Imagine a World Where Human Emotion is Strictly Forbidden

January 14, 2022

There is no more art, music, or love. Creativity is simply not allowed and those that violate this rule are simply executed. This is the dystopia of Kurt Wimmer’s 2002 cult classic, Equilibrium.

The movie is a powerful example of what happens when authoritarianism attempts to quash the human spirit in an attempt to control all behaviour, to create a society of a singular vision: one with no freedom.

Such authoritarianism starts first and foremost at the erosion of privacy, whereby your fundamental human nature is infringed upon by another who wishes to impose their values upon you in an effort to control your behaviour. If yourprivacy were intact, the other who wishes to exercise control is unable to ascertain your behaviour, hence, cannot violate your freedoms.

This is why the right to privacy is a fundamental right of any individual — to exist, to think, to believe, and to hold values beyond what another may want to prescribe for you. It allows you to let your thoughts be your own and to influence the world through the expression of your unique self rather than from a need to control or manipulate.

As our existence becomes progressively more digital, we increasingly leave abstract, intangible, and what we think are unintelligible, traces of information about us on the various media we use daily. It’s near impossible for our already stressed minds to comprehend that, little by little, we are giving away important information about us. Information that is used by corporations, governments, and media to erode our freedoms, and to influence us to shape our behaviours in ways that are often incongruent with our own personal values and instead serve an agenda.

While examples of how our data is used to empower capitalism are likely clear to you simply by virtue of your exposure to the screen on which you read this article, a recent,concrete example of behavioural manipulation is the connection between the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the Russian government.

During the 2016 elections and beyond, Russian operatives created hundreds of fake personas on social media platforms and then posted thousands of advertisements and messages that sought to promote racial divisions in the United States. This was a coordinated propaganda effort. Some Facebook and Twitter posts denounced BLM and others condemned white nationalist groups. Some called for violence. To be clear, while these were posts by fake personas created by Russian operatives, their effects were real. The purpose of this strategy was to manipulate public opinion on racial issues and disrupt the political process.

As 2021 draws to a close, the largest, most valuable companies in the world are those that are built on processing information about us using algorithms that create filter bubbles trapping us in a close-minded loop of information. They discern our behaviour to further reduce our economic power, their systems exploit us to further erode our mental well-being. This surveillance capitalism is a simple byproductof the exploitation of our digital traces and the near-constant infringement upon our privacy.

But we must take back control. As a species, we must realize that we are more than just machines who can be controlled by corporations, media, and governments. We must remember that we created this society and all its wonders — that our creativity, persistence, and what makes us human is worth more, can create more, and is far more valuable than the simplicity of control structures being imposed upon us.

And this is why privacy is important: privacy is what allows us to be truly human.

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