunting task, but hopefully these kinds of conversations will continue and attract the attention of people with the right amount of influence to make things happen.

Adam Greenfield is the founder of the urban systems design practice Urbanscale. He is also a former head of design direction at Nokia and has taught at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. 

Credits: Video from Blinkenlichten TV.