NP: Surveillance on the Human Mind Part II
By James W. Astrada
The European Union is oddly spending millions of pounds despite their economic crisis on developing “Orwellian” surveillance technology to monitor the internet and CCTV images for “abnormal behavior.” This five year research program named Project Indect is intended to create “agents” to monitor and process information from web sites, discussion forums, file servers, peer-to-peer networks and personal computers. The supposed purpose of this invasion of privacy is to search for the “automatic detection of threats and abnormal behaviour or violence.”
This futuristic program received nearly 10 million pounds in funding from the EU and also involves the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and computer scientists from York University. Liberty, an organization promoting civil liberties and human rights their campaign for Wales and England is at the heart of the debate. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human rights group, described this mass surveillance project as “Profiling whole populations instead of monitoring individual suspects is a sinister step in any society. It’s dangerous enough at national level, but on Europe-wide scale the idea becomes positively chilling.” The Indect research program which was created in the early months of 2012 is intended to fight crime, terrorism, managing migration of citizens, and increasing the budget in these areas by 13.5% (nearly 900 million pounds).
One could compare the Indect program to Robert Graham’s Netex Corporation (from the novel Seventh Journey) and their desire to control the human mind through programs and brute force in the name of “national security.” The European Commission is calling for a “common culture” law of enforcement across the EU and for a third of the police force (50,000 in the U.K. alone) for “special training” within the next five years. The combination of all law enforcement in the EU would be equivalent to an army to introduce Marshall Law in case of any rejection of the program. When the completion of the project is at maximum, the British DNA database will be accessed by all law enforcement agencies for cooperation continent–wide. With this union of information, the number of U.K citizens extradited under the controversial European Arrest Warrant program is expected to triple.
There is no doubt that this entire idea was already in the minds of the past, especially within George Orwell’s novel 1984. The very question of the fabled “individual liberty” paradigm is called into question as most citizens would naturally reject such a brute reality on their daily life activities. Steven Booth, an analyst with Open Europe, stated his concern on this huge invasion of privacy in the citizens of Europe: “The EU lacks sufficient checks and balances and there is no evidence that anyone has ever asked ‘is this actually the best interests of our citizens?” although this programs is made to give the impression of helping citizens from “terrorists attacks” or “violent/abnormal” behavior, all internet websites, and personal forums where individuals share their ideas about how the world works will be monitored, scanned and stored in data programs for future use by police agencies.
Another project created from the idea of totalitarianism is a separate EU-funded research project called Adabts. The Automatic Detection of Abnormal Behaviour and Threats in crowded Spaces (or Adabts) has received nearly 3 million pounds for research and development. Based in Sweden, their partners also reside in the U.K. Home Office and BAE Systems. The program itself will monitor all citizens based on CCTV, other surveillance methods, analyzing the pitch of our voices, body language and track individuals within crowded areas. These techniques are officially used for “suspicious behavior;” although the very definition is vague at best. Although it may prevent fights or civil unrest as the project is planned to do, any change in one’s voice becomes a marker for further investigation. Most people express themselves emotionally which in turn changes the voice pattern, and culturally forces hand gestures and/or body movements that some might mistake for violent behavior.
Equilibrium (2002) was an American science fiction movie based on this sort of premise. The idea that human nature (feelings/emotions) was the sole reason for society’s destruction and war, had to be halted in order for humanity to survive. The development of a drug was implemented for all citizens in order for them to function in the new dystopia run by the TetragrammatonCouncil and their reclusive figurehead known as “Father” (an Orwellian-type dictator) and His law. Special law enforcement soldiers known as the Tetragrammaton Cleric were established to protect the regime and enforce the law by destroying all artifacts, paintings and any personal possessions that might bring forth emotional tendencies. The Clerics themselves were trained to detect when a perpetrator was feeling in order to destroy any resistance (better known as a “sense offender”). If the European Union is developing this sort of program, the effects will only be negative for the rest of other societies as this may be the mark of a new paradigm.
Eliminating terrorism and crime is understandable for a society to function. The game changes once the same technology is used to monitor law abiding citizens who from time to time act “human” and lose control. When these programs become highly advanced, fear and anger will replace national security and safety in the eyes of the common citizen. The reality is that any society can never be 100% safe. There will always be room from improvement and the sad reality of crime, terrorism, rape, and robbery, assault and battery will never cease. All of these results are based on cultural upbringing; by adding to the mixture of many different cultures, brings more complication in future times. Tensions will be brought forth and inequality will force those to commit crimes based on living conditions and belief systems. Some customs accepted certain cultures will not be accepted by others. This system is very complicated and will be forever engrained in our humanity. Humans thrive on cultures as it defines our very being. Using technology to control one’s behavior will only propagate anger, dissention and fear. Although the idea of human rights is nonexistent, citizens will fight for the very concept especially when government will openly try to control them. If these programs are to be used in the near future, we can expect a lot of revolutions concerning “the right to be human” and the “right to feel.”
Orwell, George. 1984. Plume (May 2003).
Elvis Mitchell. “Equilibrium (2002) FILM REVIEW; Preventing World War IV by Outlawing All Emotion.” New YorkTimes (December 2002).
Ian Johnston. “EU funding ‘Orwellian’ artificial intelligence plan to monitor public for “abnormal behaviour.” TheTelegraph U.K. (September 2009).
© Copyright 2012. James Astrada.