We must embrace surveillance! A massively controversial statement, especially for the target audience of this website. We hold our privacies rightly as one of our most fundamental human rights. What we need to understand though, is that surveillance and privacy are not juxtaposing; one can exist in the realm of the other; we can live in a surveillance state, while retaining our privacies. Let’s explain how, and why we must!
Surveillance for Security
Pretty controversial issue, this one! The surveillance that you will see advocated here, is for the sole purpose of security; the protection of people from serious crime, terrorism and existential risk. The surveillance must also protect both privacy and democratic principles, and support the freedom and continuing acceleration of innovation. Surveillance is not advocated for the use of oppression, to support any unaccountable entity.
Stable democratic countries, such as the US and UK, are the only countries that we advocate the use of surveillance, as described in this article. For those who are mistrustful of even democratic governments, mistrust is good, but understand that should your trust be betrayed, public support will see that trust regained through the betraying government not being re-elected. If you believe that you are already being betrayed and the public is blind to that betrayal, then work towards proving it, through involvement with think tanks; create solutions, and present those solutions to government. If solutions are ignored, attempt to gain public support through petition and protest, if you gain that support then the government will have no choice but to listen.
This article is written from a politically centrist perspective, with cautious trust being held for the US and UK governments.
Why we Need National Surveillance
This website exists to explore the accelerating change of a world that is approaching technological singularity. Technologies that once were never thought possible, are now being developed. The world is evolving at an ever accelerating rate, much in line with exponential growth. There has been more change in the past 100 years, than in the past billion. There has been more technological advance in the past 10 years, than in the whole of history. And in many industries, it is predicted that more progress will be made in the next 15 years, than has been made in the whole history of each industries existence. These industries include cancer research, nanotechnology, bio-engineering, 3-D Printing, robotics and artificial intelligence.
‘Why’, Part 1: Increasing Threat and Complexity
The relevance of this accelerating change: Change is dangerous. In another decade, the world will be far different from the world we live in today. Surveillance is currently beneficial for security, but it sits outside the realm of what is considered by many as democratically approved. Its use is therefore in need of scrutiny, and its methods must become more transparent and accountable. As time progresses, we will continue to improve our systems, and increasingly demand for scrutiny of government surveillance. Also increasing, will be both the need for the surveillance, and the technological capability of surveillance implementation. For those reasons, we must embrace the need for surveillance, in order to improve the system as a democratically accountable one, for if we do not embrace the system, it will not improve, and at worse, the security threats will overwhelm it, rendering it useless, massively hindering our securities.
The technologies that will become widely available in the coming decades pose huge security risks. To get a general idea of the biggest of the threats, view our article, 5 Technologies That Could Destroy The World.
A relatively tame example of these threats, is already being seen with 3-D Printed Guns. Yes, if somebody wanted a gun, or wanted to hurt someone, they are going to find a way to do it anyway. But the real problems will arrive when most of us have 3-D Printers in our homes, which some predict will happen in as little as a decade. And the technology is going to become far more advanced, enabling the cheap and quick mass printing of reliable and powerful weapons.
From any perspective, it should logically be realised, that we can’t allow it possible for criminal/terrorist groups to have such easy access to weaponry. But then, how do we prevent that, without banning unregulated 3-D Printing in our homes? My proposal? An enhanced system of surveillance (based on the above ideological foundation), which isn’t even currently technologically possible. But we will talk more about that later.
In that example of the need for surveillance, it is the benefit that is given to the 3-D Printing industry that is relevant. The industry would be allowed to thrive with little regulatory framework needed, allowing it free reign in revolutionising our systems of manufacture, which will have positive effect on the whole global political environment.
The 3-D Printing example, showcases a relatively simple problem. The complexity of our security risks are rising along with the exponential growth of our technologies. An example of the raising complexity: Molecular 3-D Printers (nano-fabricators). These, molecule printers will allow us to print the perfect steak, our own medicines, and, well pretty much anything else, in our homes, in as little as 50 years. The ability will exist for people to print harmful viruses, powerful explosives, and radioactive materials, all of which are currently considered weapons of mass destruction.
Then we have the cyber threat, and robotics. With the Internet of Things, and Big Data, practically all things will be connected to the internet, from fridges, to milk cartons, to health monitors, to cars, to traffic signals, to assistant robots, and automated payment systems. Hacking will have huge potential for wreaking mass chaos, or being utilised in targeted attacks. Advances in robotics, will make it possible for the technology to be used as a weapon. Who wants a criminal controlled super strength humanoid robot, walking through your locked front door to steal your new Molecular 3-D Printer, while also hacking you own robot to walk out the door with it?
Listed above is only a tiny snippet of the threats that will be seen only within the next 50 years. The security framework that would be needed to guard against these threats seem incomprehensible, in a world where surveillance could not be utilised.
