Panopticon – Google it

We covered a few Google Glass stories this week on CBR. One here about an ant game that tracks human movement patterns, and this story about an app that helps Jews practice their religion better.

It got me onto thinking about Robocop, about people wearing Google Glass in the near future for law enforcement and surveillance, and that got onto thinking about Bentham’s Panopticon.

The Panopticon is a common metaphor used around the issues of CCTV surveillance and cloud-storage.

The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by philosopher and social theorist, Jeremy Bentham, in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a watchman to observe all the inmates of a prison without their being able to tell whether they are being watched or not. This, in theory, would force the inmates to always be on their best behaviour as they can never tell if big brother is watching.

Now, that’s all been very relevant of late, what with the increase of government surveillance, NSA spying and classic ‘nanny state’ claims, but is Google, and the internet in general, changing that?

The internet used to be a place where we’d visit on occasion, totally by choice, and come out again when we wanted. Looking into it from the real world, we were safe, and everything was under control.

But now it’s the other way around. Cyberspace has come out after us and embodied almost every physical action we do every day. This reversal is pushing Google (other brands are available) into a key structural cornerstone of our lives, and it’s not one all-seeing eye, like the Panopticon, but it’s an unlimted amount of tiny all-seeing eyes.

We become not only the observers in the Panopticon, but the inmates at the same time. We embody both ideas simulteanuously, as the human race all virtually links up into one singularity.

There is no one central viewpoint, but a thriving network of nodes, cloud-data and infinite surveillance. It can’t be stopped. There is no head or leader.

I should stop reading sci-fi.

 

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