1984 Through the Looking Glass
Public concern about government surveillance remains very real. And Chinese society is a striking example of surveillance on a large scale. While the potential threats of Big Brother government remain very real, the threats of corporate Big Brother – in the form of the world’s digital tech giants – are perhaps even more salient right now. Concerns about concentration of market power, aggregation and misuse of citizen data, proliferation of false information and invasions of privacy, among other things, are leading to the world’s next major ideological (and, in some cases, geopolitical) battlefield – big tech vs. big government. Strangely, if we were viewing 1984 through the looking glass (i.e., the opposite of conventional wisdom), big government may come to be viewed as one possible solution for checking the disproportional influence and negative externalities of big tech. Government will always lag behind the technology innovation curve – the pace of innovation combined with government bureaucracy guarantee that. However, we may increasingly see pressure for national governments (or consortia, e.g., the E.U.) to serve as a primary check on big tech. And this is not partisan. There are indications that many on both the political left and right may stand on common ground when it comes to this issue.