The internet is leading the world towards forms of totalitarianism: How to fix the problem

Klaus Solberg Söilen


It is difficult to imagine intelligence studies as separate from information technology as we enter the
third decade of the 21st century. The current issue of JISIB bears witness to this integration with a strong
focus on big data applications.
Hardly anyone today would or could do without the internet, but the project that started with US
government financing in the 1960s, with packet switching, and in the 1970s with ARPANET and saw
commercial light in the 1990s is helping countries turn into totalitarian systems where totalitarianism is
defined by a high degree of control over public and private life.
Public life is influenced by hacking, troll factories, fake news/propaganda, and interference in
elections. Private life is influenced by massive surveillance. To borrow the title of the book by Zuboff
(2019) we now live in “the age of surveillance capitalism”. Business intelligence systems lie at the heart
of this transformation, but so do artificial intelligence and robotics. And the trend is global.
In the West the suppressors are mostly private monopolies (e.g. Google, Facebook), while in the East
it is primarily the government that is snooping (e.g. China’s Social Credit System). Face recognition is
likely to become as popular in the West as it is in the East. It is also easily forgotten that no city was
better surveilled than London, which started to build its CCTV technology in the 1960s. The system is
now being updated with facial recognition, just like the one we are criticizing the Chinese for having.
Some forms of surveillance may also lead to great advances in our societies, like access to government
forms and statements electronically and a non-anonymous Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), which
promises to reduce corruption and tax fraud, and could be used for easy distribution of universal basic
income (UBI) . Fintech promises to be highly disruptive.
We are moving into an Orwellian world of surveillance more or less voluntarily, often applauding it.
“I have nothing to hide” the young man says, but then he later becomes a minister and starts to worry
about the traces he has left on keyboards. The Five Eyes intelligence alliance, or any other major service,
can pull out extensive analyses of behavior and personality on most of us now as we continue to exchange
our personal data for access to searches and social media, but also subscription-based services. Most
Chinese think that the social credit system is a good thing. This is for much of the same reason: they
believe it will not be used against them and think that they will do well. We all tend to be overoptimistic
about our abilities and opportunities. It’s not before we fail that the full implications of the system are
felt: lack of access, credit, housing, and no more preferential treatments. The result threatens to worsen
the lack of social mobility and increase the growing conflict between the super-rich and those hundreds
of millions who risk slipping from the middle class to being counted among the poor, many of whom live
in the Western world.


Market Market Intelligence, Business Intelligence, Competitive Intelligence, Information Systems, Geo-Economics

Full Text:



Zuboff, S. (2019). The age of surveillance capitalism: The fight for a human future at the new frontier of

power: Barack Obama's books of 2019. Profile books.



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