In writing Proximity, I started with a simple question. If the police always know where I am...how do I kill you?
From a killers perspective, constant, accurate knowledge of where I am, or more importantly where I was at the time of the crime, may not stop me killing you, but it would almost certainly guarantee getting caught very easily. This would make for a very short and disappointing crime novel, but it does have an appeal in real life.
The killer in Proximity needed to circumvent the total surveillance of the book. It may be fiction, but some of the surveillance described is already here - CCTV, ANPR, face recognition, phone tracking, etc. all exist. Our personal privacy is already compromised for the greater good.
I think that there would be a lot of good from total surveillance. The certainty of getting caught would reduce a lot of crime, so people would be safer. If everyone is tracked, then there would be no such thing as a missing child or person. The positives are easy to see. The argument is - if you have nothing to hide, then what’s the problem? But there are negatives. What if you are the missing person and are escaping an abusive situation? Most people are lucky and don’t face these sorts of issues, but how many want to see technology stopping them ‘pulling a sickie’, or everyone knowing about your hospital appointment? Would your affair being transparent lead to less infidelity or more divorce? Even your thoughtful trip to buy someone a surprise present wouldn’t be a surprise.
I think the real question is who knows where you are? The police knowing where you are tosolve a crime is one thing, but is a company knowing to personalise the adverts they send you acceptable? The tax office? Your boss? Who knows where you are ultimately determines if the data is used for good or bad. For convenience or control. Whether there is an invasion of privacy.
Fiction is very powerful as a mechanism for exploring different moral and philosophical outlooks. Different characters can have different personal boundaries on each subject. While reading a fast-paced crime thriller, Proximity asks you to consider whether a controlled life means a simpler, better future? How much of your freedom of choice you would trade away to live longer? What would you sacrifice personally to eradicate crime affecting others?
Proximity is set in a near-future. Almost an alternate now - a world where, 'You can't get away with anything. Least of all murder.' Hopefully, it doesn’t act as a design template for our politicians.
Proximity by Jem Tugwell (Published by Serpentine Press)
Clive and Zoe's world might be closer than we think, but is it heaven or hell? How do we decide the perfect balance of free will and greater good?" DI Clive Lussac has forgotten how to do his job. Ten years of embedded technology - `iMe' - has led to complete control and the eradication of crime. Then the impossible happens. A body is found, and the killer is untraceable. With new partner Zoe Jordan, Clive must re-sharpen his detective skills and find the killer without technology, before time runs out for the next victim... Proximity by Jem Tugwell is Book 1 in the iMe Series.