Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You will be watched...

Following up on last weekend's review of the anti-transparency novel, The Circle, let's continue to the real world -- starting with cogent thoughts about reciprocal vision by artificial intelligence scholar Ben Goertzel in H+:  "We're Watching Sousveillance gradually emerge and expose abuses of power." 

== Lessons from the Central Kingdom ==

Throngs of pro-democracy protesters continue to gather in Hong Kong's central business district, despite government actions to limit access to both cell phone and Wifi,  They are doing this using self-organizing “mesh networks”… the kind of technology I’ve been berating everyone from Google to the US Government to Qualcomm to get behind, for twenty years.  

To be clear, systems like FireChat rely upon bluetooth, which has short range. There’s also a critical mass issue and it is not proof against being tracked by authorities or even, in theory, jammed.  Still, according to the FireChat makers: "Once you build a mesh network ... now you have a network that is resilient, self-healing, cannot be controlled by any central organization, cannot be shut down and is always working.”

That's optimistically utopian.  In fact, it is an important step, but any one such approach is vulnerable, which is why Qualcomm’s cellular peer-to-peer capability, built into their next LTE systems, will also be vital — assuming we can coerce the cell-cos like Verizon and ATT to turn it on.

These alternatives are not only vital to freedom in transition states, but also to resilience in developed and democratic nations. When we have mesh and peer-to-peer backups, the resulting inherent robustness will help civilization stay connected, even if (when) some disaster strikes.  It will also help to deter terror-sabotage, since systems capable of resilience, self-repair and fail-operational continuity are just no darn fun to attack.

== Watching the watchers of the watchers ==
WATCHING-WATCHERSLet's get back to this year's huge topic: the spreading use of cameras, by citizens, during their interactions with police -- and police response with cameras of their own.  One of you out there, Matthew Reed Bailey, wrote in, suggesting that the solution to citizen-police tension is not only to record authority, but to “layer” these recordings so that there will never be a way for cops to avoid it:
“One person directly films/videos the Authorities. Another person (or two or three) films/videos the interaction (from varying distances if possible) of the interaction between the first camera and the Authorities. And, then have several "Backups”…”
Indeed, reiterating a point that must be repeated, what he describes is the absolutely necessary next step, after last year's fantastic victory -- the 2013 declaration -- by both the courts and the administration -- that citizens have an absolute right to record their interactions with police... the most important civil liberties decision in 30 years. Yes, it was vital! And pardon a plug, but there was a chapter predicting every phase of this, in The Transparent Society (1997).
Of course, the next phase was obvious -- a plague of cell phones and cameras "accidentally" broken by police, etc.
What I also predicted in The Transparent Society was that this phase would be short lived, as a layering of recordings would take effect, with cameras at increasing distance from the action watching the watchers of the watchers. What I did NOT expect was how swiftly this transition would happen. Before 2013 was over, we got to see a man in an orange jail-jumpsuit being sentenced to a couple of years in prison, for breaking the camera-phone of the man he was arresting. Because someone further away caught him in the act.
This is why we must resist attempts to give police the power to shut down all phones in an area. At minimum, we must demand that our cameras still work, in such a shut-down!
You "get" the idea. This is not so much anti-police as anti-bully. We have a right to insist, via accountability, that our police departments hire calm, professional adults.
An sf'nal aside: Take a look at What Battlestar Galactics can teach us about the Militarization of Police: A fascinating… if flawed… rumination about what several thoughtful science fiction films illustrate about the balance of powers among citizens and their protectors, the military and police.

== and each other! ==

'In February, TMZ posted a video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging his apparently unconscious then-fiancĂ©e Janay Palmer (now his wife Janay Rice) from an elevator at the Revel casino in Atlantic City.”  This article  raises a fascinating point about the depth of transparency. That first video allowed Palmer to claim “partial blame” implying she had started a fight with Rice. That's no excuse for a huge athlete knocking her unconscious, but mitigation in some folks’ eyes.

