A half century ago, George Orwell in 1984 predicted that we would have to deal with Big Brother watching us. Orwell tells how the omnipresent Big Brother watched Winston Smith and his fellow citizens in their negative utopia and warns us to be watchful for similar invasions of privacy and freedom. Unfortunately, few heeded Orwell's clarion call of caution. Today, our society operates in the age of Big Brother but doesn't seem to care.
Our computers record where surf were and relays that data to many sources. Technology exists that allows someone to locate us when using a cell phone. Big Brother's representatives scan spectators at sporting venues. In the wake of 9/11, we might soon be carrying federal ID cards containing all sorts of information about us that Big Brother thinks is necessary to protect us. Local municipalities are even issuing traffic tickets for infractions spotted by those little cameras on nearly all major thoroughfares. The cameras were originally installed to monitor traffic conditions. Now, they are employed to monitor you.
My fear is if another 9/11 event occurs, we will shed even more personal freedoms and do it gladly. We need to be on guard against allowing further infringements of our personal freedoms. However, the ever-probing eye of Big Brother is always out there trying to get into our lives.
I teach a wide-ranging list of classes in humanities at DeVry Institute of Technology's new campus at Tinley Park, IL. It is hardly a place where one would worry about Big Brother. It is a lovely, hi-tech educational edifice with all the amenities that the leader in technology schools should possess. All the rooms are linked to the Internet. In addition, they have state of the art audiovisual equipment. If you are looking for a degree program in 21st century technology, DeVry is the place to go.
However, even at DeVry, I fear that Big Brother is watching. In the men's rooms, both the urinals and toilets have automatic flushing devices installed. I haven't checked out the women's rooms, but I am sure that they are equally equipped. DeVry takes non-discrimination very seriously in all matters. These automatic flushers are really a nice touch. You come to the rest rooms with a lot of things on your mind like problems with microprocessing architecture or web interface design. You don't want to have to break your train of thought to think about flushing the toilet. DeVry does it right. Having spent last summer in South Asia where toilets were merely a hole in the floor, I appreciate these personal hygiene accruements more than most of the students, faculty, or staff.
One day, I availed myself of one of DeVry's automatic toilets. While seated, it gave me a chance to ponder. The first pondering related to what happens when I get up. The urinals detect movement away from the fixture. However, will I have the time to move away from the toilet without it flushing? Therefore, I tested the distances several times. The urinals are set for approximately thirty-three inches. However, the toilets' range varies from forty-nine to fifty-five inches. Obviously, the controls have a mind of their own.
While pondering the distance discrepancies, I was struck by how large the flushing device's brain was-far larger than seemingly necessary. I chill soon came over me. Perhaps, there is more inside the control device than merely a flushing mechanism. Perhaps, it contains a miniaturized TV camera transmitting live video to Big Brother somewhere in Washington, DC. Freud had no idea about how anal-retentive one could be if there is a television camera hidden inside the flushing controls.
As soon as I finish writing this alert, I plan to talk with the administration and apprise them of my concerns. In the meantime, take heed to my warning: you need to be ever-vigilant of the ever-encroaching presence of Big Brother.