Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Sci-Fi Books Privacy

Sci-Fi Stories That Predicted the Surveillance State 213

Posted by Soulskill
from the why-couldn't-they-have-gotten-holodecks-right-instead dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Just to address one thing straight away: one of your favorite science fiction stories dealing, whether directly or indirectly, with surveillance is bound to be left off this list. And 1984's a given, so it's not here. At any rate, the following books deal in their own unique way with surveillance. Some address the surveillance head-on, while others speculate on inter-personal intelligence gathering, or consider the subject in more oblique ways. Still others distill surveillance down to its essence: as just one face of a much larger, all-encompassing system of control, that proceeds from the top of the pyramid down to its base."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Sci-Fi Stories That Predicted the Surveillance State

Comments Filter:
  • Nothing to predict (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hessian (467078) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @07:21PM (#44303917) Homepage Journal

    All technology is used by those who are in power, or want power.

    That surveillance is one of those powers isn't particularly new. People had networks of spies in ancient times.

    The real question is the people in power. They will have this power, and they will use it; toward what end? And, what is their level of moral rectitude?

    I don't think we can use rules, laws and regulations to keep them in line. They need to be good people.

    • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @07:26PM (#44303971)

      Again, the reasoning behind the 2nd amendment here in the US.

      If "they" won't be good for the right reasons, then fear is a good motivator.

      That said, how about a more recent book or pair of books? Little Brother and Homeland both by Cory Doctorow @ craphound.com

      • by TomR teh Pirate (1554037) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @07:53PM (#44304129)
        Please. The 2nd Amendment has never, ever done anything to prevent the government from steadily eroding 1st-Amendment, 4th-Amendment, or any-other-Amendment rights. Don't like NSA spying? Where are the 2nd Amendment nuts to put things right? Oh that's right...they're cooped up in fox holes in Idaho, where they've had their asses handed to them on an as-needed basis not by the US Army, but by tiny little SWAT teams. It's a tired trope, and frankly laughable.
        • by cold fjord (826450) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:07PM (#44304231)

          Where are the mass arrests?

          • by mjwx (966435)

            Where are the mass arrests?

            Get the guns out, people with bigger guns show up and there you have your mass arrests.

            Or mass shooting, whichever comes first.

          • by AHuxley (892839) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @11:35PM (#44305331) Homepage Journal
            The US gov will try to hide form the optics of a "mass arrest".
            Every political leader understands Tiananmen Square, the US had its Bonus Army en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonus_Army
            The US seems to be going for generational change re the 2nd Amendment- taxation, total registration, education (via youth, movies, tv), criminalization, locked transportation away from any ammo, more police questions in legal open carry states.
            Your 2nd Amendment "should" cover some basic gun rights in your city or State, but jail time and fines might be the everyday reality despite Federal court cases over the years.
            The US gov has learned from the Vietnam protests that "mass arrests" include some very well connected authors, lawyers, wealthy students and press.
            With the risk of HD footage and sound, a good legal team a day in open court is not the the chilling effect it once was.
            The US gov seems to favour infiltration, the mass use of state and federal "Agent provocateur" (infiltrate left and right wing groups and ensure crimes on camera) i.e. group leaders can be arrested just before protests
            The protesters are then offered deals to bring in more quality arrests, after an event to be protested are offered 'fines' vs risking court, turned into tame busy work movements or people are moved around Federal jail system for a few week, months..
            The individual is broken with lack of sleep, food, no contact with their legal team, medication withdrawl, or face a type of "Soviet punitive psychiatry" until their paperwork is found.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO [wikipedia.org]
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_MERRIMAC [wikipedia.org]
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_RESISTANCE [wikipedia.org]
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO [wikipedia.org]
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Core [wikipedia.org]
            http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/18/patriot_games [foreignpolicy.com]
            Show the evolution of US thinking on ideas like "mass arrest" - go for the person. Map out then tame, shape any "movement" leaving nothing but informants and tame groups ready to join any real protesters.
          • by Hatta (162192)

            The NYPD arrested 700 [nytimes.com] protesters for exercising their first amendment rights in Oct 2011.

