“Yes, That Doorbell Is Spying on You and It’s Time to Panic” is the title of The New York Times column by Farhad Manjoo. Thus begins the process by which we create our own reality. Fear is uncomfortable so we repress what seems to be happening “out there,” in short, we panic. The result is that we enter a delusional story, a dark fantasy of our own imagining. The truth is that no one is spying on us and it is definitely not time to panic.
Yes, it seems to be getting scary “out there” but “seems” is the operative word and we are going to distinguish between reality and illusion in this essay. Here’s what seems to be happening. “The next decade will be marked by the rise of technologies that are deeply dependent on the most intimate information about our lives: artificial intelligence, wearable sensors, genetic engineering, drones, and tiny cameras. Soon, a handful of corporations will enjoy almost total information awareness over just about everything that every one of us is doing at all times.” (1)
Big Brother in the 21st century has evolved in ways unimaginable in George Orwell’s 1984. “A drastic decrease in the cost of mass surveillance (thanks to the internet) has increased the value of two types of assets: our data and our attention.” (2) This has resulted in what sociologist Shoshana Zuboff has called “surveillance capitalism.”
For our species, our context or the story we tell ourselves determines who we think we are, our identity. “Mass privacy is the freedom to act without being watched and thus, in a sense, to be who we really are—not who we want others to think we are. At stake, then, is something akin to the soul.” (2)
How have our choices endangered our soul, our True-self identity? “We’ve all been making some big choices, consciously or not, as advancing technology has transformed the real and virtual worlds. That phone in your pocket, the surveillance camera on the corner: You’ve traded away a bit of anonymity, of autonomy, for the usefulness of one, the protection of the other.” (3)
In truth, many of us have simply been seduced as we look for the easiest path in our search for material goods, pleasurable sensations and a sense of power that increases our need to feel safe. “I don’t know how thrilled I am to be giving up my secrets, but it’s foolish to think I have any control over them, and ultimately I don’t care. I love convenience and entertainment too much to worry about how much information I cannot control is being leaked to marketers, retailers, the government, and whatever Chinese intelligence agency controls the barrage of ads for $13 dresses that saturate my feed.” (4)
What is an example of the “dark fantasy” mentioned above? When mass surveillance and the illusion of the other are melded it gets ugly. “More recently, the ongoing government tracking of the foreign-born Hispanic population—which is also among the poorest and least-educated group of adults in the country—has resulted in raids and deportations that have separated family members and created a climate of widespread fear. This mass surveillance is causing families not to apply for life-sustaining supports like food stamps, to go without health care and to pull their children out of school.” (5)
Clearly, each of us in the Global Village is facing a challenge of mammoth proportions. Solutions abound from our scientists and politicians but to many of us they can feel to be “too little, too late.” And yet, as always, the most perceptive and insightful among us have anticipated our dilemma and have offered unconventional solutions. Click on the link below to read about these divergent thinkers.
Insight # 98: If a person has not succeeded in integrating his energies in the direction of his higher self, he canalizes [channels] them in the direction of lower goals; if he has no picture of the world and his position in it which approximates the truth he will create a picture which is illusory and cling to it. –Roland Peterson
- Self-Reliance in this blog and in print in The ABC’s of Simple Reality: The Encyclopedia of Self-Transformation, Vol II (2018), pages 205-212, by Roy Charles Henry.
- Manjoo, Farhad. “Yes, That Doorbell Is Spying on You and It’s Time to Panic.” The New York Times Sunday. April 14, 2019, page 6.
- Wu, Tim. “The Way Capitalism Betrayed the Right to Be Left Alone.” The New York Times Sunday. April 14, 2019, page 3.
- Bennet, James. “Why Privacy and Why Now.” The New York Times Sunday. April 14, 2019, page 2.
- Irby, Samantha. “I Don’t Care. I Love My Phone.” The New York Times Sunday. April 14, 2019, page 3.
- Madden, Mary. “Poverty in the Digital Age.” The New York Times Sunday. April 28, 2019, page 2.