Big brother and transparent society

August 7, 2007 at 4:53 pm Leave a comment

I have been thinking through “Semi autonomous” systems for a while now.

Two trends coming together:

Metro wide wireless networks: with affordable IP connectivity. We know this one is coming. Wimax, WiFi, 7000Mhz and even 3G might be properly priced and open at some point.

The second is more tricky. Webcams are evolving. Not only a one way device that send video automatically but slowly adding a speaker – so you can watch what is happening and at the same time talk to the webcam surrounding. And soon they might have a screen – so you can display information. And you get some processing power in the unit – and move beyond just compressing video into motion detection, face recognition and more. Power / Solar technology is improving too, so soon we will be able to have stand along units that we can leave in our front yard or the city can easily install in any city corner. And the devices can monitor and interact with the surrounding. And if needed connect to a human “call” center and have a live person connected.

Whats the implications? Zero crime society ? Never being alone again ? Big brother always watching ? All of the above ?

David Brin has written on this about a decade ago.

The solution he outlines to the big brother is an “open” big brother where everybody can watch everybody and all the webcams are always open to all. Not a central closed monitoring system which only the city police have access to the videos, but an open one where there are no secrets. Opening up and allowing everybody to watch any webcam in real time is the best guarantee that the system will not be abused – because the information is alway shared. If a policeman arrests somebody, he knows very well that the whole event is being monitored, recorded and media and individuals can access the information.

The technology is moving ahead. And we will soon either find ourselves in a closed monitored world (which is the trend today) or in an open one. The cardinal question is what can be done to bring to life Brin’s vision of a transparent society ? Is the solution regulatory ? Or is there a business that can be built around providing the transparent society ?



Entry filed under: Cellular, crime, David Brin, Devices, Google, Random Thoughts, Technology, transparent society, webcam.

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