        • by bdwebb (985489) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:08PM (#44304233)
          The idea is that every citizen in the country has a right to bear arms so that, in the event the government decides they want power indefinitely and implements a new governmental structure, there are millions of guns and citizens to prevent them from outright declaring the constitution invalid. The fact that our constitutional rights and amendments have been ERODED over years seems instead of simply stricken from the record to me represents a direct result of the 2nd amendment's existence..otherwise we would never have returned from martial law following any one of the wars that our country has gone through. Until the "Patriot" Act was introduced, the government was essentially unable to find and/or put into law an overarching 'workaround' that allows them to essentially do whatever they want. This is being a bit general but unless you're retarded you know what I'm getting at.

          Maybe instead of the random errant 'nuts' that you describe we should all take a personal responsibility and march on Washington and force our elected officials out of office for not working as agents of the people and therefore violating the entire purpose of their postings. Most of those 'nuts' were sane people driven to paranoia by the things that most of us ignore outright as SOP for the government. Maybe if we were all a little nuttier and didn't have one-dimensional opinions like yours, we wouldn't have things like PRISM and the Patriot Act.
          • by Narcocide (102829)

            My kingdom for some mod points for this guy...

          • by trawg (308495)

            Maybe instead of the random errant 'nuts' that you describe we should all take a personal responsibility and march on Washington and force our elected officials out of office for not working as agents of the people and therefore violating the entire purpose of their postings.

            Do you need to force them? Every four years there's a great opportunity to really change things, and that's just at a head-of-government level - I don't know anything about how Senators or Congressmen are voted in (I'm Australian), but it seems like the ballot box is a good place to start.

            It seems (from reading /. and other sites) that even seriously committed Democrats aren't happy with how the last "Change" you were promised worked out. The two party option seems to be killing you guys. Get some independ

            • by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @08:50AM (#44307273) Homepage Journal
              To an outsider it just looks like there's no difference at all between the parties, and that everything is set up to try to force people to think "well if I don't vote [Republican|Democrat], then those damn [Democrats|Republicans] will get in!"

              There are many of us on the inside who have the same opinion.
            • To an outsider it just looks like there's no difference at all between the parties, and that everything is set up to try to force people to think "well if I don't vote [Republican|Democrat], then those damn [Democrats|Republicans] will get in!"

              That's the main part of the problem. Republicans and Democrats are different, but not radically. They are also increasingly out of touch with what the average American wants (but in different ways). They thrive in two ways:

              1) Redistricting - At the local level, the

          • by Xaedalus (1192463) <Xaedalys@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @11:14AM (#44308625)
            I'm retarded. Please explain to me what the workaround is that the Patriot Act allowed. And also, please explain to me why the majority of the American people, liberal and conservative, both approved of the bill, and continue to approve of it. Also, please explain to me why an armed march on Washington will immediately result in better conditions and not drive our country into a chaotic free-fall and civil war--or are we the divine exception to the rule?
        • by BlueStrat (756137) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:46PM (#44304459)

          Please. The 2nd Amendment has never, ever done anything to prevent the government from steadily eroding 1st-Amendment, 4th-Amendment, or any-other-Amendment rights.

          Wrong.

          Might want to research what occurred in Athens, TN in the 1946 "Battle of Athens".

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Athens_(1946) [wikipedia.org]

          Might also want to find out what's happened through history to people who have been disarmed by their governments.

          Innocents Betrayed: The True Story of Gun Control http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPMqfXIJpNE [youtube.com]

          The 2A isn't about civilians going toe-to-toe with a regular army. It's about making it a very costly proposition for enemies of the people of the US both foreign and domestic.

          Strat

          • by abies (607076)

            We don't have 2A in my country, but still when pension privilages for miners are under discussion, 50000 of them go to capital with pickaxes, stand in front of Parliment and threaten to dismantle it stone by stone if anything is taken away from them. And they know their way with pixaxes and destroying stone... and for last 20 years government always yielded, even if it is killing our pension system.

            I somehow doubt that 50000 handgun-waving guys would have same pressure power on US Congress.

            Influence of peop

        • by lightknight (213164) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:56PM (#44304527) Homepage

          The 2nd Amendment isn't meant, necessarily, for the populace to storm the Senate every single time they pass something that is disagreed with; you do its proponents a dishonour to paint them this way.

