Today, an ordinary person can't pick up the phone, email a friend or order a book without comprehensive records of their activities being created, archived, and analysed by people with the authority to put you in jail or worse. I know: I sat at that desk. I typed in the names.
This is a quote by Edward Snowden from yesterday's Guardian. All well and good, I want to say. But no, what bothers me more than anything is the term ordinary person. Because, my dear Edward, you are thinking in a box, your box of ordinary people. Your ordinary people live in Western societies, affluent Western societies. In another interview, you claim that a child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy. You actually claim that mass surveillance is watching everything we do, how it affects the average person. I get your point, don't worry, but when I think about your average person, I also get the arrogance, because with all due respect - and I mean it, you did and continue to stick your neck out for all the right reasons - the world is far more complex and there are children born in all the myriad corners of this planet for whom privacy will never be a concept worth considering. In fact, according to the latest statistics, 22000 of them die every day and not because Bill Gates has failed to supply sufficient mosquito nets or because someone is spying on them. Indeed, maybe they would benefit from a bit of surveillance, maybe less would die. But before I get carried away with my standard rant about causes of poverty, hunger and injustice (which in my book are all man made), let's remember this: Just because we are wealthy - and by gosh, we are - and have iphones, we are not the apex of some imaginary pyramid of advancement.
If we accept that we're all cut from the same genetic cloth, it means by definition we all fundamentally share the same kind of raw human genius. And that brilliance and potential is made manifest through technological wizardry and innovation--which has been the great achievement of the West--or, by contrast, invested into unraveling the complex threads of memory inherent in a myth, or understanding nuances about the relationship between human beings and the spirit world. All of those things are simply a matter of choice and cultural orientation.Wade Davis