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Seeing the Past - Dilbert Blog

Seeing the Past

Imagine a future with no data privacy whatsoever. Imagine that the images from every video camera are public. Your health records, your web browsing history, your physical location at any moment, and even your financial records are public. We generally assume that having no privacy would be an awful thing. That’s not the debate for today. Instead, imagine what types of spectacular apps you could have in a world with no privacy. Allow me to describe a few.

Assume in this imagined future that the cost of data storage continues dropping, and all data gets sent to the so-called cloud. That way, everyone has access to all of the data in the world all of the time.

Assume also that someday almost every space in the populated world has cameras that stream to the Internet. Cameras will someday cost about $1 apiece.

One hypothetical app in the no-privacy world would allow you to see the past and the future through your phone. Just point the camera app in any direction, specify the date you’d like to view, and your phone gives you a video replay of what was happening in your vicinity during that time. You could also use face recognition to search the past for someone specific and replay just the time that individual was in the room. Can’t remember where you left your keys? No problem. Just replay the five minutes after you entered the room.

You could also see the future, in rough form, if you knew everyone’s current location and speed via GPS, plus any reservations they booked, their Outlook calendar entries, their addresses, their Evite status, and more. Just open your map application, say a name and a time, and a dot will appear on the map for that person’s predicted location. Now zoom in to street level to see the actual building.

How about a health scanner? Point your phone at a person and ask for a health scan. You’d instantly have access to the person’s health records and lifestyle information. You’d know how much alcohol he purchases, how many cigarettes he buys, and how many times he visits the gym. You’d know age, family history, medical records, and more. Your screen would show the image of the person along with animated highlights of any actual or likely problem areas. 

Airport security would be a lot faster. Every person would be so thoroughly profiled by the system that an x-ray would be unnecessary for 99% of fliers.

Finding a mate would be easier. Just point your camera toward a crowd and it would highlight anyone who is a match.

Making conversation with strangers would be easier. You’d instantly know what you have in common with any other person. That’s often all it takes to turn a stranger into a friend.

Imagine driving down the road and having access to the driving record of every other motorist. The risky drivers would be highlighted by the heads-up technology in your windshield. Give them a bit more room.

Privacy has its benefits, but you’re giving up a lot of cool apps.