          The 2nd Amendment is a poison pill, a reminder in a way, for the day that comes sooner or later, as no government can resist decay, when its own must dismember it, turn the soil, and grow something new. It's there to remind them that what they are doing is the right thing, that they have the complete backing of the original progenitors of this government to slay the Leviathan when it forgets its contract, and believes itself to be God. That's so they do not shed a tear at its funeral, and do not tarry from the work that will need to be done, as quickly or slowly as they prefer, when the time comes. Contrary to the Supreme Court's belief that it is the sole interpreter of the US Constitution, a mistruth that has been propagated for far too long as it is, the power has, and always will, rest with the People. I do, however, find it touching that the US Government would prefer to hold court over whether it is following its own social contract inside one of its own courts....stocked with its own choice of judges.

      • by mirix (1649853) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:00PM (#44304171)

        I keep hearing this line... but the US govn't has been rotten to the core for ages, and I still see no uprising.

        When is this 'refreshing the tree of liberty' thing going to happen? Never?

        They don't seem to be terribly afraid of your pea-shooters, either... letting people have guns is apparently less of a threat to power than losing votes due to further restricting them. They get to run roughshod over all the other rights, as long as folks are satisfied with having their arms.

        • When is this 'refreshing the tree of liberty' thing going to happen? Never? ... letting people have guns is apparently less of a threat to power than losing votes due to further restricting them.

          You basically provide the answer. The government still changes by means of election, and the politicians still are concerned about what the voters will do when they vote. The Republic endures.

          • by quenda (644621) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:10PM (#44304589)

            The government still changes by means of election,

            So far as I can see, the election changes very little. Giving people a choice of two figureheads is not democracy.
            Real democracy needs transparency, accountability and rule of law. Whether there is one party, or two slightly different parties, running things is a relatively minor point.

            • People keep posting views like that, that the elections change very little, and I think that is nonsense. The two parties do in fact have meaningful differences between them in terms of policy and goals. There are some areas of common agreement though. Both parties uphold the American system of a Democratic Republic, an economy based on free enterprise, and so on. Neither party wants to be the one that lets large numbers of Americans be killed through negligence or inaction against al Qaida. That accou

              • by quenda (644621)

                That accounts for much of President Obama's actions in the war against al Qaida.

                What war against al Qaida? You mean that big recruitment drive for them in Iraq, where Al Qaida did not even exist before the US invasion?
                You mean the lost war against the Taliban, US allies against Russia, who were no threat against the US, and held no grudge until being invaded?

                8000 American troops dead, >600,000 Iraqi excess deaths, and worldwide loss of respect. Beats "negligence or inaction" eh?

                • What war against al Qaida?

                  The Authorization for Use of Military Force [gpo.gov] makes it clear who the US is fighting again, and that it is at war. It is well settled law that such an authorization is legally equivalent to a declaration of war.

                  You mean that big recruitment drive for them in Iraq, where Al Qaida did not even exist before the US invasion?

                  Like most people in the modern era, al Qaida members are able to travel. Many of them came to Iraq to fight, some were recruited locally. If you notice from the map, Iraq is near a number of countries with a notable extremist presence, and al Qaida problem.

                  Iraq was a major loss for al Qaida. They ma

                • by Ash Vince (602485) *

                  That accounts for much of President Obama's actions in the war against al Qaida.

                  What war against al Qaida? You mean that big recruitment drive for them in Iraq, where Al Qaida did not even exist before the US invasion?
                  You mean the lost war against the Taliban, US allies against Russia, who were no threat against the US, and held no grudge until being invaded?

                  8000 American troops dead, >600,000 Iraqi excess deaths, and worldwide loss of respect. Beats "negligence or inaction" eh?

                  Yes but it did enable Iraqi oil to be sold on the open market again, unlike before when it was blackmarket sale only. It could have gone on like that for decades too as no fucker in Iraq was ever going to rise up and get rid of Saddam. The only people who might have are Iran and they are the last people we wanted to have the Iraqi oil fields.

              • by Hatta (162192)

                The two parties do in fact have meaningful differences between them in terms of policy and goals

                Such as? Obama's biggest achievement was implementing Romneycare.

                There are some areas of common agreement though

                Such as complete disregard for the constitution.

