Just this week, the U.S. Senate voted to extend the 9/11-era Patriot Act and failed to pass a proposed amendment to prevent the Federal Bureau of Investigation from monitoring our online browsing without a warrant. Meanwhile, our heightened dependence on online social connections during COVID-19 isolation has further empowered a handful of internet platforms that are incorporating troves of our personal data into sophisticated predictive behavior models. This process of hidden control is happening right now, not in some future “Westworld”-like existence.
Digital currencies will only worsen this situation. If they are added to this comprehensive surveillance infrastructure, it could well spell the end of the civil liberties that underpin Western civilization.
Yes, freedom matters
Please don’t read this, Secretary Summers, as some privileged anti-taxation take or a self-interested what’s-mine-is-mine demand that “the government stay away from my money.”
Money is just the instrument here. What matters is whether our transactions, our exchanges of goods and services and the source of our economic and social value, should be monitored and manipulated by government and corporate owners of centralized databases. It’s why critics of China’s digital currency plans rightly worry about a “panopticon” and why, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, there was an initial backlash against Facebook launching its libra currency.
Writers such as Shoshana Zuboff and Jared Lanier have passionately argued that our subservience to the hidden algorithms of what I like to call “GoogAzonBook” is diminishing our free will. Resisting that is important, not just to preserve the ideal of “the self” but also to protect the very functioning of society.