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The smart road to loss of freedom


WE ARE well aware of the central role that smartphones play in many people’s lives. Haven’t we all seen young folk walking along the street gazing at the screen in their hand, oblivious to what is going on around them? How many times have you seen people sitting together in the pub, cafe or restaurant with their eyes fixed on their phones? Groups who come together supposedly for friendship and conversation retreating into the virtual world as if a spell has been cast. Can this be a good thing? Can the random capture of a person’s thought processes ever be healthy?

There is no doubt that Silicon Valley engineers have designed, and are constantly upgrading, applications which are as addictive as gambling, alcohol or drugs.

All of this is intentional. If those who would seek to control every one of us, and indeed every aspect of our lives so that we could not function in society without subservience to them, how would they go about it? They would seek to make us totally dependent on their highly developed technology, so that any kind of acceptable and worthwhile life would be impossible without it.

Are these the ravings of a modern-day Luddite? Well, I love technology. I have a computer and an iPad, but I have an old-fashioned mobile phone, the kind whereby you talk to people and send the occasional text. I use technology as a tool when it suits me. As with alcohol, I know that over-indulgence might lead me down the slippery slope to hell. I firmly believe that ‘smart technologies’ – I mean not just phones but anything with the word ‘smart’ in its description – are being pushed not for our benefit but because they are all part of the Big Brother society that we are being herded towards; it is a vision of a totalitarian state that is a danger to us all.

Here is just one example: energy suppliers are very keen for you to have so-called smart meters installed. These provide a continuous display of your use and automatically send details to your supplier. The myriad alleged benefits include being able to monitor your energy consumption and adjust your behaviour accordingly, receiving accurate bills instead of estimates, and no need to open the door to a meter reader.

However critics have warned for years that a smart meter enables the supplier to control your use, even cutting you off, at the push of a button from the control centre. Now this aspect is coming to light. Customers who are behind with their payments are finding their smart meters are being switched remotely into prepayment meters, which have a higher tariff. Although the supplier is supposed to discuss the move with the customer, in some cases the only warning given is a text message.

Meanwhile the closure of bank branches, which has been going on for years, is gathering pace. Older people cannot go into banks because they are not there. They cannot contact their banks because of the computerised systems replacing human beings. ‘You are number 27 in the queue’ is enough to dishearten and depress many people who live alone and are have minimum support.

Life is becoming increasingly difficult for millions of people who cannot or will not take on board the technological revolution. The push for ‘apps’ to pay for everything rather than use cash is all around us; supermarkets are champing at the bit to accept card/phone app payments only. Public transport, public car parks and public conveniences are moving to app payments only. Already some shops will not accept cash at all. In short, there are millions of people who are excluded from society because they are not up to speed with technology, and this will only get worse.

Where is this headed? I’m afraid that those who are unworried by the swish of a phone at a checkout or the monitoring of their digitalised money online are in for a huge shock. Rather than a Utopian dream of having life simplified by technology, what in fact is heading down the tracks is the entire opposite. A complete and total loss of freedom. A life where your every waking moment is monitored and controlled by the phone in your pocket. Your phone knows where you are; how fast you are driving (if you are one of the fortunate few who can still afford to drive); how much ‘digital money’ you have and what you can spend it on; when and where you can access medical care (not in person of course, the digital doctor will see you now); where and when you can holiday; if and when you can work. And much, much more.

And once your ‘cash’ is just an online number completely outside your control, you will be totally and utterly dependent on the State to allow you to function at all. You will be a non-person and subject to any qualifying conditions which the authorities impose on you in order to live. It’s already this way now for millions of people in China.

So what can you do about this? How can you say, ‘Enough is enough, I want a better world for my children and grandchildren’? You can make a major start right now. You can ditch ‘the enemy in your pocket’, because if it is allowed to control our lives, it becomes the self-inflicted instrument of our own incarceration. When that happens, life as we know it will be but a distant memory.

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Harry Hopkins
Harry Hopkins
Harry Hopkins is a furniture designer/maker who loves to write.

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