Here’s what I wrote last night in response to listening to Habeas Data:
I think it is much more valuable to think about technology as magic than as technology. Why? Because it personalizes the technology. When you think of a wizard perfoming some super-human feat, like seeing something that is taking place thousands of miles away, you assume that it is a power held by that person. It’s somehow intrinsic to that person. And if you imagined a society in which such wizards were common, it would be natural to assume that laws and customs would grow up around them that would govern their use of those super-human abilities.
When you think of impersonal technology, however, it’s hard to get your mind around how it should be governed. After all, it’s simply a bare fact that that camera and plane working together can surveil hundreds of square miles in a short amount of time down to feet and inches of ground. It exists, and there’s simply nothing you can do about it.
But when you remember, as we always must, that people are responsible for taking the pictures, processing them, using them and storing them, then we can talk about governing those people. They may have super-human abilities, but those abilities, like our “regular” ones, can and should be governed. And that governing can happen both through laws and social customs.
Another important reason to think like this is because this is not a government vs. non-government question. The technology used to perform many of these “magical” powers is so cheap that we can all, to some degree or another, have them. I think it’s right that the government shouldn’t be allowed to use thermal imaging to look inside my house without a warrant. But I think it should also be illegal for anyone else to do it.