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Commentary By James B. Meigs

Will We Love Big Brother?

Governance Artificial Intelligence

The dystopian Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man has a horrifying scene I’ve never been able to get out of my head. An authoritarian regime has imprisoned Arnold and other men in an open-air prison. There is no fence around the compound. None is needed; each inmate wears a sleek collar wirelessly connected to a system monitoring the prison perimeter. It’s similar to those invisible-fence collars that give your dog a mild shock if he tries to cross your property line. Except your dog’s collar isn’t packed with explosives. One of Arnold’s fellow inmates tries to make a run for it. You can guess what happens next.

The Running Man was made in 1987 and set in 2017. Six years after that, I’m happy to report that America hasn’t yet devolved into a police state. But look across the Pacific to China. A generation ago, the smartest people all assumed that China was on its way to joining “the family of nations.” With the right trade agreements and diplomatic blandishments, we thought, we could nudge the Communist behemoth toward tolerant Western values. Instead, as National Review’s Jim Geraghty often says, today, “we’re not exporting our values to China, we’re importing theirs.” One of those values is the idea that a modern government needs to keep an unblinking eye on what its citizens are saying and doing.

Continue reading the entire piece here at Commentary (paywall)


James B. Meigs is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a City Journal contributing editor, cohost of the How Do We Fix It? podcast, and the former editor of Popular Mechanics.

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