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[T]he serpent said to the woman, "You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

What does it mean to say that the OT God is omniscient and omnipresent?

What are the real world implications of such a belief?

The panopticon is coming and we are about to find out. What follows is excepted from the very long linked article by Jamais Cascio [emphasis and links added]:

Soon -- probably within the next decade, certainly within the next two -- we'll be living in a world where what we see, what we hear, what we experience will be recorded wherever we go. There will be few statements or scenes that will go unnoticed, or unremembered. Our day to day lives will be archived and saved. What's more, these archives will be available over the net for recollection, analysis, even sharing.

And we will be doing it to ourselves.

This won't simply be a world of a single, governmental Big Brother watching over your shoulder, nor will it be a world of a handful of corporate siblings training their ever-vigilant security cameras and tags on you. Such monitoring may well exist, probably will, in fact, but it will be overwhelmed by the millions of cameras and recorders in the hands of millions of Little Brothers and Little Sisters. We will carry with us the tools of our own transparency, and many, perhaps most, will do so willingly, even happily. [...]

This day is coming not because of some distant breakthrough or revolution. The breakthroughs are already happening. The revolution has already taken place. [...]

You may not be aware of it, but the cameraphone in your pocket is the harbinger of a massive social transformation, one already underway.

This transformation could be at least as big as the ones triggered by television and by computers... [...]

[T]he panopticon aspect is really most visible in the world of politics and activism. In the US, in last November's national election, a group calling itself "video vote vigil" asked citizens to keep a watch for polling place abuses and problems, recording them if possible with digital cameras or camera phones. In the UK, the delightfully-named "Blair Watch Project" was an effort, coordinated by the newspaper The Guardian, to keep tabs on Prime Minister Tony Blair as he campaigns around the country. The project was prompted by the Labour party's decision to limit Blair's media exposure on the trail; instead he was covered by more cameras than ever.

Efforts such as these make it clear that every citizen with a cameraphone can be a reporter. Citizens can capture a politician's inadvertent gesture, quick glance or private frown, and make sure those images are seen around the world. The lack of traditional cameras snapping away can no longer be an opportunity for public figures to relax. All those running for office have to assume that their actions and words are being recorded, even if no cameras are evident, as long as citizens are present.

This notion of individual citizens keeping a technological eye on the people in charge is referred to as "sousveillance", a recent neologism meaning "watching from below" -- in comparison to "surveillance," meaning "watching from above." Proponents of the notion see it as an equalizer, making it possible for individual citizens to keep tabs on those in charge. For the sousveillance movement, if the question is "who watches the watchmen?" the answer is "all of us." [...]

Now it's all well and good to think about the value of always-networked personal cameras as a tool for sousveillance, for "watching the watchmen," but really: how often do we attend political rallies or visit military prisons? [The infamous Abu Ghraib photos were a case of sousveillance - WARNING! Disturbing images!] Cameraphones as tools of political action, while certainly important, will not in and of themselves lead to the participatory panopticon.

Your spouse will.

It's inevitable. You'll want to recall a casual mention of his favorite movie, or the name and year of the wine she loved so much, or what he *really* said in that argument. You'll want to be able to share the amazing flock of birds you saw on the way home from work, or the enthralling street musician you passed while shopping. In the past, all you could rely upon was imperfect memory and whatever descriptive skills you possess. Now, and increasingly as the technology progresses, these tools will make it possible to retain and share those moments with perfect clarity. [...]

As we become more accustomed to using cameraphones to capture the fleeing and unexpected, the more they will become integrated into our social discourse and personal relationships.

But the problem with the fleeting and unexpected is that, well, it's fleeting and it's unexpected. If you don't have your cameraphone out and at the ready, it's hard to capture those moments in full. [...]

What' the answer?

Get rid of the mobile phone. [...]

It's likely that rather than carrying around your networked camera as a hand-held phone, you'll wear it, probably built into glasses. The phone would be built in, as well, perhaps evolved into a networked computer. Everything you say, whether to someone in front of you or over the phone, and everything you see, can be captured. The display can be shown on the inside of the glasses' lenses. [...]

There are some deeply difficult user interface issues involved here. Recording everything is not the same as recalling something specific. It's a big question how you'll be able to find the interesting stuff in your terabytes or petabytes of life archives. [...]

