At what point will you be willing to completely part with your civil liberties?
According to a recent article from the Associated Press, the prospect that thousands of drones could be patrolling U.S. skies within the next eight years has members of the populace roused and riddled with anxiety. While I may not be suffering from drone-induced panic attacks at the moment, I do fear our willingness to cede freedoms because we’re incapable of envisioning a future in which they affect us. We’ve each had this conversation with a friend, family member, or complete stranger — depending on the number of hours logged in summertime beer gardens.
“Does it bother you that the government could have as many as 15,000 active drones patrolling the skies by 2018?” you may ask, hoping for civil discourse, but expecting bulleted partisan points.
“I don’t break the law,” the kind stranger replies. “So, no, I don’t really care.”
Anger doesn’t scare me. Contempt and disagreement don’t scare me. Indifference, now that’s terrifying. Maybe it’s a result of the never-ending political cavalcade that has exhausted the people in my home state of Wisconsin; I fear many just don’t care. I often feel as if the unconcerned have chosen apathy to belay the anxiety the topic is likely to cause. I’m qualified to comment knowing that I have chosen this route before, both in debate and critical thought. My, how four episodes of Castle can make the time pass easier than contemplating the implications of a local government given the ability to conduct warrantless searches from above.
Call me a cynic for believing that this world would be safe without greater biometric-processing capabilities, but as part of a publication that covers the latest that the design world has to offer (or yet to publicly unveil), I’m allowed glimpses of tech-to-come — it’s not always conceived with the greater good in mind. We all know that new tech doesn’t always have our best interests in mind, unless you're a company shareholder.
Let’s return to the drones that may soon share more of our friendly skies. The drone market is booming and taking in more than $6 billion each year. Over the next ten years, the market could nearly double to $11 billion, with police departments potentially accounting for a significant part of the growth. Have you ever noticed how much easier eyes go blind when billions enter the equation? Morality’s glass ceiling must top out around a half billion, though it has come much cheaper in the past.
The drone represents both our greatest desires and fears. A technological marvel, smaller quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are already operating in unison with nominal autonomy. While the feat of engineering is inspiring and looks fantastic in viral demonstrations, the public is often too shortsighted to consider the potential applications as it flies out of the university lab and lands at the local sheriff station. Or we’re so filled with conspiratorial thoughts that we begin screaming and ripping out hair whenever we see a simple Microsoft Kinect hack. UAV technology is heralded as a prototype, and damned as a final product.
While I stand with those who hope to limit UAV access to civilian airspace, I am most opposed to the drones who fail to have an opinion at all. Dissidence is necessary, but indifference is calamitous.
Now let’s get in an electronic shouting match. Email me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.