Lessons from The End of Marking Time by CJ West

June 8, 2012

Book Reviews, Security

Are you being watched?

Are you being tracked at this very moment? Are you sure? Would you bet your life on it?

The End of Marking Time

That’s the premise of The End of Marking Time by CJ West. The book takes place four years into the future. During those four years, the world has changed. Significantly.

The US Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 ruling that incarceration is cruel and unusual punishment. Millions of felons are released back into society. Law enforcement and the criminal justice system scrambled to maintain order without a true penal system to deter crime.

What they came up with was far more restrictive, far worse than the prospect of prison. Relearners, the name for those who commit crimes and are in need of relearning how to fit into society, are carefully watched by authorities and citizens as they interact with society. Implants and ankle bracelets track their every movement.

These changes required other changes to society. Cameras are everywhere. There is no paper money; a thumb print automatically deducts money from your account when you purchase something. A tone notifies everyone knows when a relearner enters a store, bank, etc. Big brother is watching everything.

Relearners must complete a program to be reintroduced into society.

But there may be more to it than meets the eye. Michael O’Conner, a relearner convicted of petty house burglary, slowly begins to realize that there is much more on the line than he’s being told.

It’s a Work of Fiction, Right?

CJ West has created a very interesting and thought provoking scenario. I really enjoyed reading it and would certainly recommend it for entertainment value alone. But I think there’s a lesson we can learn from it, too.

Although it’s a work of fiction, our society is much closer to the world that Michael O’Conner lives in than we care to admit.There is more surveillance and more information collected about you than you may realize. Consider the following:

How is all this possible?

Currently the US government must rely on the cooperation of private and public companies to gather this information. Of course, the term cooperation is a bit of a misnomer. Companies are generally unhappy with these “requests” for information but how can they fight it? Google has, but most companies don’t have the deep pockets or inclination of Google.

Now the government has decided enter into the electronic eavesdropping space directly. It’s building the world’s largest spy center in Utah.

A world without paper money? A world where every conversation is captured electronically? A world where the government knows where you are at any moment? A world where criminal trials are nothing more than watching a video and listening to a recorded conversation?

CJ West’s book reminds us that ware are closer to that world that we care to admit.

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