We are fast approaching the technological and political realization of George Orwell’s dystopian promise for humanity. In the classic work 1984, Orwell describes a tightly controlled future where technocratic elites have stamped out individualism with total information awareness and total surveillance from the home, to the office, to the street.
There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever the wanted to. You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized. ~ George Orwell, 1984
As consumers sheepishly allow smart devices into their homes, real-time audio and video of personal space is being uploaded to the Web for use by corporations and government. The encroachment into the home with this two-way monitoring is unsettling, but for years new we have been witnessing the explosion of CCTV cameras on the streets of major cities around the world.
Now, couple CCTV cameras with artificial intelligence enhanced facial recognition technology and you have precisely what Orwell warned us of.
A recent BBC exposé into the network of facial recognition CCTV cameras in China’s biggest city, Beijing, shows us just how effective this network is identifying, tracking, and interdicting any targeted or wanted individual within minutes. This is in a city with a whopping 21.5 million residents.