Sunday, 13 May 2018

To Be Known, Or Not To be Known? – THAT Is The Question!

The 1954 Sci-Fi film, GOG is set in a top-secret underground government facility under the New Mexico desert where a space station is being constructed. Office of Scientific Investigation agents from Washington, DC, are called in to investigate mysterious and deadly malfunctions at the facility.

In the interests of security, the personnel in the underground facility are subject to constant monitoring from various devices such as microphones and this has become a normal state of affairs for them.

In our own modern era, we are surrounded by devices such as cctv surveillance cameras that can monitor our actions and movements. It is astonishing how we have accepted this as being a normal part of our lives. We have in effect willingly submitted to an intrusion into our personal privacy and are complying to have our right to anonymity removed. We then somehow rationalize and justify this in terms of it being necessary to guarantee our overall safety and security!

Read on for more.....

With the recent advent of real-time facial recognition technology, reality is catching up with Hollywood Sci-Fi fantasy.

By Jimmy answering questions.jpg: Wikimania2009 Beatrice Murchderivative work: Sylenius (talk) - Jimmy answering questions.jpg, CC BY 3.0,

In science fiction films we have often been presented with a scene in which security cameras zero in on a face in a crowd and after some enhancement and quick searching through data bases, a name is matched to the face. Surveillance has become normalized in our minds even before the technology is widely utilized or instituted.

It appears that facial recognition is no longer the error-prone process it once was. Accuracy rates have improved dramatically, making it possible to monitor live video.

Not surprisingly, non-democratic and autocratic regimes such as China and Russia currently make use of or are trialling such real-time facial recognition surveillance systems.

We are entering a brave new world in which an individual’s image can be compared against billions of faces, making it possible for authorities to track the residents of a whole city or even an entire country.

Should such technologies be considered before we properly debate what the rules and constraints on their use should be? Big sales events featuring this technology and aggressive sales and marketing from companies could pressure law enforcement and other agencies to adopt and upgrade to real-time facial recognition systems.

One can understand the appeal for police departments to be able to more effectively detect wanted individuals in public. Unfortunately, the use of such technology virtually makes anyone who innocently walks down the street subject to surveillance and considered a suspect until proven otherwise.

In our search to tackle crime more effectively, or improve our counter-terrorism measures, we may be opening up a whole new world in which it will be impossible for anyone of us to walk down the street without being identified.

By Abyssus - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Or think about another scenario in which you are simply going shopping. You enter a store and suddenly you are recognized via real-time facial recognition. Based on your likes and dislikes and profiles and preferences gleaned from other digital platforms, you might find that your phone and other devices in the store are suggesting to you possible purchases you ought to be making.

As businesses and corporations acquire these surveillance technologies, consumers will become accustomed to their use thereby making it easier for governments and authorities to implement them.

Thought must be given to the possible long-term consequences of introducing technologies that have the potential to rob us of our freedom, our privacy and our right to anonymity.

"KZ 6-0-9-0, Smith W, face the Telescreen. You have been standing at the window of Bay Two of the Records Department for over eighty seconds, what are you doing there?........This irregularity has been recorded......Return to your cubicle, Smith."

In the 1954 BBC adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, the main character Winston, while in his dilapidated Victory Mansions flat struggles not to allow his thoughts and fears to reveal themselves in front of the Telescreen by an exercise of self-monitoring or self-censorship: "Don't let it show in your face - get rid of this thought! Rid of it, quickly, before it's too late. Doublethink - practice it! The Party says the Earth is flat - true! That's true. The Party says two and two make five... no, and not to know. Forget, and forget that you've forgotten - Doublethink.... Crimestop... Ignorance is strength..."

In another scene we see Winston sitting down at a small desk set into an alcove next to the Telescreen while a production bulletin is being broadcast. It is clear that he wishes to remain out of sight of the Telescreen while he takes out a pencil and an exercise book from a drawer under the desk. He opens the exercise book to reveal a hand-written title page: "DIARY OF WINSTON SMITH - 1984." The Party has increased its power of intrusive surveillance at the expense of personal privacy, which in Winston’s case has been reduced to the pages of an exercise book in a tiny corner of his room and an equally tiny corner of his being. And it is only there that he can rail against the reality imposed on him by the Party as he writes, “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER" over and over again.

Such constant monitoring forces people in Winston’s world of 1984 to sterilize their behaviour and conceal their thoughts. We need to be aware that close surveillance and fear of repercussions that may stem from it could result in people being unwilling to voice their opinions, engage in protest or express dissent.

Is that the destiny we would desire for ourselves and future generations - living in a world under the gaze of a host of Big Brothers?

Next Post: The Strange World Of Planet X! (1958)

©Chris Christopoulos 2018