Advanced And Pervasive Biometric Surveillance Allows New Forms Of Social Control
Biometrics are already making exponential advances—technologies that were recently in the realm of science fiction now shape the reality of billions of people’s lives. Facial recognition, gait analysis, digital assistants, affective computing, microchipping, digital lip reading, fingerprint sensors—as these and other technologies proliferate, we move into a world in which everything about us is captured, stored and subjected to artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.
This makes possible increasingly individualized public and private services, but also new forms of conformity and micro-targeted persuasion. If humans are increasingly replaced by machines in crucial decision loops, the result may lead not only to greater efficiency but also to greater societal rigidity. Global politics will be affected: authoritarianism is easier in a world of total visibility and traceability, while democracy may turn out to be more difficult—many societies are already struggling to balance threats to privacy, trust and autonomy against promises of increased security, efficiency and novelty. Geopolitically, the future may hinge in part on how societies with different values treat new reservoirs of data.
Strong systems of accountability for governments and companies using these technologies could help to mitigate the risks to individuals from biometric surveillance. This will be possible in some domestic contexts, but developing wider global norms with any traction will be a struggle.