by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions
A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article, “Smart Cities Will Know Everything About You,” published late yesterday exemplifies the epitome of what is wrong with the direction we are headed in terms of implementation of ‘smart grid’ and ‘smart city’ initiatives.
The author of the WSJ article is the CEO of a “data science consultancy” called Profusion. Supposedly these people “believe passionately in the transformative power of data.”
Does it seem reasonable that a “data science consultancy” would be objective in assessing the risks involved with tracking peoples’ every movement in a smart city? Yet, here are a few examples of what the CEO of Profusion wrote:
“In a fully ‘smart’ city, every movement an individual makes can be tracked.”
“By analyzing this information using data-science techniques, a company could learn not only the day-to-day routine of an individual but also his preferences, behavior and emotional state. Private companies could know more about people than they know about themselves.”
“Businesses could market divorce services to couples who, through data analysis, are shown to exhibit behavior that indicates that their relationship could be in trouble …”
Based upon the above horrifying thoughts, the author of the WSJ article concludes:
“A smart city doesn’t have to be as Orwellian as it sounds. If businesses act responsibly, there is no reason why what sounds intrusive in the abstract can’t revolutionize the way people live for the better by offering services that anticipates their needs;”
Profusion acknowledges that the direction we are headed ‘sounds Orwellian’. That is because it is Orwellian.
Profusion hopes that we will trust “businesses to act responsibly.” Why would we do that? This is our freedom and liberty we are talking about, not that of businesses.
Reviewing the smart city issue, I discovered an article written last year regarding the progress of smart city efforts in Songdo, South Korea. Here are a few excerpts:
“The concept of a smart city is not Korean; it was envisioned by IT conglomerates such as Cisco and IBM in order to find new markets for their products.”
“The concept is simple: the city is filled with sensors and cameras at every corner (monitoring temperature, traffic, electricity) that are all interconnected and linked to a central ‘brain’ that computes all this information in real time in order to optimize the management of the city, minute by minute.”
“I realized that these IT companies made reality the infamous ‘telescreen’ imagined by George Orwell in his dystopian novel 1984.”
“Actually, governments do not really need telescreens: the smartphones that we carry all the time can already be used to spy on us 24/7.”
“In an interview…, the French science-fiction writer Alain Damasio declared that ‘believing that a technology can make us happier is the expression of a huge fatigue of being.’ According to him, believing that technology can help us to become better people just means that we are sickened by our own lives.”
“Notwithstanding the dangers, Korea seems determined to go faster than ever.”
“I am sometimes wondering whether Korea is prefiguring humanity’s future: a future in which each individual will be utterly alone, facing a telescreen [or smartphone] that will be one’s only friend and minder. The futuristic nightmare envisioned by Orwell more than half a century ago might be even worse than his deepest fears.”
Please people, become aware of the dangers, and reject the Orwellian future that lies ahead before it is too late. Let the WSJ article by the CEO of Profusion and an Orwellian vision from South Korea be a wake-up call for all.
Primary Source Material for this Article
‘Smart Cities’ Will Know Everything About You, at http://www.wsj.com/articles/smart-cities-will-know-everything-about-you-1436740596
“South Korea: the era of ‘smart’ cities or Orwell’s nightmare? (Frederic Ojardias, PhD),” http://www.mirezi.com/2014/06/column-south-korea-era-of-smart-cities.html
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