After having investigated the current status of surveillance systems and their possible developments, it’s time to think about some future what-if scenarios.

I tried to think about different outcomes, from the most absurd to the most predictable and here they are listed:

with all the progresses in security there have always been developments to defeat those progresses. What if people would start to change completely their biometrics?
There might be developments in biometrics mutation in order to deceive all the advanced surveillance systems based on biometrics identification, such as facial recognition, gait recognition, DNA, iris recognition and so on. What if this sort of sci-fi laboratories will be created?

What if people will recognise others only if machines will do it for them?
A bit like, sometimes, it happens on Facebook or on other social media: we are friends of someone, but we might not remember him, so we go to check his profile, mutual friends and only then we can recall who this person actually is. We could consider this as an embryonic phase of our brain, human brain is lazy and tend to forget activities which are not needed. If we start to automate the recognition process, we could end up forgetting how to do it.
This might sound absurd, but according to the anthropologist Robin Dunbar, humans can only comfortably maintain about 150 stable relationships. It’s part of humans cognitive systems, so as we add a new relationship is very likely that another one will be discarded. At that point to recognise a person we can count only on our memory, but it’s known that machines have a much better memory than humans, especially if humans don’t use it all in determined circumstances.



One of this circumstances is when we deal with road directions, when people don’t think at the route they are taking, the streets and so on, everything is dictated by a GPS system. But what happens when they are without their device? They are lost, they can’t find a route even if they do it daily.
So what would happen if people automated the recognition process? What will they do in the moment they will be without their device?

Behaviourmetrics, is probably one of the most scary and potentially powerful biometrics system. Through that is possible to recognise a person from their behaviour, probably one of the most difficult thing to hide.
Assuming that all people data will be connected to automated surveillance systems, behaviour recognition might be perfected at a point that machines would be able to recognise what a person is feeling and why not, even arrive to understand what he’s possibly thinking in a determinate moment?

With the optimisation of surveillance systems, it will be possible to identify immediately everyone who would commit a transgression and assuming that there will be also progresses in sanctions delivery systems, so that everyone will be sanctioned almost in real time on their device for example. There will be no space for trivial transgressions: no way people could get on a bus without paying, eat a small snack where not allowed, sit where is forbidden, pee in a public corner, smoke in a forbidden area and so on. Given the efficiency of transgressors identifications more rules will be applied even the most absurd and irrelevant. We could arrive to a paradoxical situation where almost anything is really allowed and we’ll have to act always more like machines, following standard and programmed procedures.

This is probably the most silly idea, it’s much more practical than the previous ones and more than a scenario is a technology. However I thought that would be good to write it down as it might open up for other related ideas. I had this idea last weekend when, in a club, I was reflecting about the bouncers job (a category which I don’t really fancy). I thought that with automated surveillance systems it might be possible to replace completely their figure and they could be replaced by machines. These machines wouldn’t need to be in the crowd, but they could be a mechanic arm (like the ones of the candy grabber) pending from the ceiling. Once they would identify an aggressive or incorrect behaviour, they would move above the subject pointing a spot light as first warning and then in case needed they would literally pick up the person from the top and throw him outside.

As I argued in the previous post Facial recognition and autonomous weapons, all the surveillance systems to be automated and optimised must be supported by data. Those data which now are seen only as threat, present somewhere in the Cloud to which everybody gives a different form and importance, could become the real instrument of power, over any currency and other trade good. Therefore, the future might be shaped depending on who will be the owner of data. Here I hypothesized four potential data owners: governments, multinationals, hackers and common people.

– BIG BROTHER – 1984
Starting from governments, the idea is very similar to the one exposed in the George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where we would all live under state dictatorships. At the moment governments and their secret agency are already supposed to own enormous number of data, possibly breaking humanitarian laws. However, if nowadays is something not publicly accepted and done secretly, what would happen if the public opinion would change or just be forced to change? What would happen in case we would pass from spying to explicit mass surveillance?

Data might be the most important thing of the world, something which would be traded by companies. What if goods like oil and gas would lose their value, or better data would be more wanted and therefore more expensive than these goods? Markets wouldn’t rotate anymore around these resources, petrodollars will be replaced by datadollars.

Hacker is probably not the right word to describe these hypotetical figure, however it’s probably the most similar existing category to what I am referring. For hackers I mean computer experts, who on the contrary of current hackers won’t have to fight anymore against a main power, as they would be the main power, therefore the figure would be slightly contrasting from current hackers.

While I called it terrorism, again not with the current meaning of Islamic extremists, but simply because I reckon that terrorism is a common name given to people who have a power outside governments sphere of influence. Like the ancient Romans used to call barbarians all the people from outside the Roman Empire, giving them a bad connotation.

Therefore what I mean with this is, what if data will be owned by this independent group of hackers, who don’t want to stand to current governments rules and shape their own society?
Assuming that data will be the most important trade good of the world, it’s like to say that all the wealth will be digital and who better than hacker can have control of that? If hackers are dangerous at the moment, what would it be where all the wealth will be digitalised?

This is probably the most optimistic, but at the same time utopian vision of the ownership of data, as it is going against the current process of surveillance and control systems. Data would be owned by people, it would be the victory of privacy, everybody would own all their information and share only the ones they want. Will there be banks of data where everyone will go to store their data? Probably they won’t be physical banks, but digital, secret servers not accessible to anyone, but the owner of data.