In the late 18th century, Jeremy Bentham (of “greatest good for the greatest number” fame) wrote about the “panopticon” —
“PANOPTICON; OR THE INSPECTION-HOUSE: CONTAINING THE IDEA OF A NEW PRINCIPLE OF CONSTRUCTION APPLICABLE TO ANY SORT OF ESTABLISHMENT, IN WHICH PERSONS OF ANY DESCRIPTION ARE TO BE KEPT UNDER INSPECTION….”
According to the Bentham scholars at wikipedia:
The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the incarcerated being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect [Silke Berit Lang] has called the “sentiment of an invisible omniscience.” Bentham … described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.”
[The panopticon] design was invoked by Michel Foucault [in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison] as [a] metaphor for modern “disciplinary” societies and their pervasive inclination to observe and [normalize]. Foucault proposes that not only prisons but all hierarchical structures like the army, schools, hospitals and factories have evolved through history to resemble Bentham’s Panopticon.”
The homeland security debate about privacy versus liberty focuses almost exclusively on how government erodes privacy rights.
Less emphasized (at least in my reading) is the role the private sector plays in privacy intrusions. Maybe because many people voluntarily surrender privacy to the private sector, under the guise of increased efficiency, convenience, and choice — to say nothing of the difficulty determining what privacy you actually surrender if you have an account on Facebook or Google.
What will the future be like in this domain? Will big brother arrive not with a government ID card, but with a cents-off coupon promise to make life better through interoperable data bases?
My colleague, Richard Bergin, brought the brief videos (below) to my attention.
The first (about 2 minutes long) is about ordering a pizza in the future. Most of the information (in the scenario) comes from private sector data bases.
The second video (less than a minute) is a story about how radio frequency ID (RFID) will make life at the grocery store better for all of us.
The last video (around a minute) shows why every right thinking family man or woman would want to have one of these things implanted, as soon as possible.