Little Brother is watching you

The Register has a story about a new Nokia mobile device: a camera which can send pictures via SMS (or MMS, probably) and sound via a voice call. The camera can do motion detection too.

So, will Big Brother soon be watching us? (aside: how many people associate that phrase with bad unreality TV rather than 1984 now, I wonder?)

<lj-cut> I’d like to think not. It’s more like thousands and thousands of Little Brothers. If this thing is priced so that it’s accessible to businesses and homeowners, what you end up with is David Brin’s vision of a Transparent Society. Cameras in the hands of the citizenry are a good thing, since they enable us to watch both agents of government (Rodney King, anyone?) and also people who are up to no good. Brin’s argument is that cheap, mass produced, net connected cameras will be available. Our choice is whether we leave them in the hands of the government or let everyone have them.

This is all part of my grand theory that, what with the government being increasingly rubbish at dealing with social problems, what we’ll end up with is something which Neal Stephenson’s anticipated: burbclaves (we’re already getting there: one of my friends lives in a gated block of flats in London) and phyles (which are sort of tribes or groupings of people with common beliefs: in The Diamond Age there’s a phyle made up of people who follow Victorian social mores, for example). This will all have reached its logical conclusion when there’s a village for people who share a particular outlook on life, with a fence around it and a set of cameras to which all householders have access. Being a bit of a libertarian, I’m not sure this would be a bad thing, although you can’t help wondering what happens to the people who are left outside this arrangement. Anyway, I look forward to being able to point to this journal in 10 years and say “I told you so!”

2 Comments on "Little Brother is watching you"


  1. This will all have reached its logical conclusion when there’s a village for people who share a particular outlook on life, with a fence around it and a set of cameras to which all householders have access

    People are to fascinated with other people for this kind of segregation to ever happen, I think. You just have to look at the popularity of Big Brother to see that. And it would be dull! One of the great advantages of modern society is the opportunity to communicate with many different people who hold many different viewpoints. If I had to live with people who only liked dancing, or Harry Potter novels, or bad American TV, or Liverpool Football Club, then I would go mad.

    Anyway, everyone has a unique way of looking at life – how would you decide where to go?

    If we’re talking about future possibilities, I would be more inclined to something like that Asimov short story (which I can’t remember the name of) where no-one goes outside. There’s the capacity for all school, work and communication to be carried out indoors, via computers and teleporters(!). Maybe the teleporting stuff is a little far-fetched, but in a world with increased pollution and less regard for the environment, I could see this happening.

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  2. I would just like to post on behalf of the people of the world that still associate the phrase with George Orwell and not Channel 4…..

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