For autocrats, a world embedded with a constellation of ubiquitous RFID sensors would be ideal. “A Panopticon Singularity is the logical outcome if the burgeoning technologies of the singularity are funneled into automating law enforcement,” writes Charlie Stross. “Previous police states were limited by manpower, but the panopticon singularity substitutes technology, and ultimately replaces human conscience with a brilliant but merciless prosthesis.”
As Stross notes, the state will use this technology to go after the malcontents and troublemakers, but they will also use it against pedestrian criminals, those minus political persuasion:
If a panopticon singularity emerges, you’d be well advised to stay away from Massachusetts if you and your partner aren’t married. Don’t think about smoking a joint unless you want to see the inside of one of the labor camps where over 50% of the population sooner or later go. Don’t jaywalk, chew gum in public, smoke, exceed the speed limit, stand in front of fire exit routes, or wear clothing that violates the city dress code (passed on the nod in 1892, and never repealed because everybody knew nobody would enforce it and it would take up valuable legislative time). You won’t be able to watch those old DVD’s of ‘Friends’ you copied during the naughty oughties because if you stick them in your player it’ll call the copyright police on you. You’d better not spend too much time at the bar, or your insurance premiums will rocket and your boss might ask you to undergo therapy. You might be able to read a library book or play a round of a computer game, but your computer will be counting the words you read and monitoring your pulse so that it can bill you for the excitement it has delivered.
Charlie Stross is one of my favorite modern day science-fiction authors. He is British and he sees the emerging police/surveillance state taking hold there with astonishing speed. I think what amazes him more than anything is the citizenry of the U.K. embracing this technology whole-heartedly. They simply don’t care that their government spies and monitors them 24/7. And of course, he sees the same thing occurring all over the world, the U.S. especially.
In Stross’ article, The Panopticon Singularity, he foresees the outcome of burgeoning surveillance tech and the extremes that might happen.