THE RISE OF THE COMPUTER STATE – The Threat to Our Freedom

via Dr.Babu Suseelan published on August 19, 2011

In 1948 George Orwell wrote that turned out to be his final work, the classic 1984. It drew a picture of a chilling future in which the world had fallen under the sway of three great totalitarian governments.

The country that comprised what has  been Western Europe, Britain and the United States and the so called Oceania  was ruled by Big Brother state. Its citizens had been divested of all pretence of privacy, and hence liberty.

Books, movies, play-everything was censored, of course. History was rewritten to suit current propaganda needs. Thought police monitored behavior patterns to detect possibly deviant attitudes. Sophisticated listening devices turned in the most intimate conversations.

And perhaps the most effective means of control was the two-way television set that looked into every room at office, factory or home. The individual never was free from the surveillance of the security forces.

And yet Orwell, with his vivid imagination, was unable to foresee the actual shape of the threat that would exist in 1997. It turns out to be the ubiquitous computer and its ancillary communication networks. Our privacy is being invaded, and more and more of the experiences which should be solely our own are finding their way into electronic files that the curious can scrutinize at the punch button.

The airline companies have a computer record of our travels-where we went and how long we stayed and, possibly, with whom we traveled. The car rental firms have a computer record of the days and we went afield. Hotel computers can fill in myriad of detail about our stays away from home, and the credit card computers know a great deal about the meals we ate, and with how many guests.

The computer files at the Internal Revenue Service (Income Tax Department) the census Bureau, the Social Security Administration, the various security agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and our own insurance companies know everything there is to know about our economic, social and marital status, even down to our past illnesses and the sate of our health.

Now computers around the world can talk one another, when they are interlinked, they can spew out a roomful of data on each o us that will leave us naked before whoever gains access to the information.

In the rushed clutter of our daily lives, it is easy to lose sight of the combined power that the computers and the electronic communication links have come to exert over almost every aspect o our lives.

The enormous benefits provided by computer technology offer another kind of camouflage. The comforts and conveniences of the computer make thinking about its potentially negative effects something an exercise in self-denial.

The ability to rack large numbers of individuals and the concentration of power are not the only contribution of the computer. It also increases the influence of the major bureaucracies by giving these organizations a method by which they can anticipate the future thoughts and activities of groups of people. Automatic reporting system called behavior scan can keep track of every single item family’s purchase at their local supermarket.

Today fewer than 2 percent of the American people work for themselves. And of the remaining 98 percent, almost half are employed by large corporations that collect detailed information about the education, health, family and work habits of their employees.

The vast scale of information collected by government agencies, private corporations and institutions, such as schools, colleges, universities, hospitals etc are called Transactional Information. This Transactional Information automatically documents the daily lives of almost every person in the U.S. Transactional Information is collected and stored about the telephone use, banking habits, health history of everyone who lives in America, rich and poor, white and black, Republican and Democrat.

The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and NSA (National Security Agency) can collect, channel and sort out information on every resident in any part of the world. They have unlimited funds and super computers. Their extraordinary power-enhanced by the lack of precise legal mandate, the absence of effective oversight and a world of mass communications has been further enlarged by its incredible super computers. The capacity, built on billions of dollars of secret appropriations, includes a formidable electronic eavesdropping network of satellites, thousands of earthbound listening posts and what, almost certainly is the world’s largest single computer complex in Washington, D.C.

The increase in the computerization of society has led to the construction of a large number of data bases that are electronic windows into the most intimate details of people’s lives.

Now computers can record and identify finger prints, voice and eye color of all American residents. Still, hunger or personal information is now growing explosively in almost every sector of economy and everyday life, from health care to entertainment, from banking to supermarket sale. It is being spurred and sharpened by powerful market forces and ever more pervasive computer technology, including digital mapping tools and so-called “data-mapping” software that blast commercial value from newly linked data bases of unprecedented size.

New records of private lives and public records pass through many eyes. Yet Americans have no idea what is happening to the stream of personal data that they shed just by living in the modern world.

The electronic deposits keep growing with the pulse of daily life: telephone calls, check out computers, automatic transaction machines (ATM), and electronic bridge tolls, the street gaze security cameras, plastic insurance cards imprinted with all personal information that have become identity’s common currency—and its easy counterfeit.

 The internet, where every keystroke can be achieved, is now the most dramatic embodiment of what technology and commerce afford in the real world: the pooling of ever more vast stores of date, and the easy retrieval of individual specks with no one’s say- so.

This networked world of information is an economic powerhouse that creates new jobs, new services and astonishing efficiencies. It also turns commonplace transactions into little revelations. When a clerk puts a supermarket discount card through the scanner, for example, a data base links the shopper’s identity with the bar code on every item bought. A love of rich chocolate cookies not only can be tracked over time, matched with an individual’s address, age, weight and ethnicity, with marital status and credit standing and even with religious ties, to name just a few of the personal facts being bought and sold wholesale in today’s booming information market.

Personal privacy is impossible. People helplessly stand naked in this electronic information age. Battle for privacy is an uphill fight. There is no reliable expectation of privacy in America. Through the use of data banks the state and private organizations can transform themselves into omnipotent parents and the rest of society stand as helpless children. Modern computer replace wisdom and knowledge into information and data. These data is used to manipulate people.

And people are thus alienated from the society it has created. As result drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide, sexual abuse, murder, divorce and mental illness are on the increase one thing is clear.

In twenty first century, many functions of society will be taken over by the computers. They just don’t seem to be any way the computerization of the society will be stopped. But there are choices in how we respond to this apparently inevitable tied. We can build a society like that of classical Greece, where slaves-in our case computers-allow us to focus our thinking on philosophy, art and literature. Or we can build an Orwellian state, where we become dependent upon technology and the people who run it. A great deal is at stake in this choice, and we have to be very careful.                                                                     

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