With the increasing number of monitoring devices around the world, many acknowledge that we are quickly becoming a surveillance society. A camera
is a literal and immediate interpretation of 'monitoring device', but there are hundreds of other tracking mechanisms that aren't as obvious. Consider, for example, every database
you are on: from the DMV
, Social Security
, and employment files, to every credit card
transaction you make. As technology becomes more interwoven into our society, it becomes increasingly difficult to do just about anything without it being monitored.
A popular metaphor for this phenomenon is Jeremy Bentham's 'Panopticon'. It's a plan for the ideal prison where the guards are invisible to the prisoners. If people are uncertain when they are being watched, they must assume that they are being watched at all times. The cultivation of paranoia is used as a means of social control.
Now this sounds a bit grim to describe modern society as a prison. It's a dystopian vision of an external authority that uses technology to monitor the masses, but ironically, the guards and the prisoners are mostly one and the same. The technology goes both ways. 'They' have the ability to monitor 'us', but 'we' as a society, crave to have instant access to detailed information (all for the sake of convenience). Anything created to use on others works on you as well. It's a matter of trade-offs you must consider. Sure, it would be great to catch every Rodney King-like incident on camera... Sure, it's great to have access to personal information to look up old friends... But most people are NOT your friends. Are you really ready to live in a society where privacy is a scarcity?