‘Triage,’ a common dilemma, is more and more presenting a terrible moral choice in this time of pandemic COVID-19. When medical facilities and staff are utterly overwhelmed, medical staff must decide, on the basis of various criteria, who lives and who dies.
Perhaps that expression can be usefully applied to another dilemma, one that is characteristic of a modern world increasingly shaped by digital technology in service to the politics of fear. Here’s an example of triage arguably at least as dire as that of medical triage, at least in the longer term. In trying to contain the pandemic, governments and other civic bodies are choosing between protecting human rights to health and life, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, eroding human rights to privacy and individual liberties.
All kinds of liberal-democratic writers are arguing that surveillance tech provides an important tool in containing COVID-19 and, sure, it does tighten the surveillance noose on us all, but what real choice do we have? These measures will save many lives.
And that’s the nature of a classic dilemma: there is no ‘right’ answer. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Many of these writers and their readers, I suspect, want to believe any downsides are a temporary problem. Governments, security services and suchlike will loosen up once the pandemic is behind us.
Wait. There’s more. You think official surveillance is extinguishing our personal privacy and freedoms? You believe counter-COVID-19 measures can only ramp up such developments? (Or here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/22/dont-let-constitutional-rights-be-victim-this-virus/.)