by Doug Hornig: Where's
the Land of Opportunity TheseDays?
In late September,
there was a modest gathering of law enforcement officers, military
personnel, and mental health professionals in the small western
New York town of Hamburg. It was totally ignored by the mainstream
media, with just a reporter from the Buffalo News on hand to record
the proceedings. Lucky for us.
The 120 men
and women were attending the International First Responder-Military
Symposium, held at Hilbert College, a small “Franciscan tradition”
place of learning. Not that St. Francis would have been interested
in a military symposium, but if he’d been able to attend, he’d
have heard all about a new technology that will help identify and
A lot of very
disparate people have been tagged with that term of late. But this
new tech may well be the final icing on the cake. It’s a computer
program that trawls phone conversations, emails, and social networking
sites looking for any signs of resentment of the government.
right. If you’re angry at Washington, they want to know who
you are and what you’re saying.
has just been rolled out, and there’s no certainty that the
cops or the Pentagon will jump at the chance to own it. But in the
current climate, what’s the likelihood that they’ll turn
up their noses at the opportunity to add this valuable weapon to
their anti-terrorist arsenal?
of the University of Geneva is co-developer of the software, along
with Dr. Newton Howard, director of MIT’s Mind Machine Project.
Guidere said it works by pinpointing “resentment in conversations
through measurements in decibels and other voice biometrics,”
and that it “detects obsessiveness with the individual going
back to the same topic over and over, measuring crescendos.”
With written material, it hunts for a similar fixation on the subject.
Guidere added that once this dangerous individual has been identified,
the information can be passed along to authorities so surveillance
For the moment,
Guidere is content to tout his program as a means of locating potential
lone bombers, but his method of characterization leaves a bit to
be desired. These people are not mentally deranged, Guidere says,
they harbor hatred and deep resentment toward government. And their
emotional spikes can be identified by the computer.
Quite a selling
point. You monitor what folks are saying on Facebook. You profile
a suicide bomber bound for Times Square. You stop him before he
does the deed. Who would be against that?
of course, that “deep resentment toward government” describes
everyone from WTO protesters to Tea Partiers and, increasingly,
in-between Americans who have never picketed anything. In fact,
it just may be possible that the phrase describes more than a few
readers of this publication.
another quote: “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts
wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen.
The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious
look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything
that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something
to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face
… was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for
it in Newspeak: facecrime…”
were written over 60 years ago, by George Orwell, in the novel 1984.
Only off by 26 years. Not bad, considering he had only his imagination
with which to conjure up the total surveillance state.
Too bad Orwell
didn’t live to see the Internet. He would’ve loved it
for its potential to undermine centralized control. Now though,
as you can see, plans are afoot to take the very embodiment of freedom
of speech and turn it against the people. How will it survive as
an open forum if people know the feds are patrolling it for unacceptable
All of the
prohibitions government feels compelled to enforce have already
turned America into the world’s #1 Incarceration Nation. We’re
running short on prison space. So where will they put this horde
of malcontents they’ll be rounding up in the near future? Good
Internet was a massive undertaking. But keeping it free may prove
to be even more difficult.
Extraordinary Technology watch the tech sector like hawks,
always ready to jump on the next mega-trend in the making. That’s
how they made an average gain of 33% for their subscribers
in 2010 so far. Nothing to scoff at, and bigger profits are yet
to come. You can give Casey’s Extraordinary Technology a risk-free
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Doug Hornig is a writer for Casey