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Do Our Descendants Have the Right to Spy On Us?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Do our unborn descendants have a right to spy on our day-to-day activities? There’s little doubt they will look through our digital archive, minus some terrible technological disaster. How about watching us from weeds at the little corners of the street, from holes in the cement, from our eavestroughs?

Jonathon Keats is at it again.

Keats has asked citizens of Berlin to hide and keep secret 100 ultra-long exposure cameras. For 100 years.

“The first people to see these photos will be children who haven’t yet been conceived,” says Mr. Keats. “They’re impacted by every decision we make, but they’re powerless. If anyone has the right to spy on us, it’s our descendants.”

From the press release:

To facilitate intergenerational surveillance in Berlin and other yet-to-be-disclosed cities, Mr. Keats has invented a new photographic system based on the traditional pinhole camera. “My photographic time capsules are extremely simple, since anything complicated is liable to break,” says Mr. Keats. The cameras use sheets of black paper in place of ordinary film. The pinhole focuses light on the black paper sheet, such that the paper fades most where the light is brightest, very slowly creating a unique positive image of the scene in front of the camera. “The photograph not only shows a location, but also shows how the place changes over time,” Mr. Keats explains. “For instance an old apartment building torn down after a quarter century will show up only faintly, as if it were a ghost haunting the skyscraper that replaces it.”

Keats provided us with this simulation of what a final image may look like, 100 years from now.

Keats work with Surveillance for the Unborn calls into question our increasingly monitored lives, and how far it will go. Will we spy on our descendants? And are we willingly complicit? Beyond feeding Facebook to track our own lives, we’ve entered into a world of tracking our health with wearables. Is spying okay when Big Brother is all of us? So are the people who plunk down 10€ to lease one of Keats’ cameras thinking about invasiveness with a different mindset than they would have a generation ago?

The first person to purchase one at the gallery, was an 11 year old boy.



Glendon Mellow About the Author: Glendon Mellow is a fine artist, illustrator and tattoo designer working in oil and digital media based in Toronto, Canada. He tweets @FlyingTrilobite and is on Instagram. You can see Glendon's work-in-progress at The Flying Trilobite blog and portfolio at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. chrissponias 7:40 pm 06/27/2014

    I believe we will discover more interesting details in these photos in the future.

    Link to this

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