‘Why?’ Part 2: Individual Empowerment
The US National Intelligence Council identifies individual empowerment as the most certain and important ‘mega trend’. Further details feature in their report, Global Trends 2030: Alternate Worlds.
We understand the upcoming impact of individual empowerment, when discovering that it is both cause and effect of most other trends – including the expanding global economy, rapid growth of developing countries, widespread exploitation of new communications and manufacturing technologies, poverty reduction, global middle class growth, greater education attainment, and better and cheaper health care.
The positive effects of individual empowerment are enormous; as seen with the example of 3D-Printing, it will not be an option to try and suppress it. And so we also face the huge negative effects of individual empowerment. The tectonic shift that will result, will give individuals and small groups greater access to lethal and disruptive technologies (particularly precision-strike capabilities, cyber instruments, and bio-terror weaponry), enabling them to perpetrate large-scale violence – a capability formerly the monopoly of states.
Not only does individual empowerment increase access to disruptive technologies, but it also works to increase the causation factors and occurrence rate of conflict, through it creating a more conflicted ideological landscape. We are already seeing this with the Arab Spring, due to the globalisation of western ideals such as scientific reason, individualism, secular government, liberalism, and primacy of law. These ideals are spreading, and increasingly pressuring those who are reluctant to sacrifice their cultural/religious identities and political traditions.
As well as our traditional ideological causes of conflict, as we progress, disruptive technology will spark the formation of new volatile ideologies. The ideologies that are foreseeable, are the ones which will see their formation surrounding ethical issues concerning the potential impacts of new upcoming technologies. For example, the possibility that we could end ageing within 35 years, would cause people to protest that it would cause overpopulation, and threaten their religious teachings and traditions. The ability to live forever is hugely attractive, as seen in our Poll: Would You Want To Live Forever? Should a force exist which fights against immortality, there is potential for huge conflict. The same potential for conflict can be found surrounding the issues of creating fully conscious, supremely powerful Artificial Intelligence. Some will think this AI poses great risk, and some will believe it is worth the risk, for we would reap enormous technological singularity inducing benefits. This issue of potential conflict is spoken widely about by Hugo de Garis. General understanding of it though is, as of yet, almost non-existent.
The ideologies segmented above could inspire the formation of anti-technology terrorism groups. These groups could rise from all types of cultures and religions. Perhaps surveillance measures will also spark a terrorist response. For example, the broad and largely undefined aims of those who call themselves ‘Anonymous’, could be used as cause for terrorism campaigns. Seen as Anonymous is proving fleetingly happy to fight for any cause in which it deems worthy, it is easy to predict a massive messy splintering of groups originating from the ‘Anonymous’ culture.
How we can Balance Surveillance with Privacy
For the reasons that are introduced above, I believe it is imperative that means of mass public surveillance are available to our security services. The state of the current system though, will not continue to have positive effects on security, because of the whistle-blowing leading to the identification of huge public disapproval. The path now must be based on transparency. Intelligence agencies can never again be caught out by whistle blowers pushing them in front of the headlights of an angry world. Though, transparency must be applied gradually, as to protect ongoing investigations. Once we have a transparency that is publicly approved, risk will remain; with terrorists now understanding how exactly to dodge security surveillance. This risk though could be reduced with the gradual enhancement of our surveillance systems. With transparency remaining intact, the public can decide if it approves of those enhancements. The aim therefore will need to always be on maximising personal privacies and public reassurance.
The solution I suggest ultimately utilises a future system of Artificially Intelligent Security Surveillance (AISS). The level of intelligence this system would need, will be possible by 2030, according to current trends. The ultimate aim of the AISS is to create a world where surveillance would be inescapable, but privacies are even more greatly protected than they are today.
From the rise of surveillance transparency and public debate, by 2030, we will have a large ethical and democratically approved framework, which would provide the foundations for how the AISS would be utilised. The complexities of this framework are both enormous and revolutionary; below I will introduce the AISS vision, and follow on to list examples of how AISS would become a welcomed public security asset.
What is the Artificially Intelligent Surveillance System?
AISS is a theoretical future system that I suggest would answer our accelerating security surveillance needs. In this paragraph, I will briefly run though the fundamental aspects of the system. It will have almost complete knowledge of our activities. The surveillance information it gains though, will be contained within the system; no human will be given access to your personal information, unless AISS flags you as a security risk. If you are flagged as a risk, the security services would be given access only to the relevant information in order to conduct an investigation. The AI will be incredibly smart, with the ability to analyse in the same way that humans can, but it will not be conscious in the same way that we are. It will only report you to the authorities if it suspects you are involved in ‘serious crime’, which will be better defined later in the article. AISS will also operate to prevent you being tracked by anybody who is unauthorised to track you. If you abuse a persons privacy, AISS would therefore report your activity to the authorities, due to privacy being the thing that we are so fiercely protecting. Global efforts must be focused on ensuring AISS is always in sync with democracy, and never made available for use by totalitarian or corrupt states. AISS will always utilises the most powerful technology available to the world. All breakthroughs in information security, made by government or private companies such as Google, will be applied first to enhance AISS as global priority. Through ensuring AISS is based on the most powerful technology, we ensure that the personal information if holds is protected; it is in all of our best interests.
