We are seeing an increased use of surveillance at every level of our lives (on the street, at work, online, on our phones, etc.), and we see increased use of automation (simple, algorithmic and AI) to sort through all our activities. It’s a worrisome trend. We should be asking questions such as:
- Who’s surveilling us and why? It’s easy to answer this with two terms: government and big tech, but the answers can be and should be much more granulated.
- Who’s keeping track of that data? Exactly who are the players who have access to our data, who are running analysis on it and who are storing it, backing it up, etc.
- How long is our data kept and where?
- When algorithms decide our human fate, is that just? Should we tolerate it?
- Who wrote the algorithms and are they skewed in some way? Given the recent censorship issues on Facebook and Twitter, I think algorithms are clearly written with an agenda in mind and they can be easily skewed to fit the needs and wants of the companies who apply them.
- And many more questions like this…
I’d first like to point out the following: we live in a human world, and we’re meant to relate to each other in human ways; it doesn’t work well otherwise.
However, as I’ve pointed out in past posts, the world is too full of humans, and there are many complications that arise from that. Chief among them is this: an unusually large proportion of them aren’t relating to their fellow humans in human (or humane) ways and they are engaging in violence, murder, kidnappings, rape, pedophilia and other perversions, vandalism, theft, looting, corruption at all levels, drugs, road rage, terrorism, con schemes, etc.
That’s when law enforcement and governments, unable to keep track of every one of these so-called “humans” with existing personnel, turns to computers, mass surveillance, facial recognition, algorithms that identify suspicious behavior, etc., in an effort to sort through the mass influx of human faces, some of which are engaged in criminal/inhuman activities. The issue of why personnel cannot be ramped up in these institutions so that humans can sort through and keep track of these activities is up for debate, but I think we can all agree that when surveillance and automation are used to flag and identify the activities listed above, so that humans can sort through them, it is probably okay, and it is probably to be expected.
It is not okay when automation of surveillance is used to:
- Spy on our private activities simply for the purpose of keeping track of everything we do, “just in case” we do something wrong,
- Restrict freedom of speech, such as when social media algorithms simply won’t allow us to post certain links or words on our accounts, or will outright censor certain subjects or people,
- Dig through our online activities and disqualify us from obtaining a job simply for having posted something questionable in the past, or to destroy our lives altogether, as today’s cancel culture and supposed race inequality movement is actively trying to do to so many people,
- Monitor all our communications, such as our messages, emails and telephone calls, in the name of national security,
- And the list can probably go on and on…
Here’s my understanding of the direction of this trend so far: as long as humans will continue to grow in number and to present a very complex environment where it’s thoroughly difficult or outright impossible for a limited number of people involved in law enforcement to keep track of illegal activities, the arguments for the use of automation in surveillance (to the point where artificial intelligence will handle a large part of it) will continue to mount. Also, as long as hidden agendas will continue to be tolerated in government, in the media and in academia, hidden surveillance will continue, for various nefarious purposes, such as persecution, extortion, a building up of arguments to support certain policies, etc.
The solution as I see it is to decrease the world population till we stop being numbers and countless faces and we become communities once more, where we know everyone who lives around us, where we are not one nameless face in a mass, in a ridiculously large throng of people, but a meaningful, contributing member of a neighborhood, a village or a town. That’s when surveillance and its automation will no longer matter. It won’t even be an issue anymore. We’ve got to stop multiplying like rabbits. We’ve got to stop focusing on large numbers. We’ve got to focus on quality, not quantity. We’ve got to focus on meaningful human interactions and meaningful numbers when it comes to our communities and our towns. To those of you who live in smaller communities, what I’ve just said is obvious, but to those who still prefer to live in large cities, I think my words will sound quite strange. And for them and because of them, mass surveillance and the automation of surveillance will continue…