The Future is Now
Big Brother is Watching

July 14, 1999

I was telling a friend today, during one of our many smoking breaks, about this movie I saw a long time ago. I don't remember the name of the film, who was in it, or what it was about, but there were a few things about the film that have stuck in my mind. And an experience I had today brought the thoughts back.

This film takes place in the future. It was about to be the turn of the century. People don't carry cash anymore. They had these cards that they put into machines to get whatever they want. Currency, or credits, are automatically deducted from their accounts. These cards also served as their identity card. You wanted something you just swiped your card through the machine. The machine completed your transaction and then said, "Thank you Mr. Smith." It seemed quite futuristic at the time.

I'm certain I saw it before the advent of the ATM.

My building recently added a post office. It is a great feature. The post office is open from 10-2 every day. You can buy stamps, mail packages, or witness an angry civil servant, without ever leaving the comfort of a climate controlled environment.

Why is she talking about a post office in her building? I can hear you all muttering to yourselves.

Well, I go to the post office to mail a package to someone who has bought something from Chuck from a recent E-Bay auction. I was then offered the option of paying with my ATM/Debit card. I was then offered cash back.

I got a slight case of the heeby geebies. OK. In the movie there was no money but all you had to do was swipe your card. It all seemed so impersonal and futuristic in this movie. It came home to me today that this is already happening. Just like in the movie.

Every time I use one of my cards, my receipt has my name on it. At the department stores, I use a credit or debit card and the salesperson says to me, "Thank you Mrs. Atkins." (Or, Mrs. Maiden Name, which is frankly the name on almost all of my cards still.)

Big brother knows I bought three pairs of shoes and a scarf. (Oops, Chuck didn't know that.)

Then there are those supermarket club cards. Use the card and you can save $47 on your groceries. Then big brother knows when it's that time of the month because you bought more tampons, and how your kid is doing with the toilet training because you're still buying pull-ups after three years.

I've been tempted not to use my club card but I can't resist. I'm torn between: better the $47 I save in my pocket, and big brother knowing exactly what items I buy.

OK, I'll put back that Sara Lee cheesecake now.


Until next time. . .