                Both parties uphold the American system of a Democratic Republic

                Yes, both parties give lip service to nationalism.

                Neither party wants to be the one that lets large numbers of Americans be killed through negligence or inaction against al Qaida.

                Is it be

        • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:25PM (#44305001) Homepage

          They don't seem to be terribly afraid of your pea-shooters, either... letting people have guns is apparently less of a threat to power than losing votes due to further restricting them.

          Why would they be afraid of guns, when their side has drones, tanks, ICBMs, sonic weapons (these have already been deployed against peaceful protests), smart bombs, a state-of-the-art spying network, sophisticated propaganda systems, etc?

          Besides, if you really wanted to hurt the people that control this country, you'd:
          A. Organize massive labor strikes. I'm talking "Nobody is working in California this week" kind of massive.
          B. Stop shopping as much as possible.
          The reason is that the money they use to control everything has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is from the pockets of the rest of us.

          • by dywolf (2673597)

            it is a valid point. originally there was a parity of force which no longer exists.

            however, even by the Civil War that parity had begun to erode. yet what did you see, but even people within the military (mainly officers given the setup of the military at the time) choosing sides and bringing their equipment with them.

            and you'd likely see the same thing today if it ever happened again, though probably on an even bigger scale. not many that presently serve in the military would willingly turn their weapons o

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The second amendment has been irrelevant for its intended purpose since at least the civil war. Was it ever allowed that citizens have cannon and Gatling guns?

        The 2nd Amendment is quite clearly intended as a deterrent to an oppressive state, but since that has never realistically been true in the US since maybe the Whiskey Rebellion, or the American Revolution itself... I am all for banning personal firearms.

        What is the point of me having a .30 carbine when the state will come after me with 25mm auto-cannon

        • by C0R1D4N (970153) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:21PM (#44304965)
          Small arms keeping everyone armed is still a good fighting force even without drones and missiles. While the second amendment only applies to personal weapons and not artillery or ordinance the US govt is unlikely to launch cruise missiles into its own infrastructure to put down rebellion. In a true civil war the military itself will divide and both sides will have access to military hardware.
          • Why wouldn't a malevolent tyranny nuke its own population? Hitler condemning the German population to death in 1945 because he deemed them traitors to the German cause, and the Khmer Rouge's killing fields seem to indicate that real tyrannies have no qualms about slaughtering their own citizens.

            The problem with nukes is that there won't be a 'true civil war' because it will be over too soon. The military splitting up in opposing factions with nuclear capabilities during will only hasten the deployment of ta

        • by xstonedogx (814876) <xstonedogx@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:39PM (#44305079)

          I think you greatly underestimate how difficult it is to wage war on your own populace. Imagine Iraq, but with everyone armed, your own troops defecting, and every person you kill potentially related in some way to people who are on your side. Oh, and any infrastructure you destroy is your own.

          • by dkf (304284)

            Imagine Iraq, but with everyone armed, your own troops defecting, and every person you kill potentially related in some way to people who are on your side. Oh, and any infrastructure you destroy is your own.

            You mean like in Syria?

        • by brainboyz (114458)

          Cannons and Gatling guns are both perfectly legal to own Federally, and only limited by a few of the more liberal states.

      • ...fear is a good motivator.

        Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station. ..

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        Again, the reasoning behind the 2nd amendment here in the US.

        You do understand that the same Constitution that gives you "2nd amendment rights" makes the overthrow of the government, treason, a capital crime, right? In fact, that part was ratified before the 2nd amendment.

        Sounds like you pick and choose just the parts of the Constitution that sound good to you.

        Little Brother and Homeland both by Cory Doctorow

        Interesting choices. You realize that both of those books demonstrate just how futile any "2nd am

    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      All technology is used by those who are in power, or want power.

      Since you're posting this on the internet, which are you?

    • The only real assurance is not a vague definition of "good people in power". There is no such thing. The only solution that does not end in a police state is demanding transparency and constant inspection of their actions.
    • Ah, but there's the myth...there are no good people, at the end of the day. There might be one person who is not particularly offensive, but the sad reality is that if you place them all in a room to come up with some laws or policies to govern something important, by the end of their terms many would not be unhappy to see them go.

