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Here's a look at 10 ways constant monitoring and all-the-time online sharing can improve modern life. If you find this contrarian view to be downright Orwellian, let us know in the comments section.
1. Monitored city systems
In 2009, researchers from MIT's SENSEable City Lab tacked wireless GPS monitors onto paper coffee cups, aluminum cans and bottles of dish soap. Then they tossed that stuff in the garbage and sat back to watch what happened.
2. Health monitors
Chronic heart diseases, Alzheimer's and diabetes require constant monitoring, but doctor's visits only come about so often. Cue a new generation of wireless heath monitors that let people transmit data about their blood-sugar levels, weight and heart rate to doctors without leaving home.
3. Disaster response
In the aftermath of January's earthquake in Haiti, volunteers all over the world scoured the internet for information about the damage.
4. Bored on Tuesday
Location-based social networks aren't the most widely used services in the tech world. By the measure of one survey, only about 4 percent of internet users connect with friends on Foursquare, Gowalla, SCVNGR and the like.
5. Traffic maps
Once upon a time, people got traffic reports from radio DJs who spewed off the latest car crashes, usually only taking into account the major interstates. Now, a real-time traffic layer on Google Maps shows users a block-by-block view of where the backups are.
6. Smart grid
Right now, most of us don't know much about our home electricity consumption. Bills go up in the summer for air conditioning and down in the winter. That's about it. But the U.S. government is in the process of deploying a smart electricity grid, which will take information about home energy use and translate it into money-saving energy tips.
7. Free stuff
There's often a trade-off between privacy and free services. Products such as Gmail are free because they target users with ads. Similarly, people who are willing to "check in" on smartphone apps to their favorite stores can get deals. Foursquare "mayors" -- the people who visit one location more times than anyone else -- often are eligible for free stuff. And SCVNGR app users complete check-in-based challenges that can earn them free merchandise or food.
8. Monitoring earthquakes
We can't accurately predict them, but some researchers say we could respond to earthquakes more quickly if we turned huge networks of laptop and desktop computers into seismic monitors.
9. Looking for content you'll "like"
The Web is so big that it can seem infinite and daunting. But by sharing the content you "like" on the internet with Facebook friends, you help them find websites, stories and videos they otherwise would have missed. Increasingly, these public preferences are visible to your Facebook friends both on and off Facebook.com. If you're logged into Facebook, now, for instance, you can see if any of your Facebook friends have "recommended" this article.
10. Environmental sensors We're not the only ones who can be watched. Plenty of environmental scientists are interested in using tiny sensors, sometimes called "smart dust," to monitor nature and get a better understanding of how it works.