I've become a fan of David Brin and will buy this book next:
The Transparent Society
The trick is to have eyes pointing in both directions.
David Brin takes some of our worst notions about threats to privacy and sets
them on their ears. According to Brin, there is no turning back the growth of
public observation and inevitable loss of privacy--at least outside of our own
homes. Too many of our transactions are already monitored: Brin asserts that
cameras used to observe and reduce crime in public areas have been successful
and are on the rise. There's even talk of bringing in microphones to augment the
cameras. Brin has no doubt that it's only a matter of time before they're
installed in numbers to cover every urban area in every developed nation.
While this has the makings for an Orwellian nightmare, Brin argues that we
can choose to make the same scenario a setting for even greater freedom. The
determining factor is whether the power of observation and surveillance is held
only by the police and the powerful or is shared by us all. In the latter case,
Brin argues that people will have nothing to fear from the watchers because
everyone will be watching each other. The cameras would become a public resource
to assure that no mugger is hiding around the corner, our children are playing
safely in the park, and police will not abuse their power.
No simplistic Utopian, Brin also acknowledges the many dangers on the way. He
discusses how open access to information can either threaten or enhance freedom.
It is one thing, for example, to make the entire outdoors public and another
thing to allow the cameras and microphones to snoop into our homes. He therefore
spends a lot of pages examining what steps are required to assure that a
transparent society evolves in a manner that enhances rather than restricts
freedom. This is a challenging view of tomorrow and an exhilarating read for
those who don't mind challenges to even the most well-entrenched cultural
assumptions. --Elizabeth Lewis
I love the way Brin thinks. He turns weakness into strength. Practically speaking
though, that is just how things could be - not how they are.