(I am a little bit proud that this was first posted July 13, 2013. Still true today. ABN)
The NSA database shows once again that it is technology that moves the world more than ideology. I doubt there is anything anyone can do to stop this database or others like it, here or abroad.
We can maybe hope that those who have access to databases of this type are completely honest and that they function within perfect systems that have no corruption, but historically that is highly improbable.
Big databases like the NSA’s (and we know there are more of them) create a form of international competition akin to the arms race. If we don’t get ahead of others, they will get ahead of us.
In the near-term, our best hope is probably for even more technology in the form of accurate lie-detectors that can be used to keep all of us honest, including those with access to the database. I do believe that the database has rendered our traditional form of government obsolete and that there is no turning back.
In the long-term, the database will surely look passe, even puny. Isn’t it likely to be a precursor to the even larger database that will house our electronic/digital “selves” once we have achieved a non-biological stage of evolution (if we haven’t already)? Will we need or even want privacy then?
For today, a conundrum in the database arms race is that the NSA has in one way made us “safer” by staying ahead of other countries (I guess), but it has also made us less safe because no database like that can be made perfectly unhackable.
The database should make it clear to even more people that we fundamentally have no idea how our government works or who controls it to what purpose. Rather than look behind the scenes for who has the “real” skinny, as we naively did twenty years ago, now we must wonder if anything known to the public has any bearing at all on what is really going on.