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赖世雄高级美国英语 Lesson 15

2006-08-11 20:40

  Lesson 15

  Webcams: Electronics tool or the end of privacy?

  网络摄影机:电子工具还是隐私终结者?

  What are webcams? The word webcam is a compound word formed from two abbreviations, "web" from the World Wide Web and "cam" from camera. Webcams are cameras which are situated at various places and linked to the World Wide Web. They allow 24-hour viewing of a wide array of places and activities around the world. They can be as educational as they are fascnating, entertaining as they are eye-epening. Not everyone raves about this new technology, however. Some cite sinister implications in a technology which can unobtrusively spy on our goings-on without our permission. Others note that with rapid increases in telephotography and the science of acoustics, the days of privacy are numbered. Anyone can mount a webcam with a telephoto lens and microphone, aim it at his neighbors' living room or bedroom, and then broadcast one's "private" life to the whole world. A script for the next sci-fi film, or a current reality? Are these doomsayers overreacting, or is their charge legitimate?

  On one side of the debate are those who point out that webcams offer more real advantages than supposed disadvantages. They cite numerous websites on which people can observe the world around them for educational or aesthetic purposes. Today one can watch urban scenes like city streets and squares or even haunted houses! Nature lovers can revel in the undetectable webcasting of bats, sharks, and penguins at various sites around the world. A huge collection of webcams can be found at www.earthcam.com. Another great collection can viewed at www.discovery.com. Most educators, parents, and politicians would agree that these websites allow for a better understanding of both the human and natural environments in the world we all live in. Certainly, they would say, webcams provide an invaluable service and should not be restricted.

  Others are not so sure. every technology cuts both ways. Even fire can cook food as it can burn our flesh. Railroads gave us faster and more convenient transportation as they simultaneously signaled the death knell of many species of migratory animals as well as served up noise and air pollution. Nuclear energy gives millions heat, light, and power just as it creates unwanted radioactive side effects. Seemingly harmless technologies such as telecommunications also have their dark side.

  Opponents of webcams note that the sleazy, commercial instinct of some people is unleashed with the offering of for-pay viewing of certain starlets or other celebrities' home lives, which most people prefer to think of as their "private" life. Perhaps not much longer. In some controversial cases, webcams have been mounted in public installations such as washrooms so that voyeurs may watch the intimate goings-on of anonymous people. Even more sinister in the capacity for the new technology to be used in both economic espionage and "good old" state-to-state spying. Webcams mounted surredptitiously in business offices or factories can reveal on-screen "secrets" from those unaware that they are being bugged. With microelectronics technology reducing the size of telecommunications devices, this is no paranoid fantasy any longer.

  The human mind is as devious as the many progressive devices it produces. No matter what technology mankind develops in the future, we must move forward and allow these new technologies. Only by practicing them——for good or bad——can we realize our human potential. On balance, too, despite the horrific deadly or sinister potential in technology, the world offers a more productive, comfortable, and progressive environment today than in our previous low-tech centuries. At the end of the day, it is not our technology that we must learn to control so much as ourselves.

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