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One Nation Under CCTV

“What kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. Something huge, terrible, and glittering—a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons.” George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four




It’s been a while since I opened up Photoshop for a bit of cheeky image editing, so here’s the latest experimental result! This one depicts a very British dystopia. George Orwell remains an infinitely quotable chap for this sort of subject, and I highly recommend his thought-provoking literary works. 'Nineteen Eighty Four' was a truly visionary undertaking – it foreshadowed the concept of a surveillance society long before the development of modern day technologies that would make it all possible.


Britain is leading the world when it comes to CCTV. It has one and a half times as many surveillance cameras as communist China. The exact number of them in the UK is not known but an estimate in 2002 counted the figure at well over four million. The methodology of collecting such statistics is rather vague but reasonable research suggests that our country now has one camera for every 14 people.


The security infrastructure being created, whilst valid in many respects, presents a plethora of worrying possibilities. The coupling of CCTV cameras with facial recognition algorithms that track people through crowds, read registration plates and log all this data for future use is handy for current civil enforcement but leaves the door open for the state of the future to have profound levels of control over society.


(Thanks go to Richard Dawkins and the editors of Boing Boing for using the image to illustrate this article and sending lots of visitors here as a result.)

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Taken on June 26, 2010