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Surveillance, Pandemics, and Conspiracies

Lately there have been a number of people who point to this or that proposal for tracking infected people, or recovered people, or contact tracing during an epidemic. In some cases the proposals predate this pandemic. After all, pandemic response is not a new concept. But to people reading the ideas for the first time, some immediately see a conspiracy, as if the whole reason we are suffering a pandemic is because the pro-surveillance people needed an excuse. This seems silly to me. Here is why.

Just about every such idea that can be imagined has been proposed by someone somewhere. Sometimes the proposals are intended prophylacticly. If it is not on some TV show or novel, then it is in some think tank paper. Really, everything you can imagine and a whole lot more has already been proposed by someone, somewhere, with intention, or with the desire to prevent, or just to play around. That you can surface such a proposal is not evidence in itself of where the world is heading, or the tip on the iceberg on some vast conspiracy. It is not a sudden revelation. It is not remotely new or surprising. The future is being prepared everywhere. Only a whole range of possible futures are being prepared at once, buy all sorts of people and interest groups. Rudolf Steiner did his own version of this. And half the time the people writing the stuff don’t even believe in it themselves; they are either paid to write that kind of thing, or are playing with ideas, or just wildly speculating.

Depending on where you are on the continuum of beliefs, a given proposal will be either encouraging, or it will drive you to despair. But the fact that somebody once wrote something is not some scoop. And this obtains not just for surveillance and pandemics, but for the future of education, political rights, international relations, all sorts of technologies (biotech, attention tech, big data, quantum whatever, communications, etc.). They are all being thought about and worked on right now! And that is how the future is being prepared. But not just the future that will happen, but all futures that might happen. They are being thought about, proposed, discussed, positioned for. For good or for evil. Or just because, with no attention to whether they might be good or evil, which is its own problem.

Systemic thinking intuits how such a vast web of interconnected and constantly moving parts relate. Black & white thinking grabs one example out of context and builds an entire theory on what that one thing supposedly means. But any such theory is outdated before you are even done proposing it. Because the world moves on. And the universe/spiritual world likes to throw things at us that are totally unexpected just to keep it all interesting. Truly no one predicted that when the pandemic came, the US would be helplessly incompetent in its response. All the predictions and planning before this year had the US taking a global leadership role, as it had in all the pandemics of the previous half century. Current events just invalidated a couple decades of planning. And that outcome is more the norm than that any group of people successfully plot anything decades in advance.

Of course after the fact someone will dig up the one guess that happened to be right (you see that after every economic crash) and pretend that the author was unusually prescient. Most of the time they were just lucky. Because on any given day there are thousands of people predicting the imminent crash of the market, and thousands of other predicting its continued rise. And in the case of the market, most all of them have a financial interest in the outcome, and quite a few of them are trying to drive events by their predictions (same as political pundits). But the world moves where it will, and some people get lucky, but call themselves smart. And surveying the chaos, it seems fairly foolish to think that one idea, one paper, one prediction or recommendation, actually drove events.

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