Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sousveillance, Surveillance and Accountability

It's been called "Brin's Corollary to Moore's Law." That cameras get smaller, faster, cheaper, better and more mobile at a rate much, much faster than Moore's Law.  This article clues you in to the latest aspects, e.g. lensless cameras that won't even have that telltale glint. Micro air vehicles (MAV) - drones the size of flies, that will follow you and "go-pro" your life, whether you're the camera's owner or not.  And cameras that see around corners.

The lesson to all this? Stop imagining that you will ever protect freedom and privacy by hiding! 

We can live in this looming future while retaining some freedom, even enhancing freedom! 

But only if we learn to stop worrying and love the drone.

In The Transparent Society I have a chapter titled “The End of Photography as Proof of Anything at All.”  And yes, way back in 1997 there were fears that digital image processing would ruin our ability to trust images. Now see this stunning new product – Face2Face – that uses RGB video data to superimpose expressions and face movements onto a target persona in a video. In the demo, George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are shown grimacing, smiling or mouthing words, exactly mimicking the studio actor… visually plausible at the low resolution of this YouTube example.  But of course easily refuted by any group that analyzes the footage in a modern lab.  The question is: will that suffice in the minds of millions who see such doctored images, then refuse to listen, when those labs denounce the fake?

Public figures will take to recording themselves 24/7, in order to have time stamped refutations, ready at any time.  (Put that one in the predictions registry!)

Meanwhile, Kuwait has become the first country to require residents —1.3 million citizens plus 2.9 million foreigners - to enter their DNA on a national database. 

Slowly at first, then more rapidly, drone surveillance has been entering our skies, with every agency from the FBI and ATF to local sheriffs acquiring unpiloted aeronatical vehicle (UAVs) equipped with cameras and more. The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation express concern, but how do you draw the line between legitimate uses and Big Brother? 

My dear friends in EFF etc are right to be concerned. But any notion of restricting such powers by law or regulation? Over any extended period? When the drones are getting smaller and cheaper and more numerous and capable at rates vasty exceeding Moore's Law?  

Here's an ultimate irony.  The only way you could ever enforce such restrictions is if citizens and their NGOs (like EFF and ACLU) have extensive powers of sousveillance and supervision over the Protector Caste.  Only then could we know what they are doing, well enough to say "stop looking!"

But think this through, will you? If we have such supervisory power, we won't need to say "don't look!"  Because if we can supervise the drone controllers and their commanders, then their looking will be circumspect and respectful and studiously unintrusive. 

Again and again it must be repeated: Screaming "don't look at me!" is a pathetic whine.   The only way to hold power accountable is to forcefully and effectively say to those with guns: "We are watching you in every detail. So be professionals."  

Only then will public servants nod and say: "Yes, boss."

An example of this process is this current debate over changes in the FBI's rules for accessing the NSA's PRISM program that monitors traffic to and among foreign telephone numbers. Already ethically and legally iffy, "section 702" searches can sweep up information about U.S. citizens who are at one end of such conversations.  Believe me, I am deeply unsatisfied with the current state of affairs, especially the wispy layers of supervision - almost none of them adversarial - that keep these programs from being Orwellian. On the other hand, we are arguing about them. And our officials know that trying to hide it all from us completely will not work. All that will do is result in a phenomenon they'll find deeply irksome.  More Snowdens.

The solution is to negotiate a win-win… a positive sum set of reforms that empower our protector caste to do their increasingly complex and difficult jobs… while submitting to much improved systems of supervision and accountability that will enhance citizen confidence.  The alternative, a steady decay in trust between the protectors and protected, is utterly pathological. Solving that decay should be the caste's number one priority.  How sad that it would be so, so easy to do, except for some unnecessary reflexes and bad habits of thought.

Nor is this just a dichotomy of private folks against the state. Police agencies have been using "stingray" technology to make fake cell towers to sift for target/suspect phones… and now it seems the technology has leaked to major corporations, foreign spy agencies, commercial IP thieves, and even criminal gangs… an all-too familiar devolution of powers that we should worry about when drones start being used in felonious activity.  IMSI catchers - or cell-tower spoofers -- are now available on gadget sites for a few thousand dollars.

"Two years ago, China shut down two dozen factories that were manufacturing illegal IMSI catchers. The devices were being used to send text-message spam to lure people into phishing sites; instead of paying a cell phone company 5¢ per text message, companies would put up a fake cell tower and send texts for free to everyone in the area." 
And: "By 2010 senior (Indian) government officials publicly acknowledged that the whole cell network in India was compromised. “India is a really sort of terrifying glimpse of what America will be like when this technology becomes widespread,”"  

To some, the 'obvious solution' is ever more encryption, a race that average people intrinsically can never win. I prefer self-erecting mesh systems, but those will require better hardware than the cell companies are willing to sell us, and we'd still have to trust one mesh-organizing consortium over others.

In the long run, what all this proves is that we will never be able to base our safety and freedom on some illusion that others do not know something. Concealment may have practical aspects, here and now, but its sanctuary is temporary, at best and ultimately delusional. We can still have safety and freedom! But only if we realize that freedom and safety do not depend upon preventing others (who are much mightier than you) from seeing.  

It comes from being able to see them, well enough to deter what they might DO to you.

== a canny metaphor ==

A member of this community came up with the following illustration of this key point:

Our collective folklore contains a story about belling the cat. 
Not one about blindfolding the cat.”

Wow… cool metaphor! 

Note that a cat can easily remove a blindfold, but can't do much about the bell on the collar.

Is it easy to bell a cat?  Find for me where I ever said this was easy.

== Block Chain and BitCoin ==  

Interesting. For those of you who have been following the development of block-chain based, autonomously validated currencies like BitCoin, there have been many, many questions. Such systems “mint” new coins not from a central agency or cabal of secret managers, but rather by a system of “mining” in which you can (for example) create a new BitCoin by computer-solving a difficult mathematical puzzle or problem. Setting up such a system so that no government or bank can ever take charge of it was immensely clever.  And yet, quite predictably, BitCoin mining has come to be dominated by a few savvy, well-equipped players. 

And let’s be clear about what’s inherently vague. We have no way to know whether those miners happen – by now – to overlap with certain, well, agencies, who have all the computational power they would ever need. Seriously, you doubt that a system designed to bypass government is not, by now, almost wholly run by government? Truly? There's a bridge I know that's for sale....

But never mind that aspect. Across the last half-decade, innovators have put forward variants on the block-chain cash model. One of the more interesting alternatives is CureCoin, which asked: “shouldn’t all that computational power that is poured into coin mining actually accomplish something?”  CureCoin miners win new units by solving problems in protein folding that are brutally complex and essential for advances in organic chemistry and cancer research. They hope thus to amplify the all-voluntary system already in place, called Folding@home, which in turn was based on SETI@home, the first voluntary distributed computational network.

The CureCoin system leans also toward philanthropic applications and donations, but the coins themselves are negotiable currency, like BitCoin. Do I know anything more about it?  Nope, and I certainly cannot vouch. In fact, those among you who are experts are invited to report back here, after giving it a try. 

