Our nightmare future

It’s something of an understatement to say the recent revelations about the “Riot” spying software being marketed by Raytheon are sinister.

As The Guardian reports, it is “capable of tracking people’s movements and predicting future behaviour by mining data from social networking websites”.

Those who point out that this is nothing new – and has probably been going on without our knowledge for some years – are no doubt right. But we have surely reached some kind of milestone when this kind of intrusive surveillance, explicitly designed to help the state identify opponents of its system who might be likely to “Riot” (a loose term which presumably also covers most types of protest) can be openly flaunted by a corporate (weapons) business via the corporate media.

It almost seems to be challenging us to respond in some way: “Well, what are you lot going to do about it, eh?”

The frightening thing is that there is nothing we can do about it. It’s undoubtedly all perfectly legal, as laws are devised to allow the system to do pretty much whatever it wants to. Signing online petitions and expressing disquiet in obscure blogs won’t halt the project in its tracks, though it will presumably ensure your details are added on to the database!

The power of systems like this can be reduced by minimising contact with the internet (and particularly social networking sites) but it is already difficult to stay under the radar and still function in our society and that will only become more the case as the years pass.

It’s difficult to see how anything is going to happen that will prevent us accelerating into a nightmare dystopian future where personal freedom and privacy have been eradicated. All the momentum and internal logic of the system is pushing us that way – particularly as its growing inequalities and internal instabilities increase the potential for widespread dissent.

All those scary sci-fi futures are coming true. The Raytheon project evokes the 2002 film Minority Report, where people can be arrested on the basis that they are going to commit a crime. Meanwhile, the U.S. military’s hi-tech research wing DARPA is developing humanoid robots which ‘look like The Terminator’, says the programme’s robot expert.

So is that it, then? Is the extinction of humanity as we know it a fait accompli? Do we simply have to accept that this is progress, like it or not, and then sit back to watch subsequent generations reduced to total slavery? Do we? Really?