      Good and evil then become paltry evaluations for whether your own values jive with someone else's values, or conflict with them.

    • Too many studies have already shown what happens to 'good people' when they acquire power. The only solution is to eliminate the power, which is probably physically impossible, but finding ways of disabling the weaponry would be a good start. So, all that's left is to make the best of it, eh? What good is spending your whole life looking over your shoulder?

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      I don't think we can use rules, laws and regulations to keep them in line. They need to be good people.

      See, you simply have to assume that, sooner or later, someone who isn't 'good people' will get in -- or some misguided idiot who thinks that the ends justify the means.

      If you don't assume things will go wrong, and actively build ion checks and balances (and consequences) ... it will turn on you.

      People demonstrate time and time again, that if it can be abused, it will be.

      "Trust, but verify" is a damned fine

    • Speaking of people in power...I think a good story would be if everyone spontaneously developed the capability to read minds. Not only would society completely change from what we know, there wouldn't be a recourse for the people behind the curtain. I guess the story would follow some family or something where the dad is a gov worker trying to keep the family together when everyone knows each others thoughts. Meanwhile he stumbles upon a plan to build a mind reader blocker for the corporate overlord. At the
    • by khallow (566160)

      I don't think we can use rules, laws and regulations to keep them in line. They need to be good people.

      Then you've failed. This Machiavelli quote summarizes my opinion of that:

      Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.

  • Not 1984 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @07:42PM (#44304063)
    The book you want is Huxley's Brave New World. Instead of overlords controlling people through power and domination, people allow themselves to be controlled in exchange for the pleasantries of modern life - sex, entertainment, and other trivialities. As long as they get as much of those as they want, they don't give a damn what else is going on in society or who is controlling it. As the saying goes, you attract more flies with honey...
    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      This was a pretty good one, and pre-dated 1984 by a good few decades.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_(book) [wikipedia.org]

    • Plus Spock is in the 1998 TV movie [imdb.com] The older BBC version is on [youtube.com].
    • The book you want is Huxley's Brave New World. Instead of overlords controlling people through power and domination, people allow themselves to be controlled in exchange for the pleasantries of modern life - sex, entertainment, and other trivialities. As long as they get as much of those as they want, they don't give a damn what else is going on in society or who is controlling it. As the saying goes, you attract more flies with honey...

      Another good take is the role-playing game Paranoia - which made the surveillance state amusing (and insane) [1]. In addition to big brother, brave new world-ish mandatory uppers and downers combined with a Kafka-like maze of rules that can never all be respected - you are forced to betray, backstab, lie and cheat faster/better than the other players.

      This, along with games like Diplomacy [2], should be mandatory for all 10y+ kids so they can become accustomed to shit that others will pull on them with more

    • Re:Not 1984 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jimbrooking (1909170) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:21PM (#44304333)
      Bread and circuses, the Romans knew, were necessary for a well-ordered society.
    • Re:Not 1984 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by newcastlejon (1483695) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:46PM (#44304457)

      The book you want is Huxley's Brave New World. Instead of overlords controlling people through power and domination, people allow themselves to be controlled in exchange for the pleasantries of modern life - sex, entertainment, and other trivialities. As long as they get as much of those as they want, they don't give a damn what else is going on in society or who is controlling it. As the saying goes, you attract more flies with honey...

      There was much more to it than that. The Savage (whose name escapes me) rejected all those supposedly pleasant things while the citizens, having been conditioned since before they were born, accepted them. Take the epsilons, for example: they weren't afforded much at all in the way of luxury, yet still served the state and might have fought to preserve the status quo if their development hadn't been retarded to the point where they couldn't even grasp the concept.

      When people talk about Ninteen Eighty-Four, they often focus on the telescreen, to the exclusion of the mass surveillance of citizens by their peers. Similarly, with Brave New World the state essentially breeding people to be satisfied with what little they have takes second place to soma and free love that is (perversely) mandatory.

      There was a pause; then the voice began again.
      "Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able "

      The Director pushed back the switch. The voice was silent. Only its thin ghost continued to mutter from beneath the eighty pillows. "They'll have that repeated forty or fifty times more before they wake; then again on Thursday, and again on Saturday. A hundred and twenty times three times a week for thirty months. After which they go on to a more advanced lesson." ... "Till at last the child's mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child's mind. And not the child's mind only. The adult's mind too—all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides—made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions!