Then came the second video… “from inside the casino elevator. It shows Rice punching Palmer — and makes it clear that what happened wasn't a "fight," but an attack. The outrage over the new video led the Ravens to terminate Rice's contract, likely ending his NFL career.”

In this excellent perspective, Dara Lind makes several key points about the depth and layering effects of our increasingly transparent world: “But the new Rice video is an illustration of what happens when the person who has the video decides not to release it. For whatever reason, someone who had access to the surveillance footage from outside the casino elevator — which caught Rice dragging Palmer's apparently unconscious body — decided in February that it was something the public needed to see. But whoever had access to the footage from inside the elevator, which showed Rice punching Palmer out, made the opposite choice. … If no one had decided to release either video, it's extremely unlikely the case would have generated the kind of outrage it did — much less gotten NFL commissioner Goodell to change league policy. But if both videos had been released at once, it would have been much harder for the Ravens and their fans to assume for months that Janay Rice was to blame.”

Indeed, there are layering effects.  Get used to it.
==Transparency Apps==
Boycott and BuyPartisan are downloadable apps that let you scan product barcodes and find out if the company… or its officers… have actively supported some cause that you like… or loathe. One would hope that people use these things in moderation… except when it comes to Koch companies. At which point stringent ferocity is called for, lest the Confederacy win this round of the ongoing American Civil War.
Worried about emergency response times? The Peacekeeper App allows you to call upon neighbors in case of an emergency, sending an alert for crises Medical, Fire, Intruder, or Abduction. You can join an Emergency Response Group (ERG) or set up your own alliance of neighbors. The web site has a slightly redolent political aroma... but if it does what it claims, who cares?
Meanwhile the FTC declares that many mobile shopping apps lack sufficient transparency on privacy policies for consumers' rights.
==Overseeing the Government==
Forty-seven U.S. federal Inspectors General signed a letter this month highlighting problems with access to federal records — problems they say slow their investigations and threaten their independence. In fact, the current use of IGs is scandalous — with many of them forced into conflict-of-interest, owing their appointments to the very officials they are charged to scrutinize. 
I have long proposed sets of reforms that might improve the effectiveness of civil servants while simultaneously reassuring citizens that bureaucrats ARE “servants,” accountable and obeying the law. Foremost among these proposals has been IGUS — creating the office of Inspector General of the United States.   
The notion of a separate “inspectorate” dates back to Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Chinese Republic, in 1911. If all departmental and agency IGs reported to a truly independent IGUS, the shift could be so simple that the bill might fit on one page. Yet citizen confidence and trust could be multiplied several-fold.
Finally...  a very interesting analysis of censorship in China. Researchers find that "Criticisms of the state, its leaders, and their policies are routinely published, whereas posts with collective action potential are much more likely to be censored," because these create "actionable information" for the authorities.
Seventeen fake cellphone towers were discovered across the U.S. last week. Owned by mysterious entities, they look like Verizon or ATandT towers etc, but sift and steal messages, texts… anything they want. Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated. One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found eight different interceptors on that trip.
Rumor check: a partial “debunking” or clarification of the fake cell tower story….

...as the core drama of our era continues.


Mark said...

I pointed this out on FaceBook. Apparently FireChat is built upon a relatively unknown ability Apple put into iOS 7: Multipeer Connectivity Framework. "The Multipeer Connectivity Framework enables users to flexibly use WiFi and Bluetooth peer-to-peer connections to chat and share photos even without an Internet connection."

That is the big deal, and apparently it works beyond Bluetooth range, since it can also use peer-to-peer WiFi.

Over time, these kinds of networks will become more and more important. I wonder if the cell companies are worried yet?

Tom Crowl said...

Related to privacy vs. transparency...

How is a proper balance to be found?

U.S. Law Enforcement Seeks to Halt Apple-Google Encryption of Mobile Data

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differe in the previous post:

I think it is an unfortunate bit of history that the GOP uses red. I'm sure there is an explanation for it dating back to some electoral accident, but I've usually associated red with the communists and other statists.

Dr Brin remembers this from the 1990s, but I don't recall it being firmly gelled until the 2000 election.

