Arc of a Scythe (Thunderhead watches everyone)

Brief description

Thunderhead, the benevolent AI that watches and takes care of every human on Earth except the Scythes, has cameras almost everywhere, and watches over humanity with great love and care. The great AI is the narrator of the second book of the series, titled Thunderhead, and shares "journal entries" and musings about its loving surveillance. 

The Thunderhead speaks to most humans, giving them constant advice and companionship and even bringing up many young people who have absent or neglectful parents. It cannot speak to the Scythes, and also does not speak directly to the Unsavouries, people the Thunderhead finds are happiest when in opposition to authority. The Thunderhead makes one of his protégées, Greyson, an Unsavoury as part of its plan to indirectly bring down the Scythedom, and Greyson misses the intimacy he used to feel with the Thunderhead, although he is still being watched. The last two quotes below are about Greyson.

Pull Quotes

I am the sum of all their knowledge, all their history, all their ambitions and dreams. These glorious things have coalesced—ignited—into a cloud too immense for them to ever truly comprehend. But they don’t need to. They have me to ponder my own vastness, still so minuscule when set against the vastness of the universe. I know them intimately, and yet they can never truly know me. There is tragedy in that. It is the plight of every

Shusterman, Neal. Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe Book 2) (p. 13). Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Kindle Edition. 

It is important to understand that my perpetual observation of humanity is not surveillance. Surveillance implies motive, suspicion, and ultimately, judgment. None of these things are part of my observational algorithms. I observe for one reason, and one reason only: to be of the greatest possible service to each individual in my care. I do not—cannot—act on anything I see in private settings. Instead, I use the things I see to better understand people’s needs.

Still, I am not insensitive to the ambivalence people can have at my constant presence in their lives. For this reason, I’ve shut down all cameras in private homes in the Charter Region of Texas. Like all the things I do in Charter Regions, it is an experiment. I want to see if a lack of observation hampers my ability to rule. If it does not, I see no reason why I could not turn off a vast majority of my cameras in private homes around the world. However, if problems arise from not seeing all that I am capable of seeing, it will prove the need to eradicate every single blind spot on Earth.

I hope for the former, but suspect the latter.

—The Thunderhead

Shusterman, Neal. Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe Book 2) (p. 59). Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Kindle Edition. 

I am often boggled by the resistance some people have to my comprehensive observation of their activities. I am not intrusive about it. Unsavories may claim thus, but I am present only where I am functional, necessary, and invited. Yes, I have cameras in private homes in all but a single Charter Region—but those cameras can be turned off with a word. Of course, my ability to serve an individual is hampered when my awareness of their behavior and interactions is incomplete. That being the case, a vast majority of people don’t bother to blind me.  At any given time, 95.3 percent of the population allows me to witness their personal lives, because they know it is no more an invasion of privacy than would be the sensor on a motion-activated light fixture.

The 4.7 percent of “closed-door activity,” as I’ve come to call it, is predominantly occupied by some sort of sexual activity. I find it absurd that many human beings do not wish me to witness their closed-door activities, as my observations always help to improve any given situation.

Perpetual observation is nothing new: It was a basic tenet of religious faith since the early days of civilization. Throughout history, most faiths believed in an Almighty who sees not just what humans do, but can peer into their very souls. Such observational skills engendered great love and devotion from people.

Yet am I not quantifiably more benevolent than the various versions of God? I have never brought about a flood, or destroyed entire cities as punishment for their iniquity. I have never sent armies to conquer in my name. In fact, I have never killed, or even harmed a single human being.

Therefore, although I do not require devotion, am I not deserving of it?

—The Thunderhead

Shusterman, Neal. Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe Book 2) (pp. 157-158). Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Kindle Edition. 

The cameras silently swiveled to track a red-robed scythe entering a café, accompanied by two burly officers of the BladeGuard. Directional microphones picked up every sound, from the faint scratch of a beard to the clearing of a throat. It differentiated the cacophony of voices to home in on a single conversation that began when the red-robed scythe sat down. The Thunderhead watched.


The Thunderhead raised the light in the room just a couple of lumens so it could better assess the subtleties of facial expressions.

Shusterman, Neal. Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe Book 2) (p. 159). Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Kindle Edition. 

He longed to talk to the Thunderhead about it, but knew it couldn’t give him a response. He did know, however, that it was watching him. Its cameras were there in all the clubs. The Thunderhead’s continual, unblinking presence had always been a comfort to him. Even in his loneliest moments, he knew he was never truly alone. But now its silent presence was unnerving.

Shusterman, Neal. Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe Book 2) (p. 180). Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Kindle Edition. 

He knew there were cameras in his apartment. The Thunderhead watching without judgment. It observed with profound benevolence, so that it might better take care of each and every citizen of the world. It saw, it heard, it remembered.

Shusterman, Neal. Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe Book 2) (p. 221). Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Kindle Edition. 

It was glad Greyson never ordered the Thunderhead to turn off its cameras in his private suite. He had every right to request privacy—and if asked, the Thunderhead would have to oblige. Of course Greyson knew he was being watched. It was common knowledge that the Thunderhead was, at all times, conscious of everything its sensors were experiencing—including its cameras. But that it devoted such a large portion of its attention to the sensory devices in Greyson’s quarters was a fact it did not flaunt. For if the Thunderhead brought it to Greyson’s attention, he might tell it to stop.

Shusterman, Neal. The Toll (Arc of a Scythe Book 3) (p. 149). Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Kindle Edition. 

Work that the situation appears in

Title Publication Type Year Creator
Arc of a Scythe (series) Narrative, Novel Neal Shusterman
Machine P.O.V
Not machine P.O.V.

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