== How Transparency makes a difference ==

And you didn’t see this coming? New lip-reading technology could help solve crimes by deciphering what people caught on CCTV are saying, researchers have claimed.  Along with lie-detection and personality profiling, these techs will either ensure that we have Big Brother forever… or else Big Brother never.  One word will make the difference.  Transparency.

A cache of leaked emails appears to reveal that billions of dollars of government contracts were awarded as the direct result of bribes paid on behalf of firms including British icon Rolls-Royce, US giant Halliburton, Australia’s Leighton Holdings and Korean heavyweights Samsung and Hyundai, all of it funneled through an obscure petro company called Unoil and Dick Cheney’s Halliburton.  As author of The Transparent Society I have to ask… you are surprised that stuff leaks?  

Finally, see this: How Mickey Mouse evades the public domain -- with lobbying and ever-changing copyright law.


John Kurman said...

"The question is: will that suffice in the minds of millions who see such doctored images, then refuse to listen, when those labs denounce the fake?" Brandolini's Law applies in every medium, especially those not invented yet. Could some type of steganographic block chain provenance be embedded in the images/footage?

Jumper said...

Off topic, but I respect MIT enough to move this onto a front burner.

On the other surveillance issue, of making things illegal not stopping them, true. However, even though laws against murder don't stop it, most people think we should have those laws anyway, and punish those who violate them. So with spying on people were laws passed.

Alfred Differ said...

At the risk of annoying our host, I’m going to try to connect his transparency notion to an explanation for why our civilization has taken off that the folks at CATO apparently like. The connection results from trying to answer a question our host likes to ask, though, so I think it is relevant. What did we do different starting about two centuries ago (maybe three by now… depends on how one counts) that broke the social mold that applied to previous cultures and civilizations for 6000 years? McCloskey’s book “Bourgeois Dignity” makes the case for an answer that focuses upon how we chose to treat the bourgeois ‘class’ by trying to demolish all the other explanations people have offered over the years. I just bought the book and have started reading it, so I can’t speak to details yet, but within the first few pages I can hear an echo reminding me of one of our host’s Transparency arguments. The one I’m thinking of is the argument that we are going to have to think different about the people who want to protect us by not hiding from them and deal with the people who would abuse our openness (that we can’t avoid anyway) using well-tested social rules involving looking back and the occasional temper tantrum.

McCloskey’s argument essentially boils down to this. We gave the middle class a sense of dignity in what they did. With that incentive, innovation exploded. In previous cultures and civilization, the middle class was sneered at by their betters. Even those among the bourgeois did not assign a sense of dignity to what they did. Imagine a social group who couldn’t even muster a sense of pride from among its members. That changed among the Dutch and some of the British. Why it happened can be argued, but that it did isn’t an open question.

The analogy I’m tempted to draw to our current situation is this. If we grant a sense of dignity to members of the protector caste who want to protect us but need to be able to see what we are doing to do it, will innovation among them explode? Will we find ways together to cope with those who would abuse this grant? The middle class has proven to be extremely potent over the last dozen generations, so will the protector class do the same? What will civilization look like after another dozen generations if we make this grant?

I have little doubt we need to make the grant. If we continue to sneer at the protectors, I suspect they will find comfort among the oligarchs. It’s an old model involving patronage and we had best avoid it.

David Brin said...

Alfred that is why I strive hard to push a notion - when I go east - that one of our worst dangers is a growing sense of separation-rift between citizens and the Protector Caste.

Alfred Differ said...

Then we have a better argument for recording the police than just catching them when they screw up. We have to catch them when they do it right and award them the dignity they've earned. We can fight bills/laws that prohibit recording them with whichever amendment seems to work, but the real work is to dignify the work they do when they do it well.

locumranch said...

Since the term 'molon labe' has at least two uses, the first as a defiant cry and second as an exhortation, I'm a little confused by David's rather inarticulate response (last thread) to my total agreement.

Again, Capitalism is a mixed-bag that requires individual (as in 'private') ownership of resources, defines intellectual, proprietary & monetary investments as 'capital' and presupposes rent-seeking, profit-taking, hoarding & unequal wealth distributions...

Hence the cry 'molon labe' wherein each & every individual is 'free' to take, earn, claim, allocate & defend their personal property by any appropriate means, and this applies equally to the penurious pauper & feudal oligarch, the problem being all the pantywaists who delegate 'the taking' to government abstractions when, almost by definition, such abstractions lack the agency that only individuals possess.

So, to all those pretend libertarians out there, I say that 'molon labe' is a panacea. It can do it all: It can guarantee personal liberty, protect privacy, crush elitism, hold government accountable, derail the surveillance state, curtail the protector caste, end unjust taxation, eliminate wealth inequality, and vanquish 'Massa' Rupert, the Saudi oligarchs & all the other tyrants that rule you with your permission.

Molon Labe, sucker: Whatever it is that you want in this life, "Come and Take It".


D.G. Hudson said...

In the last ten years we have seen those who govern (in the US and Canada) lie, cheat, and protect themselves from lawful charges. They seem more intent on priorities in their own class than in protecting their citizens. Is there any reason to believe that will improve? What rights we give to those protecting us cannot usually be taken back without more clout than we now have, so who will be the benefactors? Transparency sounds like a good solution, but who will be the arbiter of how much is enough?

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: (from previous thread)
The world gets real messy as soon as we start using words like ‘should’, ‘deserve’, and ‘merit’. There are lots of these terms that share a common theme. They involve moral judgments of some sort which raises the prickliest of our suspicions.

Rand’s approach is easily torpedoed if one examines it as a moral system. The problem she has few who support her. There is no consensus big enough to bring her system into our social (emergent) orders. As moral systems go, we can talk about the ones lacking support, but one thing to be discussed is WHY they lack that support. For example, I’m a big fan of markets, but I’ll baulk at anyone owing Reardon anything beyond a simple trade. If I am made $1000 happier by some trade, that simply limits what I’ll offer in that trade to $1000. Most likely, I’ll offer less and consider my obligation complete once the trade is done. How much the trade improves my happiness is no one’s business but my own, so Rand can keep her pesky nose out of it. If people like me won’t climb on board a consensus for her system, she’s in a club no one really wants to join. Its members put forward ideas that make some local, logical sense, but when one backs away from them to examine their global properties, the ideas get rejected. Hobbes is a club member for Leviathan. He makes local sense while making global nonsense like M.C. Escher stairway etchings.

Fortunately, few market traders know enough about each other to bring about actual, zero-sum trades. The closer we get to that kind of knowledge, the less likely we are to trade at all and sSince we are obviously trading, either we are ignorant or stupid. Ignorance of each other’s objectives (thus utility functions) is the most likely, so I’m confident our markets aren’t going to evaporate any time soon.

Morals have a role to play in our economics. We should NOT treat our systems as amoral constructs. It is obvious they aren’t when people get upset enough to want to hurt others after seeing otherwise legal trades.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: You are demonstrating an understanding of the anarchists among the libertarians and a better understanding of the confederates among the GOP. As incantations go, the one you offer sounds to me like an invitation to be slaughtered by the blue kepi folks.

