Surveillance, Sincerity and Scriabin

People act differently when they know or suspect they are being watched. Surveillance is an affront to liberty even if the data obtained is not looked at or used in any way, because people being watched do not know that the data will not be used against them. How can one behave naturally when one is being spied on and potentially judged by unknown individuals or algorithms?

Things get really ugly when surveillance is directly used to manipulate and coerce people. In China, surveillance is turning the whole of society into a grotesque theatrical production with the help of the “social credit” system. The human conscience itself is being assaulted in a novel way: people are no longer allowed to base their behavior on their conscience; instead, they must consider what Big Brother and his algorithms want them to do. You might have your organs stolen or be sent to a slave labor camp for your choice of a human conscience over a contrived and automated system designed by and for psychopaths.

Hence, everyone in such a society becomes a full-time actor. The amount of “private spaces” where technology won’t spy on you is ever decreasing.

The Russian philosopher Alexander Scriabin once observed that the whole of human civilization was becoming increasingly “theatrical”. He tried to transform this “theatrical production” of a world into something aesthetically perfect like his own music. After all, if we’re all going to act all the time, it may as well be Shakespeare-worthy acting with Beethoven-worthy music, instead of this disgusting hypocrisy that the bourgeois dictators of China are producing (and even exporting to Africa). Let’s hope that if the Big Brothers in the West follow China’s example, they will display more artistic taste.