Saturday, January 03, 2015

1984 is so last century.

I read “Ai Weiwei is Living in Our Future” in three bursts over a period of three hours or so. The first burst dealt with the bit about Weiwei, and my reaction to that was outrage mixed with a hat tip towards a wonderful man. I was aware of Weiwei’s predicament in general terms, but the part about the two guards watching over him at all times was rather unsettling. That was when I shared the article on twitter with a 1984 annotation, convinced that this was worth a read. I stopped at “Just like ventriloquists”.

When I returned to the article a little later, the tone of the article changed. From the victims of constant surveillance the author shifts to the people who carry out that surveillance, but have very little control themselves. This was new for me; I had never put myself in the shoes of the latter set of people. The next bit about face recognition and how a juggler on the run from the law for fourteen years is finally caught reminded me (ahem!) of the Hollywood movie “The Avengers”, where the villainous Loki is located using face recognition software that sifts data from cameras all over the globe in a matter of minutes. That is scary. So is Obama talking in that blue tent of his. And so is the capability of predicting what I am going to do.

And then, in the third act, we come to “meatspace”. The tracker bands. The app to track your pet. Your children. To turn off their cellphones if they don’t call back. Pavlok. Quantifying everything we do including dating. “Privacy is theft”. Google as the OmniTerra machine, a bit of a Brainiac. And we the bots feeding it. We whose emotional and moral centres are now laid bare (thanks social media) and suppressed (thanks again). The watchword is obviously Control, enforced by the nearly unstoppable flow of Information. Is there an end to it? Perhaps not. And although Weiwei talks about freedom being symbiotic to one who has experienced it, I doubt if, given the sheer scale of Control that the author has mentioned, will our next generation be allowed to ever experience it?

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