Day 69: Newsletter No. 6 about to go out

Arriving in mailboxes of the cognoscenti next Sunday

Arriving in mailboxes of the cognoscenti next Sunday

Every two weeks, I send the 10,000 Days newsletter to discerning readers and people who sign up because they simply do not receive enough email. A bit of original writing, some interesting links, a photograph, and every other issue a cocktail recipe. It's free, it strengthens your tooth enamel, makes you irresistible to puppies, and makes visible lines around your eyes vanish in only two days.

No. 5 included the following essay:

Keeping an Eye on Ourselves

Much has been written of the surveillance state. CCTV cameras affixed to thousands of buildings and utility poles monitor traffic, crime-ridden streets, building foyers, ATM banking terminals, highways, stores and banking offices and stadiums and transit stations. We are surveilled online in one way or another by Google and Facebook and our own computers. There's even, some social critics have declared, a surveillance economy.

I have always been of two minds about our CCTV-saturated cities. I do not like pervasive monitoring of my movements and activities, especially by civil authorities. But I live in Baltimore, which can be a dangerous place, and hope whatever deterrent effect video monitoring has on crime will keep me from being mugged in the future.

What I have not seen discussed is the extent to which so many of us now surveil ourselves. We monitor the number of steps we have taken today, we map our drives and runs and allow Google Maps to retain the data. We make note of how often we pick up our iPhones and how long we use them for calls or games or email or reading. We make public the books we've read and record that information on Goodreads. We monitor calories taken in and calories burned. We maintain records of who we have called, who has called us, and for how long we've chatted. We maintain records of every song we've listened to, and Facebook would like to remind us that five years ago we posted that photo of ourselves wasted in Key West and more than 500 people have access to it, which is probably not in our interest. Because so much of this data lives on servers all over the globe, it is available for examination by anyone with the wherewithal to monkey with the server encryption and a reason for rummaging through our technological underwear drawer.

Our personal technology has become a digital Stasi.

And a nag, My Apple watch tells me I really should stand up and move around for a minute, and you know, while I've got your attention, it's getting late in the day and those fitness rings are not going to close themselves, pal. Have you drunk 64 ounces of water today? You've got 138 unopened emails, four unwatched episodes of Outlander and 94 unread articles in your RSS feed. I told you to turn back there and you didn't so now I have to recalibrate, but I don't mind, no, really, it's okay, I'm just trying to help...

We are complicit in this surveillance. Yes, some good derives, some benefit, but on the whole I have to wonder where we're headed.

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