We bought the e-ticket, we're taking the ride
Programme number three is tentatively titled, "The Cost of Free". It's all about the little bits of us that we trade to use the Web.
I'm a dystopian from way back. I distinctly remember the first time I landed on 1984, one of those books on my shelf that is so well thumbed, I've practically rubbed out the writing. When I discovered it in high school, it turned my world upside down: it was a challenge, a call to arms, a layer of consciousness peeled back, magical sunglasses put on, an awareness of the hidden machinations that keep us ticking over like drugged, pliant masses. Really. Very exciting.
Among the many things that have stuck in my mind from Orwell's powerful story was the box in the corner of every room that watched the citizenry of Oceania. Big Brother (sadly caricatured by a light entertainment, self-promotional vehicle) kept tabs on Winston Smith and his compatriots through the telescreen, or the two-way TV that proved an unavoidable window into private and public life.
Over the years, it has occurred to me that the Web is an adaptation of this object. In addition to the content that we willingly give to it through our profiles, our feeds and our clickstreams, there are many terrifying hacks that we don't realise are giving other people access into our lives. Take this list of unsecured webcams as an example: you and I are free to look into the rooms of anyone who chooses to leave their network loops open, and those people who didn't know the difference. Kinda freaks me out.
But there is one critical difference between the modern world and the world created by Orwell: this pseudo-surveillance has not been imposed by any State. We are complicit in bringing the machine into our lives.
The success of this innovation has been brought about because we've listened to our friends and we've listened to our wallets. The benefits significantly outweigh the costs. As Boldwing commented on our very first blog post: we are able to connect, collect, contribute and create online in ways that were heretofore impossible. And we do all this for free. Pretty flipping amazing.
So what are the costs? And more importantly, who is watching us? Well, that's what we're going to look at over the next few weeks. We are going to examine how we are vulnerable, but how our vulnerability is making the world a better place.
I love the ideas in all four of the Digital Revolution programmes, but I think this is my favourite at the moment, because it taps into something so wonderfully dark, so disturbingly dystopian, that I'm sure what we uncover will be far, far stranger than fiction. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.