In the smash CBS series Person of Interest, inventor Harold Finch teams up with ex-CIA agent John Reese to prevent violent crimes. Bearing a striking resemblance to existing surveillance systems, Finch’s masterpiece—“the machine”—uses pattern recognition and closed-circuit television feeds from across New York City to give Finch and Reese the information they need.
The real-life predecessors of “the machine” are the subject of Shane Harris’ award-winning book The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State. In this well-researched and balanced account, Harris chronicles the rise of America’s surveillance state over the past 25 years and highlights a dangerous paradox: Our government’s strategy has made it harder to catch terrorists and easier to spy on the rest of us.
Person of Interest creator and executive producer Jonathan Nolan, executive producer Greg Plageman, and author Shane Harris engage in a conversation about privacy, security, and art informed by true events.
Session moderator: Joyce Bedi, senior historian, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
Originally recorded on 25 October 2013.