IBM’s technology was originally created for only one reason: to count people
The same holds true today. All master plans have cogs and gears that enable them to run like well-oiled machines. In order for Hitler’s plan to work, he had to trace, track, and identify Jews. The machine that helped him do it was the IBM punch-card sorting system. This technological tabulator, a precursor to the computer, could count, process, retrieve, and analyze the data of human populations, in record time. Many decades have passed since the Nazi Holocaust, but today’s tech companies — IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Apple, to name a few — still possess the gears of transformation when it comes to data and identity. What they do with this information, however, can truly change history for better or worse.
Recently, I read a book that will forever change the way I view identity and technology. Written by investigative journalist and New York Times bestselling author Edwin Black, IBM and the Holocaust documents the lucrative relationship between the multinational technology corporation IBM and Nazi Germany. The book’s contents are shocking and would likely impact anyone living in today’s technological age. In particular, the book sheds light on the dangers of using data to track and trace human populations and, more specifically, their identities. Since 2020, such reliance on data to analyze, profile, and diagnose has been alarming, but even more concerning is the push to create digital IDs or “passports” for everyone on the planet.
As Black describes in the book: “IBM’s technology was originally created for only one reason: to count people as they had never been counted before, with a magical ability to identify and quantify. Before long, IBM technology demonstrated it could do more than just count people or things. It could compute, that is, the technology could record data, process it, retrieve it, analyze it, and automatically answer pointed questions” (page 24).