The news folks always used red, white, or blue on a map to indicate which states had gone to which candidate on election night, but prior to 2000, I don't remember it being a "thing" that a specific color and a specific party went together.

That year, the term "red states and blue states" really gained traction during the analysis running up to election night. For that first time (in my memory, anyway) it was being recognized, that some states would reliably go for a particular party no matter the campaign. New York as a "blue state" or Nebraska as a "red state" didn't just mean that a particular party won the state that year. It meant the state was pretty easy to call because the outcome was foregone.

reason said...

David this something you might want to read - it ties in to something you have been quietly pushing for years (ignore the title the target is in fact Saudi Arabia).

Tony Fisk said...

As said before, Greg Egan anticipated the use of mesh networks by activists in 'Zendegi'.

Regrettably, few of our current crop of parliamentarians have learned a thing from the Patriot Act (or possibly learned some lessons a little too well?). As a result, Abbott can wave the big, bad terrorist boogeyman, and transparency (not to mention awful economic management) gets smothered in Australia, because *SECURITY*!

Read this opinion piece on legislation currently making its way through Parliament.

Basically: "ASIO can watch us whenever it wants, but we (and the Press) get ten years if we try watching ASIO."

Unsurprisingly, there have already been a few dog whistle attempts to conflate eco-activism and terrorism.

Welcome to the new Southern Coaliphate: "There is other bod but Gina and the Abbott is her profit!"

locumranch said...

There is no such thing as an 'absolute' right: Your so-called 'right' to Free Speech does not include bearing false witness, slander or crying 'fire' in a crowded theatre; your 'right' to film anything, including the military & the domestic police, is limited by national security concerns specified (in part) by the Patriot Act; and Ray Rice's 'right' to a trial by a jury of his peers was completely annulled by the media's release of a video which tried, convicted & punished him in absentia.

Furthermore, with ongoing the criminalisation of many social behaviours once thought relatively benign (ie. bullying) AND the reclassification of the term 'violence' to include all aspects of the verbal, emotional, sexual & social in addition to the physical, it becomes increasingly likely that the very act of filming anyone (especially law enforcement personnel) without their explicit consent will become a criminal offense on par with bullying, stalking, intimidation & coercion.

Think of all those poor police officers who, after being subject to a malicious video assault by some callous activist (and responding appropriately, of course, with a hail of bullets), are forced to undergo years PTSD counseling due to 'Media Rape'. And, all those poor college boys & girls who are expelled and pilloried... their lives ruined... by the extrajudicial accusation of a 'non-affirmative' sexual orientation. And, that poor Ray Rice (a martyr, really) who was publicly crucified for defending himself in the only way he knew how (physically) after suffering years of verbal & emotional rape at the hands of his most sinister girlfriend.

To name a few, these are the unexpected consequences of the liberal progressive agenda, including most 'zero tolerance’ policies, which equate the 'laying on' of words, emotions or visualisations with the 'laying on' on hands (aka 'the old definition of violence’) and blur the lines between the heinous (crimes like ‘legitimate’ rape) and minor infractions of the verbal variety, giving all of us (you, me, everyone) the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to be very very afraid.


Paul451 said...

From the last thread:

Re: Drive Green, Vote Red.

Your original slogan would work if it included the Republican elephant (the red/white/blue version). It would be clear you aren't saying Red=>Socialist.

Re: Green elephants.

There are existing green-elephant Republican logos: http://buildaroo.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/green-GOP-republicans-359x300.jpg

And a "Republicans for Environmental Protection" group, with their own green-elephant stickers: http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/rep_logo.gif

But that said, if you're driving a "liberal" car, say a Tesla electric sedan, simply having a regular Vote Republican sticker on that car should already cover both halves of your "Drive Green/Vote Red" message.


[Aside: Does anyone know why the Republican elephant has it's stars upside down? The US flag, the Dem donkey and any stars on Republican banners are always one-point up. But the three on the elephant, and nowhere else, is two-points up. It there a reason?]

Paul451 said...

(Oops: "its stars" and "Is there".)

