It is entirely feasible that, more or less soon, your life — your entire life — can be recorded and stored. Instead of posting the occasional Twitter update, instead of compiling the sporadic online photo album, why not just leave your own personal digital recorder constantly on?
Further suppose this recorder — embedded in your necklace, your earring, your wristwatch — communicates with all the other digital devices in your environment. If you type at a computer keyboard, for instance, your recorder captures what you type and stores that file. If you drive within range of a city traffic camera, your recorder copies and stores whatever images of you are on that traffic camera. When you buy tickets to a Saints game, your recorder is there, noting your ticket price, your seat number, your barcode.
Digital storage is virtually infinite. Digital storage is virtually free. Why not just store everything in the cloud and then, whenever you like later, sort out the good stuff? Would you want to do that? Would you want to have a complete and total record of your life?
If you don’t, somebody else might. Your mother, maybe. Your employer, maybe. Your government, maybe.
Currently, everything — EVERYTHING — you do on the web is recorded somewhere, by somebody, for some reason. The difficult part of this task is not in the recording and the storing; the difficult part is in the accessing. You remain anonymous on the web, for the most part, because what is being recorded about you looks identical to what is being recorded about everyone else — and you are hard to pick out of that big crowd. But if someone really wants to find your individual little needle in that big digital haystack, they can do it.
Look at it like this: If they can find Jason Bourne, they can sure as heck find you.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? You might think, for instance, that cookies on your computer are a good thing. These cookies save you time; they point you in the direction of products and services that you want to buy and use. These cookies make you easier to identify, to find, and, perhaps, to serve. Or, perhaps, to prosecute. Or, perhaps, to prosecute severely.
New media offer us a great variety of ways to communicate with one another. Do these new media offer us the same opportunities to NOT communicate with one another? Social media applications can quickly become oppressive in the degree to which these new media applications — MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, even multiplayer online games — promulgate conformity, convention, and a bully-boy, celebrity culture.
Idiosyncrasy and dissent — perhaps, even, in some cases, radical dissent — have proven important catalysts to creativity, innovation, and change. Curious George knows this well — regardless of any rules laid down by Men in Hats.
Still, I wonder how curious a Curious George might be willing to be — or might be allowed to be — under the Homeland Security Act and the auspices of an NSA armed with lots of little digital recorders turned constantly on.
Less Curious George, more Circumspect George.