Advances in technology always excite me. Technological advances helped my business advance and thrive after Covid threatened to shut down commercial activity three years ago. Video conferencing, cloud data storage, and electronic billing made my life more efficient and more economical too.
But with advances in technology also come warnings about a dystopian future brought on by artificial intelligence and the surveillance state. Each year we hear more and more about how technology is going to replace us in our jobs. And we see how technology advances can be used to learn more and more about us. Google probably knows more about you than your parents or your spouse know.
I bought more Christmas presents this season on Instagram because the platform always seemed to know what my interests are and what would appeal to me. Amazing. And scary too. But I succumbed to the convenience, perhaps to my lasting detriment.
The magazine Sports Illustrated used to run a little segment called “This Week’s Sign that the Apocalypse is Upon Us.” I read about this week’s sign this week. Not in SI. In a national newspaper.
Have you ever been to Madison Square Garden? My first time was in 1975 when my dad and I took the train into the city to watch Waterbury’s own Tony Hanson and the Uconn Huskies take on Frank McGuire’s South Carolina Gamecocks in the NIT. Back then the NIT was an event. I remember Princeton played Holy Cross in the second game of the doubleheader that day and Providence was also in the tournament featuring a freshman from Waterbury named Billy Eason.
Anyway, I loved the Garden ever since and I have lots of great memories from seeing many wonderful basketball players show off their talents there.
But this week, I read a story that the Garden and its owner, James Dolan, is now using facial recognition technology to keep Dolan’s own perceived personal enemies from attending any functions at all properties owned by the Garden, including Radio City Music Hall where the Rockettes put on their annual Christmas extravaganza.
And Mr. Dolan has a long list of enemies. If he reads this column, I am probably going to wind up on the list too. And I suppose that threat is what he is counting on to keep him from getting any negative publicity for his Gestapo tactics. For example, a mother of a nine-year-old whose Girl Scout troop was attending the Christmas show at Radio City was prohibited from entering the facility because her personal injury law firm had sued the Garden on behalf of a client who was allegedly injured at one of its properties.
Not that it should matter, but she apparently was not even the attorney who filed the lawsuit. She just happened to work at the firm that filed the lawsuit.
The frightening aspect of this is that suddenly despotic oligarchs are deciding, at their personal whims, who may have access to public events and facilities, and who may not. Are you a journalist who wrote a negative piece about Twitter? Elon Musk has revoked your privileges.
Suddenly it is not the government that is encroaching on free speech rights. It is those with more power than the government. It is the owners and the oligarchs. And they are repressing speech and diminishing rights, and that is apocalyptic in my book. I hope we can turn it around in 2023 but I doubt it.