You're now moving into trolling for the sake of trolling.

Paul451 said...

[From a couple of threads ago, I kept it back due to the raised temperatures.]

Alex Tolley,
Re: "Deep ethical concerns" over genetic modification/uplift/etc.

I see people twisting themselves into knots over certain issues, like "designer babies", but these are not "deep ethical concerns". I see controversy over, to use your example, 3-parent babies, but what I see is the same (almost word-for-word identical) as the 1970's "controversy" over IVF before it became common. Once IVF became common, the overwhelming majority of supposed "deep ethical concerns" vanished without a trace for the overwhelming majority of the population. Turns out, IVF babies are just babies. Three-parent babies... just babies.

There are ethical issues. Meaningful informed consent, experimentation-as-treatment, social exclusion, commercialisation of reproductive medicine, etc. But these are not the issues that get waved around as "deep ethical concerns".

Instead, the whole field of bioethics is rife with religious dogma and moralising weakly disguised as bioethics. (In Australia, the "Australian Bioethics Institute" was created in the '70s as a front for the Catholic Church's anti-IVF lobby. And continues to provide a phony "secular" voice for the Church's fight over IVF, birth-control, abortion, gay rights, euthanasia. It has nothing to do with "bioethics", nothing to do with "ethics", and it's very natural is, to me, downright unethical (hiding your true motives to trick others.) This is one of the reasons why I'm so twitchy over people using the phrase "ethical concerns" for views which almost always have nothing to do with ethics.)

To be clear, this is not about whether I agree with an ethical stance, but that I don't believe the majority of "controversy" over these issues are actually "ethical". Rather they are almost always religious-moral with a large dollop of panic-disgust.

And like IVF, the panic-hysteria or religious-moralising-in-disguise almost always misses any actual ethical concerns. [Such as over-implanting by IVF doctors to boost their success numbers (at the expense of mothers who end up with more dangerous multiple births.)

"I take it you don't agree with the idea of improving the human race by eugenics. "

I don't agree with doing anything to "the human race". If a small group within our species want to play with their genes, go nuts; even if that eventually results in a minor speciation event. As long as you publish the results and no-one is either forced to participate or harmed from non-participation [**], your body, your genes, your choice.

[** See, there are real ethical issues. Just rarely the issues that get publicity.]

David Brin said...

Paul451 gets post-of-the-day. Very thought provoking. Though the issue of allowing speciation is problematic, meriting very deep discussion. I offered some in GLORY SEASON. Also see Heinlein's interesting compromise re human genomics, in BEYOND THIS HORIZON.

Alex Tolley said...

@Paul451 - I should look more closely at the people who are quoted regarding "ethical issues". You may well be right that this is a front. But it cannot all be religious, because biologists have raised ethical concerns over designer babies. See here. The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs mentioned in the piece above is part of the AMA, so I wouldn't call that religious front. (Would Tacitus2 or locumranch disagree?)

Note: eugenics is changing the population genetics by preventing reproduction of poor genotypes, with fast moving lead in some cases. Positive selection is also used. It is just animal breeding techniques used on humans.

On reflection, designer babies may be more of a moral than ethical concern. But it is quite easy to Google "designer Babies" AND "ethical" and get plenty of hits. While the aim may be to get babies with more desirable traits by gene manipulation, there is also the problem of inadvertently getting undesirable traits too. Humans should not be treated like livestock, which is pretty much where we still are, even though we won't make the mistakes of getting double recessive poor alleles like the aristocracy. We'll make different mistakes.

David Smelser said...

the starts on the elephant are not flipped; they're leaning 36 degrees to the right.

Robert said...

That's rather odd that the Republicans have two star points pointing up... because Republicans are very religious, but they also consider the pentacle and pentagram to be a sign of the devil (even though traditionally it was just a symbol of protection and was actually used by Sir Gawain and the Knights of the Round Table - read "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and you can see its use). The two upward-pointing points are "horns" of the devil while the down-pointing point is the devil's whiskers.

