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110
550
9
40

All Seeing Eye

16
Aug
2013
 

By Miranda

OK, 18th century prison design and Big Brother. The two are obviously not incompatible but they've come together in a slightly strange way for me this week.

 

I was researching some obscure clue suggestion when I came across the 'panopticon', a word I had not previously known. That's always fun, but looking it up and learning more about it proved even more so.

It lead to Russia in the Industrial Revolution and, by way of English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, to the building he designed (on paper, anyway) to allow a small number of people to observe, or supervise, a much larger number of workers, inmates or prisoners. This was achieved by having a small central hub for the warders in the centre of a circular structure.

 

The interesting bit is that those occupying the outer areas, whether in cells, workshops or in hospital beds, would not be able to tell whether they were being watched at any given moment and thus their behaviour or productivity would be under the pressure of possible constant oversight. In other words, you would never quite know when Big Brother was watching you, or not. And you need to employ far fewer Big Brothers.

 

Frighteningly, there was a recent report of Dalek-like objects in the streets of London. These things picked up the signals of mobile phones in the pockets or bags of people passing by and, apparently, could then track them,  record their movements and pass the data back for storage.

 

There were hints that the information stored could be used to customise advertisements to be sent to the users' phones. Creepy.

It would appear that between the security cameras and the advertising industry, none of us will ever know when we're being observed.

But I'm not convinced this panoptic way of life is consistent with philosopher Bentham's reformist thought.

 

And what do you think?

11 Responses to

All Seeing Eye

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said:
August 16, 2013 at 9:18 PM

Even the GPS freaks me out. But there's no escaping so I guess we just have to deal with it. 'Life is a stage...'

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fionafmb said:
August 16, 2013 at 10:32 PM

One could always opt out of the technology altogether and refuse to own a mobile phone!

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said:
August 17, 2013 at 8:22 AM

Whoops! 'All the worls's a stage...'.

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said:
August 17, 2013 at 8:25 AM

Whoops, again! From Shakespeare's As You Like It, 1600: JAQUES: All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players:

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mommyscat said:
August 17, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Yes you could opt out of technology altogether. There are people who do that. They are called survivalists. The govt officials don't like them and therefore watch them even more closely to make sure they don't go postal. Ha ha ha.

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said:
August 18, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Fundamentally, Bentham says, "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong". Can these actions you've referred to be perceived in this way? Well, I think they can. Security cameras certainly provide an essential service for the general publics safety. If this makes some people feel uneasy, well perhaps they may have something to hide. Also, collecting data for advertising purposes seems pretty harmless as well. Many people apparently enjoy 'junk' mail. When these activities impinge on our freedom, as in George Orwell's futuristic novel, 1984, then it has gone too far. Wouldn't it be nice to think that our elected governments would be too wise to ever let that happen.

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said:
August 19, 2013 at 7:21 AM

Like you Jafa, I believe on balance CCTV is a very useful tool in a modern democracy. Recent examples, like the Meagher case, or the thuggish behaviour of police and security guards, and the revelations of the horrific cruelty in abattoirs hear and OS, all show that CCTV has, on balance, a beneficial effect on society. However, as your last sentence implies, I might be a bit uneasy about it were I living under a repressive regime, in China or some Middle Eastern theocracy, where peaceful political protest could monitored and recorded "for future reference". Have a good day, devotchka.

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said:
August 19, 2013 at 7:22 AM

here and OS...oops...

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August 19, 2013 at 9:59 AM

I agree with Jaffa. Great when used for 'good' but open to misuse by marketing companies, extremist groups, corrupt governments or nutty individuals. Personally I value my privacy highly and do not like the glut of advertising that is creeping into every aspect of our lives.

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said:
August 19, 2013 at 6:53 PM

agree with all comments big brother is good in some cases is when its used by idiots that annoys me

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pdiaco said:
August 23, 2013 at 9:43 AM

There is an Australian State that on 2nd Sep 2013 will launch a website that activates controversial legislation, that took 6 years to develop, that will make it the Mother of all Big Brothers.