      As for 1984, literary analysis was never my strong suit, but if asked I'd say that Orwell was afraid that an oppressive state would turn men against their fellows; I can only imagine what he would say about a world where people surrender their privacy willingly.

    • You're half way there: Orwell and Huxley were both right.

      Most of us will gladly sell our privacy for trivialities and convenience, but there exist forces of evil in power as well. Our current surveillance state can only exist because both of these things are true.
  • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @07:53PM (#44304133) Homepage Journal

    I always thought Star Trek had a little bit of surveillance society in it, because the computer was always listening for you to say "Computer" and give it a command. Mind you, the Enterprise *was* as close to a military ship as the ST society had in the original series, so I guess it might be understandable.

  • Brazil (Score:4, Informative)

    by Local ID10T (790134) <ID10T.L.USER@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:00PM (#44304175) Homepage

    Terry Gilliam's interpretation of Orwell's 1984: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088846/ [imdb.com]

  • by Macgrrl (762836) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:02PM (#44304195)

    Ben Elton is perhaps better known in Commonwealth countries as a TV comedian, but he writes a fine line of satire which frequently swerves into the SciFi realm and is almost always a form of social commentary.

    Blind Faith is an interesting posit on where the current obsession with social media, coupled with government surveillance and the slide away from science to religion could do to a slightly futuristic society.

    Well worth a read, and if you enjoy that, you may enjoy some of his older works, such as Stark, This Other Eden, or some of his more recent stuff (there's dozens).

    • Blind Faith is an interesting posit on where the current obsession with social media, coupled with government surveillance and the slide away from science to religion could do to a slightly futuristic society.

      "had to cry today..."

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:06PM (#44304219)

    What makes the fictional dystopias featuring surveillance states interesting isn't simply the fact that they conduct surveillance, but rather what they do with the information. In the fictional dystopias is it to engage in various sorts of general repression against the population, sometimes subtly, sometimes in a heavy handed and cruel fashion. How many of them involve actions by the state to genuinely protect the citizenry except in an Orwellian fashion? Moving from fiction to history and current events reveals that the difference between free societies using surveillance to protect themselves is in marked contrast to unfree societies. Nobody went to prison for 10 years at hard labor for simply calling George Bush, "Chimpy McHitler," while he was President, but plenty of people went to the Gulag for 10 years for telling a joke about Stalin, and far from all of the people sent to the Gulag survived. There may need to be refinement and more oversight over the activities of the intelligence services of Western governments, but getting it wrong will ultimately lead to harsh feedback of another sort.

    Too true:(Listen for the joke at 1:40) Reagan tells Soviet jokes [youtube.com]

    • by HiThere (15173)

      Well, you could look at the Septunagent government in Stross' "Iron Sunrise". It was a minor feature, but that government could, when it chose, implement "sparrow-fart security" (which I took to mean that they not only noticed any sparrow falling, but even farting). Generally, however, they went in for a much lighter hand. Sometimes, as far as the protagonist was concerned, a bit too light. (And let people make decisions out of prejudice or malice rather than acting on good information.)

      Stross doesn't l

    • In Russia (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Russia's at the same state now, if you criticize Putin you end up in jail on a trumped up charge or commit suicide or end up dead abroad. Words are enough.

      Barrett Brown (who made the mistake of reporting 'anonymous' leaks and upsetting a defense contractor). His charge is grade A fabricated crap.
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/21/barrett-brown-persecution-anonymous
      (Wikileaks and Glenn were targetted for smear campaigns.)

      Wanna see a video of undercover cops trying to plant drugs on 'protesto

      • Interesting post. I disagree with a number of your points, but I'll limit myself to a few counterpoints.

        Guantanamo bay has never even held a total of 1,000 people as prisoners. Al Qaida teaches its members to lie and carry on the jihad by any means possible. Gitmo guards often attacked by detainees [usatoday.com] As to feeding tubes - yes they can be unpleasant, but it's likely the prisoners magnify the difficulties [mypetjawa.mu.nu] in line with their training.
        Al Qaeda Manual Drives Detainee Behavior at Guantanamo Bay [defense.gov]

        WASHINGTON, June 29, 2005 – If you're a Muslim extremist captured while fighting your holy war against "infidels," avoid revealing information at all costs, don't give your real name and claim that you were mistreated or tortured during your detention. . .

