P.W. Singer predicts the pandemic will hasten the era of mass surveillance

P.W. Singer predicts the pandemic will hasten the era of mass surveillance
Image: Courtesy PW Singer
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It took a global pandemic and stay-at-home orders for 1.5 billion people worldwide, but something is finally occurring to us: The future we thought we expected may not be the one we get.

We know that things will change; how they’ll change is a mystery. To envision a future altered by coronavirus, Quartz asked dozens of experts for their best predictions on how the world will be different in five years.

Below is an answer from P.W. Singer, an expert on the future of defense. He is a strategist at New America, a professor of practice at Arizona State University, and the author of seven books—most recently Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution, published in May 2020.

The forces of AI and automation will be drastically sped up by the response to the pandemic. Everything from public health concerns to companies seeking cost savings from a workforce that won’t have to suspend operations at the next outbreak will accelerate automation. In turn, the effect will be felt in everything—from a whole new wave of economic winners and losers, to society wide surveillance of a type not dreamed of by both most science fiction and even the Chinese government. The almost countless ways that your data will be gathered, minded, and combined will be done at even greater scales, as it will involve even more sensors tracking you, from your movement to even temperature, and it will be done everywhere from public spaces to businesses and homes.

To read more New Normal answers, click here.