Thursday,25 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1336, (16 - 22 March 2017)
Thursday,25 April, 2019
Issue 1336, (16 - 22 March 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Space Odyssey 2017

There is no longer privacy in the world
There is no longer privacy in the world

Are we really the “human” race? Is it conceivable that we are only part of the evolutionary process preparing for the arrival of the human race? Superman, or Nietzsche’s Ubermensch, the superior man who justifies the existence of the human race?

Wikileaks revelation of Vault 7 is the largest ever publication of confidential documents of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and their arsenal of hacking tools to spy on the citizens of the world, including their own. By compromising billions of everyday electronic devices they lost control of their own techniques to Wikileaks.

This gives us pause to wonder. What degree of humanity have we reached, if any? 

Maliciously seeking private information by special malware through our computers, smart-phones, TV sets, Facebook, messaging apps, etc, exploiting our security and vulnerability, without our knowledge, is less than human. You may say well everyone does it, the Russians, the Chinese among others. It is still less than human. Coming from the world’s model democracy, which its own constitution provides for a citizen’s right to privacy, it is downright repugnant. 

It renders our supposedly civilised world a jungle, where privacy is no more, or as the British publication The Guardian put it “privacy is dead”. In a jungle that is natural, but designing a specific programme to gather personal, private, intimate conversation is devious, cruel and inhuman. So skilled are those technocrats they are untraceable, unaccountable even leaving false fingerprints to accuse others.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) confirms there is no longer privacy in America, the greatest democracy in the world. Where do we hope to find it? Is this the human race or just another step in this cyclical evolution from ape to man?

The relationship between man and machine has taken us down a labyrinth without end. Technology has reached a point where it deals in pure evil, not in aiding the progress of mankind. And this from sophisticated, educated, refined minds. Why is it less evil than the heinous acts of those ignorant fanatic criminals who know little more than to violate, rape, slaughter and burn to death humans. They possess none of the social graces of acting covertly.

At one time, not too long ago we were dazzled by science fiction and the amazing journeys the human mind can take us to. The race between science and science fiction has been on for at least two centuries, and now it looks like the tortoise has really overtaken the hare, or is it the reverse? Scientific technology is more mind-boggling than anything science fiction has ever produced.

Why has this evoked memories of the masterful movie of the 1960s Space Odyssey 2001? When sci-fi author Arthur C Clarke wrote The Sentinel on which the movie is based, 2001 seemed so far away. Today he probably would have written Cyberspace Odyssey 2017.

To those who still recall this masterpiece by director Stanley Kubrick (1968) the turning point in evolution happens when the apes learn to kill with weapons, to hunt, eat meat and walk upright. The Alpha Ape realises that with his weapon, a huge club, he can destroy — and he does — bludgeoning the enemy alpha male of the group who drove him from the waterhole.  This point of evolution was the Dawn of Time.

Moving forward to 1999, man had reached great heights. The Space Age had arrived. An artificial object was discovered buried beneath the lunar surface. By 2001 a mission of astronauts set off on the SS Discovery, together with the intelligent computer HAL9000 to discover what alien force is watching the Earth. When faults are discovered in the expeditionary spacecraft’s communication system and the mission had to be aborted, HAL the computer takes over, hence the very famous quote from the computer HAL to Dave, head of the mission when he is ordered to open the pad door: “I’m sorry Dave I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

HAL was developed at a plant in Urbana, Illinois on 12 January 1992. His instructor was Mr Langley who taught him everything, even how to sing “Daisy, Daisy...” 

HAL malfunctions because he is ordered to and constructed for “the accurate processing of information without distortion or concealment which sounds more human than... human.”

HAL overtakes Dave. Machine conquers man.

Dave becomes a fetus floating through space overlooking the earth…. singing “Daisy, Daisy. Is this the beginning of a new evolution… from ape to man to sperm... .ready to be reborn?”

We are free to speculate about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film, considered by Sight & Sound magazine as the best film ever made.

Critic Michel Ciment said, “Kubrick has conceived a film which in one strike has made the whole science fiction cinema obsolete.”

This is the Age of Cyberspace. Has the CIA made the freedom to have a private conversation that is central to a free society, obsolete?

This digital technology has surpassed all sense of morality, decency and integrity. Is there anything we can do to arrest its invasion, expansion and growth, or will it self-destruct and with it destroy this race of “humans”?

Is this the beginning of the end? Are we to be saved from the CIA’s regular experimentations of biological warfare, human radiation and unethical surveillance?

Is this man’s ultimate potential?   

Inject some humanity in this human race or get ready to witness the birth of Superman.

“Man partly is and wholly hopes to be.”

Robert Browning (1812-1889)

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