        Anwar al-Awlaki was

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Nobody went to prison for 10 years
      Cold, the US gov can select to watch a person at a distance after looking into their full family background.
      US intelligence services go for refinement and gain much more oversight per person that the tip off via a pubic gov car, suit, badge, hours of interview per visit.
      ie with more people running HD cameras at home or HD cameras been turned on when two people in plain clothes show up with with badges.
      Too many youtube videos about protesters followed home been question
    • What makes the fictional dystopias featuring surveillance states interesting isn't simply the fact that they conduct surveillance, but rather what they do with the information.

      And since they're humans, you can't trust them.

      How many of them involve actions by the state to genuinely protect the citizenry except in an Orwellian fashion?

      Again, you couldn't trust them even if they claimed that was their goal; they're humans.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      How many of them involve actions by the state to genuinely protect the citizenry except in an Orwellian fashion?

      In reality, how many actions of the state genuinely protect the citizenry? Protecting the citizenry is nothing more than an excuse to get away with profiteering, cronyism, and ever expanding bureaucracy. e.g. Micheal Chertoff and his back scatter machines.

      Moving from fiction to history and current events reveals that the difference between free societies using surveillance to protect themselves

  • by thinktech (1278026) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:09PM (#44304239)
    I'm disappointed that Harry Harrison's "Stainless Steel Rat" is not at the top of this list. Written in 1961, it's entire premise is about a thief that operates in a society with computer surveillance tracking everyones every move. Facial recognition, camera and car tracking, etc, etc. I've re-read this many times and it's almost frightening how close it is to reality. Even to the point of most of the populace being comfortable with the intrusion.
  • all-encompassing system of control, that proceeds from the top of the pyramid down to its base

    I feel this statement unduly absolves us as a society from blame for our own surveillance state -- as if we hadn't clamored for safety, as if we hadn't spouted off about having nothing to hide, as if we hadn't secretly distrusted anyone using encryption, anonymous account, or trying to live "off the grid", as if we hadn't openly derided the boys who cried wolf about the coming panopticon. Do you think something of this magnitude is simply ordered from "the top"? We asked for this. The only thing you can complain about is that the people we elected (and those they appointed or hired) to do our bidding, in an effort to more completely obey us, didn't tell us what they were doing. It's like hiring a hitman and having him tell you it's better that you not know the details of the hit you've paid for.

    I don't think this is a pyramid. This is an hourglass, or a pinched torus -- we all sit on top of the government, down to a single point of control; which then sits on top of an expanding mass of surveillance state that sits in/on/around all of us. Unless of course you buy into the idea that our elections are rigged, that it's all been run by a cabal for decades/centuries/millenia, etc.

    But I think it's much simpler to accept that we did this to ourselves. It doesn't take a roomful of geniuses working secretly, it just takes a nation of average Joe's being themselves. Design by committee, of millions.

  • by adminstring (608310) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:52PM (#44304509)
    ...is another classic that belongs on the list.
    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_My_Tears,_The_Policeman_Said

      also features a sort of 1% -99% societal split

      The novel is set in a dystopian future United States following a Second Civil War which led to the collapse of the nation's democratic institutions. The National Guard ("nats") and US police force ("pols") reestablished social order through instituting a dictatorship, with a "Director" at the apex, and police marshals and generals as operational commanders in the field. Resistance to the regime is la
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:30PM (#44304681) Homepage Journal
    From a more economics-based standpoint(specifically, what happens when there are no real "jobs" left), I would have to say "Player Piano" by Kurt Vonnegut. Now of course there is the obviously dated references to computers with so many vacuum tubes that they fill a cave, and alas engineers ARENT the richest people on the planet but there is some great social commentary in there re: what to do when technology and society has rendered most people useless.
    In the book, 99% of young men are basically given 2 options: join the army or join a meaningless public works organization....this is eerily similar to today's economy. Having spent time on a military base as a contractor, I can say that most of these guys would have been working at a factory if they had been born 50 years ago, but as most of those jobs have dried up they ended up in the Army. I know people in the US like to go all hero worship on these people, but lets face facts: For most of them, it's their only ticket to anything that even closely resembles a middle class lifestyle. They either aren't cut out for post-secondary education or cannot afford it, and since we don't have any other place for them(much like in the story), we stick them in the army...... The "reeks and wrecks" are the public works people, not quite as big in the US as they are elsewhere(for instance, Japan), but they are still there.

