Friday, April 02, 2010

When technology enables despotism ~ By Phil Elmore

Phil Elmore provides us with a look at how technology could lead to totalitarianism.
In a free society, energy use is controlled through price. Those who can afford to use more energy pay more to do so in a voluntary exchange of value. When we empower our government to control our energy use based on politically correct "green" ideology, we turn away from liberty and toward collectivism. We turn our backs on capitalism and embrace socialism. When it is used in this manner, morally neutral technology becomes morally wrong totalitarianism.
By Phil Elmore

Posted: April 01, 2010 ~ 1:00 am Eastern

© 2010

What does your electric bill have to do with your car's wireless phone? The answer is, nothing, unless both are monitored and controlled by your government.

Back in 2008, we discussed in Technocracy the disturbing potential for Big Brother to invade your automobile using telematics services like OnStar®:
The fully equipped, wireless-enabled, GPS-tracked vehicle allows the user to make hands-free phone calls – at the cost of potential recording of the calls themselves, or the tracking of the called numbers. Such a vehicle allows the user to receive turn-by-turn directions – at the cost of having that driver's GPS-satellite-tracked location transmitted to a server at all times. The automobile makes it possible for the operator to call in and have slowed and stopped a stolen vehicle – at the cost of turning the key in a vehicle that suddenly will not start, should the government determine that a state of emergency exists and that "no unnecessary travel" should be the order of the day for the duration of the crisis. While sitting in that temporarily useless vehicle, the owner could comfort himself by surfing the Internet – at the cost of having every site he visits tracked and cataloged, while the owners of this particular Internet portal determine which sites they will block as violating their internally defined terms of service.
It didn't take long for our concerns to be realized. In Austin, Texas, a man described as a "hacker" disabled over a hundred cars remotely using the Internet. The cars were equipped with something called "Webtech Plus," which turns off the cars or makes their horns honk if the owners fall behind on their payments. The "hacker" was, in fact, a former employee, who simply used his knowledge of the system to enter and misuse it. (Translation: The managers who laid him off probably didn't bother to make sure he couldn't get back into the system.)

Now picture a disgruntled former employee shutting off the electricity to your home. While you're doing that, picture your government forcing your family to swelter in the heat of a house whose air-conditioning has been remotely disabled because your state's "smart grid" is being managed to reduce peak usage.

The Wall Street Journal reported in April of last year that utilities were "spending billions of dollars outfitting homes and businesses" with so-called "smart meters," devices that send information wirelessly back to the utility and which can (at the very least) potentially be used to control energy use. The concept of these "smart meters" makes perfect sense from the utility's standpoint; when managing an energy grid, those doing the managing naturally drool at the prospect of being able to control usage at the other end in order to maintain the flow of energy to the grid as a whole.

Beyond the potential costs to consumers of installing and using such devices, however, is the fact that placing such monitoring devices in homes and businesses allows the utilities – which are essentially government-sanctioned monopolies and thus themselves arms of government – to dictate to customers how much energy they use. In a free market, customers who wish to use more energy simply pay more for it. In the future dystopia envisioned by acolytes of the new "green" religion, customers who wish to use more energy ... will be prevented from doing so by the electronic devices governing their furnaces, air conditioners and electric outlets.

By November of 2009, CNET was reporting on a new forecast predicting that 250 million "smart" utility meters will be installed in homes and businesses over the next six years. In that report, author Martin LaMonica cited the forecast in stating ominously, "the push to smart meters is global, driven by government interest in energy efficiency."


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