At a recent Bisons game, a helicopter kept circling the stadium. Initially we didn’t think much of it. A few innings later something resembling a child’s remote control toy began hovering around our section. It flew like a dragonfly or hummingbird, but looked like the plastic rings from two-thirds of a six-pack with some kind of lens mounted dead center above its black plastic rings.
It would cover a lot of ground around the outfield and then hover over sections of the grandstand for maybe 15 or 20 seconds. Then it would take off a la the descriptions of people claiming to have seen UFOs.
It seemed to fly silently, but there was crowd noise from the 13,000 or so in attendance, so who knows?
“Drone?” I asked to no one in particular.
As it stayed suspended in the air 15 feet in front of our eyes, I said, “Scary.”
“I think it’s cool,” said Baseball Dave. At least I knew I wasn’t the only one seeing it.
“It was here last night, too,” offered a stranger.
“So much for our right to privacy,” I said.
The stranger replied, “What right to privacy?”
I looked over to see some kids and adults making faces to be captured by a man with a video camera. He then almost instantly projected their images onto the scoreboard in centerfield.
As I stared at the scoreboard, I thought the stranger might have a point. With so many folks voluntarily posting their pictures and innermost thoughts on so-called social media websites, we’re doing a lot of Big Brother’s work for him.
My next thought was, What if any of us got caught on the wrong clip of digital imagery? I thought of a photo taken at the most recent meeting of our men’s club. Dr. Bob likes to bring his latest photographic toys to the meetings, take pictures and then post them on some website. I try to resist the temptation to look at the photos, but I usually click on the icon to discover I look even fatter and uglier than I’d imagined.
In last week’s shots there’s actually one of me caught touching the side of my nose. To the uninformed observer it might appear my finger is not on the outside of my proboscis.
I majored and dabbled in poli sci and have very occasionally been encouraged to run for office. I can just hear the ads now. “Who’re you gonna vote for, me or the nose picker? A man without the common sense to use a handkerchief cannot be entrusted with the esteemed office of town councilman! Vote instead for R. Wrightwing Nutbar. He won’t steal much, and he knows how to use a hankie.”
Maybe the new technology is “cool.” Maybe it’ll catch the occasional terrorist. Maybe only a few civilians and not a lot of our own troops have fallen to drones. Maybe other governments and our own private citizens won’t use them against us.
Maybe there is no right to privacy. Maybe we won’t mind having drones hovering outside our windows. Maybe we won’t see our captured images on anyone else’s TV or computer and then projected on figurative or literal Jumbotrons.
Maybe, in the future, as the novelist and poet Richard Brautigan put it, we’ll all be “watched over by machines of loving grace.”