As technology advances, author Phil Torres asks us to consider the possibility that the pace of its development may ultimately be the thing that dooms us.
An article in the science quarterly Nautilus outlines the concept of “omniviolence,” wherein technology is enabling smaller groups of criminals to target a more massive victim pool. This leads to a state where we all live in fear of harm from one another.
It becomes increasingly apparent that governments do not have sufficient “will nor the means to monitor cybercrime, prosecute offenders, or extradite suspects to the United States” which means leaving us all more vulnerable. When a crime is decentralized and automated, and entire criminal enterprises can be efficiently and ruthlessly deployed by one or two bad actors, it becomes even more difficult to serve justice.
Beyond that, there is a psychological toll to be paid by us all. When we can’t clearly identify an “enemy,” and it becomes apparent that we are all not only equally vulnerable to but equally capable of committing ghastly crimes, we fall into the trap of siege thinking. In our minds, we live at risk and danger can emerge from anywhere. In the extreme, we don’t feel that anyone can be trusted. Neighbors, colleagues, friends – anyone could be a threat. The “war of all against all.”
But this mindset further exposes us to what might be greater harm. As Dr. Kevin Baldwin of Applied Research in Atlanta, Georgia points out. “What options exist, other than systematic wholesale surveillance, to combat these potential threats? How can we possibly protect ourselves and our society when the threats are so numerous, omnipresent, and advanced?”
While more surveillance feels like the answer to our fear, it also sets up the perfect conditions for a slide into totalitarianism. And this might be the greater danger above any other.
“I wish I had an answer, as I don’t relish the thought of living with either the threats or the level of surveillance necessary to guard against them,” says Baldwin.