Real Thoughtcrime

The notion of *pre-crime*, as detailed in the short story “Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick (and the 2002 movie expanding on the story’s outline) or of *thoughtcrime* as conceived by George Orwell, is near at hand. Step One of the process is the recognition of the *need* for total information awareness (TIA). A great example of this was the Stasi in East Germany, right before the end of their existence. They were reading mail, listening in on phone calls and café conversations, and encouraging everyone to turn in friends, family, and neighbors who might be speaking ill of the state or plotting to overthrow it. Infamously, children were encouraged by their teachers to turn in their parents for utterances that the child could not possibly place in context. While the Stasi desired TIA, it did not have the ability to gather more information than it was able to collect using these crude measures.
Step Two is where we are today: in pursuit of TIA and with the advances in computer technology over the last 30 years, we now have the ability to store every bit of communication the government (or its contractors) can get their filthy hands on. We have total information storage (TIS). Whether it is scanning and storing the exteriors of envelopes and postcards, storing the metadata and content of phone calls and emails, your minute-by-minute position from the GPS on your communications device(s), video images taken by millions of closed-circuit cameras, or storing, in real time, your every keystroke; advances in technology have allowed those in power to gather and store all types of communication and location data. What they currently lack is the ability to process it all in any meaningful way. They can rightly claim they only use TIS to look back in the few pertinent cases where it might be helpful, and then *of course* only with the proper court authorizations.
Step Three is where we all come to hate technology: total information processing (TIP). Whether it is 1, 5, 10 or 20 years from now, computer hardware and algorithms will continue to advance until the data gathered in TIS will be able to be processed in all its detail with the result that citizens can and will be arrested for *crimes* they have only thought about, or written about, or speculated about in their conversations. And with the precedent already established of warrantless searches, indefinite detention, and drone assassination, the excuse that, “I have nothing to hide” will be insufficient to shield you from being caught in the web that some programmer’s logic tree uses to connect you with some casual acquaintance that you not only don’t know very well, but do not support. Yet your protests of innocence will echo off the walls of the cell in which you spend the rest of your days, alone and battered. And you will regret not having put a stop to TIS when you had the chance.

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