In 1984, the rock/pop band The Police won Grammy Awards for the song “Every Breath You take”. It’s a great song and is considered to be one of their best. It’s a song about intrusive, complete surveillance…”every breath you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you.” How appropriate the awards were won in 1984. That’s the title of George Orwell’s classic book about a future totalitarian regime that knows and records everything you do and even what you think. “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is where we get now ubiquitous terms like Big Brother, the thought-police and newspeak from.
Today we live in a world where everything we do online, every web-site we visit, every search we make is recorded and is available for “data-mining”. Not only that, every electronic cash transaction, every phone call, email, text – even our location through the mobile phone in our pocket, provides information on everything we do, everywhere we go, everything we like and even everything we believe. It is all recorded and stored.
Why is this so shocking? Well, here’s an example from real life history: In the early 1900’s, the Dutch government, for purely practical and innocent purposes, recorded various items of information, including people’s religion. This information was stored and was later used by the invading Nazi’s to target those they wanted to destroy, namely the Jewish population of The Netherlands. If Hitler had the surveillance resources available to him that are available today, his reign of terror would have far exceeded the scope and extent it actually achieved.
Today, by God’s grace, we are not ruled by a European or a global dictator. However, that does not mean that just such a “big brother” society will not emerge in the future. In fact, I believe we can count on it happening and we can see the beginning of the formation of such a society in our world today. In just such a society, there has to be an international network of information and communication. Today we take the internet for granted, but the inter(national) net(work) infrastructure is indeed in place and operating.
To quote Dr Aleks Krotoski, from her excellent documentary “The Virtual Revolution – The Cost of Free”: “An Orwellian future may seem a little far-fetched, but as masses of data is stored on the web, the issue isn’t so much of who owns the data, but who might own it in an unknown future.”
And the Daily Telegraph states in ‘Google Glass: Orwellian surveillance with fluffier branding‘, that their new technology will make us all agents for Google. They quote Nick Pickles, Director of Big Brother Watch, who says the implications for privacy are profoundly worrying.
It’s not only Google, of course. The information collected by other major tech companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Apple gives them detailed knowledge of much of our lives, what we like and love, what we do and where we go, what we believe and who we associate with.
I’m not sure what we can practically do about all this, but at least “to be fore-warned is to be fore-armed”, to coin a phrase. As for those of us who believe the Bible and trust in the God of the Bible and in Jesus the Messiah, we need to be aware of the gathering clouds so that we can be prepared, be awake and be ready for the Lord’s return, not asleep and dozing like the foolish virgins of Matthew 25.