Time to buckle up your seatbelts, folks. You're in for a bumpy ride.
We're hurtling down a one-way road toward the Police State at mind-boggling speeds, the terrain is getting more treacherous by the minute, and we've passed all the exit ramps. From this point forward, there is no turning back, and the signpost ahead reads: "Danger."
Indeed, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we're about to enter a Twilight Zone of sorts, one marked by drones, smart phones, GPS devices, smart TVs, social media, smart meters, surveillance cameras, facial recognition software, online banking, license plate readers and driverless cars -- all part of the interconnected technological spider's web that is life in the American police state, and every new gadget pulls us that much deeper into the sticky snare.
In this Brave New World awaiting us, there will be no communication not spied upon, no movement untracked, no thought unheard. In other words, there will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
We're on the losing end of a technological revolution that has already taken hostage our computers, our phones, our finances, our entertainment, our shopping, our appliances and now, it's focused its sights on our cars. As if the government wasn't already able to track our movements on the nation's highways and byways by way of satellites, GPS devices and real-time traffic cameras, government officials are now pushing to require that all new vehicles come installed with black box recorders and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, ostensibly to help prevent crashes.
Yet, strip away the glib Orwellian doublespeak, and what you will find is that these black boxes and V2V transmitters, which will not only track a variety of data, including speed, direction, location, the number of miles traveled and seatbelt use, but will also transmit this data to other drivers, including the police, are little more than Trojan Horses, stealth attacks on our last shreds of privacy, sold to us as safety measures for the sake of the greater good, all the while poised to wreak havoc on our lives.
Black boxes and V2V transmitters are just the tip of the iceberg, though. The 2015 Corvette Stingray will be outfitted with a performance data recorder which "uses a camera mounted on the windshield and a global positioning receiver to record speed, gear selection and brake force," but also provides a recording of the driver's point of view as well as recording noises made inside the car. As journalist Jaclyn Trop reports for the New York Times, "Drivers can barely make a left turn, put on their seat belts or push 80 miles an hour without their actions somehow, somewhere being tracked or recorded." Indeed, corporations and government officials already have a pretty good sense of where you are at all times.
Now that the government and its corporate partners-in-crime know where you're going and how fast you're going when in your car, the next big hurdle will be to know how many passengers are in your car, what contraband might be in your car (and that will largely depend on whatever is outlawed at the moment, which could be anything from Sudafed cold medicine to goat cheese), to what you're saying and exactly what you're doing within the fiberglass and steel walls of your vehicle. That's where drones come in.
Once drones take to the skies en masse in 2015, there will literally be no place where government agencies and private companies cannot track your movements. These drones will be equipped with cameras that provide a live video feed, as well as heat sensors, radar and thermal imaging devices capable of seeing through the walls of your car. And of course all of this information, your every movement -- whether you make a wrong move, or appear to be doing something suspicious, even if you don't do anything suspicious, the information of your whereabouts, including what stores and offices you visit, what political rallies you attend, and what people you meet -- will be tracked, recorded and streamed to a government command center, where it will be saved and easily accessed at a later date.
By the time you add self-driving cars into the futuristic mix, equipped with computers that know where you want to go before you do, you'll be so far down the road to Steven Spielberg's vision of the future as depicted in Minority Report that privacy and autonomy will be little more than distant mirages in your rearview mirror. The film, set in 2054 and based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, offered movie audiences a special effect-laden techno-vision of a futuristic world in which the government is all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful. And if you dare to step out of line, dark-clad police SWAT teams will bring you under control. As Rod Serling prophesied in a Commencement Address at the University of Southern California in March 17, 1970:
It's simply a national acknowledgement that in any kind of priority, the needs of human beings must come first. Poverty is here and now. Hunger is here and now. Racial tension is here and now. Pollution is here and now. These are the things that scream for a response. And if we don't listen to that scream -- and if we don't respond to it -- we may well wind up sitting amidst our own rubble, looking for the truck that hit us -- or the bomb that pulverized us. Get the license number of whatever it was that destroyed the dream. And I think we will find that the vehicle was registered in our own name.
You can add the following to that list of needs requiring an urgent response: Police abuse is here and now. Surveillance is here and now. Imperial government is here and now. Yet while the vehicle bearing down upon us is indeed registered in our own name, we've allowed Big Brother to get behind the wheel, and there's no way to put the brakes on this runaway car.