We’re Gonna Take You Back To The Past: “The Light of Other Days” review

It’s been nearly two years since Edward Snowden either betrayed his country, or exposed a terrible injustice by fighting for truth and honour, depending on how you look at it.

I fall more towards the latter, if I may say. The PRISM program was a heinous case of government overreach. Not only was the NSA collecting an unprecedented amount of information on people, it was doing it without any cause to, or any apparent legal restrictions.

Now, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. I mean, I’ve watched 24, and I have to admit, I found it quite impressive and cool the way Chloe and the plucky gang at CTU used clever computer tricks to defeat the terrorists; Such as hacking their emails, tracing their cell phones, spying on them through surveillance cameras, and the like. And of course, we all knew the government was doing this kinda thing… to criminals. To people who should be monitored. Heck, that was what a good chunk of NetForce was about. They monitored and tracked people who were bad people, likely to perform terrorist attacks, massive computer hacks, and digital global takeovers. And all this means is that the rhetoric badgered on by one senator who said Snowden’s revelations somehow impaired their intelligence gathering techniques is frankly bullshit! Because we all knew, or at least suspected, that it was possible. Which meant criminals also already knew, or at least suspected, that it was possible and likely operated on that assumption. So, Snowden’s revelations didn’t change how they operated. It just justified their pre-existing paranoia.

But my point is: none of this is shocking. What was shocking is that it was being done to average citizens. The U.S. government was collecting terabytes of information on millions of people around the world, without any warrant or justification. It was a shotgun approach to espionage, and it seems they were doing it just to have the information, not necessarily to do anything with it.

Which brings us to the most bizarre thing about this whole fiasco, and that is the unusual reaction I’ve heard from many corners: Who cares? Who cares if the U.S. Government is collecting our information? It’s not like they’re going to do anything with it.

And that would be a fabulous argument, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s completely beside the point! Yes, they probably won’t do anything nasty with it. They probably won’t even look at it. They’ll just store the information on some server somewhere, and just let it rot. In which case, why even collect it to begin with? They have no need to collect our information, and can easily abuse it once they do. In fact, there have been cases of exactly that happening. Cases of NSA employees spying on their girlfriends with the information gathered by the program. And that’s only the cases that have been caught. These people are spies, you think they can’t hide that shit!?

Now, it’s true that the average citizen probably isn’t dating a spy. So they don’t have to worry. But that’s not the point. The point is, they shouldn’t even be collecting this information to begin with. There are limits to what law enforcement can do, and there are reasons those limits exist! The average citizen does not have a right to spy on my Skype messages, so why should the U.S. government? And I don’t want anyone, whether it be my best friend, or some prick in some NSA dungeon somewhere, aggregating details on my porn habits.

Wanting to maintain our individual privacy should not be a big ask.

But I think I know why some people don’t care. It’s because of Facebook. Hell, all social media is to blame for this! For years sites like Twitter, MySpace, LiveJournal, have all asked people to share the intimate details of their lives, despite the fact that it’s unlikely anyone else would give two shits. And because of this, news that the NSA has been collecting the data they thought was worth sharing makes them think: Hey, it wasn’t all pointless!

People have been willingly sharing the details of their lives with strangers around the world. So what do they care if the NSA just happens to be watching as well?

So I guess it’s a generational thing. Those young people who grew up on social media don’t see a problem, while those of us who are older and wiser, do. And it makes you think: What are the limits of this? What will be the point where we just give up on privacy all together? And it might be the point where a brand new and unprecedented technology eliminates privacy for us, whether we want it to or not. Perhaps a technology that allows us to witness The Light of Other Days.

Wow, that was a contrived opening, wasn’t it?

Yes, it’s time to talk about the incredible novel of time, space and insanity by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, The Light of Other Days. And let me tell ya, I’m glad I finally get to write about an unambiguously good book for once. Continue reading