Compound eyes, common with insects and crustaceans, are made up of thousands of individual visual receptors, called ommatidia. Each ommatidium is a fully functioning eye in itself. The insect’s “eye” is thousands of ommatidium that together create a broad field of vision. Every ommatidium has its own nerve fiber connecting to the optic nerve, which relays information to the brain. The brain then processes these inputs to create a three-dimensional understanding the surrounding space.
The compound eye is a good way to imagine how the surveillance state will keep tabs on the subjects in the near future. Unlike the dystopian future imagined by science fiction, it will not be one eye focusing on one heretic, following him around as he goes about his business. Instead it will be tens of millions of eyes obtaining various bits of information, sending it back to the data-centers run by Big Tech. That information will be assembled into the broad mosaic that is daily life.
For example, rather than use informants and undercover operatives to flesh out conspiracies against the state, the surveillance state will use community detection to model the network of heretics. Since everyone is hooked into the grid in some fashion and everyone addresses nodes of the grid on a regular basis, keeping track of someone is now something that can be done from a cubicle. There is no need to actually follow someone around as they go about their life.
For example, everyone has a mobile phone. At every point, the phone is tracking its location, which means it is tracking your location. It also knows the time and day when you go into various businesses. Most people use cards to pay miscellaneous items, so just that information would tell the curious a lot about you. Combine that information with the same information from other phones that come into close proximity with your phone and figuring out the community structure is simple.
Of course, the mobile phone is not the only input device. Over Christmas, millions of Americans were encouraged to install surveillance devices in their homes by friends and family. Maybe it was an Alexa listening device from Amazon or a Nest Doorbell surveillance device from Google. All of these gadgets are collecting data on your life inside and around your home. It is then fed to the same data-centers that have all of your movements and associations collected from your phone.
That’s an enormous amount information about the lives of the subjects, but that’s just the start of what they are collecting. Everything about property and property ownership is now kept in those same systems. Tax and earnings information are now shared with the new technological overlords. We know this because Raj Chetty told us so. He gained access to everyone’s tax information from the IRS. Since Big Tech provides the infrastructure to all government operations, they have their data too.
It turns out that the future will not be one big eye searching about for a heretic on which to focus or even thousands of such eyes. Instead, it will be tens of millions of eyes, collecting data, filtering it through a specific lens, and passing it onto massive data-centers controlled by Big Tech. It is there where the focus will narrow, looking for patterns, modeling communities and searching for any anomalies that could indicate unacceptable behavior. Big Brother will be an Indian in a cubicle.
The human eye is attached to muscles that allow it to move, expanding the field of vision and narrow in on specific items of interest. The compound eye is fixed and therefore cannot focus on a single item. It also results in nearsightedness. It is, however, exceptional at detecting motion. The mosaic of infinitesimally small images lets the insect notice the smallest movement around it. This is why flies, for example, are so good at anticipating your effort to swat them.
Big Tech’s compound eye will be similar. It will be adept at tracking movement and capturing data about the environment, but it will not be very good at focusing in on one individual or even a group of individuals. That’s where the brain takes over to interpret the data, looking for the sorts of movement that could present danger. As with insects, the compound eye has evolved for defensive purpose. Hunters need focus, prey need a broad field of vision and pattern matching.
We are seeing the precursors of what will be special teams of agents charged with focusing in on potential trouble. Those “Trust & Safety” squads on social media are the early attempts at this. Algos were created to look for patterns and movement that would then warrant further review. The “focus teams” then look more carefully at individuals inside an identified community. This is how a heretic gets banned from Twitter despite not using the system very much. He was part of an identified community.
In the future, these “Trust & Safety” teams will be dispatched into the real world to infiltrate suspected communities, disrupt social bonding within dissident communities that are forming up and, of course, neutralize genuine threats. That last part is always what the dystopians focus on, but that will be an exceedingly rare occurrence as we move into the custodial state. Technological advance will also bring with it new ways to influence behavior in a myriad of small ways.
Alongside those millions of eyes collecting data will be other nodes that nudge people in the right direction through the power of suggestion, social proof and social bonding. The Chinese social credit system is a crude example of what is to come. A much more subtle version will rely on social influencers, who will be rewarded for encouraging positive behaviors. Social proof and fear of ostracism will confirm the tendency to accept what comes from prominent influencers.
This is already happening in a crude way on social media platforms. They promote those with the right opinions and demote those with the wrong opinions. Since active users seek an audience, inevitably they act in such a way that gets them promoted by the algos running these sites. It is why review sites have abandoned real user reviews in favor of robots. It is a lot easier to push a movie on a movie review site if the “viewer reviews” are actually robots run by the site.
That’s the future that awaits us in the custodial state. It is living under the watchful compound eye that is feeding all of our data into massive data-centers controlled by private companies. Since information is the ultimate currency and controlling the currency makes you sovereign, the official state will simply become another node on the network run by the Big Tech. There will be no recourse. Any effort to revolt will be detected by the compound eye before it gets started.
Note: Some have asked why comments end up in moderation. This is the doings of the spam filter I’m using. It is often triggered by epithets, certain links and mysterious word combinations. These messages get flagged as possible spam. Now, in half a dozen years it has blocked over 3.5 million spam messages, so it is trade-off I accept. It means I check the moderation queue once an hour or so. I approve the real comments and trash the spam. Otherwise, there is no moderation.
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