The Dystopian Future is Now
January 2, 2015 2:55 PM   Subscribe

Living under permanent surveillance and what that means for our freedom This article is about Ai Weiwei, his house arrest and constant surveillance. The article describes his guards as "...actually being used as a small piece of human cognitive processing inside a giant automated surveillance system. They have to do the pattern recognition that computers aren’t capable of yet." posted by Michele in California (19 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Who needs cameras when you can have a smartpipe?
posted by clarknova at 3:56 PM on January 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

You don't hear too much from the "If you aren't doing anything wrong..." crowd anymore, do you?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:46 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I hear stuff from them all the time.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:50 PM on January 2, 2015

i'm wondering what sort of impressive power sources their cognitive dissonance systems run on, because i've heard a lot from those people and then seen the SAME people complain about facebook intruding on them or whatever.

i mean it might seem internally consistent to some people to say "i'm fine with the government watching everything i do but not a private company using it for advertising" and it's like lol you think those data silos are SO separate dont you.
posted by emptythought at 5:05 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

One of the installations in his exhibit last year showed video footage of his actual life. Something like three or four soldiers watching him--not just cameras, actually there-in-the-room-watching.

Creepy as hell, and it's a testament to his strength that he hasn't just checked out.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:08 PM on January 2, 2015

You don't hear too much from the "If you aren't doing anything wrong..." crowd anymore, do you?
I still hear from them, but they aren't so noisy any more. Perhaps because they are starting to realise that only watching the people with 'something to hide' was never going to happen. That and the realisation that everyone has something to hide if you watch them all the time.
posted by dg at 5:20 PM on January 2, 2015

We're fucked. Can someone find me a time portal so I can hop back a few decades?
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:46 PM on January 2, 2015

Excellent article, but damn, how bleak.
posted by homunculus at 6:57 PM on January 2, 2015

#Ai Can’t Be Here: Can Social Media Set Ai Weiwei Free?

(I'm going to go out on a limb and say no.)
posted by homunculus at 7:02 PM on January 2, 2015


(Long; worth reading.)
posted by Lexica at 7:39 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Excellent and frightening article, thanks for posting.
posted by ropeladder at 8:30 PM on January 2, 2015

Nice article. Your pull quote sounds creepily like what I work around.
posted by anthill at 8:38 PM on January 2, 2015

We're fucked. Can someone find me a time portal so I can hop back a few decades?

You're white, aren't you?
posted by el io at 8:52 PM on January 2, 2015 [10 favorites]

Read every word, and shared it. But it could have used better proof-reading.
posted by BentFranklin at 9:42 PM on January 2, 2015

BentFranklin: Two things about it; one it was originally a speech (flow works differently with the spoken word), two it was originally in dutch.

I thought it was quite brilliant; I hope he writes the book he wants to.
posted by el io at 2:26 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

These issues are even more, exponentially more, contorted than can be brought to awarenwess in one speech. This is a great speech, in my view. The only reason this artist has survived is by virtue of his visibility. He never looks well, they can gradually sicken him until he is no more.

For reasons I can not understand, other than cowardice and garden variety greed the powers that be, are building a hologram of each of us. The only ways to escape it are silence and poverty, or agreeableness and a frantc willngness to participate in the global soul evisceration. It has to be more than sophisticated pickpocketing, and hedging of bets, but maybe not. It is a far cry from finding your joy, or a tribal fire.

Stephen Hawking recently said that AI might destroy us. So if this is AI run amok, the first thing it will do is go after competing intelligence, (encouraging us to kill each other,) and then the ants.

But really the idea no one entity is running this is terrible, as it puts us all on the auction block. Or, if it is one entity, what does it want?
posted by Oyéah at 1:21 PM on January 3, 2015

I worked for more than five years for a large insurance company where you had to swipe an ID badge to get in the building and your boss could pull a report on you to check if you had been tardy in the last month based on those ID badge swipes. There were cameras everywhere. Information security and physical security were a big deal and we all got annual training on such things.

Then one day I had an ugly run-in with someone in the parking lot that worked in the same building as me but I did not know her. I went to security and we could not determine who this woman was. My visions of some Star Trek style record where they had our unpleasant conversation on video tape with clear audio was vastly different from the reality I encountered. You had to swipe to get in, but not to leave the building. Cameras recorded video but not audio. There really was a lot less to go on than I expected there to be.

So I actually am not as concerned as the framing of this post might suggest. Yes, I think this is a real concern. But there have always been despotic governments. There have always been oppressive people with power. That piece is nothing new.

I take this more as a warning that agitators for change need to be mindful that they don't push too hard, too fast in a way that is too confrontational, too threatening to those currently in power. But this has always been true. Long before Ai Weiwei became a prisoner of constant surveillance, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated by a lone gunman. Long before that,Joan of Arc was burned at the stake after basically being railroaded on trumped up charges, later overturned by the church.

I am glad that issues of privacy in such a plugged in world are being discussed and the ramifications considered. I hope we can find compassionate, humane policies that help make these technologies more a force for good than evil. But some factions trying to control others is hardly some new wrinkle in the world. I was more fascinated at the fact that piece also looked with some compassion upon how awful this is for the young men whose jobs made them cogs in this machine. The article framed individuals on both sides as victims of this scheme.
posted by Michele in California at 2:20 PM on January 3, 2015

Corporate security is not about the security of employees, it is about security for corporate assets.
posted by Oyéah at 5:11 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I get that. Except, you know, I was one of their assets. So the two things aren't entirely at odds with each other. They spent big bucks on my training. I spent 3 months in training at the start of the position and earned a technical certificate at a local college as part of that. They had a vested interest in me being safe and not having some crazy running loose on the corporate grounds and all that.

My main point was that, in a fairly high security environment, I was surprised to find cracks in the system. My impression, based on the high level of security, was different from what reality turned out to be behind the scenes. Whether they cared about my welfare or not, security was not as futuristic and air tight as I had thought it would be, based on having to wear a badge at all times, swipe it to get in the building, cameras everywhere etc etc.
posted by Michele in California at 11:00 AM on January 5, 2015

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