Is Technology Going to Become Totalitarianism’s Greatest Gift?

Well, truthfully, it already is. And it looks from every indication that it’s only going to get worse.

Countries such as China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia are already beginning to employ facial recognition systems, (essentially machine intelligence) to try and keep tabs on their citizens 24/7. The established political systems in these countries range anywhere from moderately to horribly oppressive, and you can be sure that in the secret research labs they are hard at work acquiring, perfecting and even stealing whatever new technologies are being developed anywhere in the world that will allow them to keep close scrutiny over their citizens.

Too close.

With much of the incredible new technology coming down the pipeline in the coming decades, the jump from the perfect surveillance state to the perfect police state will not require much of a jump at all. Either by iron-fisted mandatory decree or some mind-controlling trickery (patriotism, terrorism fears, neighborhood security, etc.) citizens will be compelled to submit to an implanted ID chip which would have the potential be interrogated at any time day or night to pinpoint exactly where that individual’s whereabouts are, or what he might be doing. It’s for your own safety, you know.

Even more terrifying, such implants could include sensory systems designed to keep track of the person’s mental or physical state at any particular moment. Further (routine, of course) analysis by artificial intelligence could subsequently notify authorities of when a person is upset, fearful, lying or experiencing any other sort of aggravated state that could signal the potential for — or commission of — an actual crime (yikes… pre-crimes!). Such stifling oppression of human rights and dignity has to be absolutely alarming for anyone who has any concern at all for their personal privacy, as each and every one of us must have (I certainly do!).

I would imagine any sort of action taken to try to disable or remove a surveillance implant would likely incur an immediate alarm that would have the police paying you a visit in short order. And once again, the penalty could be as little as a fine, or as great as imprisonment or even execution. It would all depend on the viciousness of the government ruling that country and what they define as a “crime”. It’s even possible such devices could detect the movements of the body and even the intentions in the consciousness that would signal the commission of some kind of crime. The system would essentially be a “thought police recorder” that could keep track of everyone in all situations, making it virtually impossible for anyone to defend their actions in any sort of court of law — kangaroo or otherwise.

Are there any ways to escape such a suffocating techno-nightmare? We’ll soon know because it’s already underway, or at least being “experimented with”, today in China. The State communist party has established what it calls a social credit system for all its citizens and, like it or not, has enrolled everyone in it. Every person’s online and social interactions are now tracked 24/7 and assigned an integrated score. Favorable scores (meaning that the party line is being towed and there is no hint of subversive activity) determines one’s access to educational opportunities, good housing, health clinics (!), travel permission (both within and outside the country) and even personal preferences as frivolous as pet ownership. The government calls this ‘stability maintenance’, but what it really means is that everyone is being spied on round the clock to determine who prospers in this captive society and who suffers.

Call it ‘cyber-totalitarianism’, and it’s already here.

Shall we imagine still bloodier horrors? How about using high technology for purposes of ethnic cleansing by governments inclined to do so within their own borders. Small drone devices bearing lethal explosive charges could be sent out across the countryside, where they would use some manner of tracking and facial/racial detection to lock in on the members of a particular ethnic group that has been marked for genocide. Once identified, the drones could simply fly up to those individuals, attach itself to the top of their heads and detonate. Any number of other clever ways to kill a person could be easily developed that would be less messy, from electrocution to poison darts.

The rapid progress of artificial intelligence coupled with surveillance technologies in a tightly-wired world are going to make it increasingly difficult for privacy advocates to hold the line, not just in terms of the online privacy of personal information, but in our actual physical privacy, and perhaps one day, even the privacy within our precious minds. It is the ultimate “1984 thought police”-type of scenario that we must immediately begin throwing roadblocks up against. We must create international laws and agreements to get in front of these freedom stealing technologies before they become too widespread and deeply integrated into societies everywhere.

The real danger is that a suffocating surveillance state plus privacy loss will slowly creep into every aspect of our lives without any single big warning “Event” happening that might trigger a mass awakening and possibly violent pushback from the people. The fundamentally secretive nature of this threat means that it will require constant vigilance to keep at bay… as it slithers through the back-channels of authority and attempts to wrap itself around every aspect of our lives, both public and private alike.

Millions and possibly billions of our fellow planetary citizens could be at risk of living in dystopian surveillance states run by morally criminal governments. Advanced AI makes it not only possible to perform these vile hi-tech acts of oppression, but also to lock them in institutionally so they become near impossible for any citizen to escape. Anyone who makes any noise about organizing a resistance will be identified, located and eliminated before any serious movement to overthrow the system can take hold. That would mean that only an external force such as another country going to war would be able to set such terribly enslaved populations free. And if it comes to that, we are likely going to see monstrous warbots murdering scores of people — possibly many unarmed civilians — and that could be far, far worse.

The solution has to be to get on top of this stuff early and ferociously in order to make sure that these ghoulish scenarios never take hold anywhere on Earth. That means we must begin right now calling out tech-powered human rights suppression wherever we find it, and never stop being vigilant.