Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Social Interaction

Following on from my posting about social responsibility - or the lack of it. This started me thinking about how new technology is changing our social behaviour.

I can remember reading as a young man Orwell's 1984 and being a bit worried about the possibility that our world could change in that way. It may have taken a little longer than he predicted, but Orwell's vision of a society where cameras and computers spy on every person's movements is now here. However, it has been expanded to include many more technologies.

Common sense at the time said it could never happen. Here we are many years later and some of the building blocks of the spectre of Big Brother are in place. George Orwell would not be surprised by the latest technology. Welcome to the new digital world of social media.

The game console replaces real world interaction with an Orwellian like fake reality. Interactions are - killing or being killed - and the concept of death is nothing to worry about as resurrection comes at the press of a button.

Our children as they grow are indoctrinated in the on-line warfare lifestyle. Its not collecting cigarette cards now - its collecting a high score of kills. For some in the on-line world warfare has the same passion as religion has in other parts of the off-line world. Its not limited to our children either, read about the award for Mark Bradford here.

As boaters we can if we wish live very insular lives and have little interaction with the world. The old euphemism of "dropping off the radar" or "leaving the rat race". That could be a deliberate choice to make for anyone who wants to disappear from view for whatever reason. Disappearing without trace is getting much harder. The last real couple to do a disappearance were Lord Lucan and Shergar.

This scenario is made much easier by the on-line world that we are gradually changing into. We can manage most of our finances, make a purchase or pay our dues and demands, without ever leaving the confines of our boat.

Or can we actually make that choice?

Many people have aspirations about owning a boat and travelling the canals and rivers. Just having a low impact lifestyle and being as green as they possibly can. However, the pressures of schooling our children and holding down a job are a difficulty to overcome. Currently, this restricts the lifestyle to the wrinkle generation. Because there are petty battles between constant cruisers and those who are more domiciled to living within a marina.

We are all numbers. Even your boat has a number.

Remember the National ID card how long before that idea gets legs again.  The reality is gradually turning our country into a form of open prison, where our every social interaction is observed, registered, analysed and ultimately will be controlled by the state. Our absolute right to live our lives in freedom has already been removed. With the re-introduction of the ID card, we will not even be allowed out of our own homes without proof of our identity.

Mobile phone number - an essential item for our children and their peer group.  Many parents have provided phones for children as means for keeping tabs on them. Children text their friends rather than talk face to face. This reduces the amount of social interaction that our children and us might enjoy together. But the mobile phone can can also pinpoint and record where you are at any moment in time. Mobile phone records also pinpoint who you talk to. Even the nice people at Murdock newspapers have access to any phone messages in your mobile account. We are just a number.

IP number - we all use computers as an aid to living increasingly hectic life styles. I can remember a time when the computer and other new technology was going to make our lives much better. Hedonism for life was the promise. Now service providers log when we are on line, the sites we visit.  Do you believe in a free lunch, so why do google and others offer all those free applications such as blogger? We are just a number.

Number plate scanning - Is now being used in many private car parks (Sheffield Meadowhall for instance) and is used to gain automatic access to your address details from the DVLA. Just to send you a parking ticket if you should over stay your time. We are just a number.

Bank account number - How much is on deposit in your account is one thing. Direct debits now give others the right to take whatever amount they wish whenever. The banks know what you purchase, who you choose to purchase from, even where was it delivered. We are just a number.

What do you like to read - Do you purchase books from Amazon or borrow books from the library. Think of it like Amazon’s suggestions of books that you may like to read - based on other books you have previously purchased. We are just a number.

Street cameras - Under the guise of fighting crime, many of our streets are now monitored 24 hours a day. Many council employees have been granted access to the video data.

According to the latest studies, Britain has a staggering 4.2million CCTV cameras - one for every 14 people in the country. On a global scale 20 per cent of cameras are in the UK. It has been calculated that each person is caught on a camera an average of 300 times daily. These cameras together with hundreds of private, remote-controlled security cameras used to scrutinise visitors to homes, shops and offices.

Facial recognition - Facial recognition software has long been used in CCTV video monitoring in the security and access control industries. Those photographs of yourself that you post on Farcebook and other such social media sites. Ask yourself, who has access to the photographs and how are they being used?

Loyalty cards - Morrison's and other supermarkets keep a track of your purchases using techniques called data mining. The supermarkets know more about your shopping habits than you know yourself. We are just a number.

It does not stop at digital records.

Under Section 44 of The Terrorism Act anyone can be stopped in the street and forcibly searched by having their clothing removed and their pockets and perhaps even their physical bodies inspected by the Police. The prospect is an experience you may find difficult to comprehend - how one person can be violated by a stranger in uniform on little more than a whim. God forbid that their should be any petty malice or other prejudice by the uniform. The one emergency service that was identified as blighted by being an institutional racist organisation.

Plans are in place to move away from the world of bank cheques and into the world of plastic transactions only. Taken to the ultimate degree, I suppose we can do away with any currency in the usual forms and change to a more notional than physical currency based on credits. Social interaction is a relationship between two or more individuals.  Social media is an interaction between you and your lifestyle and whoever cares to look.

Welcome to the world of Orwell's 1984 - we apologise for the late arrival!


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