Which Side Are You On?

It’s a common thing to have to choose “sides.” In a world dead set on being binary, either/or, and exclusive, we all have to make decisions. Are you for the NSA spying on our personal internet experiences, or are you against? Is Edward Snowden a hero, or a monster traitor turned against his government? Do you think technology is good for us, or will it ruin our society, leaving nothing left in its trace?

Binary may be the language of the computer world, but human life isn’t binary. This is what differs our intelligence from artificial intelligence--we do not think or act in either/or. We romanticize that we are like machines, choosing logically in all conditions, but life isn’t black and white. We have colors such as gray, yellow, green, and brown, to name just a few. There are some behaviors that we can agree are entirely wrong, but most interactions in human life are complicated.

The internet may be a world of 1’s and 0’s, but human decision making is more quantum--one never knows where we’ll go or what we’ll do, given the circumstances at hand.

This week we learned from Snowden once more that the NSA is spying on us--this time within our gaming communities. World of Warcraft and Second Life have been infiltrated by the government. Phone records, banking statements and emails are personal, but what we reveal about ourselves when we play in these virtual realities is even more intimate. We form relationships online in these games. I once drove a thirteen year old boy home to his house who needed to arrive “on time” so he could gather with his friends from all over the world and fight a battle from the comfort of his bedroom. This is real to him, a place where he can be himself with others. Spying on gamers is a breech that borders breaking and entering.

As a result of these revelations, players from two major spheres of life came out this week to declare this state surveillance as unacceptable. First, Microsoft and Google formed a consortium with six other major tech firms to declare that laws be put in place to curb NSA actions. Then, the cultural community spoke out, with over 500 of the world’s leading authors doing the same.

Why is this important?

Of course each sphere has its own motivations. The tech giants fear orders on their services and products declining. Business wants the right to know everything we do so that they can make money off of us, but they don’t want the NSA surveillance to hurt their bottom line. As Falguni A. Sheth wrote in Salon.com this week, business and the government have, “...the quintessential neoliberal environment: Corporations and the government converge to strip the focus away from rights so as to have better control over individuals. But at the moment that corporate profit is threatened, corporations no longer act in complete concert with the state, but rather “institutions” (the government and corporations) battle each other for control over consumers/citizens.”

This is obviously not a black or white relationship.

Enter in the third player--those who’ve been most successful in the cultural sphere of life are joining in the discussion. The fight for data privacy isn’t about business vs. government. It’s about our stories, music, arts and cultural life remaining in our control. We already know that after the age of massive corporate mergers, only a few companies now control entertainment in our nation. The Internet is the only remaining free channel for information to flow between people, without being spun. Yes, you have to mine the chaff from the wheat, but these authors are correct when they claim that state surveillance takes away from the freedom of creation. It’s a trespassing on the cultural commons of our humanity.

How this plays out will determine the future. In my novel, eHuman Dawn, big business leads the Great Shift, convincing the world to Jump into the eHuman form, in order to make a ton of money. Government goes along for the ride because a networked population is easily controlled. A win-win for both entities. In eHuman Dawn, the cultural sphere is destroyed, manipulated and controlled--completely in the hands of those who own the technology. This would be a terrible loss to our humanity.

Therefore I find it a good omen that the most successful authors and business leaders are taking a stand against the government. If this alliance remains, we might be able to create solid protection laws that make moving towards a singularity society safer for humanity.


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