&#91VIEWPOINT&#93Technology’s uses for good and ill

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[VIEWPOINT]Technology’s uses for good and ill

Recently a man accused of sexually harassing a woman in a subway was able to prove his innocence by a fortunate stroke of technology.
The man could demonstrate that he could not have been riding the same subway as the victim because he had used a public transportation card, which left a recording of the time he entered and left the subway system. The recorded time showed that the man could not possibly have been at the site of the alleged crime.
In these days of technology, one doesn’t even need to be a celebrity to have his every move recorded. Consider your schedule yesterday. You appeared in a surveillance camera recording when you withdrew cash from your bank. Your time on the bus and the subway were recorded by your transportation card. You were recorded on the subway platform by the subway closed-circuit TV camera while waiting for your ride. Your credit card bill can tell you where and what you ate last evening. If you were speeding, expect to get a flattering snapshot compliments of the traffic police camera. The apartment complex I live in even has a camera installed in the playground for the safety of the children. The camera is connected to the television antenna of all the apartments so that parents can turn on their television to see what their children are doing. Not only can the entire building get to watch my son perform reckless stunts on the playground slide, but innocent lovers will unknowingly become stars of a late night show as they make out on the playground benches. Well, at least they have it much better than if they had gone to a motel, been recorded by secret cameras and had their cozy, private moments splashed all over porn Web sites.
In the future depicted in Steven Spielberg’s science fiction movie “Minority Report,” the human eyeball ― the cornea to be exact ― is used as an identification method. In the movie, there is even a scene where sensors placed everywhere on the streets track each individual’s cornea so that companies can approach people with one-on-one sales pitches. To prevent the sensors from tracking him, the leading man on the run, played by Tom Cruise, visits an unlicensed doctor in the back alleys to have his eyeballs traded for someone else’s. This future, as gruesome as it is, does not seem so far away. A film company I used to work for used a fingerprint identification system at its entrance and a company reportedly has invented a system to identify people by their blood vessels. Our bodies have now become gigantic barcodes. It gives one the creeps but it is reality.
But above all, the one system leaving records of our deeds that frightens us the most is the credit card system. In the past, people feared the “red line,” or criminal records, the most. Today the scarlet letter of “D” for credit delinquent is the biggest object of fear. Even criminals in jails get a new chance if they are pardoned when a new president is elected or when the nation celebrates important national holidays like the March 1st movement or Independence Day. There are no such second chances for credit delinquents. There are no redemptions of any kind in the heartless credit card systems of big firms and financial conglomerates. As a consequence, we hear news every day of credit delinquents who commit robbery, murder or kidnapping for the first time to pay off their debts. We also hear of those who aren’t so bold as to commit crimes and take their own lives instead.
In “Fight Club,” a movie starring Brad Pitt a few years ago, the last scene is that of a terrorist group bombing the headquarters of a big credit card company. Imagine the millions of credit records that must have disappeared into the dust clouds of the collapsing building ― it is a scene that would warm the heart of any credit delinquent today. Or would he feel worse because the reality is so different from the movies? It’s a depressing thought.

* The writer is a movie director. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Bong Joon-ho

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