Alfred Differ said...

@D.G. Hudson: Mmm. How often have you seen (in the last ten years) when those who govern do it right? Consider the possibility that we suffer a selection bias in our news sources.

I suspect there is reason to believe things will improve, but I also suspect we have little to lose in trying. We can always haul out the guillotines later if needed.

donzelion said...

"The question is: will that suffice in the minds of millions who see such doctored images, then refuse to listen, when those labs denounce the fake?"

Seems to me that the key cases of such doctored, edited, fraudulent images show incredible power for people to both believe frauds they find useful, and reject truths they find inconvenient.
2003 - the dual "Saddam Hussein and OBL links" fraud - bought by 70% or more of America - and the WMD escalation fraud, lead America into war
2004 - the Swift Boat fraud helped sink John Kerry
2008 - the ACORN fraud cast a nasty spell over Obama's first year (attacking the largest, most prominent community organization, like those he served before winning office)
2015 - the "baby tissue sales" fraud perpetrated against Planned Parenthood

There are so many more, in so many more fields, and in each case, I'm not certain a 24/7 recording would have corrected the fraud itself, let alone the denials. Most people have short attention spans: they'll leap to conclusions to accept/reject a fraud within seconds of presentation, rather than deferring judgment and looking further. Particularly if it's a 'useful' fraud.

Perhaps the best we can do is manipulative the incentives in play for such 'useful' frauds: risk of a prison term for recording without consent will not stop the technology, but will stop players from using it openly and overtly for economic gain or extortion. Risk of a serious financial penalty for defamation, esp. that done for economic gain. These are the bells for the cats.

"Screaming "don't look at me!" is a pathetic whine."
Perhaps the better response is, "Look at me - at your peril" - along with a system to make that peril real.

After so many years experiencing so many types of frauds (most of them far off the public register), I'd be cautious with embracing the Unaoil story. Pieces of the story are hilariously improbable ("following a coded ad in a French newspaper"...), other pieces are transparent ploys to attract lawyers to do their heavy lifting (e.g., by positing Halliburton and many other 'deep pocket' targets, the leaker calculates a high probability that lawyers will leap in to seek a whistleblowing payoff...).

To believe this story, you have to believe that a handful of journalists with intrepid journalistic skills caught a fraud that plenty of U.S. government officials with NSA-level interception tools opted to "ignore" (despite the massive political incentives for pursuing it). Tread carefully.

donzelion said...

"Concealment may have practical aspects, here and now, but its sanctuary is temporary, at best and ultimately delusional."

Temporary concealment is hardly delusional. A business deal, once decided, has substantial value - but concealing the terms of that deal for a time is a key element in the value of the deal itself.

Competition itself is actually much harder for small players when all deals with a time horizon become public: bigger competitors can seize on that information and exploit it to squash small players. Think of the eBay auction, in which the seller knows the buyer's maximum price, or in a contrary deal, in which the buyer knows the full loss borne by the seller if the buyer reneges (the buyer can then renege on a large enough deal to drive the seller into bankruptcy, and pick up inventory at a dramatic discount). There are as many variations on these stories as there are transactions.

And that's just the business world. I'm imagining dating in a world of full transparency -

Genetic testing for a prospect before the first date -
Monitor drones following us to identify worthy mates -
Unexpected levity by which bonds form, disintegrates
In such a world, what mortals will then procreate?

David Brin said...

"Genetic testing for a prospect before the first date -
Monitor drones following us to identify worthy mates -
Unexpected levity by which bonds form, disintegrates
In such a world, what mortals will then procreate?"

ANSWER: Those who adapt. Emphasize the good. Learn how to neutralize the bad.

David Brin said...

donzel try screaming "Look at me - at your peril" at cops and FBI agents etc. Or at WalMart or Google. What might work is “I joined an NGO that is hefty enough to sue you for access to your surveillance files, so watch it, bub.”

Paul451 said...

From the last thread:

Re: Alfred's 90% rule.
"He is merely balancing the normal human "I'm sure I am right!" versus the later, more scientific "I might be wrong." Also balancing between normal righteousness and normal willingness to bow to the wishes of your tribe."

No, that's my point. He's going well beyond merely saying "I believe what I believe, and it'd take a big effort to convince me otherwise", he's saying "my beliefs are the morally righteous ones." And that kind of pseudo-religious justification is what I object to; especially when it involved dismantling the very things keeping both capitalism and democracy functioning.

"you'll not knuckle under to a 51% majority opinion"

If you have a simply 51/49 situation, yes. But if you have 50 to 10 & the remaining 40% have no preference, then you have a strong consensus. And that's how real societies work, when they aren't corrupted. (And you know that, of course. I'm not trying to teach grandma to suck eggs. It's not you I'm trying to convince.)

Re: Parasite/Predator

You're doing the same as Alfred. You are reducing the trend to oligarchy to an anomaly caused by bad-actors in the otherwise lovely and balanced markets. This leads you to focus only on "cheating", which leads you (as it does Alfred) to miss the whole damn point.

Increasing imbalance is inherent in the nature of capitalism and trade. It will always happen unless there are secondary measures that distort the markets/trades back away from the accumulation of wealth. (Essentially you create a fee on wealth that is distributed to the rest of society, which you try to balance to not prevent the creation of wealth, but to prevent the auto-accumulation of wealth. Tricky, but people have managed it for long periods.)

Accumulation of wealth would happen if you starting with a million clones and perfect equal wealth and opportunity. Any distortion due to random events, chance advantages, begins the imbalance. The imbalance itself causes further accumulation of wealth.

It's because there is, in essence, an innate "flat fee" that exists just to be alive in a given society. The cost of living acts as a regressive tax. Food, shelter, education, health... It creates a minimum buy-in, in order to be part of society. If you have less than the buy-in, you can't really participate in a society. (And that's especially amplified in the US.) If you have more than the buy-in, you have free capital to gain advantage. (And that too is especially amplified in the US.) The more wealth you have, the more advantage you can buy, the more wealth you can gain.

Paul451 said...

From the last thread:

"My royalties are earned over a limited period"

They are supposed to be. But in the US the big IP owners seem to be turning copyright into a perpetual ownership. And treaties seem to be exporting the US situation.

[If they wound the rule back to life+25, or a fixed 50, I'd certainly be willing to add a perpetual artists royalty from the resale of original works. Ie, a small royalty/tax on the secondary trade of original art. If in 2100 a first-edition signed hard-cover of Sundiver sells for $1m, a small portion (1-2%) goes to your surviving estate. Not so much an issue for writers, modern books are generally produced in too great a number to end up rare, but it's common for paintings, sculpture, etc, to appreciate more in secondary sale out of proportion to the original artist's income. Especially when the artist dies.]

[[Disclaimer: Not supporting LR's sophomoric argument-by-dictionary. "It's called a Royalty, so you're an oligarch, derp."]]

Paul451 said...

"try screaming "Look at me - at your peril" at cops and FBI agents"

Pretty sure that gets you shot these days.

