Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Value of "Big Brother"

Andrew D Atkin:

Many people are concerned about the idea of the government having a record on so much of everybody's details. The idea being that it can and will lead to a Big Brother society where the state can breathe down everybody's necks, and somehow fiddle with their lives as they see fit. As it seems, a lot of people hate the idea of surveillance camera's and are virtually terrified of the more extreme idea of micro-chipping humans for surveillance and security purposes.

But how bad is all that, and what about the plus-side of a society based on micro-chipping and extensive surveillance? We never seem to hear about the plus-side, so I would like to express my view. Personally, I believe that there is a strong and reasonable case for the/a government to progressively invest in widespread surveillance, and in particular with the micro-chipping of humans using physically embedded passive-RF tags. The following is my argument.

Firstly, if the government wants to know all about any particular persons mundane details then they can already do so. The banks, Inland Revenue and other organisation already have you on file, and the government can ultimately access those files if it believes that it really needs to. Likewise, if the government wants to use this information against you--unreasonably and unjustly-- then they already can. So if you want to fight the latent abusive power of Big Brother, then really you are already too late.

Secondly, I have thus far never heard of the government abusing anyone's privacy--with respect to personal information--in New Zealand. So far, by my outlook, the only people who have any real reason to fear a surveillance society are the fraudulent or latently fraudulent.

Model system:

Take the scenario of passive-RF tags being implanted in all citizens living in New Zealand. The RF tags could then be integrated with an intensive network of discrete scanners which keep a record of when and where everybody was, from all over the country. It would be very easy to do this. The scanners would be cheap and the cost of storing and sending the information would be trivial. So, in turn, everybody has an explicit location-history on record on a centralised database.

The embedded chips can also replace all of our plastic cards (details are stored and accessed automatically online) and would be biometrically linked for the sake of totally secure transactions. All of this would be linked with surveillance cameras which also hold a long-term record of events. Surveillance cameras are important for accountability with respect to violent crime.

So what would be the effect of this so-called Orwellian Nightmare? I would confidently guess that it would lead to the virtual end of all crime, except for people who are forced into truly desperate conditions, and except for crime which is domestic.

With an accountability foundation like this it will be extremely difficult to commit any real [public] crime and get away with it. This means less police and security guards (I believe the presence of these people create the true 'Big Brother' atmosphere in our society), and more trust within society in general as people feel more safe and secure in all public environments. It also provides a highly efficient and reliable system of law enforcement for when crimes are committed i.e. the surveillance and RF tag records make it much easier to prove both guilt and innocence.

Micro-chipping, with its complimentary systems, can be an extraordinarily powerful tool for the enforcement of the rule of law. And indeed, this can lead to the relaxation of laws on its own as society would not need to be as guarded as it is today. To create a simple example: If you had a networked scanner/s integrated into your personal home, then you would never have to lock it and you could let trusted friends come and go from your home irrespective of whether you are there or not in person. An uninvited intruder could not escape accountability.

Micro-chipping is also extremely convenient. As the system progresses it could eliminate the wallet; and in theory, over time, it could even eliminate the need for paper. The far-reaching room for administrative automation is extreme.

Of course records on people's motions should not be freely accessibly to just anyone. Government officials of any class should need a real reasons to review anyone's records. There should be a legal barrier-to-access to the database. People should not have to fear their private information getting into other people's hands inappropriately.


The practical value of surveillance and micro-chipping is clear. It has vast potential for social protection. The question ultimately is: Would the system be abused by any given government, and to a degree that could not justify its implementation? Again my view comes back to the fact that the government already has the power to ruin your life if they really want to. Most (if not all?) countries have some kind of 'secret service'. Personally, I think we would only be better off in doing the "Big Brother" thing properly with micro-chipping. It could save society huge amounts of money and grief, and create a distinctly better atmosphere (of trust and openness) amongst society in general.


Addition: 10-4-14:

From Rome to today:

Take a look at the Spartacus slave revolt back in ancient Rome. When the Romans got the revolt under control, they ended up nailing all the slaves and thousands of soldiers to crosses, including their genitals. A hideous punishment for slaves and incompetent soldiers.

But why did the Roman elite do this? My best guess is that they were terrified. They knew in their time that all you have to do is put a sword in every slave's hand and you've completely redefined the power structure of your society. Hence the need for such an incredible and grizzly deterrent.

We don't do this today probably because we just don't need to. People are prosperous which in turn weakens the drive for rebellion, and dissent is easily quelled - surgically. My point is that a high-tech big brother "police state", in an affluent society, will only take us further from the threat of those horror shows akin to ancient Rome.

We only end up with goon-squads in our face when governments are scared of losing control. And taking away a governments ability to deal with unlawful behaviour surgically will only amplify its intrusion.

A robotised police force:

Imagine if we could get the entire world on file, so computers can quickly scan and check your identity with visual-recognition programmes. (The technology is here, and some people are already using it, integrating it with Facebook). Then imagine integrating the technology with autonomous and remote-controlled robots, such as the MAARS system pictured above. The government could then have someone killed simply by blacklisting their name. The robot fleet will seek-out blacklisted identities and, once recognised, kill them in less than a second or so. The ultimate in surgical don't-bother-trying-to-fight-it warfare.

If that sounds terrifying then note that the latency in being able to do this will ensure it almost never needs to be done. No doubt this is the way things are going, and we should see highly effective robotised police forces being developed soon. It will also leave us with a successful war against terror and, hopefully, the enforcement of human rights globally.

Smartphone money:

Another interesting technological move will come from smartphones. Download the transaction application with a modern smartphone, that also employs biometric identification access, and you can exchange money with a friend about as easily as you can exchange it with cash (in fact more easily because you don't have to look for change). It will simply be a matter of opening up the app, taking a photo of your friends QR-code (presented on their phone), and typing in the amount of money to be exchanged with a simple calculator.

The point is we have the tools ready to go for a practical cashless society. Every transaction, including location, can be recoded and will be ultimately viewable by the government (using a search warrant). So how on earth do you operate a black market with technology like that? The answer is you can't.


  1. Where would you implant the micro-chip? Many people would want to dig it out with a pocket knife. Perhaps you could inject it just behind the prostate gland, and in a similar place for women. Access can be gained via the rectum with the use of a rectal probe equipped with a deployable needle and local anaesthetic.

  2. Richard,

    I suppose it depends if the individual gets the chip voluntarily or not. If it is not an option, so that it must be employed to detain and monitor a convict or something like that, then you might want to implant the chip in a "difficult" place. And you could always use more than one.