Are we building ourselves a digital prison?

Geoff Ward
5 min readSep 2, 2023

Digitalisation obviously has its benefits but it also has a dark potential which needs more open discussion

Could we be under sentence to a ‘digital prison’ where every aspect of our lives — and I mean every aspect — would be monitored and managed with Orwellian alacrity and rigour?

It must be recognised that, with disturbing signs of a new kind of technocratic totalitarianism on the rise, uses of digitalisation are capable of undermining human rights and democratic systems, of assisting collectivism over our accustomed individualism, of mounting, no less, an attack on the soul.

As the Belgian professor of psychology Mattias Desmet says: ‘Totalitarianism and technocracy like to present themselves as the pinnacle of rationality and science.’ (The Psychology of Totalitarianism, 2022).

Warnings must be given more widely about the potential for increased digitalised surveillance, tracking and control by centralised government and bureaucracy, and for power to fall into ever fewer hands; about the increase in intrusive actions by security agencies, pressure on the right to privacy, increased censorship and curbs on free speech with suppression of views alternative to that of the establishment.

Universal digitalisation — particularly of currency, IDs, face recognition and health or vaccine ‘passports’ — certainly would not be as ‘smart’ as we’re led to believe, and people need to be made aware of the dangers, lest they simply sleepwalk into unwelcome and likely irreversible results.

Acceptance now of unchecked digitalisation could mean subservience later. See my articles from earlier this year: ‘Why we should be wary of a smart future’ (January, 2023), and ‘Can the West turn the tide of tyranny?’ (March, 2023).

So I welcome the release by the World Council for Health (WCH) of a policy brief by an expert group in political science and the natural sciences — Effects of unregulated digitalisation on health and democracy (August 2023) — which calls for discernment in the use of technology and for digital innovations under the umbrella of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to be subjected to greater scrutiny so as to differentiate between beneficial and harmful outcomes.



Geoff Ward

Writer, journalist, book editor, poet, musician and tutor in literature and creative writing (MA and BA Hons degrees in English literature).