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!”