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5 Dystopian Movie Technologies That Would Improve Our World

#2. Total Surveillance

Big Brother is the ultimate fantasy of authoritarianism, a world where the governments come up with a plan to eternally dominate the populace at the expense of all privacy and joy. "Fantasy" is the part where a government was competent enough to complete even one of its promised plans.

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"Yes, I was elected on the sole platform of preventing the Earth from suddenly tilting at a 30-degree angle, but apart from that ..."

The problem isn't total surveillance; it's one-way surveillance manned by ineffective idiots. The U.K. has one security camera per 11 people. We could save our own tax money by forming the entire nation into soccer teams and letting the government referee. But those cameras aren't watched by anyone remotely interested in real crime or capable of doing anything about it. With 6 million view screens, there shouldn't be a theft or murder in the land. Before someone can even eye a victim counting money in a dark alley, expert analysts should be able to identify their hair stylist and cancel their upcoming appointments for three to five years.

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Instead, our current definition of "elite" is "awake and not masturbating to the screens."

Instead, these cameras are used to record otherwise law-abiding people protesting the security cameras and the fact that they've been bought instead of schoolbooks. The U.K. government is cutting education and mental health care but putting up more security cameras. You'd swear it was a plot to turn Britain into the world's worst reality show.

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You can't even pay most people to watch it.

Truly total surveillance includes sousveillance, the ability to watch the watchers right back, and that's already happening. Camera phones, Internet leaks, whatever the wearable sequel to Google Glass' Betamax is -- they'll all help smash through that one-way mirror like an arrested main character with a chair. We've talked about how police violence is fought when it's instantly uploaded and prosecuted. When government ministers face the same level of financial scrutiny as those applying for unemployment support, things will be very different. And if you don't think they'll be prosecuted, then you want to tackle that problem with the legal system, not information availability. Leaving our idea of justice broken and just hoping it's blind enough not to notice you is not a long-term strategy, because this is another one that's happening anyway.

There will also be benefits for people we actually like. The elderly or infirm, which will include us, will get to keep the dignity of living at home, knowing that any problems will be instantly detected and responded to by loved ones or care professionals.

#1. Adjustable Life Clock (Logan's Run, In Time)

In Logan's Run, everyone dies at age 30. A crystal embedded in their hand tells them how little time they have left to live (unlike most smartphone apps, which desperately distract them while making the problem worse). Society's master computer accelerates Logan's clock to near death and says "Get on with the second half of our movie title." In Time features life clocks where you have to earn every day after 25. Obviously we don't want either of those.

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The liberal arts would go extinct.

It's a horrible reduction of the most technologically equipped life possible to the caveperson era of "Work right now or you'll die." And you can talk about the crushingly real problem of overpopulation all you like, but you'll never succeed with any plan where step one is "kill all the grandparents."

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Although if we get them houses on the coast, climate change will get them for us.

We don't want to limit the clock; all we need is that speed-control function. Everyone has their life expectancy ticking down on their wrist second by second toward death, which shouldn't be too bad because that's exactly what watches have been doing all this time, and it continues at one second per second. But there are "hot plates" that accelerate them. These plates will be at any counter you have to queue for. Airline check in, post offices, fast food counters: The instant you get to the counter, your lifeclock rate is multiplied by the number of people behind you, so you'd better have your goddamned order ready.

Steve Mason/Photodisc/Getty Images
"Omigosh, I was in the queue for like 15 minutes and totally never noticed those little squiggly marks! O...K, let's see,
A is for Apple, B is for, um ..."

It's multiplied by the queue size because that's how many lives they're wasting with their contempt for the existence of other people. Then, in the final society-saving step, all the lost time goes to the counter staff. Meaning that the face of every industry will be the greatest possible person doing their best at the most desired job in the world. And that's the only way to reverse your clock, so that even the richest people have to work as counter staff, forcing them to remain connected to regular humanity, which is something we should be instituting anyway.

Technologies can't be inherently good or evil. Devices can, because they're built for an express purpose. If you hypothetically built something with the sole function of killing 20 other human beings per minute, then that would be unquestionably evil. But technologies expand the range of the entire human race, improving ourselves to achieve more and learn faster, because technology is what we invented when we decided evolution was moving too slowly.


Enjoy more movie overanalysis with The Manliest Names In Movie History.

Read about more misuse of movie technology with Resident Evil's Umbrella: The Most Wasteful Movie Corporation Ever, or see how we're kicking reality's ass with 4 Plasma Technologies That Put Video Game Weapons to Shame.

Luke also explains How to Save America With Superior Firepower , tumbles, and responds to every single tweet.

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