The Internet of things : Biocracy and the Banopticon

The internet of things is a knowledge/ power apparatus. It may be seen as the new Panopticon. The internet of things mainly generates bio-knowledge of human bodies along with other forms of knowledge. Knowledge being a form of power operates on the bodies and inserts non-coercive force into our human actions, attitudes, influence their discourses, learning process and everyday life. Thus, bio-knowledge produces bio-power. Knowledge assumes the authority of the truth. It has a power to make itself true and produces what may be called as truth effects. This is how knowledge becomes a disciplinary practice. It regulates our conduct. All knowledge produces its power relations and power relations derive themselves from knowledge. Power exists everywhere and comes from everywhere. Hence, power is not simply to be thought as hierarchical operating from top down or bottom up. Power is a relation between people. It has ability to shape another’s behaviour. Power produces our reality.

One of the techniques/ regulatory modes of power/knowledge was Panopticon, an architectural design set forth by Jeremy Bentham in the middle of the 19th century for prison, asylum, schools, hospitals and factories. Instead of using violent methods of regulating the prisoners used by monarchical states of yester years, modern progressive states needed a different system to regulate its citizens. Panopticon became a powerful sophisticated internal apparatus of regulation which worked through the knowledge of one being subjected of observation. The modern structure would allow the guards to continuously see/ police inside each cell (of a prison) from a vantage point of a high tower, unseen by the prisoners. The condition of being constantly under a watch created a control mechanism whereby a consciousness of constant surveillance is internalized. Panopticon is extended and internalized by the internet of things. There are networks of surveillance cameras, face-recognition IA etc. The internet of things also becomes a control mechanism as it keeps a watch on people thought data collection from several platforms. This means it has become a means of disciplining our society. This means the internet of things becomes a power that penetrates the behaviour of the people.

Knowledge that is recorded by the internet of thing has the power to move beyond discipling societies of Foucaut. Gilles Deleuze teaches us that we have moved from disciplinary societies to societies of control. Today we are being tracked while we innocently go about our business of living. Our movements, actions and even behaviour on the internet platforms like facebook, Instagram, Twitter have become raw materials for big data analytics. Today maybe it is important to find ways of resistance because our bio-knowledge/ bio-metrics has taken us from panopticon to banoptican. Internet of things while producing us several comforts and benefits, also renders us vulnerable as power/ knowledge gets concentrated in the hands of few. We can instantly get banned from accessing banking systems, travel systems, health systems etc. Our hard-earned money can be locked away from us. in the name of national security, we can be banned from the benefits of citizenship. Thus, in the name of using internet of things to provide security, we seem to have globalized (in)security. The growing threats of terrorism and violence has accelerated a sense of insecurity and therefore justified the need of intrusion of surveillance into the life and activity of citizens to make their life more secure and safe. Often with the withdrawal of our access to essentials of life, we are reduced to bare life.

We are living in an age of bio-power, governmentality and banopticon. Life has now become an important subject of administration. Politics, therefore, on the wings of profiling technologies attached to the Internet of things have become biopolitics. Biopower names the manner in which biopolitics is put to work bodies in our society. It has put our life under an order that is defined by the power elite in whose hands power remains concentrated with the help of internet of things. Following Foucault, we might say that this is a profound transformation of mechanism of power in our society. It has brought our society under what Foucault calls governmentality. The apparatus of power works from beneath, from the level of life itself. It works in a hidden manner. It calls us to live our life. Even we may have to live by a command to enjoy. While we go about with the business of life, we are subjected to the gaze of several kinds and this data is then analyzed and is used to manipulate our behaviour and promote security of our country.

Earlier biopower in the hands of the monarchs or democratic sovereign was about power to take life or let live. It was a thanatocracy. It was power over death. It decided who is condemned to death or who may continue to live. It was a necropolitics. The power that developed alongside of the internet of things is power that fosters life. It is a biocracy. It is power over life. This does not mean that thanatocracy is dead. It is only displaced as human life is brought under new orders of power in the power of new profiling technologies of communications.

Governmentality that has risen under these new regimes of power has introduced what maybe called state racism. Narrow nationalism enforced by the state has brought citizens under a regime of self-making that puts loyalty above over individual freedom. The state seem to put us in a state of war. Foucault had already prophetically spoken about state racism when he said that we will be subjected to internal racism of permanent purification. Citizens therefore, are constantly challenged to match up to what is identified as pure nationhood. Nationalism then becomes a way of being human in the world. We have to cooperate to achieve security of the nation and hence we have to undergo several the security regimes. Earlier wars were fought in the name of the sovereign. Today, the entire nation is mobilized to fight a war. We need an enemy to belong loyally to a nation. The internet of things, therefore, is used to choose between the loyal and the disloyal citizens of a nation

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao