Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Evolution of the Eye


Mayor Bloomberg's recent visit to London has given him a special insight into the rights and responsibilities of American citizens:

Residents of big cities like New York and London must accept that they are under constant watch by video cameras, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.

"We are under surveillance all the time" from cameras in shops and office buildings, "and in London they have multiple cameras on every bus and in every subway car," he added.
This isn't authoritarianism, but a gesture of blessing from the Invisible Hand:
"The people of London not only support it, but if Ken Livingstone didn't do it they would try to run him out of town on a rail. We live in a dangerous world, and people want to have security cameras."
Our "dangerous world" also threatens us with devastating accidents and illnesses. But the notion that we could adapt and improve the UK's healthcare system remains controversial at best, despite widespread public support.

Also, drivers remain more dangerous than terrorists, but I don't see New Yorkers begging Bloomberg to ban cars, or force them to drive at five miles per hour within city limits.

But then, danger is being redefined - and personified - as "terrorism," and the public's predictable panic and confusion is conveniently being hailed as informed consent to surveillance.

I don't like arguing against the inadequacy of surveillance cameras, for the same reason I don't like arguing that torture doesn't work; doing so implies that authoritarian measures would be OK if only they were more effective. That said, there does seem to be some evidence that London's security cameras don't work:
A comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any....

A report by the criminal justice charity Nacro in 2002 concluded that the money spent on cameras would be better used on street lighting, which has been shown to cut crime by up to 20 per cent.
Well, what of it? Creationists routinely attempt to question the evolution of the eye by asking "what good is five percent of an eye?" Like a few cells with a rudimentary ability to distinguish between light and dark, London's surveillance system may turn out to be a step on the path towards 20/20 vision.
"We can read fingerprints from about five meters...all 10 prints," said Bruce Walker, vice president of homeland security for Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N). "We can also do an iris scan at the same distance."
And as we all know, seeing is believing.

1 comment:

Emma said...

The book cover you show is actually strangely reminiscent of a bizarre poster campaign Ken Livingstone ran to reassure Londoners that they were under constant surveillance:

http://www.samizdata.net/blog/archives/002285.html