The New American
by Alex Newman
The Orwellian cities of the future being designed and imposed right this instant all over the world — so-called “Smart Cities” — will be watching you. In fact, they already are watching you. And unless humanity takes action soon to rein in its would-be omniscient rulers, the technological dystopia being erected all around you will ensure that governments and dictators know virtually everything about everyone — perhaps more than individuals know even about themselves. The plot to create the total surveillance state under the guise of making cities “smart” will cost taxpayers trillions of dollars, too. But the price tag in terms of lost privacy and liberty will be far higher.
As the concept of “smart” cities continues to evolve with technology, countless definitions and terms to describe the scheming have been proposed. Discussing a planned “smart” city in South Korea, Frederic Ojardias, Ph.D., at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of International Studies said the concept is simple. “The city is filled with sensors and cameras at every corner (monitoring temperature, traffic, electricity) that are all interconnected and linked to a central ‘brain’ that computes all this information in real time in order to optimize the management of the city, minute by minute,” he said to describe the vision.
According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, “smart cities” bring together technology, government, and society to enable a smart economy, smart environment, smart living, smart governance, and more. There are also a number of technologies associated with smart cities. Among them: “Intelligent lighting; Smart building controls; Wireless charging for automobiles; Facial recognition; Wind turbines; Intelligent Buildings; A connected self-aware environment;” and much more.
And that is just the beginning, with tech giants coming up with new technology every day that could be used to improve lives — or destroy liberty and privacy. Already, the former head of the NSA and CIA has been boasting that “we kill people based on metadata.” With “smart” cities providing unfathomable amounts of data to authorities, Americans can expect the lawlessness to continue accelerating if nothing changes.
Of course, “smart” technology is already ubiquitous, from so-called “smart” phones that double as portable espionage devices to “smart” meters used (when they are not exploding at least) to spy on people’s water and electricity use. Smart TVs now spy on their users, too. Schools are doing it as well. According to news reports, in London, data gathered from cameras is cross-referenced with government lists of people who have paid their driving fees, allowing violators to be identified and punished. Authorities in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Stockholm, and other cities are also openly and purposely trying to become “smart.” In South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, fully “smart” cities are being designed and built from the ground up.
With facial-recognition software now extremely advanced, and billions of people around the world posting their data and pictures online through social-networking services, hand-held “smart” technology has already created potentially totalitarian tools far beyond anything George Orwell could have imagined in his worst nightmares. Even years ago, U.S. cities were exposed rolling out so-called “Intellistreets” streetlights that double as Big Brother espionage tools to listen in on conversations. Entire smart cities are the next logical step, and the establishment is going all out to promote them as it works to abolish cash and shift everything online at the same time.
During a recent visit to India, for example, Obama pledged some $4 billion in U.S. taxpayer “investments and loans” to help Indian authorities build infrastructure, including $2 billion for the government there to create “smart cities.” Speaking to a large crowd, Obama said America was committed to the “smart cities” concept, linked to United Nations “sustainability” programs such as Agenda 21, and would help the Indian government pay to build them. To start with, 100 Indian cities are going to be made “smart.”
“We are ready to join you in building new infrastructure … roads and airports, the ports and bullet trains to propel India into the future,” Obama told Indians, without offering any hints on where the debt-riddled federal government would get the funds to propel India into the future or why U.S. taxpayers should fund it. “We are ready to help design smart cities.” Critics lambasted the scheme from all angles, pointing out that the U.S. government is already drowning in debt and that the whole “sustainability” theme behind the radical “smart cities” agenda represents a major threat to liberty, markets, and more.
Around the same time, arch sustainability profiteer (and self-styled inventor of the Internet) Al Gore joined with former Mexican President Felipe Calderón at the World Economic Forum to demand that all cities worldwide be made “smart.” For a mere $90 trillion (as a starting point), the two globalist crusaders against carbon dioxide explained, every city in the world could be made much denser — a so-called “smart city” in which citizens would be packed in like sardines, and hence, easier to control.
Under the Gore-Calderón vision, personal transportation such as cars would be phased out as the “smart cities” of the future force everyone to either walk or rely on government-run transportation to get around. Ironically, perhaps, more than 1,700 private jets descended on Davos for the confab so its occupants could plot new ways to reduce the CO2 emissions of the unwashed masses as they are corralled into their “smart” cities (often at gunpoint). Of course, the plan to pack humans into tiny cities is not new, and has been advancing under UN “Agenda 21” and other schemes for more than two decades. And the UN has been promoting “smart” cities since at least 2009, when UN chief Ban Ki Moon called for “better, more equitable urban planning” and “new ideas from smart cities around the world” to guide “sustainable urbanization.”
Alleged benefits of the interconnected ecosystem of data-gathering technology, such as better traffic management, catching criminals, and a smaller “carbon footprint” for city residents, are being shouted from the rooftops by those seeking to push the agenda — governments, profiteers, futurists, and others. Businesses, too, will be able to harness the gargantuan amounts of data being produced to target individual consumers. The darker side of the shift toward intelligence-gathering everything, everywhere, however, has been largely buried from public discourse — not to mention the dangers of combining all of the information with emerging “artificial intelligence” technologies.
In a recent puff piece promoting the potential benefits of “smart cities” in the Wall Street Journal, CEO Mike Weston with the “data-science” consulting firm Profusion offered some terrifying insight into the awesome powers that will be available to the rulers of these future Orwellian cities. “In a fully ‘smart’ city, every movement an individual makes can be tracked,” Weston observed, noting that governments and municipalities from Boston to Beijing were pledging billions of tax dollars to the plot. “The data will reveal where she works, how she commutes, her shopping habits, places she visits and her proximity to other people.”
While Weston focuses largely on the profit opportunities surrounding all of that data for marketers, and ethical concerns for businesses, the same data will also enable authorities to compile unimaginably detailed profiles of every single individual. “By analyzing this information using data-science techniques, a company could learn not only the day-to-day routine of an individual but also his preferences, behavior and emotional state,” the CEO explained. “Private companies could know more about people than they know about themselves.” And, of course, so could governments, hacker spies working for the regime in Beijing, and even private-sector criminals with access to the surveillance data.
Weston claims that a smart city “doesn’t have to be as Orwellian as it sounds.” That is true. But considering governments’ track records on snooping — think NSA, KGB, Stasi, and so on — the likelihood of smart cities not ending up as Orwellian as they sound is probably slim to none. With the added “smartness” of emerging technologies, and with some two thirds of humanity expected to live in cities within a few decades, the possibilities for controlling and oppressing mankind in previously unimaginable ways are almost endless. Rulers will soon, if they do not already, be able to know more about the individuals they rule than those individuals know themselves.
Of course, technology, in and of itself, is not the problem or the threat. Instead, the threat comes from totalitarian-minded governments, globalists, politicians, dictators, and bureaucrats anxious to further oppress the public and further empower themselves. From the UN and the World Bank to the Obama administration and the European Union super-state, the establishment is planning to bring “smartness” to a city near you in the near future. Based on their track record so far, however, it should be beyond clear that the “smart” cities are a dumb and dangerous idea — especially if you value liberty and privacy.
Alex Newman, a foreign correspondent for The New American, is currently based in Europe. He can be reached at email@example.com