Photo under CreativeCommons licence by UnusualImage on Flickr
I recently went to a talk by Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross on “Resisting the All Seeing Eye”. Surprisingly, since I was there with hano, coughingbear and sierra_le_oli and a horde of other web-savvy folk, I haven’t read anything about it on the internet, so I thought I’d post my thoughts.
The event was organised by and in support of the Open Rights Group, who were also very active at the Conference on Modern Liberty.
That title - the all seeing eye - was deliberately controversial; for me, it raised an image of Bentham’s panopticon: all of us under surveillance all the time. Modern technology makes it possible, and I believe we all need to be aware of this, rather than blindly stumbling into a future in which everyone is a suspect all the time.
Both Doctorow and Stross agree with me. And more or less everyone else in the audience. They were really preaching to the converted. And yet the evening was set up as a debate, with the speakers taking turns – as if they were rebutting each other’s comments. Instead, it felt like they were trying to outdo each other in painting dark pictures of a dystopian future – and a pretty bleak present, too.
I preferred Doctorow’s style to Stross’ – it seemed much more discursive and exploratory where Stross came across as a bit of a know-it-all (sorry!).
This surprised me: here were a couple of hundred people sufficiently concerned to spend a Friday night listening to two well-respected technologically minded commentators, and we were sent away depressed and unenergised.
This should have been a rallying call! Get out there and do something! Make this a political issue – complain to your MP, shout about this from the rooftops – hell, even storm the cameras!
But no. The scary future seemed just too scary to do much about.
So I am doing what I can. I am talking about the issue, and writing about it here. I may start a phone campaign – I have just noticed that many CCTV cameras have a phone number on them; I think I shall start phoning the number, just for the hell of it. Maybe I’ll start photographing CCTV cameras, too – why not?
Because I really think we should be doing something.
Photo under CreativeCommons licence by NoLifeBeforeCoffee on Flickr