For sixty years, we have called the threat of totalitarian surveillance ‘Orwellian’, but the word no longer fits the threat. The better word now may be ‘Californian’. A truly sophisticated system of social control, of the kind being pioneered in China, will not compel obedience, but nudge people towards it. Rather than censoring or punishing those who dissent, it will simply make sure their voices are not heard. It will reward complacent behavior, and sideline troublemakers. It’s even possible that, judiciously wielded, such a system of social control might enjoy wide public support in our own country.
But I hope you will agree with me that such a future would be profoundly un-American.