Jumper said...

Science rules.

Paul451 said...

Re: Belling cats.

Belling actual cats has almost no effect on the number of birds they kill. The only effective measure is keeping them indoors or limited to a run.

Which is kind of the opposite result to what you advocate for the situation the metaphor is meant to advise.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re Belling cats

It was mice that were worried - even if the bells are no good for birds do they help the mice?

donzelion said...

"try screaming "Look at me - at your peril" at cops and FBI agents"

Paul -"Pretty sure that gets you shot these days."

Only if you're black...but the point remains. Putting teeth in the peril individuals (or small groups) can raise against institutions and corporations is the key. Merely being able to watch them is barely a start: one has to be able to inflict pain. If the mice must learn to roar to fend off cats, one fears for the mice. But we humans can adapt, whether the mice impose bells on cats, or otherwise.

David Brin said...

Our cat never brought home another bird, after she was belled.

locumranch said...

'Belling the Cat' is yet another perspective game that only represents a progressive adaption (a moral good) from the point-of-view of prey, mouse & bird but represents a maladaptive moral bad from the point-of-view of the predatory cat.

The same logical applies to Surveillance, Accountability & Transparency arguments which equate all-of-the-above with progressive & adaptive moral goods from the point-of-view of a dominant hierarchy, a top-down military command structure, social pacification & the sheeple model citizen, but a maladaptive moral bad from the slightly more predatory point-of-view of self-agency, individual liberty & personal accountability.

Similarly, Belling the Protector (and/or Ruling) Caste is a maladaptive moral bad from the point-of-view of protector predation, dominance & effectiveness and can only be said to represent a progressive & adaptive moral good from the submissive, sheepish & prey-like model citizen perspective.

As mentioned previously, the Oligarchs rule over & surveil us with our express consent -- just as David expressly supports a dominant 'Massa Rupert' by allowing Harper-Collins (owned by Murdoch's media conglomerate) to profit from 'Foundation's Triumph' -- which MEANS that Sousveillance & Transparency represent our submissive consent to oligarchic rule rather than a rejection of our submissive role (if they let us watch & luxuriate in our humiliation).

Transparency, then, only represents a moral, progressive & masochistic good if the average citizen remains passive, accepts his 'good soldier' role as disposable cannon fodder and consents to his ongoing hierarchical subjugation to his social betters.

@Alfred: These are constitutional rather than anarchist arguments.

Howard Brazee said...

I don't like everybody watching me. But I demand that we watch the state. If the price is that I lose my privacy, that is a heavy price that I am willing to pay.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, it sounds like your cat wasn't smart enough to adapt.

Some are. Especially a young-enough cat who learns exactly which motions trigger the bell and how to minimize or eliminate them.

It also depends on the birds of course. A bird that doesn't realize the ringing of the bell is the cat moving is going to die. ;)

This analogy can of course be adapted to real life... including the cat-and-bird ;) conflict between criminals and law enforcement. Hell, look at how murderers are now working hard to eliminate all DNA evidence at a crime scene (for first-degree murders at least). They learned about the tools police had to track them down and started to compensate. Those who didn't adapt are often captured.

Though I am also reminded of something I recently saw on Facebook where a woman was upset that a cop pulled her over for speeding down a rural, rarely-used street. She felt the police should have been dealing with real crimes like burglaries and unsolved murders rather than a "non-crime" of speeding.

The thing is? Speed limits exist for a reason. One reason is that when you drive slower you can react to things in the road. Say someone walking their dog or with kids and one stumbles and falls in the path of the vehicle just as it's going around a curve, or a deer is crossing the road and if you're speeding you're not going to stop in time and you end up with a badly-damaged car, possible injuries to the driver, a dead deer, and the possibility of no help showing up for hours or longer.

If that woman was speeding on a very cold day, hit a deer and lost control, smashed her car, and suffered a concussion, was outside the cell tower zones, and the road isn't used very often, and she should die... there would be an outcry from the woman's family and friends. Why weren't the cops sending someone down that rarely-used road for just this occasion? This death could have been prevented! And on down the line.

Victimless crimes are only victimless if no one got hurt. But if someone was speeding and ran over a kid? And speed was a factor? Or the person was texting and driving (a "victimless" crime and another "sign of the nanny-state")? Preventive law enforcement is meant to protect potential victims so that you don't have grieving parents because the cops aren't enforcing speed limits and some asshole ran down a baby carriage or a kid on a bike because speed was a factor (or distracted driving was).

The price of freedom is great. And anarchists are mistaken when they believe a well-armed society is a polite one... because there are ways to instigate an armed person into shooting and becoming the perpetrator, or having others believe that armed person fired his or her gun when they pull out their weapon in response to a gunshot.

For that matter, the anarchists on Facebook blithely ignore me whenever I point out empirical evidence of the fallacy of "an armed society is a polite one" with street gangs. Both sides are armed. Both sides know that an attack on one side will result in retribution on the other. It. Doesn't. Stop. Them.

"Oh, but with sufficient education, a well-armed society BECOMES a polite one!" Then pay for universal education. "It's not up to me to force someone else to become educated. I should not pay taxes for education, it's each individual person's responsibility to learn!" Then you don't get your educated polite well-armed society.

Yeah. There's a reason anarchists ignore me. ;) The truth only liberates when you accept it as truth.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the cats / mice / bell analogy breaks down when the cats say "There are rats out there!!! And those rats want to kill us / take away our freedom / destroy or way of life. And you know what - rats are really hard to tell apart from mice. That's why we have these great big eyes that see in the dark, and these ears that hear everything - it's all to keep YOU safe. Now, about those bells. It's a great idea, and we would absolutely be in favor of it - if it weren't for those pesky rats. There's just no way can we wear those bells - we wouldn't be able to keep you safe."

Does any of this sound familiar?

A.F. Rey said...

Our cat never brought home another bird, after she was belled.

I have a feeling it was because she was so pissed at you for putting on that collar, she decided never to bring you another present. :)

Anonymous said...

Given that Moore's Law faces the breakdown of Dennard scaling, big costs and delays in the 10nm department, and with AMD down in revenue, down in operating income, down in net income, down in total assets, and down in total equity, and with Intel on big layoffs!! and a pivot to an extended tick-tock-thud cycle for some reason--binding your petard to that crested Gompertz seabird of diminishing returns--well, I guess you could do that. Now, assuming your horrid technological terror of drones and cameras up the wazoo comes to pass (and at what biosphere cost for the storage and processing of all that important video, hmm?), we need only to look to the popularity of, say, C-SPAN versus the product of what Toynbee called press-lords in his day or the Romans bread and circus and similar patterns in all the other universal states--for strict linear thinkers present the amusing spectacle of attempting to jump using only one leg--with the vast majority of citizens being completely uninterested in how the sausage is made--eww! Let us go back to Engelbart's funny cat photos, please!

Murderers--the ones with half a functioning brain-cell, anyways--absolutely do not need to eliminate their DNA at the crime scene. Options include the magic words "I didn't see them, officer" to which the police report will indicate that the cyclist piloted themself into the rear tire, or was wearing dark clothing, or was too short, or whatever.

