Friday, June 10, 2011

Big Brother Is Watching You

Two recent news items bid fair to disturb the peace of my weekend with their troubling implications. Forget the looming collision of Obamacare with Medicare; never mind the unintended consequences of legislating what toilets and lightbulbs we all must use, to say nothing of using windmills for energy; and even put aside for a moment the idiotic bans on selling or consuming such delicacies as foie gras. No, those are minor signposts along the road down which we are headed.

Remember the two-way telescreen in Winston Smith's room, so that Big Brother could keep an eye on his doings at all times? George Orwell painted the future better than he knew.

The first item is the disclosure that mobile phones are being used to track an individual's movements. The manufacturers claim they need the data in order to update continually their GPS-based maps which they provide to us as an added feature. Yes, but -- why is the data being permanently stored in a cache? And what's to stop them from mining it?

For an example of where this technology is taking us, consider the second and even more disturbing item in the news: every new car manufactured from this month forward must have, by government fiat, a "black box" installed -- that cannot be removed "under penalty of law". (Remember the old mattress tags? They were a joke, but this is for real.) The boxes will make a permanent record of how -- and where -- you have driven the car.

So if you weren't caught while doing 45 in that 35-mile-an-hour zone, now you can be issued a ticket months later, based on the data taken from the black box. Or the federal government can use the box to tax you for each mile driven in general, while local governments can do the same for particular roads.

What is even worse is that insurance companies could be given the data in order to rate your driving habits in determining how much of a premium to charge you. (Mind you -- I am all for having insurance premiums match the insured's driving habits. But what I fear is the cookie-cutter algorithms that companies will devise to interpret the data. Look at what they have done with the algorithms used to compute your credit score.)

The Nanny State is all but upon us. How remarkable that the developments toward that end should parallel in time the impending arrival of a similar state in the Episcopal Church!


  1. Dear Mr. Haley,

    I don't find it remarkable at all that "the developments toward (an Orwellian nanny state) should parallel in time the impending arrival of a similar state in the Episcopal Church!" Rather, I would suggest that it was almost predictable, at least in the past few years. The U.S. has been moving quietly in that direction for some time, certainly longer than your or my lifetime. And it has been steadily advancing in the Episcopal Church since the 1930s, since the acceptance of divorce and of artificial contraception. Looking back in time, it seems to have been all of a piece.

    The political conservatives of my high school years, et. seq. (some 50+ years ago) are not the political conservatives of today. The earlier generation was of a more Burkean, or Old Whig bent, something closer to a Hayekian understanding of political economy.
    Even many of the Democratic elected officials of that era were more principled and more interested liberty than today's number.

    Today's are no longer liberal in the sense of being devoted to liberty, they are devout progressives. Since Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover and FDR, they are people committed to a vision of humankind, most particularly of themselves and their supporters, which assumes unquestioningly that human history is the story of human progress, i.e., that we know so much more than those who went before us, and to what has been called the progressive fallacy, that is, to the idea that if the best experts are assembled and given all of the available data pertaining to any particular socio-political (or economic) problem those experts can arrive at the one best solution.

    They completely ignore even the possibility that different solutions to a problem may be required because different people have different problems, priorities and preferences. And they have elected as President an empty suit who pointed out to them that "Yes, we can change," ignoring that solely because we are able to change, it is not necessarily the case that we ought to.

    In many ways, this is little more than one more re-enactment of the Original Sin of our first parents. To the extent that progressives share any traits at all, it is the trait of arrogance, of thinking that "we can be like God, knowing good from evil" that characterizes the breed. And it has been on public display from them, to one degree or another, since the early 20th century Presidents I named above.

    I think Eric Blair was likely conscious of the direction in which Western history appeared to be progressing when he wrote the book to which you refer. It was only the specific time frame of his prognostication that was in need of adjustment.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  2. Next the mini version of the black box, a chip embedded in your forehead or hand to monitor your whereabouts and identify you.

  3. Absolutely terrifying intrusions into the privacy and lives of United States citizens.

    We are truly losing control of our own individual destinies on every front as well as losing control of the destiny of our beloved nation.

    It is about time Patriots rose up and stood together against this unconscionable tyranny.

    Pray to the Good Lord it is not too late.

  4. ALLtoJesus - the Mark of the Beast, perhaps?