We've warned before about the prospect of vastly expanded surveillance networks in the near future, particularly if molecular manufacturing is applied. When governments easily can build a network to watch all its citizens all the time, human rights and civil liberties we take for granted may be in jeopardy.
One company has come up with a digital identity system that has tagged every adult American with a unique code. Another company is intent on gaining control of all records -- including state and local files, financial information, employee dossiers, DNA data and criminal background checks -- that define our identity. In addition to iris scanners, voice analyzers and fingerprint readers, there now exist face recognition machines and cameras that can identify an individual by how he or she walks. One government group is working on infrared detectors that could register heat signals around people's eyes, indicating an autonomic "fight or flight" response; another federal agency has floated a proposal to assess risk by examining airline passengers' brain waves with "noninvasive neuro-electric sensors."
This surveillance state is not a futuristic place conjured in a Philip K. Dick novel or "Matrix"-esque sci-fi thriller. It is post-9/11 America . . .
. . . provides an example of how concerns about proliferation might increase to the point that large-scale intrusive security measures are taken to prevent outbreaks of deadly attacks, possibly introducing an Orwellian world.
Could that come to pass? Has it already begun? One group that is working to stop it is the nonprofit Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE). They describe themselves as "a network of scholars elaborating the law, policy and ethics of freedom of thought. Our mission is to develop public polices that will preserve and enhance freedom of thought into the 21st Century."
In the pervading climate of fear, their mission, like CRN's, is a steep challenge.
"Cycle of Fear" is a good title for a dystopian, Orwellian future scenario. Indeed, we warn of "vicious cycles" in our current analysis of nanotechnology policy issues.
Groups or companies that would like to learn more about how molecular manufacturing may affect them, and how they can begin preparing for it, should consider booking one of our Nano-Workshops. Vicious cycles -- and how to avoid them -- is among the topics we cover.