Say there was a totalitarian regime that controlled 1 billion people. The GDP is ~$50,000 per capita.

This regime has nigh on total control over them, however, rebels are still considered a serious threat to their power.

If you were the newly appointed head of the Ministry of Safety and your job was to manage the myriad of intelligence sources the country had, (Cameras, texts, mail, etc.) what methods would generate the best results?

The Party will be grading you on these metrics:

+Quantity: The total number/% of people(surveiled?). This should be as close to 100% as possible.

+Quality: How often any particular person that is not under direct suspicion is watched (What sort of subversion could they be up to in the meantime?!)

+Cost: The lower the cost the better, although not at the expense of the other metrics($ cost per person).

Your class 8 dwelling awaits, comrade Minister.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Does the Party command also come under surveillance? $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Jan 18, 2017 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @nzaman everyone except Big Brother himself is watched $\endgroup$
    – Razmode
    Jan 18, 2017 at 14:01

6 Answers 6


People don't seem to have answered the question in the way I understand it...

Machine learning.

As wrong-doings are committed, patterns arise - in other words, series of events correlate to end-point crimes. Computers, running ML algorithms, monitor all; camera, mobile and internet feeds available to you. The Ministry of Safety gets notified when a potential crime is detected. Records get created this way, on the fly, those who have offended multiple times get monitored more vigorously.

How does this save money? Well, let me highlight some key points:

  • allows for multi-tasking
  • avoids hiring tons of staff
  • memory components get cheaper every year
  • crimes get organised via severity, prioritising your time

If you're sceptical about the data processing costs, don't fear. Our state of the art compression techniques are utilised through cryptography. Unlawful patterns are matched in the computers RAM, in which pulls learned formulas from a secured data centre.

I'll quote you on $200,000 a year. I know, a slight increase in comparison with what you expected, but you'll need to configure your long game. Let's not forget about all of your other expenses.


Smartphones offer a 100% picture perfect clear image of what one's daily movements are every day. Fingerprint scanners also cough-up everyone's fingerprints into a central database. Siri is capable of understanding every word you say whether you are talking on the phone, or not. Facebook users reveal their personal network. Linkedin reveals your professional network. Facebook also uses selfies to build facial recognition profiles. Look anywhere in the USA, and you see security cameras. Via search, Google knows your personality. All of this is already stored in a digital, searchable, format. Currently, all of that data is being collected. Just link all that data together with the unique id being a facial profile and a fingerprint.

People want to reveal all that data. People are social animals. Disk storage space basically costs nothing.

  • $\begingroup$ Part of the question is, what would be the best way to use all that information? 1 billion calls requires as many times for someone to be listening to it. What would be the best way to go through this massive data mine at a feasible cost? There's somewhat of a pre crime element here. We want to know who is a rebel almost before they do. $\endgroup$
    – Razmode
    Jan 18, 2017 at 4:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Raznarok Voice recognition, of course, operates with data stored digitally. Anything digital can be searched with a computer. Maybe not in real time, but ATT can search their databases and identify anyone who said "Donald Trump" and "George Soros" in the same conversation. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2017 at 4:24
  • $\begingroup$ I like your suggestions to improve searchability. That will help reduce the requirements of what it will take to use such information. I'm wondering how much manpower it would take to police the info of as many as possible of a billion people. $\endgroup$
    – Razmode
    Jan 18, 2017 at 4:29
  • $\begingroup$ If you are plotting against the big brother you just leave your smartphone behind. Bye, bye surveillance. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2017 at 7:03
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Actually, you tune the AI to watch for people who are trying to avoid the surveillance. Whenever a street camera gets a facial recognition match, the AI checks the coordinates of that person's smartphone. If they don't match, the AI tracks and more closely watches that person, including them in its hourly "suspicious actions" report. Similarly, if a camera sees that their mouth is moving but their phone's Siri does not make out any words, then onto the list they go. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2017 at 17:16

/what methods would generate the best results?/

Absolute best results are produced by faking them, and nowhere is this more true than in a totalitarian regime. In a command structure like this, as new Minister I would deduce what intelligence results would best advance my own political position and those of my allies / patrons while hurting my political opponents. Real world data collection would then be done in a way to buttress the results I need, as well as bear some scrutiny by those who might not like my conclusions.

For example: my superior Comrade D is not interested in knowing that his own home town has anything untoward going on, but is interested in his rival Comrade F being portrayed as possibly dangerous with dissident inclinations. Data obtained would be done in such a way as to support these conclusions. If F complains about lackluster intelligence collection and bias, suggestions by F on how to improve data collection would be enthusiastically received and documented then poorly implemented. Alternatively F might include with his suggestions other incentives, in which case his suggestions might turn out to be very useful, with due credit accruing to him. Fakery is also inexpensive and I will always hit my budget predictions.

I am delighted by my new class 8 dwelling although it does not have anything like the beautiful pool at your Class 5 dwelling, comrade D. My children love it! You are so kind to invite us to your home.

  • $\begingroup$ Haha! You will go far comrade Minister. No Gulag for you. $\endgroup$
    – Razmode
    Jan 18, 2017 at 16:29

It's not a matter of WHAT info you collect, but HOW do you make intelligence out of that info.

It's not the dots to bring value, but the line you draw between them.

So I would say invest on an intelligent system to crunch all the data you gather.

  • $\begingroup$ in the system he envisions, the dots will be enough to "remove a person from society", iow "make them go away" either into a "reeducation camp" or a shallow grave. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Jan 18, 2017 at 7:39

Let's take a look.

  • Cameras. Great for general surveillance of places, but sadly most of them are video only. So you'd have a lot pictures of people, but no audio.

  • Smartphones. Great location, audio and video surveillance. But, as today, GPS can be spoofed, smartphones can be shut down, forgotten or exchanged with other peoples or thrown away.

  • PCs / Notebooks. Great for general sniffing around, because there are passwords, browser histories and stuff. But sniffing only works on the most popular Operating Systems. Try to sneak up on a custom configured Adamantix.

  • Spies. Trusted servants of the state, can gather information from the human source and influence a rebel groups actions. But once their cover is blown, their cover is blown and getting information from the spy to the guide is also very tricky and risky.

So, there is not the one technique but a lot of them which have to be combined to get the best information out of them. Maybe you could ask for a workshop / training at Palantir for more information on the subject.


In a totalitarian state you can also control every company and therefore use e.g. the bank information of your people to know what they are up to.

You can combine this with an early education to share as much information as possible. Make it socially unacceptabel to not share your private information and people will tell you what they are doing.

If they are not sharing their information voluntarily you use companies, smartphones, laptops, cameras, etc... But most likely other people will report them to you and tell you about them. Because that is how you educated them.


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