I just finished watching a documentary produced on the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. If you are good at arithmetic, you will have figured out that the show is about ten years old at this point. It covered events following the Second World War that led to the building of the wall and events afterwards that resulted in its destruction. Perhaps more interestingly, it explored the strained relationship between East and West Germans that followed reunification.
Naturally the East German Ministry for State Security, commonly known as the Stasi, figured largely in the story. Neighbors watching neighbors, workmates filing reports on each other, café-goers reporting on what they overheard. children monitoring parents. A world where any casual interaction begins from a position of suspicion.
Think of what the Stasi could have accomplished if they’d had the Internet, cheap CCTV cameras and iPhones.
The reaction of some: “It ain’t a problem if ya ain’t got nothin’ ta hide.”
Yes, thank you for that.
But here’s the thing about surveillance, it’s bad until it’s not.
A case in point: few in the United Kingdom are crazy about the fact that theirs has become a surveillance society. Have you been there lately? There are friggin’ cameras everywhere. If there is one country on the planet where you do not want to scratch your butt or pick your nose, it’s Jolly Olde England.
But — if it was your child who was stabbed by some nutball on the Westminster Bridge, or your wife who was intentionally run down by a true believer in hired truck, you might feel differently when the CCTV footage led to a quick apprehension of the perpetrator.
Which leads me to the Automatic Identification System, better known to boaters as AIS. It’s a digital radio system that, when installed on a vessel, reports its location, heading, speed, and more. For commercial traffic AIS is mandatory, but for recreational boaters it’s entirely optional. And expensive – between US$500 and US$1000.
So, who would line up to pay to be tracked? Well, me for one. Consider: if your boat knows the speed and heading of other vessels, it can tell you whether you’re going to collide. That’s handy, yes? Also, if you fail to show up at an expected time and place, it’s useful for others to know where you are (or your last reported position). In short, an air of mystery may be alluring on a first date, but it’s not much valued on the water.
Which brings me to a label that appears at the top of every page of this blog, the one that says Impromptu. Look up. See it? If you click on it, you will find us (well, the boat anyway) wherever we may be.
Don’t care? Don’t click.