So by reversing the stars... are not Republicans calling themselves devils? ;)

Someone should mention that to them. I bet you'd hear all this grumbling of "you're looking too much into this" and then the next time you saw the Republican elephant it would have upward-pointing stars. ;)

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Paul 451...liking the green elephant.

Tony Fisk....I thought you were from Australia. Would that not be "The Southern Koalaphate"?

Alex...I admit to being a little lazy. The practical ways to significantly bio engineer babies are a way off yet. Clearly beyond my own offspring production and almost certainly beyond my working clinical years. As you point out there are some major issues such as multi implantation. And on a societal level the delaying of parenting to older ages is likely an issue. (I do not want to reopen the can of worms regards ideal time to reproduce. Can we just say not 15 and not 45?).
Very few people have an issue with terminating a fetus with a fatal genetic condition. Things get touchy with Down Syndrome. I sure hope we don't reach a point where we routinely abort for brown eye color or two X chromosomes.


Tony Fisk said...

Tacitus, Hehe! Have a gumleaf, mate! (They're better than qat!)

I tweeted my little quip, and got huffily told that Gina Rinehart's wealth is founded in iron ore (courtesy of father, Lang Hancock) Her portfolio does include significant coal developments as well, these days. Still, the fact that I had to check that *afterwards* suggests it was a fair point.

So, 'Great Southern CoaliFeate'?

David Brin said...

Locum raises interesting points… after beginning with an absolute false premise. There is no “absolute” right to freedom of speech, but there is a practical reason why it must be TREATED as an absolute right… with some carefully selected carve-outs. The reason is simple. Free and open speech is the only antidote to humanity’s greatest curse — self- delusion.

Delusion is the source of great art and ambition! But we try not to hear whatever might conflict with our favorite illusions. Leaders, especially do this, and try to repress those who would shatter or correct their deluded notions.

ALL of the great reciprocal positive sum game arenas of the western enlightenment — science, democracy, markets — depend utterly on the cleansing power of light to discover errors and reveal opportunities. But Human Nature pulls in the opposite direction - in which elites crush dissent and quash criticism and thereupon make horrific mistakes . (Look at human history’s terrible story of bad statecraft. )

Property and privacy are contingent rights. Each generation might define them (and others ) differently. But free speech (along with access to information) has to be treated AS IF it were fundamental and universal (with a few practical carve-outs that are spectacular common sense, like yelling FIRE! in a crowded theater). Because only by fervently protecting it will we prevent human nature from crushing it.

And only free speech will let us back out of mistakes. And let each generation redefine those other, contingent rights, based on lessons learned.

Alas that Locum simply cannot look at ANY of the enlightenment’s successful innovations and say “okay, that works” and move on. Compulsive snarking, even at freedom of speech, is a symptom of omphaloskepsis.

David Burns said...

WRT China, Dr. Brin wrote, "posts with collective action potential are much more likely to be censored, because these create "actionable information" for the authorities." This interests me, but I am not able to guess what it means specifically. "Everybody protest in front of the Mayor's office now!"? Even on the mainland, more things are going on than the casual foreigner will notice in the news, both in terms of protests/other forms of opposition to the government, and in terms of the clamp-down in response.

Bebe said...

Sun Yat-sen picked off the Inspector-General idea from Sir Robert Hart of the Imperial Maritime Custom Service of the Ch'ing Dynasty of China. Hart served as IG from 1863-1911 (which roughly paralleled Dr. Sun's lifespan). The Service collected customs duties at the sea and river ports for the Chinese Govt., and did so with efficiency and uprightness. Imperial China's system did in various dynasties have a Board of Censors, the authority, duty, and responsibility of which was to investigate and prepare reports on bureaucratic abuse (even including the emperor himself), and to impeach corrupt/incompetent officials. Of course, its efficacy could be impeded by politics between the emperor, the Court, and the bureaucracy. In Taiwan the old-style Board is extant in the Control Yuan; it resembles the US GAO. The Administrative Procedure Law of China allows citizens to sue for official malfeasance; in reality the Party will assume that role. There is no Inspector-General in China, and an independent judiciary is still in the "becoming" stage.