Chapter 2: The Human-machinery Technological Nexus

At all points in the development of security technology, humans have always played a crucial role. The first generation, for example, employs guards as patrols and at checkpoints. In the second generation, human gatekeepers are required to administer electronic access control. In the third generation, human security officers are needed to respond to alarms. The response force must be able to arrive on site in less time than it is expected that the attacker will require to breach the barriers.

In the fourth generation, human audio-visual specialists are required to monitor and analyse video. Users obviously have a role also by questioning and reporting suspicious people. Aiding in identifying people as known versus unknown are identification systems. Often, photo ID badges are used and are frequently coupled to the electronic access control system. Visitors are often required to wear a visitor badge. In the fifth generation, IT systems specialists are needed to maintain computer servers and set up protocols to integrate security software and security hardware.

Figure 4.4 Source: “Second Generation Technology” Antonio L Rappa, 2008

2.1 Technologies of the Self

French Philosopher Michel Foucault noted that there are four major types of “technologies,” each a matrix of practical reason: (I) technologies of production, which permit us to produce, transform, or manipulate things; (2) technologies of sign systems, which permit us to use signs, meanings, symbols, or signification; (3) technologies of power, which determine the conduct of individuals and submit them to certain ends or domination, an objectivising of the subject; (4) technologies of the self, which permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality. (Foucault, 1988)

An example of technologies of the self is remote-sensing. Another is biometric passports as identifiers of legitimate citizens. A third example of technologies of the self is a self-impregnated chip containing information about oneself that cannot be concealed in any other point on the human body without being readily detected. Such concealment is necessary because the “self” is contingent on individual rights and privacy. Also, there is a need to understand that technologies of the self work best under democratic conditions. This is because during the Cold War, for example, technologies of the self that were designed from the outside-in based on environmental and energy security models, were used to abuse and experiment on innocent human beings. “Technology industry needs to address the darker, more offensive side of some of its more spectacular advancements.” (Brackeen, 2018). For instance, Tech CEO Brian Brackeen of a facial recognition company noted that artificial intelligence algorithms powering facial recognition need massive amounts of data to function. He added that in his experience present systems have not been given enough data on people of colour to function properly. This could inadvertently lead to wrongful arrests of individuals of colour.

Remember that technology is about controlling the environment in which humans live to make life more efficient, pleasurable or less stressful. It is also about making the human environment more humane and less animal-like. It is also about making redundant technologies work in tandem with new technologies. It is not about merely shifting from one technological paradigm to another. There is always a technological overlap. And part of that technological overlap is the belief in technology as the saviour of the world’s problems. This is, of course, not an entirely plausible argument to make from the position of security studies. This is also in part a question of the meaning and extent of using technologies of the self in ways that are not counterproductive.

Technologies of the self involve means and ways to use technology against terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Remote sensing technologies used by the Singapore Civil Defence Force is one example of discovering trapped persons deep within a cavern that has no other access by humans or tracker animals. There are many ways of employing technologies of the self through formal and informal methods. Formal methods are those deliberately constructed by experts to prevent disaster while informal ones are innately dependent on instinct. We will now examine a deeper conception of technologies of the self in terms of the work of Michel Foucault.

Source: JSTOR

2.2 Foucault and the Self

Technologies of the self (also called care of the self or practices of the self) are what Michel Foucault calls the methods and techniques ("tools") through which human beings constitute themselves. Foucault argued that we as subjects are perpetually engaged in processes whereby we define and produce our own ethical self-understanding. According to Foucault, technologies of the self are the forms of knowledge and strategies that “permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality.”

Foucault was interested in the history of the subject in Western societies. He claimed that in order to begin piecing together such a history, one must examine the interplay between the micro-relations of the subject in space and time, and macrological structures of power: political economy, juridical legal apparatus, education, health services, and state administrative strategies. The interaction between self and self, and self to social reality represents performative processes whereby ‘truth’ is negotiated and legitimated through discursive fields at various scales. In other words, he was interested in how subjects came to represent to themselves the ‘truth’ of their own thoughts and practices and how this ‘truth’ was constructed in relation to governmental, institutional, and social administrative structures of power and knowledge.

Figure 4.5 Source: “Personal injury and the urban built-environment” 2011

Foucault argued that technologies of the self must be understood as inextricably linked to his notion of governmentality: the guiding rationalities whereby individuals and social structures regulate and police norms of thought and behaviour. Burchell states, “government, is a ‘contact point’ where techniques of domination and technologies of the self ‘interact’. According to Foucault, this “contact point” is where “technologies of domination of individuals over one another have recourse to processes by which the individual acts upon himself and, conversely,... where techniques of the self are integrated into structures of coercion.”

2.3 Technicism

Technicism was closely related to the work of Henry S. Kariel, a famous postmodern professor at the University of Hawaii. Technicism also known as technological determinism is a way of approaching the world that places its confidence in technology as a benefactor of society and one of the driving forces for change in society. Some intellectuals see absolute technicism as a replacement of religion, in which technology is essentially replacing religion as a higher moral authority which we follow. “Technicism is the pretension of humans, as self-declared lords and masters using the scientific-technical method of control, to bend all of reality to their will in order to solve all problems, old and new, and to guarantee increasing material prosperity and progress.” (Schuurman, 2003: 69)

Antonio L Rappa like Kariel, interprets the notion of technicism as the terrifying effect of technology on human populations. This references the idea of reliance on technology to the extreme. Of course, Kariel wrote and argued about the terrifying effects of technology in the 1960s and continuously until his death some years ago. He could not have anticipated the disastrous effects of the Japanese tsunami in March 2011. Yet the fallout from the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on the Japanese nuclear reactors is instructive.

We can also understand how technology may be used against peace-loving and “good” people. Computer viruses, malware, and time-bombs make for negative outcomes within technologies that were created for “good” and yet have been manipulated for “bad” by terrorists and criminals.

Technicism is an over-reliance or overconfidence in technology as a benefactor of society. Taken to the extreme, some argue that technicism is the belief that humanity will ultimately be able to control the entirety of existence using technology. In other words, human beings will eventually be able to master all problems, supply all wants and needs, possibly even control the future.

More commonly, technicism is a criticism of the commonly held belief that newer, more recently-developed technology is "better." For example, more recently-developed computers are faster than older computers, and more recently-developed cars have greater gas efficiency and more features than older cars. Because current technologies are generally accepted as good, future technological developments are not considered circumspectly, resulting in what seems to be a blind acceptance of technological developments.

Figure 4.6 Source: “Quick Redial Buttons: Invention or Innovation?” Antonio L. Rappa Photography, 2009