“mutually assured surveillance”

An Amazon editorial review critiques The Light of Other Days for repeating material in other books by each respective author, Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter. My biggest complaint is how they use the storyline to show off their imagination with Michener-esque detours through future and historical time. That said, however, there are some intriguing elements to this story of the ultimate end of privacy – when everyone is subject to 24/7 survellance at any/every moment by whomever has the mass-produced technology to look.
The title comes from a poem about memory by Thomas More, which becomes the refuge of the old while the young become consciously (cognitively, psychically, intersubjectively) “joined“, generating collective intelligence, perhaps a new form of being, and look to the future.


“Ultimately, The Light of Other Days is thinly veiled social commentary. We may not like to admit it, but our illusions of privacy are almost as tenuous as those shattered by the WormCam. As governments and businesses record more and more of our actions, nobody lives an unexamined life. Each of us is pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, and numbered every day.” (positive review)
The parts I enjoyed the most involve a mix of humanism and physics. “None of us has a choice about history,” so therefore we have to somehow “learn to live without subterfuge and shame.” While the past can be viewed, it cannot be altered. I don’t have the exact quote or page references (audiobook) but this explanation caught me:
“The past has a blank, frozen fixedness. Immutable. The future is uncertainty. They meet in the present with the past slowly, inexorably encroaching on the future.”
The youth, of course, take matters into their own hands. Gotta love ’em! There was a line early on about the difference between chess and poker, which reminded me of playing chess with Alec who just about whupped me in the first three moves! I had to get serious and fast! It seems there might be an important determination to be made as to when one chooses the steady logic of chess versus the random chance of poker, each with their own strategies. Each, also, with their own versions of patience. “Science,” David Curzon, the brilliant physicist who is intellectually responsible for the original wormcam technology, “demands patience.” He is explaining to his brother that sometimes it is much more useful to prove a specific thing doesn’t work than it is to demonstrate that something might work. The former sets a much more decisive parameter.

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