Smack, smack, smack! Justice delayed is justice denied, for those of you praying
for salvation by automation on this front.

Jumper said...

Anonymous posters, please sign at the bottom (anything) because when we get more than one "anonymous" all hell breaks loose.

Hamish said...

Apologies - the first one was mine. Thought I was signed in. Yet another symptom of caffeine deficiency syndrome

donzelion said...

@Robert - "Victimless crimes are only victimless if no one got hurt."
Indeed. For decades, the consummate illustration of a 'victimless' crime has been insider trading - the only victims are the wealthy, who only lose out on what profits they might have earned. The concept of an 'insider' trading off a few days advance notice is the primary reason I'm unconvinced that the value of 'temporary' opacity is delusional (a piece of Dr. Brin's premise). A small head start can change the outcome of a race immensely (in both human contests, and in feline ambushes).

"I point out empirical evidence of the fallacy of "an armed society is a polite one" with street gangs."
Contrast that with Japan: the Shogunate disarmed the community en masse and slaughtered the samurai who resisted. Even now, gun ownership is extremely uncommon. Very few people believe that Japanese people are impolite these days...

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: 'Molon labe' has little to do with the Constitution. Perhaps you'd like to point it out and help educate me? As a Libertarian, I can assure you I've heard the sentiment, but I judge some of my fellow party members to be insane, though mostly benign. Being true zealots, they would never agree to surrender no matter how large the consensus against them, so they get marginalized. The righteousness of their Cause keeps them from suicidal ideation, though.

A.F. Rey said...

In honor of Earth Day, PolitiFact published a good list of their fact checking on climate change. It's a nice summary for doubters.

Of course, they didn't mention ocean acidification, but maybe they'll get to that one day.

locumranch said...

There's another reason why anarchists ignore Rob_H: He disproves his own arguments, mistaking an armed & violent disequilibrium for the armed, social & necessarily polite equilibrium state which (under current circumstance) has long since been legislated away by irrational western jurisprudence.

Existing only because of this disequilibrium, his armed & violent gang-bangers have little to fear from an increasingly ineffective & vanishingly small Protector Caste (one neutered by rule obedience & punitive sousveillance) and even less (nil; zero) to fear from a submissive, disarmed & divided public, so those violent & impolite gang-bangers face only rare deferred punishment from an increasingly powerless protector caste.

However, things are quite different as an armed & empowered society approaches the equilibrium point: Those who are most prone to confrontation (the most violent & impolite aggressors) self-select & weed themselves out as the odds of a violent death increase with every potential confrontation; those who are moderately violent & impolite confront an increasingly unified & armed public and tend to get 'fragged' from every window as the penalty for 'acting out'; and, those who are less violent & impolite find themselves surrounded by an armed, empowered & increasingly intolerant public.

Once an Armed Equilibrium has been re-established, "An Armed Society is a Polite Society" in both fact & deed because Justice (which was deferred, abstract & the sole purview of the protector caste in the disequilibrium state) has now become immediate, catastrophic & fatal to the law breaker (with the added benefit of an extremely polite accessory protector caste).

Due to our misplaced progressive idealism, however, a Disarmed & Declawed West (mostly in the EU & less in the US) now suffers the same fate as David's poor, ineffective & maladapted cat. It has been rendered powerless by Disarmament masquerading as 'Social Progress' and it is now left with only 1 of 3 increasingly objectionable options:

(1) Bloody Rearmament until a polite Social Equilibrium can be reestablished (The Best Option);

(2) A Tyrannical Police State that will allow an all-powerful Protector Caste to meter out 'Justice' to rats & gang-bangers IN THE ABSENCE OF DUE PROCESS (the Nationalist, Nazi or Pegida Option); or,

(3) Do Nothing, continue on our current path, insist on a disarmed defenseless populace and a neutered ineffective sousveilled Protector Caste, and allow Social Disintegration to proceed a-pace as the rats, gang-bangers & Islamic Fundamentalists run wild like pediatric sociopaths in a candy store (The Nightmare Option, except for Anarchists).


donzelion said...

@Anonymous (Hamish? wasn't sure who was first) -
"There are rats out there!!! And those rats want to kill us...There's just no way can we wear those bells - we wouldn't be able to keep you safe."

LOL, yep, that's about right. Of course, the other side of the story is that if 99% of the footage of cats with bells shows them sleeping, will people bother to sift through that to reach the 1% when they do something interesting? What people? If the rats are the only ones with an incentive to report feline brutality - will they actually issue such reports to the humans (assuming those folks don't like rats all that much). If the humans receive a bunch of negative reports about the cats from the rats, it's plausible they'll simply shrug them all aside (or even love their cats that much more).

After all, the leading Republican candidate for President has advocated expanding torture - which in this case, offended the 'cats' more than the 'humans.' Perhaps a substantial number of us actually value sadism as a demonstration of "strength."

donzelion said...

@Locum - hmmm...well, there are a lot of folks here who think that the Saudis and Murdoch are conspiring to wreck America, who look at evidence no more convincing than what you've posited linking Dr. Brin's work to Murdoch's - but again, and for the same reason, I'm rather unconvinced on that evidence. Perhaps I should take on a nickname as "Mr. Unconvinced" - or unconvincing... ;-)

(You might have also referred to Dr. Brin's political party of registration - but for the same reasons, that's not really convincing evidence of upholding the interests of the Murdoch clan.)

For a publication derived or linked to Asimov's work, it's not like the authors have control over the publishers and pick whomever they like. Even if it were, there's not all that many big houses to choose from (5? four?). With so few major players, sousveillance is 'easier' - in the sense that the focus of monitoring becomes much easier: one knows where to focus the monitoring. But it's also harder, in the sense that the actual ability to do something involving the subjects of sousveillance is diminished: we can sousveil the mountain all we like, but it remains unmoved by the collective weight of all our photons touching it.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451: Your description of a 50/40/10 split is a decent example of a surrender opportunity for me. If 40% don’t care enough to support either side, they obviously don’t consider a particular behavior immoral while the 10% would. I might hold onto my belief, but I’d probably surrender the political fight until we got to 50/30/20. For an example of this, consider abortion. Depending on how you ask the question you can get a variety of splits. The version that focuses upon terminations late in the term has a split that is moving against the people who want to keep it legal. The soft middle that contains people who aren’t sure which way to think is slowly resolving itself in the US. If that keeps up, I’ll have to abandon the political fight on that question.

I’m not arguing that my moral beliefs are Moral in the absolutist sense. I’m a bit of a Relativist when it comes to that stuff. What you think is immoral need not overlap with mine (though we probably DO overlap a lot) and I see no immediate danger in that. The danger occurs when one of us tries to use the coercive authority of government to push the other one around. I prefer the government stay out of our disagreement until one of us can demonstrate an overwhelming case.

