America’s Robot Heart, Half Broken

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You’d think we’d have given up. Signs of the technology police state whip gale force at our flag. Our social tools serve to serve us tragedy while our legislative bodies do their best to serve themselves. There’ve been plenty of reasons to hang our heads low. But we clench our fists and push on, even if our faith’s been shaken.

When regulators tried to hand the Internet to Hollywood, we beat back SOPA. When terror struck Boston, perhaps we followed along a bit too eagerly, but hung in there together as the Redditors did their best to dig up evidence.

But PRISM. It’s made us question everything. Our government, our tech giants, our privacy, and our morals. Does Obama really fight for us? Have our social networks and search engines pushed back hard enough? Is anything secret anymore? Are those secrets worth sacrificing for security?

It’s legitimately scary to think that the greatest threat to our way of life may come from within. Abraham Lincoln understood. In 1838, he asked:

“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined…could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

While Lincoln spoke of the brewing civil war, his warning holds just as true for surveillance. Not only could its overstepped application strip us of our freedom, but its looming spectre casts a chill over expression, discussion, and the dissent our nation was built upon.

Today we must celebrate our independence differently. Not just by remembering our founding fathers’ ideals but by taking up their cause. By refusing to sit idle behind our screens. By demanding not the nation we have or even had, but the nation we need. And none are as empowered to take a stand as we, the makers of tomorrow. It’s up to the founders, doers, and entrepreneurs whose work touches the world to say that we won’t watch liberty slip away.

Perhaps this technological intrusion had to rear its head in order to bind us together — to half-break America’s robot heart so we can solder it back together, stronger.

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