The smart city.

When you read the more famous dystopian novels, you get a dirty sense of being watched, of being spied upon, of being judged. Every little movement you make is being processed and synthesized by human or computer generated eyes, to see what must be done with you. Like a rat on a wheel, or a clown on a stage, the standard has been set, and if one doesn’t live up to it, then one gets taken out. Currently our world is slowly going that way. I carry a data collecting unit in my pocket. It has the capacity to tell millions of people where I am at every moment of the day. It can even measure if i’m walking through pot holes, if i am being attacked, or if gun shots are being fired around me. It can take video of my life, soon it will be able to measure temperature, air purity, speed and a myriad of other things. Very soon, it will become, as well as other sensors and cameras being installed in cities across the planet – a way for the rest of the world to judge my behaviour, my life, my conclusions, from arm chairs and computer screens anywhere in the world. What happens when we are being watched? Six months ago, I was practicing with my band a song that ends with all of us singing acapella. It was one of the early times we had played through the whole song, and we had another band coming to hang out with us that afternoon, a band I highly respected, who were going to play some songs after us that night. So we were passionately playing this song, and as we come to the voices only part of the song, in walks the drummer and singer of this amazing band. Instantly i felt self conscious, hoping I would sing the end well, hoping they would like it. Being watched makes us over think. Sometimes when I teach people how to play guitar, i feel like I’m saying “no” a lot. ‘Is this an E chord?’ – ‘No, its like this’ – ‘This?’ – ‘No’ etc etc. Sometimes when we are being watched and doing things wrong, we get told no so then we stop trying, as if it wasn’t worth it because every time we try something we will just be told no any way. Being watched without helpful feedback can shut down perseverance. When you fear being belted for treating your sister wrong, you fear the pain, you don’t usually really care about your sister. Being watched can mean our societies standards could raise because we fear getting a speeding ticket, for example. So we go slower passed the camera and then speed up. If, at a larger level, we are behaving just to avoid punishment, then fear takes over our lives. We begin making choices purely on ‘what gets me in the least trouble’ which drives a large wedge between us and authority. Being watched breeds terror. Whose standards are watching us. If the law of the land begins changing its standards, then being watched could force us into depravity. Reading through Ben Eltons take on a 1984-like reality tv show-as life, society has taken out all walls of privacy. It becomes almost a law and religion to watch other peoples private moments on big screens 24/7. Being watched by the wrong people could destroy the moral fabric of our entire world. I i love technology. I love that i can message my friends in florida, Alberta, Germany and Thailand all at the same time. I love sharing my life all across the planet. But i don’t think I like the idea that soon our laws could be policed by unfeeling computerized sensors. Because ultimately emotionless drones have no concept of grace. and grace enables us to have freedom and space to learn from our mistakes. This may all sound like a conspiracy theory, but google ‘google glasses’ or ‘government 2.0’ ‘hollaback’ the self driving car, ‘street bump’ etc etc – these technologies are doing amazing stuff in our world. but, ultimately I would prefer a gracious, rescuing, convicting, comforting, personal God, then a heartless justice system run by literal heartless electronics.

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