What really matters to me in all of this is the Rule of Law. When a minority group of even a few percent gets really, really upset at what the majority is doing, they can break the law and shield each other in ways we can’t effectively stop short of becoming a Police State. We aren’t willing to do that most of the time, so we tolerate the minority. If the laws that make their behavior remain on the book, they get enforced in an arbitrary way and that makes a mockery of the Rule of Law. It is that mockery I wish to avoid.

Your attitudes regarding natural trends in the market suggests YOU are the True Believer here. I’m inclined to limit my actions to punish only the cheaters because that is like catching and punishing criminals. I prefer not to categorize a whole class of people AS criminals.

Robert said...

And once more locu proves he doesn't know what he's talking about.

The entire argument for the well-armed society is that criminal elements will not DARE use their guns because they will be met in force by other people. His argument would be valid if the targets were unarmed. They are not.

Their inadvertent collateral damage are unarmed, yes, but often those are children or people unaffiliated with the gang.

The whole point of a drive-by shooting is to shoot several people in a rival gang and then escape before the other side can pull their guns out and retaliate effectively. The assumption is that they WILL be facing armed opposition... so the most effective method of taking out your enemy is a Surprise First Strike. If the sides involved are both armed, then obviously the guns do not detract from the gun violence.

Now let's take this a step further. Let us say you have an armed neighborhood. A drive-by shooting happens, several gang members are shot, and several others pull out their guns and start firing at the retreating car. Their bullets miss and instead start hitting a non-gang neighboring house... and those neighbors pull out their guns and start firing back at the gang who just fired unprovoked upon them. (They aren't going to shoot at the retreating car, that car didn't fire on them and if they went after that car then they are allying themselves with the street gang and become "valid" targets.)

Other neighbors look out their window, see a firefight between the gang and a non-gang house, pull out their guns and start firing at the gang members because the gang members have obviously gone off their rocker and are targeting innocent people. They may very well be the next target if the gang members have started targeting non-gang neighbors.

The only protection the gang has against this sort of situation is to force the entire neighborhood to be "protected" by the gang and use their access to force to either disarm their neighbors on fear of death, or force them to ally with the gang and become a valid target by opposing gangs.

At no point do you have a polite society. You DO however have a fearful society.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@Rob H: Heh. If one has to educate people to achieve the utopia anarchists believe can happen, we can safely assume the members of the society they describe aren't really human. We are already the most educated civilization ever, so what they actually describe is indoctrination. People seem to have natural resistances to that, so I just move on to the next group of would-be social engineers.

Regarding texting and driving, I've seen way too many accidents and deaths just in the neighborhood where I live to want to tolerate it. I used to argue for leaving people to make their own mistakes, but the so-called nanny protectors have convinced me they are correct. Inaction on my part would be immoral because innocents are getting killed, thus I support the laws.

David Brin said...

Robert points out that heavily armed societies like El Salvador do not have lower gun violence.

“a neutered ineffective sousveilled Protector Caste”… I know these people. Do you, sir? You do not. Know. Any. And I know scads and consult with them. They are skilled and mighty and mostly friendly to negotiating sousveilled supervision… though they fear any kind that would devolve into witch hunts, and hence want to negotiate trust building measures very carefully.

You, sir, are a flaming fool. As when you speak of a “disarmed population.” Who is seeking that? Liberals have been arming themselves since early in the Cheney regime. They just want reasonable restrictions on felons, maniacs and… oh… I see…

My current party registration is a product of laziness, since CA adopted the best election laws in the nation, and party registration stopped mattering.

TheMadLibrarian said...

I threw the question about CureCoins over to Derek Lowe, who writes a blog called In The Pipeline about pharmacological research (one of his segments is a very funny look at very hazardous compounds, appropriately called 'Things I Won't Work With'). He has much more knowledge than I about what organic chemists might find useful, and I hope he will come up with more info than my casual search did.


David Brin said...

donzel you completely misread what I wrote. There are all sorts of justified uses for temporary secrecy and tactical secrets, as I tell Protector Caste members all the time. Think. The only way you can reliably defend such “caches” (as I called them in EARTH) is if the surrounding milieu is mostly NOT secret, so that any relentless or systematic penetration of caches stand a good chance of getting caught.

Watch how the Mono Labe folks will whine if the commonality stops defending their right to be snarling ingrate whiners. They imagine they would be top dogs. But I have met many. Bitches is the best they can hope for if the benign, liberal commons stops protecting them. More likely kibble.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Rand’s approach is easily torpedoed if one examines it as a moral system.

First of all, in case it's not clear, I'm not holding Ayn Rand up as any kind of ideal to follow. I use her an example to shoot down, not to hold up.

The problem she has few who support her. There is no consensus big enough to bring her system into our social (emergent) orders.

Hmmmm....., she may have few who support her, but some were/are well-placed enough to do damage. Alan Greenspan and Paul Ryan come immediately to mind.

I’m a big fan of markets, but I’ll baulk at anyone owing Reardon anything beyond a
simple trade. If I am made $1000 happier by some trade, that simply limits what I’ll offer in that trade to $1000.

This is why I cited her as an example of someone not believing in a positive sum game. Maybe it would have been more accurate to say "not believing in a win-win scenario". In her view, if Rearden Metal improved your well-being in excess of what you paid for it, then you have "stolen" something from its inventor. The positiveness of the sum all belongs to him.

To cite an example mentioned here a few weeks ago, if I pay $10 to have a pizza delivered, it's not enough that the pizza is worth exactly the same to me as the $10 bill is. Otherwise, why would I bother to go through the work of engaging in the trade--I might as well just keep the money instead. No, I buy a pizza for $10 because I'm better off with the pizza than I am with the money. And the pizzeria sells me the pizza for $10 because they're better off with the money than with the pizza. It's a true positive-sum game and win-win scenario. It's not that one party is outwitting the other--both parties have different values which work in synergy.

Rand seems to think people live their lives for 80 years or so going through the motions of breaking even, except for a few intellectual giants who actually produce value, and therefore earn value. She doesn't question why billions of people would do such a thing over and over again.

locumranch said...


Good points all, Molon Labe (translated as 'Come & Take Them', 'them' most commonly identified as defensive weapons, but generalizable to 'Might Makes Right') is perhaps more Jeffersonian, but Constitutional insomuch as Jefferson contributed much content to the US Constitution.

As documented in the US Declaration of Independence, Jefferson understood & knew that (1) Reason, Sufferance & Appeasement were the insidiously progressive precursors to Enslavement, (2) Revolution was not something to be taken lightly by the Reasonable, and (3) Repeated injuries & usurpations led directly to the establishment of Absolute Tyranny.

Most interestingly, the revolutionary justifications listed by Jefferson (then attributed to British Rule by King George) are near identical to those attributed to modern US Federalism by the Red State Libertarian wackos that you know so well, especially in regard to State Rights, Militarization & Immigration.

Check it out:



I agree that guilt by association is a ridiculous legal argument (IE. The Kochs & their Nazi nanny). Care to comment on the constitutionality of 'The Vanishing Trial' in US Jurisprudence?



Yes, of course, an Armed Society would have to expect collateral damage. Big Whoop.

