Saturday, November 17, 2012

Are You a Person of Interest?

Have you ever Googled your own name and been amazed by the results?

My grandfather was not an intensely private person.  Nor was he a public figure.  However, he was known and respected in the small community of Vernon, British Columbia, Canada.  His name does not appear on the Internet.  My father followed his father’s footsteps, building on his reputation.  He was known for his hard work and respected for his integrity in the growing community.  But his reputation was not based on any notoriety.  There is little mention of him on the Internet.  When I was growing up in Vernon it was still a small town of under 10,000 people.  Despite similar upbringings as my forefathers, for better or for worse, my life story, the details of my work and even aspects of my private life are available at the present a button.  They may be researched by anyone with a computer and access to the Internet.  What difference does that make?
“Person of Interest” is an award-winning television program that highlights the pervasive nature and potential of the computerized surveillance we have on this very un-private planet.  The original season started with this description:

"You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered irrelevant. They wouldn't act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up... we'll find you".

When one simply looks around at the proliferation of security cameras and readily available personal information, this fictional drama series seems eerily close to reality.
A recent TED Talk by Jeff Hancock called “The Future of Lying” suggests that because of the ability to trace our deeds, our words, our stories, communicated by technological means we are more likely to be truthful.  The fact that our lives, to a greater or lesser extent, are captured and converted to data that can be retained indefinitely means that we can be caught “lying” more easily than ever before.

Like it or not, each of us is unwittingly writing a comprehensive autobiography comprised of digital information readily available to anyone and everyone.  As in “Person of Interest”, this information may be accurate or misleading, used for good or evil, but there is no escaping the fact that it exists.
As a person with Parkinson’s disease, I feel confronted with the reality that, whether I write this blog or seek to escape into obscurity, I am writing my own story, recording my own self-titled, digitized song.  Perhaps it shouldn’t matter, but the fact that my “life story” will be more public than the histories of my father or grandfather leads me to ask, “What kind of story will it be?”

Will the predominant theme of my story be ‘me’ or others?  Will it be characterized by self-indulgence or self-sacrifice?

Who will have benefited from my life?  Who will have been harmed by the way I have lived?

Will I have fought for the right or silently condoned the wrong?  If the truth were known (as it may well be) will I have lived with integrity, courage and grace?  Or will I be seen as having given in to a value-neutral, insipid and hypocritical attitude?

When my digital footprints on this globe are accurately assembled, will the journey they mark out have been worthwhile?  When my less-than-perfect pathway has been technologically memorialized for others to view, will it be worth following?  Will I have lived intentionally, or by simply existed accident?

When someone Googles my life and struggles with PD, my highs and lows, will the results encourage others or leave them with a sense of hopelessness?

We may not ask these questions of ourselves, but others will surely ask them for us.  Our lives do matter.  Each of us is inevitably a “Person of Interest”.

1 comment:

  1. No doubt, you are a person of influence, intellect, integrity and inspiration.