In case you've been living in a cave for the last year or so, 5G is the mobile internet infrastructure that will enable 'superfast' downloads and the much-heralded Internet of Things - the modern-day Sorcerer's Apprentice that will bring your dreary world to life and allow your fridge to text you when you've run out of milk. But 5G is no futuristic fantasy; it is currently being rolled out across the globe. Telecoms and mobile phone company executives are rubbing their hands in expectation of serious profits, while slick advertising sells 5G to the public as the gateway to a consumer paradise of unlimited possibilities. I mean, who wouldn't want to be as carefree as the bonne viveuse in the recent Qualcomm Snapdragon advertisement, as she blissfully skips and clicks her way through an achingly multicultural urban pleasurescape...
Insofar as any critical perspective on 5G has emerged in mainstream news and current affairs media, the questions have tended to revolve around equality of access (will people in rural areas be getting juiced up, too?) and cost (will I have to buy a new phone?). Most recently, in the UK, questions have also been raised about the possibility of data insecurity and international espionage, in the light of a Chinese company's heavy involvement in 5G rollout. Can We Trust Huawei?, asked a recent episode of the BBC's Panorama.
Relatively little concern has been expressed, however, about 5G's potential to expand the reach of state-corporate surveillance of the kind currently being trialled in China, where facial recognition and online social credit systems look set to be implemented nationally. Noticeable, too, is the paucity of mainstream media interest in the possible health impacts of 5G. As well-regarded independent researchers such as Dr Devra Davis have noted, there is solid scientific evidence that the microwave radiation emitted by cellphones and wireless routers is dangerous to human (and animal) health. And that's just from 3G and 4G. The high-frequency millimetre waves that will be emitted from the 5G cellphone towers positioned quite literally on every street corner will result in vastly greater levels of radiation exposure. It's worrying. Some people are even calling 5G the 'thalidomide of the 21st century'.
Needless to say, players with a financial or political stake in the success of 5G will dismiss such concerns as 'conspiracy theories' and it's true that in the absence of serious mainstream media coverage, much of the critical discussion of 5G comes, at the moment, from some very questionable figures in the online conspiracy world such as Ian R. Crane and Max Igan (and, of course, the dreadful David Icke). But the concerns about the health effects of 5G have a scientific basis. Dr Martin Pall of Washington State University, an expert on the health effects of electromagnetic fields, describes the international 5G rollout as a 'global race toward destruction'. The testimony of medics such as US physician Dr Sharon Goldberg (below) also points to the unwisdom of the 5G rollout. Of course, there is still a lot that scientists don't know for sure about the physiological effects of 5G; but surely, where there are rational grounds for concern, the 'precautionary principle' should prevail.
5G will change our lives for the better in many ways - there is no doubt about that. But its rollout is also an experiment on human health that has not been subjected to democratic oversight. Nor, as Goldberg observes of the US situation, has there been any attempt on the part of public health officials to measure the extent and impact of human exposure to 5G. But we should not be too surprised at any of this. After all, there are billions of dollars at stake here and so long as we live in a capitalist society, profits will always be placed before human well-being and environmental protection.