(1) A Disarmed West already suffers from collateral damage because the western public can't defend itself; (2) We cannot expect Mercy from those who would hold our women & children hostage to compel our obedience; and, (3) You've already condemned countless women & children to certain death by choosing the 'Do Nothing' Nightmare Option.

Have you no conscience?



When they (whoever 'they' are) come & take whatever it is you value by force, maybe you can shame them afterwards (sousveillance) or file some sort of punitive writ in court (sueveillance?). That'll show 'em.



LarryHart said...



When they (whoever 'they' are) come & take whatever it is you value by force, maybe you can shame them afterwards (sousveillance) or file some sort of punitive writ in court (sueveillance?). That'll show 'em.

Locumranch, you keep predicting horrors that don't happen and acting as if you've been proven correct.

You can't wait for civilization to collapse so you can be proven right that we're all living in a state of war with each other in which only the strongest and most ruthless will prevail. But it keeps not happening.

LarryHart said...

Disarmed West already suffers from collateral damage because the western public can't defend itself;

What disarmed west? You're not including the United States in there, are you?

True, the delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland are forbidden to defend themselves with firearms. But no other Americans are. Not even terrorists or illegal aliens.

Robert said...

Collateral damage. Fancy words for "children lying dead in the streets." Fancy words for "wide-scale disruption of society." You want to see an example of collateral damage? Somalia and Syria are collateral damage that happens when society breaks down - to the point that Syria's government is only now viable thanks to Russia intervening. And the majority of Somalia is a prime example of "collateral damage" that happens when government breaks down.

You want to know what collateral damage is? Collateral damage is your wife (if you have one) and children (if you have them) not coming home one night because someone shot up their car when they were driving home, or someone blowing up your house because they want to get rid of you and use your property as a weapon.

Collateral damage. It means nothing until it is the people YOU know and people YOU care for. And all at once it stops being "collateral damage" and becomes people instead of statistics.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Guys leave him alone. He is full, capering-jibbering scream-opposites-to-true-until-I can-convince-myself mode.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: Heh. Let me help you out a bit here. The Declaration is a document intended to justify a revolution. It is not a useful document for determining how to govern the new nation that emerges. Recall that we tried ‘something different’ between the end of the revolution and the writing of our Constitution. It didn’t work. Documents that guide governance tend to be less revolutionary because they have to focus more on the positive and less on the negative. It is also useful to remember that Jefferson was more involved in the Declaration and less so in the Constitution. Jefferson was in France at the time of the convention.

Jefferson DID use some dark language that works well as revolutionary inspiration. I can understand its appeal to you. There are times I mutter about watering the tree of liberty by my own hand too. Fortunately, I haven’t gone fully whacko yet. My neighbors are in no danger of being axed by a mad man. I DO have the axe, but I like to think it is for family defense. 8)

The problem with ‘Molon Labe’ and the current ravings of ‘Red State wackos’ as you call them is they don’t have a revolutionary consensus today. There ARE people who are upset, but they aren’t ready to burn down cities. Check back in a decade and maybe they will be, but they are too early right now, thus they get interpreted as rabid dogs that have to be put down. Mmm… rabid squirrels might be a better match for some of them. Dogs can be scary. Can Kibble be rabid? 8)

I don’t mind individual beliefs some have regarding the dangers they see, but some of us think this civilization is the best thing since sliced bread. I’m willing to look at the dangers you point out, but I might not see them the way you do. I might agree on some stuff, but I might point to some of the people near you and argue they are filling your head with nonsense in order to use you like cannon fodder. Do you want to water the tree of liberty? Point to particular people doing particular immoral things and then we can have a discussion. Point to nebulous figments of our collective imagination and someone like me will avoid you because anger with no potential outlet damages the person experiencing it.

David Brin said...

Beyond incapability to contemplate positive sum outcomes - which comprise the sufficient and entirely necessary justification for otherwise indefensible capitalism, the other blind spots include...

1) 6000 years. The despised liberal society is the ONLY one that escaped the feudal-oppression trap-state. Hence a burden of proof falls on those who claim that it is the road to tyranny. Especially ungrateful dope wretches who rail that assertion while munching snacks while using tech marvels, ranting in utter confidence that they are safe and can say whatever they like.

(Including the hilarious assertion that THEY would be top dogs, if only that coddling liberal society vanished. Hoot!)

2) Talent waste - the entirely pragmatic justification for liberal extensions of inclusion, tolerance and opportunity. Entirely necessary and entirely sufficient and entirely free of the taint of being called "naively goody-goody." Prejudice wastes talent. Period. It is also the first refuge of cowards who don't want to compete on a level playing field. Duh.

3) The utter failure of their side of culture war, at prescribing and teaching methods to live well. The stunningly perfect list of almost every single metric of moral or healthy living outcomes that are not just worse, but vastly worse, almost across the board. And hence, utter rejection of "facts" and so-called "science."

4) The clearest rebuke... the exodus of nearly all the smart kids, every June, hurrying off to join urban-blue America as fast as their free and open-eyed and well-informed like souls and brains and feet can manage.

5) Decade after decade of being proved utterly wrong... about commies everywhere and flouridation in the 1950s. Cars don't cause smog. Tobacco is harmless. Industries can dump into streams! Women and minorities can't think! What Ozone Hole? Saddam is our pal. What climate change? Give all our money to the aristocracy and deficits will magically vanish! Weapons of Mass Destruction! Scientists and all the smartypants professions that know stuff are all, automatically fools!

I'll quit at 5... but you know I can go on. The thing about these five is that all of them aren't just valid points... they are so blatantly true that confeds won't even dispute them! They'll point offstage and yell "squirrel!"

This is NOT about conservatism, per se. There are plenty of versions of conservatism and libertarianism that are not suborned into confederate culture war madness. But the sane-modernist conservatives and libertarians need to wake up and realize that sucking up to plantation lords has never worked.

locumranch said...

Returning to the Official Narrative:

It's clear that a culturally-insensitive Larry_H owes a collaterally traumatised Rob_H an apology for denying the validity of Rob_H's emotional reaction to collateral "horrors that don't happen and acting as if (he's) been proven correct" in response to imaginary social breakdown & random attacks against soft (unarmed; defenseless) targets, including women & children, which may or may not have occurred at locales like Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Britain's Rotherham, Norway's Ut√łya, Connecticut's Sandy Hook, Kenya's Stephjoy Boarding School & Chicago USA, all of which may be dismissed as Non-Western except for possibly the Chicago Midwest.

I can also attest to Rob_H's assertions about collateral damage, at least as far as Chicago is concerned:

Once upon a time, I staffed Chicago ERs & sewed up countless assaults, stabbings & gunshots and discovered -- to my absolute horror -- that all of these frequently armed, aggressive, verbally abusive, be-tatted, drug dealing, needle-marked, gang sign flashing males with injuries were Innocent Victims/Collateral Damage (or so they claimed) who were just "Minding Their Own Business' when they were set upon by Random Scallywags & Prejudiced Police without any provocation whatsoever.

