Ai Weiwei is Living in Our Future

Hans de Zwart, Medium, Dec 31, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

So what is life like in the surveillance state? Ask artist Ai Weiwei. He lives under constant observation courtesy of the Chinese government. This article describes his efforts to understand and test the limits of constant observation, including the impact it has on the observers (ware in many ways less free than he is). Weiwei's present is our future. Perhaps we will rely less on humans to do the watching, simply because the workload makes it impossible. But I have no doubt we will respond by testing limits, adapting (as urban youth already have with the hoodie) and accommodating. This article is a good account, but I think it misses something important. With privacy at a premium, I think that the unexpected result will be that the range of unacceptable acts will be reduced. It's simply a matter of practicality - when you see everything, you can only focus on the worst things, and the lesser evils become effectively decriminalized. But in such an environment corruption and petty theft can prevail, and the end result is that people feel less safe, and not more safe.

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