The sum total of life is perhaps the entire memories one can accumulate. The collection of experiences unbound by the constraints of this world makes it perhaps the most individualistic experience of human life. It gives us the power of free will. Science asserts that we have evolved genetically adding or emitting characteristics according to our habituation. Mainstream religion on the other hand has maintained a strict code of conduct, dictating human life according to divine will and the resolute superiority of man’s conscience. But what if all that familiarity is now collapsing? What if the very senses we have either evolved or have been celestially endowed with are no longer party to our free will? What if all the data we take in or absorb is perhaps serving an agenda? Back in 1948, George Orwell in his famous novel ‘1984’ had envisioned an all-encompassing political entity aptly named ‘Big Brother’. This menace was designed to act like a vice grip on the populace, and bend the free will of individuals to do its bidding. All those who did not were dealt with an iron hand The recent journalistic exposure of Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis outlet belonging to the veritably large ecosystem of data analytics has been indirectly found to be in cohorts with social media giant Facebook, revealing some shocking facts about ‘Big Data’ systems. In the expose, a senior level employee of Cambridge Analytica can be heard boasting about using big data acquired through social media websites and fine tuning it according to the highest bidder whose intention is to then use it for the formulation of opinions. To the layman, it may seem as a harmless plot, but specify the taskmaster of data to politics, and the games changes completely. Back in 1948, George Orwell in his famous novel ‘1984’ had envisioned an all-encompassing political entity aptly named “Big Brother”. This menace was designed to act like a vice grip on the populace, and bend the free will of individuals to do its bidding. All those who did not were dealt with an iron hand. Now, although the recent data manipulation crisis does not act with the same veracity as Orwell’s creation, but it does share similarities, at least in spirit. Beginning with the very fact that in all free states of this world, privacy is regarded as a self-evident right of the citizen, albeit under certain conditions such as the abidance of law or the respective constitution, nowhere does it say that a citizen’s opinion is to be terraformed according to the data mined off millions of social media users. It is understandable that a state might want to collect data to aid policy making and come to decisions regarding state affairs, but what is not understandable or perhaps even ethically substantial is the usage of such information by political entities to further their own cause. In a ‘post-truth’ world, we have endured the rise of right wing fanatics; certainly, we have also witnessed the leftist extremists who are equally fundamentalist. But what we are now seeing is a clamp down on genuine human thought process, which involves debating, research, and most importantly, a certain ethical code to abide by. It is understandable that a state might want to collect data to aid policy making and come to decisions regarding state affairs, but what is not understandable or perhaps even ethically substantial is the usage of such information by political entities to further their own cause According to Peter Watson, author of ‘A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud’, this bonhomie of information and its peddlers is not new. Throughout history, we have witnessed such political acrobatics. A prime example of misleading the people in history is that of the papacy of the 11th century, where a holy crusade was declared against the Muslims of the Middle East along with the recapture of Jerusalem. The papacy had claimed all sins washed, and heaven for participants and martyrs respectively. Another prominent example could be Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda program in Nazi Germany. Though the execution of such rampant mind control was not under a democratic setup, it is alarming that nation states with republican principles are now undergoing somewhat similar delivery systems where the foundation of cognitive political learning is not religion or dictatorship but a trumped up version of economics, liberty, and freedom. If the political setup of the modern world is to be protected from such atrocious penetrations, protocols will have to be designed and put in place. It can also be argued that the less developed nations might be the ones to bear the brunt in a much longer haul, being devoid of administrative firewalls against such measures. With Pakistan nearing another election soon enough (hopefully), one cannot help but remember the famous quote from Orwell’s famed book, ‘’Big Brother is watching you’’. The writer is a student of history and passionately pursues cognitive challenges brought by shifts in world affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, April 12th 2018.