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Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

Let me introduce you to a word that is probably new to you but will probably be used much more in the future. Decades ago, when I talked about concepts like “secular humanism” or the “New Age Movement” on radio, I think most listeners wondered why I was talking about such philosophical concepts. But they soon learned how important they were.

The word is “panopticon.” It is used in two YouTube videos I’ve seen and is used many times in one of the books I am reading. The idea was formulated by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who wanted to construct a way in which a watchman could keep an eye on lots of prisoners in a prison. A central tower was surrounded by cells with a bright light shining from it, so the prisoners were unable to see the watchman. Therefore, they had to assume they were always under observation.

The word panopticon is now being used to describe our world of digital surveillance. You might think that this is merely another way to describe “Big Brother” in the book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, but there is a significant difference. The primary tools in that totalitarian state were posters and huge “telescreens,” which were a constant reminder you were being watched.

The Big Brother metaphor fails to capture what is happening in our current age of surveillance. We never know who is listening or when they are listening. People in China know the government is watching and listening and even giving them a social credit score. In this country, we know government and corporations are watching and listening to us through our phones, computers, smart watches, and even through security cameras. But we are never sure who is watching and when because we live in a digital panopticon.viewpoints new web version

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