Trust vs. Surveillance Cultures

What’s the price of higher productivity if mistrust grows?

6 min readJun 14, 2020


Year 2120, Month 6, Day 10 — Mars Colony, Goddard Station — I was busy debugging a tricky error in a deep space telemetry optimization module when I got a ping from PAPA. The Performance Assessment & Productivity Algorithm has been in place since forever, to the point you almost forget about it. Until it pops up from the holovisor unexpectedly.

“Hello Lawrence,” PAPA sounds like one of those old Earth Mid-America male accents.

“Yes?” I wearily reply. Why does PAPA’s tone always feel like a schoolyard scolding?

“I was noticing that your email responsiveness metrics have dipped below the optimal 82% threshold. I have provided a remediation strategy in your holomail.” More holos. Great.

“Yes PAPA, anything else or can I get back to work now?” I mutter as I return to my setcon.

“Well in fact, there is something else. It has to do with your MindStat scores. We have detected three straight days of below threshold emotional quotient marks. Is there something that we should be aware of?”

“Ah, what you are getting at?” I respond, putting on my poker face.

“There is an obvious deviance from historical data. We suspect this has to do with growing unease with your current assignment. Blood toxicity reports and posture readings show strong evidence of excessive consumption of banned alcoholic substances, and…”

“Why don’t you shove your evidence up your circuit board!” Oh no…losing my cool.

“It is clear that this situation is causing defensiveness and anxiety. You are required to see MAMA (Mental Adjustment & Management Application) at 16:20 for a full neural scan and evaluation…”

By the end of 2021, one billion cameras will be watching us. That is according to IHS Markit and includes government owned cameras as well as CCTV in private businesses that opt to connect to police networks. That is not just in places like China either. The growth in cameras in the US and elsewhere is skyrocketing.




Thoughts on developers, digital transformation, startups, community building & engineering culture. Author is Mark Birch @ AWS 👉