We’ve been warned about it by science fiction authors and futurists for years, and it’s finally coming to fruition: a world where nearly every activity and event has the potential be tracked, monitored, and recorded. More so, the habits and choices which make us unique are being tracked and utilized to predict our behavior in the future and in a sense, control us better. These are scary times.
Or are they? What even the great sci-fi writers and intellectuals of the past who predicted the surveillance state often failed to realize is these leaps in technology actually provide numerous benefits to society. While the potential for abuse and misuse by authorities will always be a possibility, such corrupt entities are having a harder time operating in the shadows and getting away with it due to these very same developments in technology.
As Marge Simpson once said: “Well, the courts might not work anymore, but as long as everyone is secretly videotaping everyone else, justice will be done!”
Nothing matters more to parents than the safety and security of their children. The technology which many blame for eroding privacy is the same utilized by families to keep a household better guarded against intruders and other threats. When families choose ADT and other home security solutions, they’re investing in surveillance resources and getting peace of mind in return.
In the event criminal activity does occur, collection of video footage and/or other data can be critical in putting an offender behind bars. It also has the potential to be used as evidence in exonerating an innocent suspect. Consequently, the criminal justice system has much to gain with the advent of increased monitoring and surveillance throughout society.
Let’s jump to the medical world – increased monitoring with smartwatches and similar devices has the potential to point us in the direction of better health. In fact, once enough data has been collected and compared, we may detect common patterns in people which lead to medical risks down the road, and can consequently attempt to prevent them from materializing in the body.
Of course, we ought not ignore the negatives which come with an ever more monitored society:
Those bio-monitoring technologies previously mentioned – they also have the potential to create a new form of discrimination in society in which information about our habits and tendencies can be used to keep us from enjoying many of the benefits of society. For example, what if we discovered people who walk a certain way are more likely to shoplift. Does that mean Target can disqualify an individual for employment based on the way they walked in front of the store cameras to and from the interview?
As witnessed recently in Cleveland, the ability to video record events and instantly post them online for the public to see has led more than one person to use this technology to showcase themselves committing cold-blooded acts of violence. Whether or not the viral potential of these horrendous videos is a driving force in the committing of the acts themselves is unclear, but most people agree it presents a dark stain on society.
Last but not least, the potential for “Big Brother” to watch our every move is evident with the advent of increased monitoring, and high on everyone’s list of negatives regarding surveillance technology. There is no doubt about it, if the government believes someone presents a threat to society, they can and will exploit any and all means of monitoring and data collection to investigate, arrest, and convict said individual.
The final verdict is this: increased monitoring, like any technology, is both a benefit and a hazard. Society cannot afford to sit back and let surveillance consume every level of life, but at the same time it cannot deny the extraordinary benefits and peace of mind which come with keeping track of nearly everything all the time.
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