We're constantly checking with each other for useful insights. You stumble across a new restaurant, and want to know if any of your friends or any of their friends have been there before. You learn about a new politician, and want to know if anyone you know has heard her speak. You meet a new guy, and want to know if someone in your circle has dated him before...[W]as it *that* restaurant that had the bug in the soup? Was it *that* politician saying something about prayer in schools? Was it *that* guy my sister dated and dumped for cheating?

In a world of personal memory assistants and a participatory panopticon, those questions are answered.

Tools for social networks will be the killer app of the participatory panopticon. Imagine layering a friendster or epinions on top of this, where comments can be given instantly, observations compared automatically. Or imagine layering a "collaborative filtering" setup, like the comment filters on Slashdot, or the product suggestions on Amazon.

These tools will form the basis of a reputation network, a social networking system backed up by unimaginable amounts of recorded evidence and opinion. You look at the person across the subway car and the system recognizes her face, revealing to you that she just completed a business deal with a friend of yours. Or that she just met your cousin. Or that she's known to be a good kisser or a brilliant writer. Clearly, the world of the participatory panopticon is not one of strong privacy and personal secrecy. Paris Hilton is not going to be happy here. It's going to be hard to escape past mistakes. It's going to be easy to find unflattering pictures or insulting observations. [...]

But the world of the participatory panopticon is not as interested in privacy, or even secrecy, as it is in lies. A police officer lying about hitting a protestor, a politician lying about human rights abuses, a potential new partner lying about past indiscretions -- all of these are harder in a world where everything might be on the record. The participatory panopticon is a world where accusations can easily be documented, where corporations will become more transparent to stakeholders as a matter of course, where officials may even be required to wear a recorder while on duty, simply to avoid situations where they are discovered to have been lying. It's a world where we can all be witnesses with perfect recall. Ironically, it's a world where trust is easy, because lying is hard.

If everybody's watching, and recording, and sharing what they've recorded, we all may have no choice but to finally learn that honesty truly is the best policy. Lying will become increasingly impossible to sustain. And we'll have to learn humility as well. Nobody's perfect -- and now everybody's going to have proof. No point pretending.

In twelve-step recovery programs they talk about taking a fearless personal inventory, a clear-eyed look at the ways one has deceived others and oneself. [O]ur personal inventory will all be out there on the network. Denial's going to be tough.

What will be the impact on our collective psyche as truthfulness becomes a necessary virtue? The typical politician's tactic of making nothing but plain vanilla utterances may well come to be rejected as a form of disguised lying, as an all-to-obvious attempt to escape the pervasive scrutiny that the rest of us are all having to live with. People may just have to start coming clean.

Cross-posted at the gay christian network.

Originally posted to douginnz on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 04:31 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hmmm. Seems like the serpent (none)
    got a few things right.

    Perhaps it's just as well that Foucault didn't live to see this.

    Almost makes me glad I'm already north of 50!

  •  Good luck (none)
    bugging the White House, and your subsequent career making license plates!  

    Seriously, I hope your optimistic prognosis holds true.  But the 1984 scenario seems more strongly based in present-day practice.

    Personally, I don't expect to see democracy in the US again in my lifetime.

    Next: horses appointed to the senate!

    by Bob Love on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 04:44:13 PM PST

  •  An Interesting Theory (none)
    It's dimmed a bit by the fact that 90% of the lives of 90% of all people are astoundingly ...


    There was an NPR bit many years ago where a guy was obsessively diarizing his life at fifteen minute intervals.  Most of the entries were along the lines of:

    "9:15 am.:  Went to the bathroom.  Passed a small, firm stool and a pint of urine."

    I think that the big revelation of the "panopticon," if it comes to pass will be:

    People are, for the most part, rarely doing anything worth watching.

    "We need a war to show 'em that we can do it whenever we say we need a war." -- Fischerspooner

    by bink on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 04:45:50 PM PST

  •  The problem (none)
    in such an environment is that truly useful things will get drowned out in a sea of uselessness.  to borrow a term from electronics - having a ton of garbage signal totally covers the short bandwidth of good signal.  Finding that good signal becomes exponentially more difficult as the total garbage signal grows linearly.

    It's like typing in "breast" in a search engine and trying to find a medical site rather than a porn site.


  •  Your panopticon is an updated take on (none)
    the saying "Live like everything you do will be published in the paper".

    Personally, I'd rather have a root canal than watch hours of somebody doing nothing. I'd work
    night-watch in a museum if I found that an valuable use of my time.  

    Nothing short of an aroused public can change things, nothing less than democracy is at stake- Bill Moyers

    by maggiemae on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 07:33:13 PM PST

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