David Brin on Our Omni-Surveilled Future

A fascinating article (site pass req'd) about the possible evolution of the surveillance culture in the August edition of Salon, by science fiction writer and scientist David Brin. In it, Brin anticipates flocks of miniature flying cameras providing video feeds from remote locations, wearable augmented reality devices providing real-time information to users about their environment, subvocal speech systems (a precursor to "tech-mediated telepathy"), and ubiquitous geographic location awareness (for people and devices).

Yet the picture Brin paints of this omni-surveilled future is refreshingly positive. Brin warns that there is no black-and-white tradeoff between security and freedom inherent in these developments. His overarching thesis is that all of the bleeding-edge (and beyond) surveillance technologies are the equivalent of prosthetics -- human sensory enhancements -- and that our history teaches that they will be accepted and embraced by society, but that the crucial issue is whether the technologies as a whole are also used to "watch the watchers" in order to ensure accountability, rather than abused in a Big Brother-like fashion.

Posted by Lance Koonce

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