Of implants and freedom I�ve

by francine Hardaway on November 6, 2003

Of implants and freedom

I�ve just read that the next generation of implantable heart devices (pacemakers, defibrillators) will have wireless transmission capabilities; any untoward change in the heartbeat will send an immediate alert to a physician or an emergency service. We have certainly come a long way from the days when no one knew what was in anyone else�s heart.
We have also taught monkeys to control computers with their brain waves using neural implants (yes, I know I wrote about this before). But now I�m using it as an example of how far we have come from the days when no one could read anyone else�s mind.
These medical developments are the technological leading edge for questions of privacy now facing our nation � and to some extent the world. In �1984� George Orwell envisioned a world in which Big Brother put a TV and a listening device in your house, not an implant in your brain. That was bad enough. In many ways, our world is a lot worse than Oceania.
Technology empowers us, but it also should frighten us. In 1984, people are tracked by line of sight devices, but we can be watched by implanted devices (the same technology that can be used for good, e.g. GPS tracking of auto accidents, can also be used for ill). I have often mused about how the private investigator who tracked adulterous husbands has been replaced by OnStar. The characters in �1984� are subjected to blatant indoctrination, but we are subject to a more subtle form of indoctrination.
We are not told today where we are watched, yet we still can be watched in 3D with cameras smaller than the head of a pin. Many public spaces routinely record the movements of pedestrians as a crime-prevention technique. And we can be heard by invisible lasers pointed at a solid from a mile or more away. We can be tracked from space with satellites with a reported resolution of less than one foot (we can see tire tracks in the mud with hi-res black and white sat photos). Under the affects of local anesthesia, a GPS transponder with biometric and biological recording capabilities can be implanted without our knowledge in the base of the skull, where it would not be noticed, in under a minute. This isn�t just the stuff of B movies.
Everyone who knows me knows what a fan I am of technology, and how open I am to change and possibility. However, the ethics of some of the new information-gathering devices should still be evaluated. As we advance, we need to read and educate ourselves with the broadest range of literary works, such as �1984,� which encourage exploration of the current reality and the future possibilities in which we likely will live. Big Brother doesn’t have to make himself so obvious to our society. Big Brother is smarter, sneakier, and more invasive than that.
Take CBS, for example. It cancelled the Reagan mini-series because of the threats of advertisers and the ire of conservative talk show hosts. That�s the first time I ever remember a mass medium responding to such political pressure. Now, it�s probably not the first time it has happened, but this event still marks a change in the American environment. The arts have finally been politicized.
This week, too, George Bush signed a bill banning partial birth abortion: the first ban ever to lack an exception for the health of the mother.
And then there�s the 20th hi-jacker phenomenon: Zacarias Moussaoui has been held for more than a year, even though he refused to enter a plea and has said he�s not the man. Now, suddenly, the FBI has found another person they think might be the 20th hi-jacker. What happens now to Moussaoui? He rots in jail?
And these are only the beginning of the things which Big Brother tells us. We neither choose our presidential candidates directly, nor even who chooses them.
How far has Big Brother gone, where is Big Brother headed, and what does Big Brother really know? Who can verify what our ‘free press’ reports? Who checks and rechecks where the information the media reports to us? What plausible lies are we constantly fed until they become fact, and get changed slowly a bit more?
I�m not advocating anything more than a thorough understanding of how much ideology we are taking in and how much privacy we are giving up. We should all still have the choice to watch �The Reagans� or have a partial birth abortion; we should all have the choice to stop transmitting every once in a while.

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