    If you have time, definitely check it out, I've just scratched the surface of how correct Vonnegut was in predicting what happens when people stop being "useful" to society.
    • " I know people in the US like to go all hero worship on these people, but lets face facts: For most of them, it's their only ticket to anything that even closely resembles a middle class lifestyle."

      As a former active duty military and on-base contractor, I know what you mean. I wouldn't even be that nice about it. There are heroes in the military, but there are also idiots. Some soldiers are dedicated, others are lazy wastes of space. Even one of the 'hard chargers' I served with was useless in our actual

  • The Slow Glass stories, by Bob Shaw.

    • Harry Harrison's "To The Stars" trilogy [wikipedia.org] ("Homeworld", "Wheelworld" and "Starworld") also predicted a society under constant surveillance, although it's not a major part of the story. It's sort of like the future of 1984, except one where the society seems to have been founded less on "for the evilz" (which seems to be the primary motivator of the party in Orwell's "1984") and more based on greed and power-hunger.

      While the story itself is not particularly engrossing, some of the predictions on the society an

  • Why exclude 1984? (Score:4, Informative)

    by pz (113803) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:48PM (#44304781) Journal

    Given that Orwell got so very much right about the future, why exclude 1984 from the list? Just to make an interesting discussion that would have been largely already well-hashed-out otherwise?

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      IMHO 1984 was more the British Empire experience been tried at home.
      The idea that you would have so many shattered people in suburbia and cities would give a Soviet 1980's dissident feel - NGO's, foreign press getting long interviews, books about their treatment.
      The other view is you flood the population with food, sport, every type of sex, drugs, new education methods every generation, pleasure, addictions, books, movies, celebrities, tame press on some new scandal, mass migration and wealth generation i
    • by grcumb (781340)

      Given that Orwell got so very much right about the future, why exclude 1984 from the list? Just to make an interesting discussion that would have been largely already well-hashed-out otherwise?

      It's just to be fair to the rest of them. There are some artists who simply dominate their genre. A famous singer was once asked who her favourite Jazz vocalist was, and she said, 'You mean, besides Ella Fitzgerald?'

  • It is sooo funny, but actually no one sci-fi author managed to predict the level of surveillance at which we are in this moment. Even in 1984 you could actually go and hide somewhere, or even leave the country, but here and now, there is nowhere to go, on the earth, literally.
  • Much more shocked (Score:5, Interesting)

    by barlevg (2111272) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:25PM (#44304999)
    I was much more surprised to read, in an out-of-print '80s novel written by a lesser-known SF author [amazon.com], about drone operators remotely carrying out surgical strikes halfway across the planet, all while being denied any credit or commendation because the traditional military community doesn't consider them "pilots." [wsj.com]
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooter_(film) [wikipedia.org] for the staged suicide.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartan_(film) [wikipedia.org] power elite and a "boating accident"
    The original UK http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Cards_(UK_TV_series) [wikipedia.org]
    then http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Play_the_King [wikipedia.org] for the simple pleasure of cataloging the political competitors.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edge_of_Darkness [wikipedia.org] (1985) for the display of a hardened, air gapped computer network and the need for real physical access vs the amazing abili
  • A bit of a preview for the future: Rainbow's End. [google.com]

    Oh, here, you can read some of the ideas and thoughts from this presentation he made. [sdsu.edu]

    It doesn't only seem plausible at this point, it seems practically guaranteed to arise.

  • This Perfect Day by Ira Levin

    "Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei led us to this perfect day"

    From wiki- The world is managed by a central computer called UniComp which has been programmed to keep every single human on the surface of the earth in check. People are continually drugged by means of monthly treatments (delivered via transdermal spray or jet injector) so that they will remain satisfied and cooperative "Family members". They are told where to live, when to eat, whom to marry, when to reproduce, and for whi

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky

Working...