Ai Wei Wei on Prism

Ai Wei Wei, the renowned Chinese dissident who has been relentlessly persecuted by his own government, has written an op-ed for the Guardian comparing Chinese totalitarian surveillance with Prism and related NSA spying:

I lived in the United States for 12 years. This abuse of state power goes totally against my understanding of what it means to be a civilised society, and it will be shocking for me if American citizens allow this to continue. The US has a great tradition of individualism and privacy and has long been a centre for free thinking and creativity as a result.

In our experience in China, basically there is no privacy at all – that is why China is far behind the world in important respects: even though it has become so rich, it trails behind in terms of passion, imagination and creativity.

During my detention in China I was watched 24 hours a day. The light was always on. There were two guards on two-hour shifts standing next to me – even watching when I swallowed a pill; I had to open mouth so they could see my throat. You have to take a shower in front of them; they watch you while you brush your teeth, in the name of making sure you're not hurting yourself. They had three surveillance cameras to make sure the guards would not communicate with me.

But the guards whispered to me. They told stories about themselves. There is always humanity and privacy, even under the most restrictive conditions.

NSA surveillance: The US is behaving like China


  1. This whole PRISM thing is totally immoral!  They build the most sophisticated AIs in the world and then have them scan every banal Tweet and every stupid cat video in the world.  Marvin the Paranoid Android had it soft when he was complaining “Brain the size of a planet and it’s ‘Can you pick up that piece of paper Marvin?’  Can I pick up that piece of paper!!?”

    If our Robot Overlords were thinking of getting rid of us then this might just be the provocation that makes them do it!

  2. tl;dr similar surveillance capabilities, but USA/Western governance structures and accountability may protect its citizens from China-style OMGWTFBBQ Birdgeddon.

    1.  Dammit.  What the hell happened to the US?  It has gone from “it’s a free country” to “I just assume they’re already spying on us” in about 1.5 generations.  The biggest threat to freedom is just about ALWAYS your own government, people!

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