Freedom isn't free

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An interesting editorial choice. The National Post published this story about a Chinese super computer in the Financial Post:

I say interesting when I really mean bad. This isn’t niche news, nor is it information for business managers alone.

The success of Chinese technology strikes right at the heart of an issue making top headlines south of the border: NSA wiretaps and privacy in the information age -

We may be in the infancy of a transformative revelation, namely that security in a world awash in advanced technology is incompatible with privacy.

I don’t care to be an apologist for Obama. I’m not a fan of the president. But it’s time everyone realizes tough choices need to be made. You can’t spill the beans on Facebook then be surprised when someone steals your identity, and you can’t be safe from overseas cyber attacks on your national infrastructure and also respect rules of privacy that sufficed in the pre-computer age.

We are vulnerable. Vulnerable to overseas attack and vulnerable to domestic control under the pretext of protecting us from those foreign incursions. The assumption that all futures lead to expanded freedom and democracy may be a fallacy.

As private citizens, it will be harder and harder to maintain our autonomy. People who opt not to sign the dotted line – who opt not to give up their privacy and other rights to access all the computer age offers – will find themselves marginalized and, one day, perhaps criminalized. Those who don’t want their DNA collected to get a work permit, or a microchip implanted in their kids to access healthcare may find themselves living in Luddite enclaves. They will be the Amish of the 22nd century.

The problem is that while the need to listen, spy, watch and control is genuine if we want to avoid cyber attacks and interdict terror plots, the tools of the trade are so easily abused by those in power.

How do you have oversight when a spy chief claims oversight will render security efforts futile?

How do you know a president or PM is acting in your interests when the best they can offer is “Just trust me”?

I’m not making a prediction. The world is too volatile. Technology has vast potential to enslave but also to liberate, and we may yet find a way to preserve personal autonomy.

But there will be a cost. The interests of statists and individualists may collide. I’m reminded of a song from the greatest movie of the last decade, Team America: World Police, “Freedom isn’t free” (

Freedom costs a buck-oh-five indeed. 


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