A favorite topic of dystopian and anti-utopian authors is governmental use of technology to control or track individuals. For Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, social control by way of technology came through biological engineering and psychotropic medications. George Orwell took a less fanciful approach in his novel 1984 with Big Brother watching through video extending into every crevice of an individual’s life. While Utopian, Dystopian, and the more generalized genre of Science Fiction is often touted as far reachings of the human imagination, progression of society can sometimes prove Science Fiction as science fact.
Since 2005 several school districts nationwide have experimented with chipping student IDs, for the stated purpose of tracking attendance for revenue purposes. While tracking chips are nothing new to society and have been used and recommended for everything from pets to autistic or young children to Alzheimer patients, the decision has always been at the discretion of the owner, parent, or caretaker. Just recently, however, the chipping has begun to rile individuals who are uncomfortable with a school computer system having the ability to track students 24/7, especially after the scandal surrounding the Pennsylvania school spying on students through laptop cameras. When a school district in Texas was told a student would not carry the ID, the student was expelled. A district court overturned the expulsion last Wednesday and was supposed to decide if the school could request the student move out of district today. The hearing was cancelled yesterday evening at the school district’s request to have the case moved to the federal level.
While religious groups and the ALCU are watching the case closely, for different reasons, a larger question looms. When does technology and availability of information stop benefiting society and beginning controlling society? Currently there are no publicized plans to begin chipping IDs in Denver schools. However, decisions made in the Texas case will either open doors for schools to new funding and truancy analysis, and potentially new invasion of privacy and means of control, or delay the chipping phenomenon. Huxley and Orwell did not envision computers or chip and nano technology, yet the prospective result being faced is the same. The essence of Dystopian literature is a society designed for propsperity and safety of the majority, resulting in control by the governing body and loss of freedom. The balance point is likely to be so slight, society may slide into a modern American dystopia without realizing it.