2010-06-17 / Sam Bari

What are we welcoming with open wallets?

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

Technology has done it again. The miniaturization of computerrelated high-tech toys is nothing short of amazing. Every day, Silicon Valley seems to leap further into the future with higher tech.

The new iPhone4 from Apple and its competitor from Verizon perform tasks that were unheard of except in the most sophisticated computers a decade ago. The most recent models make videophones a reality.

Users with the same technology can see the person with whom they are conversing through a video camera mounted on the front of the new phones. The click of a button switches the camera from the front of the phone to a camera on the back. If you’re the person on the other end, you can see what the other person sees.

If you are enjoying commanding views of the Grand Canyon while you are on vacation, you can call a friend on the other side of the world with like technology and enjoy the scenery together.

Cool, huh?

In addition to the videophone, these cell phones can communicate with home computers. With the right configuration, users can utilize applications that were not available on cell phones before now. They can send the data to their home or office, and remotely revise or create files.

The new cell phones are sophisticated computers that offer highquality video and digital technology, and are small enough to hold in one hand.

All the advantages are great. Unfortunately, there is a downside.

From overprotective parents to the long arm of governments seeking greater powers, this technology can be used to relieve people of their privacy and control their behavior.

Technology made “Big Brother” a reality long before 1984 or the invention of the iPhone4. I find it interesting that he emerged with the advent of another visual breakthrough — television.

The TV programs of the 1950s – featuring the utopian families like “Father Knows Best,” “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Leave it to Beaver” – dictated the standard for family behavior.

Grammar was flawless, the father was the undisputed “head” of the family and he always wore a tie. The moms were dressed and made up as if they were expecting royalty for dinner, and the children were germ free and perfect. No reality shows there.

Now, big bro is such a dominant factor in our lives that we take him for granted. Some even think the idea of “Big Brother” is a good thing.

Those are the people who say, “Well, what have you got to hide?”

To which I reply — “Plenty!” The events in our lives that we want to keep to ourselves are not available for public knowledge for one reason — because we want it that way. It is our right. We have fought wars to defend that right and I do not want to see that right compromised even the teensiest bit.

Preserving the right to privacy has nothing to do with being free to break the law or commit indiscretions. It has everything to do with the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Teenagers, if your parents give you one of these phones, beware. If they are overzealous control freaks, do not be surprised if the gift comes with a caveat.

That caveat will be: “Answer the phone whenever I call, and make sure the camera is on. I want to know where you are and whom you are with at all times. Otherwise — you’re grounded.”

The control that can be applied with a videophone is one step removed from a convict wearing an ankle bracelet while on home confi nement.

During my formative years, children and teenagers had one job — to learn. Part of that process involved discovery and exploration. Occasionally, we made mistakes. Growing up is not a perfect science. But we did learn, and without a 24-hour watchdog.

Today, children’s lives are so scheduled that they have no time to themselves. The learning process is programmed into them. We’re turning out a generation of robots with free will. Unfortunately, they are rarely afforded the opportunity to exercise the latter.

I’m not saying that children should be unsupervised. They should be taught the rules of acceptable behavior when they are young. If they learn properly, they deserve to be trusted. Otherwise, they will become robots who do as they are told.

That is frightening.

Don’t be fooled by Big Brother. He’s here, living with us in a system we can’t understand.

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