Thursday, May 21, 2015

Smart Sheriff and the New Normal

Laws are usually passed with the best of intentions. For example, even the most controversial laws such as Korea's National Security Act and the United States' Patriot Act were passed with the intention of protecting the country from enemies, spies, saboteurs, and terrorists.

Of course, how those laws get misinterpreted and/or abused are abundant for all to see.

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Recently, the Korean government funded a smartphone app called “Smart Sheriff,” which is an app that blocks access to pornography and other offensive content. Of course, in its infinite wisdom, the Korea Communications Commission, which regulates the telecommunications industry, required telecom companies and parents to download and install “Smart Sheriff” onto any new Android smartphone when it is purchased by anyone aged 18 years or younger.

However, “Smart Sheriff,” which I will simply refer to as SS for brevity, does more than just block access to pornography or gambling sites. There are also hundreds of words that the app specifically gets alerted to such as crazy, garbage, thief, porn, suicide, pregnancy, dating, boyfriend, girlfriend, breakup, menstruation, adoption, divorce, rape, and homosexual love.

Yes, the law may have been passed with the best of intentions; namely, protecting children. It is also true that it doesn't take a literary genius to figure out that SS is rather Orwellian.

What concerns me more about SS than the immediate feeling of being spied on by Big Brother, however, is the way it could become the new normal of tomorrow.

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There was a time when marijuana was perfectly legal in Korea until it wasn't. Now, however, people think that marijuana is dangerous and should forever be designated as a banned substance. (Yes, yes, I know that marijuana is safer that tobacco and other legal drugs. I don't care to listen to the same conversation that I've had about marijuana since I was twenty. Roboseyo already said everything that I have to say about this subject long before I started blogging.)

There was a time when Koreans thought that employment was meant to last a lifetime. That also changed. Now, I doubt that there is anyone under thirty who is still deluded enough to believe that working at any chaebol company for a lifetime is actually realistic (or even desirable).

Going back to SS, I fear that young people will come to accept being lorded over by the government as being normal. It's true that there are ways around SS. Savvy internet users, and I am sure they are legion, could use VPNs or they could simply choose not to buy an Android smartphone (more good news for Apple!).

However, very few things in the world are as pervasive or all-encompassing as government laws.

What happens when an entire generation of teenagers come to accept that SS, and Big Brother in general, is perfectly normal? What happens if they truly believe that SS is there for their benefit – just like people believe that drug prohibition is for their benefit? Will they eventually lose their sense of rebellion or freedom? Will they become angry and lash out? Or worse, will they actually come to love Big Brother? Will they be socialized into accepting further encroachment on their liberties for a false sense of security?

I'm struggling to find an appropriate way to end this post. A pithy quote from James Madison or Voltaire? Too clich√©. Simply ask “who is John Galt?” Too many people dislike Ayn Rand.

I don't know how to properly end this. All I feel is as though I were staring into the abyss.

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  1. Slipery Slopes all around us, and all we can do is look at the sky.

    1. That was actually quite poetic. I like that.