It’s 2020, and unless Mr. Obama has successfully declared himself President-for-life, somebody else is President. Perhaps this time the lesser evil has lost. Thanks to the groundwork laid by President Obama and the boys at DARPA, the new president has the sort of technology that dystopian fiction is based upon.
In 2020 the president has at his disposal the drone technology to surveil anyone, anywhere on earth. The technology has the visual resolution to see disturbed dirt from a mile high in the sky and track footprints, to identify individuals using biometric data, even to “see” through walls and ceilings. Drones will also be outfitted with the means to collect electronic communications, phone calls, texts, gps location data, etc., creating a tool that can track individuals in the physical realm as well as their “footprints” in cyberspace to deliver the information needed for lethal actions
In 2020 the Earth will be surrounded by a triple canopy of drones at various heights to surveil us and deliver sudden death and destruction from above, wherever on earth or space the president desires:
At the lowest tier of this emerging U.S. aerospace shield, within striking distance of Earth in the lower stratosphere, the Pentagon is building an armada of 99 Global Hawk drones equipped with high-resolution cameras capable of surveilling all terrain within a 100-mile radius, electronic sensors to intercept communications, efficient engines for continuous 24-hour flights, and eventually Triple Terminator missiles to destroy targets below.
By late 2011, the Air Force and the CIA had already ringed the Eurasian land mass with a network of 60 bases for drones armed with Hellfire missiles and GBU-30 bombs, allowing air strikes against targets just about anywhere in Europe, Africa, or Asia. … If things go according to plan, in this same lower tier at altitudes up to 12 miles unmanned aircraft such as the “Vulture,” with solar panels covering its massive 400-foot wingspan, will be patrolling the globe ceaselessly for up to five years at a time with sensors for “unblinking” surveillance, and possibly missiles for lethal strikes. …
For the next tier above the Earth, in the upper stratosphere, DARPA and the Air Force are collaborating in the development of the Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle. Flying at an altitude of 20 miles, it is expected to “deliver 12,000 pounds of payload at a distance of 9,000 nautical miles from the continental United States in less than two hours.” …
At the outer level of this triple-tier aerospace canopy, the age of space warfare dawned in April 2010 when the Pentagon quietly launched the X-37B space drone, an unmanned craft just 29 feet long, into an orbit 250 miles above the Earth.
By the time its second prototype landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in June 2012 after a 15-month flight, this classified mission represented a successful test of “robotically controlled reusable spacecraft” and established the viability of unmanned space drones in the exosphere.
This drone technology, which is well on its way now, will vest in the president and his minions a great deal of very concentrated power to breach individual privacy and security. How this power is held will have great implications for its ability to corrupt, or perhaps as Lord Acton would have put it, to corrupt absolutely. Our machines are extensions of ourselves. They implement our will (at least when we write competent programming). The issue is inequality; the machines that belong to the already powerful are so much more effective than the machines of we regular slobs and the potential for expanding the inequality of power that exists between the regular folks and the privileged elites is daunting.