Monday, March 17, 2014

EZ Pass®, “1984” and…Star Trek

I don’t believe that technology itself can be evil or remove personal freedom, but I do think that some technology can be used for purposes that can enact that.  When the state of New Jersey deployed the automatic toll machine system, EZ-Pass, it was part of the original plan that the enormous cost of the system would be paid for by toll violators that got confused and went in the wrong lane accidentally, misread EZ-Pass transponders and ”speeders” through the gate.

Here is a system purchased by our government leader whose very existence is designed to be paid for my capitalizing on mistakes, manufacturer’s defects and speed limits (5 MPH) that were made artificially low, solely for the purpose of generating revenue.  

But this is only where the loss of personal freedom begins.

To begin with, the tags that don’t transmit properly are issued tickets.  These tickets are issued by a system that has the technology to take a picture of the “offender’s” license plate, cross reference their address and mail them a ticket.  If the system can locate their information from the license plate, why can’t it also simply locate their EZ-Pass account and charge it $.35 for the damned toll and not $35.00 for a ticket?
Next we have a system that can easily read the transponders at 55 MPH+, and they have slowed the tolls down to 5 MPH??  You cannot tell me that this speed is so artificially slow that it’s difficult to maintain.  Moreover, slowing down that much creates traffic tie ups that it was designed to elevate.  Moreover, it adds to the environmental issues that accompany toll booths.

Also, if you don’t think that this system will eventually be employed to time you from one point to another, think again.  Perhaps they do not do this today, but wait.  Printing tickets may not be the sole motivation for this timing.  Wait until the automotive insurance companies want this information to raise your rates depending on what kind of driver they think you are. 

Consider that we also now have a system that knows where you are and were.  It keeps logs and is easily searchable.  Yes, there is the public opinion that anything we do can be seen by a satellite anyway.  While it’s true that our current satellite technology can read the license plates off of cars, the face of the planet is a big place and someone has to have a reason to point that lens at a specific point.  It would be like taking a pair of extremely powerful binoculars from a three story window and looking for a specific ant. You could do it, if the optics were good enough, but how many ants could you monitor at once?

We are in the information age and “Big Brother is watching how fast you drive.”
How is this like Star Trek®?

In the original series episode “Court Martial” Captain Kirk stands accused of negligence in a 23rd century Court Martial and his primary accuser/witness is the computer from the Enterprise.  His lawyer boldly points out that we have the right to face our accuser, and this right is outlined in our Constitution.  But what happens when your accuser is a machine?

Here we are in the early 21st century and we have already begun to face a technological accuser.  Admittedly, it’s for a traffic violation.  But, is this just the beginning?


  1. Personally, I can't wait for the advent of the Replicator from Star Trek Next Gen ;) With technology, as with most great advancements, we take the good with the bad, there seems to be a yin and yang to all things.

  2. Looks like that may come sooner than you think!