Friday, August 9, 2013

Info Age Fail 10: Big Sister

(This is part 10 in a series. Part 1 is here)

Ever heard the term "Big Brother"? No not the lame reality TV show. I am referring to the Original "Big Brother" from Orwell's "1984" ("Big Brother is watching you"). The great surveillance state. In which your every move, every emotion is caught be cameras, by spies, your every word reviewed for any sign that you are not precisely in lock-step with the party. Pretty terrifying stuff. Many a dark movie has contemplated the implications of a society in which humanity has become enslaved by the surveillance network which they originally welcomed as being necessary for the "greater good" (Enemy of the State and Minority Report are two good examples).

Well, try to set aside those images for a minute as I introduce you to Big Sister.

Big Sister is ... a surveillance system.... in the general sense. But she is very different from Big Brother. Big Sister doesn't attempt to scrutinize or discern your thoughts or intentions. Big sister isn't an attempt to achieve crime prediction and prevention. Most importantly, Big Sister doesn't belong to any one group or organization.

Big Sister is a distributed network of open sensors, cameras and other information gathering equipment, used to provide information needed to make educated decisions, reducing the influence of political agenda, and our own human bias. Big sister doesn't secretly gather information, she doesn't hide in a data center poking through emails, listening to phone calls.  She doesn't send swat teams to Euthanize baby deer.

Big sister provides the framework to allow an engaged public to act collectively, and cohesively to achieve better results. Big Sister can use existing sensor and 'surveillance systems, provided they are fully exposed to the public, and applied equally to everyone (Think less "NSA surveillance center", and more "everyone with a camera phone, and an open repository for all that footage to go to".

Big sister relies heavily on the previously described identification and trust systems. remember her purpose is to present information to the masses, as unencumbered by bias as possible she exists to tell the truth, absent the influence of human bias and perception. She doe not make decisions, she does not keep secrets, and she does not work in a vacuum.

It is probably easier to demonstrate Big Sister than to explain her. I will follow this post with a series of fictional scenarios demonstrating Big Sister in action. For starters, here is one small taste, a hint of a possibility...

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