As I Was Saying…

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The Sunny Side of Surveillance

July 21, 2008

NOTICE: “Sigh,” as Charlie Brown would say. Here we go again with another disclaimer. It’s just a darn shame that we live in a world where a piece like this one has to be labeled explicitly as satire. Two weeks ago, I might not have bothered, but I saw what happened to the New Yorker when they tried unlabeled satire in these days of toxic and patronizing earnestness from people who ought to know better. So, what follows is satire, folks. It’s a joke. It does not represent my actual beliefs. It is intended to mock, lampoon and otherwise disparage radically undemocratic, yet widely held, views of national security and entrepreneurial opportunism.

I have to admit it. When talk of large scale federal government surveillance of nearly all U.S. citizens first began to be discussed, I had doubts. I spoke darkly about “implications.” I wondered aloud what secret agenda the government was supporting by gathering so much information. And how stupid is that, wondering aloud about surveillance?

Finally, I began to embrace the idea. I mean, if our government believes it’s necessary for national security to tap my phone, intercept my e-mails and track my movements, who am I to question it? I’m a real American, not some terrorist-loving liberal, and I understand that our freedoms are safest when the government manages them for us. Smart people in Washington, D.C., have spent a lot of time thinking about this stuff, and I’m not about to second-guess them with my own selfish and naive whining about “privacy” or “civil rights.”

No, I say that America is still the land of opportunity. That means that what’s good for government is good for marketing. Anyway, the new corporate vision is “total transparency.” I can’t think of anything that supports total transparency more than total surveillance.

It’s my duty as a citizen to do some creative thinking, rather than unpatriotically sulking and otherwise acting as if I have something to hide. The day will soon be here when we’ll all be carrying our cellphones and RFID chip passports all the time. Furthermore, businesses and institutions that maintain records about us (banks, schools, employers, anyone who processes credit cards) will be turning over all the information they gather for government scrutiny. The data streaming 24/7 from all these sources can be our ticket to a future brighter than most of us can readily imagine.

With these thoughts in mind, I’m unveiling today four ideas for new products and services that total surveillance will make possible. Here’s a glimpse of what your total surveillance future will look like!

1. TravelSmart™ Highway SignHelping the weary traveler…

Target Market: State and Local Highway Departments

You are lost!Description: Governmental entities that build and maintain highways have always provided signs to guide and assist travelers. A lot of tax dollars are tied up in this service, but until now only one-message-serves-all signs have been available. The need for improvement is obvious. As a traveler you are not well-served if, for example, you are driving to Pleasantville and the only road signs you encounter speak of Placidville.

The illustration shows how much more helpful a TravelSmart™ sign will be. It’s highly personalized message informs you that you have taken a wrong turn and offers helpful suggestions to get you back on the correct route.

2. MyRegistrar™ GPA CoinCharting your educational investment…

Target Market: Parents of college students

GPA coinDescription: Form and function combine beautifully in the MyRegistrar™ GPA Coin.

Worn as a medallion (as shown) or carried in your pocket like a coin, the device provides gentle reminders of how expensive it is to send a child to college. Capitalizing on the total surveillance responsibility of colleges and universities to record student performance daily, the GPA coin offers constant updates on exactly how your child is doing in school. No longer will you have to wait until the end of a semester to learn that your child attended too many “keggers” and not enough classes.

For a modest monthly fee, you can gain the information you need to protect your college investment and to save your child from many of the mistakes you probably made yourself.

3. iMemorial™ Interactive HeadstoneS/he’s not dead, s/he’s just away…

Target Market: Bereaved family and friends

interactive tombstone

Description: The iMemorial™ combines durability, functionality and good taste. The display, constructed of I Can’t Believe It Isn’t Granite® and virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the stone, is divided into two areas. The top half contains a traditional rendering of the name and dates of the departed. The bottom half displays a personalized visitor’s message based on ID information derived from the visitor’s passport RFID.

It’s the next best thing to having your loved one back!

4. Safe Harbor™ Motel SignHelping you to love the one you’re with…

Target Market: Hotel and motel operators catering to short-term guests

motel signThe picture says it all! If you’re on the road a lot, you know firsthand how awkward it can be when you’ve stayed at a motel with a different parter but given the same name. Now, thanks to the RFIDs in your passports and the motel’s own data stream, you need never fear such embarrassment again.

Safe Harbor™ technology takes the worry out of cheating. Best of all, you don’t have to say anything to your partner (who may be just as unsure as you about the names you used last time). Your motel’s sign displays a welcome that tells you what your name is tonight. Vive l’amour!

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