Big Data, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Federal Data Gathering Centers

Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth. Tell no lie. Everything you think, do and say is in the pill you took today.”–Zager and Evans

There is a direct line between the rise of GMO’s, the enthusiasm with which “Big Data” is being adopted, the coming of Google glasses and other wearables, the prevalence of Federal Government “data centers” (7,000 at last count) and the ubiquitousness of cameras on stoplights, street corners, and in city parks.
This line overlaps with mobile device tracking, police and the NSA monitoring your cell phone calls and Internet searches, and the coming of “the Internet of Everything.”
This line is followed ever so casually, by the prevalence of laws and policies designed to provide a benefit (i.e. the Affordable Health Care Act, among others), but that tangentially allow larger and larger private and public bureaucracies to burrow deeper and deeper into personal behavior choices that we make on an individual and societal basis.
The intersections all meet at a point of behavior monitoring, or “nudging,” of private individuals into buying acceptable products, acting in acceptable ways and making sure that everybody else does the same.
In the arena of conflict resolution and peace building, we here at HSCT find the idea of behavior management or behavior monitoring by large, faceless, entities to be–well, “creepy” (as the kids are wont to say as they Tweet out every instance of their lives looking for connections)–and authoritarian.
Dare we say, all of this progress smacks of Orwellianism.
Now, before we are accused of wearing tinfoil hats and searching the skies for black helicopters, we have an “early adopter” curve for you to make our next point.

Now, early adopters are the people who will buy the I-phone when it’s brand new and will probably buy the first pair of Google glasses at $200 a piece.Your folks in the middle–the early and late majority– are most of us.  They will buy a smart phone from Wal-mart two years from now and only because their friends all have one, so “why not?”

Your third group is at the end of the curve. The laggards are the people we all know who still have VCR’s and will never buy Google Glasses because they’re either paranoid about Big Brother, or they just don’t care.

The anti-GMO people…
The anti-CCTV camera people…
The guy who drives around town distributing a mimeographed, weekly paper, out of the back of his car which is full of garbage and may or may not have an animal in the back.
These are your laggards.
Moreover, it is the behavior, choices and conflicts that this group of people present, that confounds, distorts and affects bureaucratic “thinking” and policymaking, and leads to more and more talk of “the Internet of Everything.”
Now, mugging people of their autonomy, independence and free will and limiting choices, stands in opposition to peace, in our opinion.
The right NOT to participate is the most sacred right in the Constitution.
This sacred right, to go off on one’s own, creates conflicts with other individuals and societies.
However, peace is NOT the absence of conflict.
The false promise of all of these technologies is that by everyone, everywhere, at all time, having their behavior, choices, ideas, attitudes, conversations and thoughts, confirmed, conformed, reformed, and reconstituted, for the benefit of the lowest bidder; that somehow, that act of “tamping down” the unruly nails, will ultimately lead to some sort of man made Utopia.
That is NOT peace.
That is TYRANNY.
Let us all become vigilant watchmen on the walls for peace.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
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