Nearly 50 years ago, Gordon Moore suggested that the number of transistors that could be placed on a silicon chip would continue to double at regular intervals for the foreseeable future. Known as Moore’s law, the truth of that observation has made computers cheap and ubiquitous. Cellphones are so inexpensive there are now more than six billion of them—almost one for every person on the planet. 1
Moore’s Law has also made mass automated surveillance dirt cheap. Government surveillance that used to cost millions of dollars can now be carried out for a fraction of that.
We have yet to fully grasp the implications of cheap surveillance. The only thing that is certain is that we will be seeing a great deal more surveillance—of ordinary citizens, potential terrorists, and heads of state—and that it will have major consequences.
In the past, surveillance was labor intensive. Twice as much surveillance required twice as many people and cost twice as much. But when surveillance became automated, its cost declined exponentially.