Of course, the 2015 release of Sousveillance Video has proven the Widespread Innocence of those victimised by Prejudiced Police and forced the Chicago PD to disengage & mend its Racist Ways, leading to the a 76% to 88% INCREASE in 2016 Chicagoland Murder, Shootings, Mayhem & Unavoidable Collateral Damage Rates in just a 3 month period:

Mmmmm !! That's some Good Sarcasm there.

But, in all seriousness, an often contrary, defiant & libertarian David -- who remembers his history of purges, pogroms & diasporas and trains his offspring to defend themselves against potential assault -- has already self-identified as the 'Molon Labe' type, although he is loathe to admit it (now) when Molon Labe has been so successfully stereotyped as Waco Wackiness.


David Brin said...

Har! I predicted "squirrel!" And lo, not a single one of the five is addressed. Instead...racism-tinged anecdotes that amount to... "SQUIRREL!"

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - "My current party registration is a product of laziness, since CA adopted the best election laws in the nation, and party registration stopped mattering."
When I realized that what was intended as a playful nudge might be taken as a screech of judgment, I considered retracting the remark. That said, well, Bloomberg proves there's at least two smart Republicans left in the world (I'll give credit to Powell too, even though I still think he had his heart a little broken by a party that abused an honorable man).

But as for the complete misreading, I was responding to a piece of what you'd written here -

"In the long run, what all this proves is that we will never be able to base our safety and freedom on some illusion that others do not know something. Concealment may have practical aspects, here and now, but its sanctuary is temporary, at best and ultimately delusional."

Most of the time, the way to defend a secret cache is to zealously guard pieces underlying the methodology of opening it. We invent new ways of hiding, and new ways of discovering the hidden, and new ways of hiding in the face of the inventions - a perpetual arms race. Encryption/deencryption is but one aspect of a race that goes back as long as chemical camouflage enabled certain bacteria to fight off certain viruses. It does not seem likely that transparency about 99% will facilitate opacity for 1% of the data - rather, it would paint a target on whatever is sealed for whoever wished to test their ingenuity against whoever locked it away. Bloody tomb raiders and whatnot.

The more transparent the world becomes, the more secrecy will be "valued" (literally, or better still, monetized). The right algorithm monitoring the right data can transfer billions of dollars in fractions of a second to exploit meaning once a truth is disclosed (the precise reason Bloomberg is a billionaire). But before disclosure, others can set the stage, and arbitrage many billions themselves. The illusion that others do not know something is critical to some of the largest values - and equally critical to smaller matters in many cases.

donzelion said...

@Locum: "I agree that guilt by association is a ridiculous legal argument (IE. The Kochs & their Nazi nanny). Care to comment on the constitutionality of 'The Vanishing Trial' in US Jurisprudence?"

The stats in question reference a drop from the 1960s to the 2000s in the number of federal trials. The explanation is simple: Republican Presidents. The growth of federal litigation in the 1940s - 60s owes much to resolving the implications of the New Deal, the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War - at each stage, courts played a major role in the change. Republicans hated that sort of 'activism' (and embraced their own activism - which is why Ted Cruz is still running for President - they never really bought their own putative doctrine).

Alfred Differ said...

Good sized squirrel indeed. It's as if we are supposed to respond emotionally to the ER story and conclude all the people he DIDN'T see and stitch up had to be just as bad. Obviously the whole of civilization is in that hand basket being delivered to a nether world.

Heh. That bit about how the next generation of Brins has been trained is a good squirrel too. I suppose it is intended to provoke a fatherly, emotional response. Weakly delivered.

The thing I remember most about squirrels is they are pretty easy to shoot. One scout master fed us one once. Bang. Easy. He didn't want us playing with the gun, though. Wonder why.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: As I understand it, the argument for lots of transparency protecting a few secrets goes like this. If we both know what the other is up to most of the time, we'll notice when the other goes for one of our caches. If you agree not to go for mine, I'll reciprocate IF I can verify your compliance. You might do the same. If you cheat me, of course I'll cheat you and we get that part of the prisoner's dilemma game. If you don't, we get the other part, right? Not quite. This is actually the repeating version of it because each day is a new game. The Repeating Prisoner's Dilemma resolves pretty quickly because cheaters get ejected from the game. Non-cheaters won't play with them.

Alfred Differ said...

Side political note: For the first time ever the Democrats showed up at my door to see if they could get me to re-register as one of them (I used to be is what I told them) or if they could sway my vote. In California, they have things pretty well sealed up so they don't really need my vote, but they DID drop by to ask. I think that bodes well for them regarding down ticket races in my area.

They weren't pitching Sanders or Clinton. They were concerned with finding Trump supporters. Neat to see it happening. 8)

Paul451 said...

Drunk uncle Donald:

locumranch said...

David is correct: I have failed to communicate that which I have intended and, in failure, I have resorted to figurative language, analogy, colorful metaphor & bombast.

With your indulgence, I will backtrack to reference what Jefferson knew, Alfred suspects & David rejects: What is reasonable is not necessarily logical.

For the record, let me state that 'Molon Labe' defiance is unreasonable by definition because the reasonable individual compromises, appeases, avoids conflict, plays it safe, performs cost/benefit analysis, accepts consensus, takes the good with the bad, bows to greater power & authority, knows that part of loaf is better than no loaf at all, prefers submission to death & values civil collectivism over autonomy.

However, Molon Labe is logical in the sense that it is a valid conclusion drawn from a formal set of premises without reference to meaning or context, especially if those initial premises preclude failure or surrender, emphasize classical masculine virtue, value strength & persistence over weakness, postulate freedom as an absolute good and reject submission as a moral evil, giving birth to a Spartan sentiment that Zapata paraphrased as "I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees".

The revolutionary Molon Labe mindset (which is by definition 'unreasonable') has led to great & improbable human accomplishment -- including an Enlightened West, Space Travel & what David likes to term 'the rejection of failure mode' -- the problem being that this unreasonable magnificence is incompatible with a Transparent Society that seeks to 'play it safe' by identifying & pacifying its statistical outliers.

It all comes back to initial premise:

Transparency advocates Reason, its purpose being to identify 'cheating' (whatever that means), expose antisocial behaviour, eliminate autonomy, minimise risk, advocate collectivism & promote consensus at any cost, even if it means legislated mediocrity, appeasement, compromise, submission & an eternity spent on one's knees as a veritable slave.

You'd expect a Contrarian to know this.


I assure you that those activities that tend to lead to the ER -- irresponsibility, drug abuse & gang culture -- are Equal Opportunity Destroyers. I find it fascinating, though, how quick the PC are to see the tinge of race in every criticism of undesirable behaviour, even when the issue of race is never addressed, which suggests that it is the PC individuals who self-identify as racists by seeing race everywhere.

David Brin said...

Oh no you don't! You complained that sousveillance of cops was causing a surge in ER violence and you know damn well you were referring to cops having to back off from gestapo tactics based on race.

Go back to those 5 bald facts, son. Till I see you actually acknowledge that there's much, much LESS tyrannical oppression in this liberal society than in any of the Mono Labe ones before it, you'll know how little credibility you have, here.

David Brin said...



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