A Brave New Oyster

By Amity Last edited 142 months ago
A Brave New Oyster

Quick! Where‘s your Oyster card? Haven’t got one? Not for long.

London's mayor is to give away 100,000 free Oyster cards, which offer cheaper travel on public transport.

Ken Livingstone said the cards had revolutionised travel in London, speeding up buses and Tubes and reducing queues.

Since the financial merits of having an Oyster card aren’t really debatable anymore, the only thing left to ask is: are you for an increase in the widespread use of databases, or against it? Which really means: do you trust the government or are you a cynic?

The Trusters think Oyster is the greatest thing to happen to London since that huge statue of Michael Jackson was floated down the Thames. The Cynics think everyone from the woman topping them up in the newsagent’s to the Prime Minister are in on the diabolical plan to gather every scrap of personal information on the public at large and use it for world domination.

We can see how Ken-haters would react strongly to this information, given that they think the mayor is only using Oyster cards to track Londoners’ every move and satisfy his own transport agenda, but there has to be a middle ground. Somewhere between dutifully handing over our identities to a man in a mask while submitting to eye scans in order to buy lettuce and coming up with grand conspiracy theories while chaining ourselves to immovable objects, there lies a compromise. What it is, we don’t know for certain. But there is an admitted uneasiness with all of this futuristic gadgetry. Biometric passports, iris recognition, fingerprinting, ID cards, CCTV – it all seems the stuff of science fiction, straight out of an Asimov novel. Will it be used for good, or evil?

But Londonist’s real question is this: if we’re all going to become zombie robots in a futuristic dictatorship anyway, can’t we have cooler designs and colours? Even faceless automatons have a right to be stylin’.

Photo courtesy of Adam Mulligan's photostream

Last Updated 18 April 2007