A main problem that I foresee AISS’s will face is global competition, particularly along the currently roughly defined US/China axis. If another country has a more powerful AI, it could use it to hack our personal information out of our AISS. Although, with the premise of the system being built on democratic foundations, it will act as an extra factor to inspire people across the world to model their governments on liberty. The security of AISS would depend on the world being completely collaborative on the issue of global security.
AISS Surveillance Operations
Once fully operational (possible in the 2030’s), AISS could track a massive amount of our activities. Our constant locations would be monitored by GPS in our cars, smartphones and wearable devices. Should you not have a GPS on your person, your location will be monitored by CCTV and drones. By 2030, those drones could be as small as insects. By 2050, drones could be invisible to the unaided human eye.
Also tracked by AISS will be all of your online activity. By 2030, the internet of things and big data will be in full operation, as discussed above. By 2040, even cash notes could be fitted with GPS and the ability to hold its owners details. AISS, will know everything that you buy, enabling it to know, for example, if you are creating a weapon of mass destruction, or if you have connections to anybody who, in collaboration, you could be amassing materials to build weapons.
Inaccessible to AISS will likely be your private in-person conversations, where no recordings are being made. This may not be classed as a security risk anyway, as should you move from scheming to commit a major crime, to actually attempting to commit one, AISS should have the ability to quickly catch you.
How the AISS will operate, will be completely in the hands of the public. If AISS is found to have came short of preventing a terrorist attack, the public can decide if the surveillance system should be given more power. Equally, AISS would be accountable for any abuse of an innocent persons privacies. For example, where it is found that peoples privacies are often being abused, when those people have been proved to not be security threats, the public can decide if it needs to restrict the activities of surveillance.
Evidence in Court
AISS would not be used to catch you out when committing minor, medium or even some serious crimes. What counts as a crime that can be countered by AISS, will depend on many years of public debate, but for the sake of my explanation, I will list examples of what I don’t, and what I do consider as crimes that could be countered by AISS. Examples of crimes not countered by AISS; not wearing a seat belt; under age drinking, smoking; illegal recreational drug use/dealing (maybe even manufacture); fighting (unless resulting in death); speeding; fraud; robbery; violent protest; racism. Examples of crimes I believe should be countered by AISS; sexual offences; stalking/invasions of privacy; international government espionage (between stable democratic states); murder or conspiracy to murder; any activity relating to terrorism; creating weapons of mass destruction; kidnap, conspiracy to kidnap; creating/programming robots/software with the ability to cause harm.
So, I am not proposing we create a world as seen in Demolition Man; if you told a friend on the phone that you drove over the speed limit, the conversation will not even prompt interest, let alone be used as evidence against you.
Compensation if privacy is abused
If humans have had access to your personal surveillance records, such as phone recordings or location records, you must be notified after the cessation of an investigation and any connected investigations of which resulted in no arrests, unless: you have committed a related offence within the past 10 years, and/or you have connections with people who have committed related offences. This allows people to be notified if they have been wrongfully investigated, in which case they would be due compensation. Where you do not have to be notified, it prevents any related investigations from being compromised due to a likelihood you could notify another offender that surveillance is closing in on their illegal activities.
Embrace Surveillance; Become its Master
The title of this article would certainly have sparked immediate outrage in the majority of readers. Hopefully, now you have read and understood what is being proposed, you feel open to the idea of working to create a surveillance system that we all feel protected by, rather than suspicious of. Of course, the AISS is merely a vision of what is possible in the future; it is a long way off being technologically feasible. But it will be an even further way off, if we don’t begin now to make it culturally feasible.
We must embrace the surveillance state; not to be enslaved by it, but to become the masters of it. Perhaps Snowden has done us a favour, in that he has brought these issues up now, before the global trend of individual empowerment has reached a stage where the world could become much more volatile, in the face of such controversial disclosures. It is now clear that we must act fast to reform our surveillance operations. But we must not restrict it’s powers. We must focus on increasing transparency, and on reassuring the public that their privacies are not being abused.
A short cut to correcting the problem of public disapproval, would be to dangerously reduce surveillance powers. The result would likely be seen in the form of a major terrorist attack that is blamed on that limiting of surveillance power. “When catastrophe strikes, the public will adjust it’s tolerance for intrusive government measures” – New Republic. Thankfully, President Obama seems to be taking things in the right direction – Financial Times. We must not fight a war against national surveillance! Or our defence could be temperately disabled by weak government policy decisions. Embrace it, demand for transparency and accountability, so we can create a system that acts in response to its owner – you.