By Alek Matthiessen
Great ideas lead to great power shifts. The different levels of that power shift define the rift between ideas that are great and ideas that are, simply, good.
Empirically, what follows a great power shift is fear. Fear of the future, fear of tyranny and fear of change.
Innovations like Google Glass, surveillance drones and enhanced satellites have all stirred panic in many Americans. They worry that these advances will come at the cost of personal privacy and personal freedom. I share the hesitance with concerned Americans about the preservation of personal privacy, a liberty fundamental to the construction and maintenance of the United States.
Today, we have those great ideas, and we also have those fears. Deciding which is more powerful will determine the direction of mankind’s destiny.
Great ideas have taken the form of technological change, such as the internet, social media and smart phones. Technological innovation is an exponential curve. The more we have, the more we create. As a result, it is difficult to know exactly what will be discovered and utilized in 10, 20 or 30 years. This unknown frightens many people; a fear familiar with mankind. We have seen this fear countless times throughout history, and more often than not, it leads to the destruction of nation.
These citizens argue the costs of certain technological improvements will outweigh their benefits. For example, people fear the loss of human contact and the value of nature, among others. In reality, this fear is ungrounded. When the record player was invented, people thought people would no longer read. When the phone was invented, people predicted an alienated society.
Today, we have even more ground-breaking technologies challenging our faith in change, challenging our faith in progress. We have walked this path before—it is but a different landscape. The winds of change, however, remain steadfast.
Past evidence shows that the way to handle fear of the unknown is to remain adaptive. Charles Darwin believed similarly. It is not the strongest species that survives, but the one most adaptable to change. Change is inevitable, but our ability to adapt is not. Countries become obsolete when they refuse to modernize. For example, Russia was one of the last countries to leave the monarchical system. This decision cost them a bloody civil war and millions of lives. Russia’s mistake is not one which will soon be repeated by the United States.
We need to be intentional, clear and effective to preserve individual privacy when these great ideas solidify. Privacy laws should and will be present in our unimaginable future. We should not discourage change because so often it leads to progress.
Rather, we should foster creativity, technological advancement and innovation. This does not mean we have to move forward blindly; the ability to adapt will be ancillary to our preservation of liberty and simultaneously, preservation of progress.
By Henry Ashworth
Watching the sinking sun with a lover, a crying friend on your shoulder and a loving moment with a sibling could no longer be a secretive sweet savored memory, but a pixilated public image forever bound in the cloud.
With the rise of smaller, higher definition, cheaper cameras and release of technology such as Google Glass, a pair of “smart-glasses” that perform the same tasks as smart phone, we are ever so slowly losing our privacy to technology. Technological advances have been moving us closer and closer to an Orwellian based society that is no longer a far cry from the grotesque totalitarian image painted in George Orwell’s “1984,” in the name of progress and efficiency.
In the Nov. 16 issue of The Economist, the positives and negatives of having cameras documenting our every move, including paparazzi’s using drones to capture photos of celebrities, and use of a helmet camera to convict a British soldier of murder.
The proposed solution to have governments regulate this new technology, though logical in theory, could be disastrous. Title II of the Patriot Act allows the government to surveill an individual by any means necessary no matter where they are, and allows the government to order files from communication services, like Google or Facebook, on the individual’s use of their services. The power already held by the government to monitor an individual is frightening, and advances in technology will only make this ability easier.
Ironically however, these technological advances have been making our lives even more stressed and less efficient. How long can you go without your cell phone? With it constantly at your side people are expected to continually stay in touch with their work, family and friends.
Even years ago people were already beginning to see the signs that increase technology had on stress levels. In December of 2005, “Journal of Marriage and Family” released study showing how mobile communication devices are “linked to heightened psychological distress and reduced family satisfaction.” Now almost nine years later we have seen the monster of mobile technology grow and reach even more into our personal lives. NBC recently covered a story about privacy and technology and sited how psychologists tell us that social boundaries and privacy are important for mental health.
The loss of our privacy to technology could lead to more of our social and mental issues instead of curing them.
Technology seeks to streamline and make our lives more efficient, but at what cost? Even if we can get more work done in a shorter amount of time, the technology we use to become more efficient will leak into our lives further stressing us, and stripping us of our privacy.
Because we also do not fully understand the repercussions that technological advances will have on our lives, we could be trapped behind a camera lenses, and in a blink of an eye, or the click of a shutter, our privacy, happiness and freedom could be gone.