|By Hendrik Hertzberg
In the Comment for this week’s magazine, while acknowledging the seeming efficacy of the government’s anti-terrorist program over the past decade, I do some hand-wringing about the immense data-collecting, data-mining, data-interpreting snoopocracy that has grown up in the nearly twelve years since 9/11. I liken the purpose of this electronic behemoth to that of the “precogs” in Steven Spielberg’s movie, “Minority Report”: stopping crimes (murder in the movie, terrorism in the current real world) before they’re committed.
As I probably ought to have mentioned, “Minority Report,” like several of the best sci-fi films of the post-“Forbidden Planet” era, is based on a Philip K. Dick story. Dick was penny-a-word pulpmeister, but he was also a genius. He’s the only science-fiction writer whose works have been collected (in three volumes,yet) by the canonical Library of America. His paranoid visions have a way of turning out to bear a discombobulating resemblance to current events. Fifteen months after 9/11, in another, earlier Dick-inspired Comment, I wrote about a brand-new Defense Department agency called the Information Awareness Office. The goal of the Information Awareness Office was what it called Total Information Awareness, an ecstatic state of intelligence-gathering nirvana:
In 2003, responding to public indignation and journalistic ridicule, Congress defunded the Information Awareness Office. It ceased to exist. But its activities continued under different names. Ten years later, like a solar eclipse, Information Awareness is approaching Totality.
Breaking news for Philip K. Dick fans: The television miniseries adaptation of Dick’s great alternative-present novel, “The Man in the High Castle,” which I ballyhooed in 2010 but had lately begun to lose hope for, seems to be on again, according to the Times’s ArtsBeat blog. There’s a new scriptwriter, the SyFy cable channel has picked it up, and Ridley Scott is still co-producing. I just pray this isn’t one of those Lucy and the football situations.
Source: NewYorker.com, May 17, 2013
Total Information Awareness: The Sequel