Fears and concerns about an individual’s right to privacy have often been felt or vocalized in some respect, ever since surveillance technologies became widespread. While measures like the Patriot Act and NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) continue to raise flags and cause unrest in many, perhaps none of the above has garnered as much attention in the way of privacy, nor caused as much distress and alarm, as in the case of Edward Snowden and the NSA leaks. People are feeling vulnerable, worried that their secrets are no longer safe, and that their privacy is being further infringed upon. Nonetheless, beyond the dystopic ranting’s of mainstream media, lies an alternative perspective; one where perhaps there are no secrets at all.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B00A2UQUXY” locale=”us” height=”158″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/21ZblPtAhxL._SL160_.jpg” width=”160″]Technology is bridging the gap between our foremost amygdalic fears, and the reality of a brighter future. As it stands, current EEG technology already has the capability to monitor user’s emotional states, providing immediate biofeedback, and can even interpret conscious thought and intent. Furthermore, Google Glass presently allows you to search the web hands free and will soon have the ability to upload apps straight to your “glass”. Now picture an application that utilizes both Google Glass and an EEG; one can only imagine the possibilities. Presently, a Google Glass compatible brainwave sensor is already in the process of being developed by an unknown group known only as the Walnut Wearables. If the team succeeds, Google Glass will soon be able to determine your current mental state; and perhaps someday soon, the state of those around you as well.
Imagine if the average American had at their disposal the same technological capabilities as our current government… conceivably then, you might be the one who is doing the spying. You might walk into a coffee shop and be able to examine the emotional and maybe even biological states of those around you. The potential for social networking is unbounded as your feelings and/or biological states could be updated automatically to your Facebook or Twitter feed. For example, say that you are beginning to have a headache. Your Facebook would then update automatically: “Shelia has a migraine; please do not try to contact.” In another instance you may be meeting someone new, and have the ability to immediately download their digital profile right to your Google Glass, allowing you to better format your first impression. You may even be able to detect if they are in fact “pleased to meet you”. Safety could be another aspect: say your girlfriend decides to go jogging. All of a sudden you get an alert to your Google Glass/EEG application informing you that she is feeling tremendous amounts of fear and pain. You call her straightaway to discover she has twisted her ankle and needs you to help her home.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B0080UVHJU” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31zTuokzAlL._SL160_.jpg” width=”160″]On a grander scale, we might be able to better scrutinize our politicians and congressional representatives before ever considering them for office. Instead of simply accepting a “sworn statement” to uphold the law or tell the truth, perhaps officials might be required to sit before an EEG panel of judges. The judges may then proceed to evaluate a person’s EEG content and digital profiles to better determine if they are in fact worthy of a particular position. What’s more, what if every congressman/woman was required to be assessed for a particular mental or emotional state before voting for or against a ballot measure? Would the outcome be significantly different if we could detect the signs of coercion or deceit? For instance, would the recent amendment to defund the NSA’s Domestic Phone Meta Data Program have had the same outcome if such technology was in place?
Agencies like the NSA continue attempts to uphold an illusion of privacy, and yet slowly the curtain is being pulled back. As Peter Diamandis (2012) so eloquently stated in his book “Abundance”, people have more “access to information now than the CIA had 50 years ago”… Now picture the kind of technological capabilities that will be available in the next 50 years? Or even 20 years? True many of us are immediately fearful at the prospect of entering an age of transparency, and perhaps rightly so with our current government showing so little tact or common courtesy. However, I foresee a great transformation ahead, a revolution of lucidity. As a new era of accountability dawns, there may be the capacity for the government and public alike to be held responsible for their actions. Moore’s law calls for exponential growth; hence the future of technology and its social ramifications are truly infinite.
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