In a Friday piece for The Intercept, author Naomi Klein argues that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is using his connections to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt — as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — to create a “high-tech dystopia” under cover of the mass death that the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked on the state.
“This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen ‘shared’ on a mediated platform,” she wrote.
According to Klein, this future will see less employment for doctors, teachers, and drivers, and more reliance on anonymous workers in data centers, warehouses, and electronic sweatshops, among other industries.
“It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.”
While Klein claims this technology-driven future was already being pushed on America in the name of convenience, concerns about its effects on privacy and democracy kept the possibility on the horizon. Now, Klein argues, the COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect landscape to push it into reality without much pushback.
“Today, a great many of those well-founded concerns are being swept away by a tidal wave of panic, and this warmed-over dystopia is going through a rush-job rebranding.”
Contact tracing involves locating virus-stricken people and determining who they interacted with. It is a technology-based coronavirus approach that is being pushed for widespread use around the U.S. In an op-ed for The New York Times, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pushed for “widespread, easily available and prompt testing,” but urged the protection of privacy in the process.
With his billionaire connections, Klein says Cuomo is best positioned to pave the way for integrating technology into the state’s daily life. According to Klein, Schmidt, in particular, is being enabled by Cuomo to create a society that is reminiscent of the dystopian sci-fi show Black Mirror.
The 50-year-old author highlights Schmidt’s role in advising the Department of Defense on the use of artificial intelligence in the military, as well as his advisory role over Congress related to AI and “related machine learning developments” and technologies.
The U.S. is not the only country that has seen a rise in skepticism over an increased technological push amid the pandemic. Around the world, concerns have been raised over the privacy of tracing apps related to coronavirus.
As reported by Global News, numerous privacy watchdogs in Canada have sounded the alarm on smartphone apps that will track user location and determine who they contact.