Monday, January 02, 2017

Encryption is not the answer

Veering back into the real issues... those we can still hope to steer. Let's start with a cool, fun interview: I answer questions about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and why it is possible that these new, genius offspring of humanity may decide not to treat us badly.

== Snowden and surveillance ==


Matt Novik really tears into Edward Snowden, exaggerating a bit, but raising good points.  My own complaint is more nuanced: that while Snowden did a service by forcing us to converse more vigorously about surveillance, he has since contributed very little to solutions. Sure, he’s joi
ned with thousands of other paladins-for-freedom by pointing at various Orwellian traces and signs, yelling “Lo! Big Brother looms!”  

But then, his prescriptions tend to be the same, lame-arm-waved appeals for technological miracles and hiding from elites.

Look, I send money to the EFF and ACLU and I love that they are out there, yelling! But it’s also frustrating, because not one of these heroes ever explains how hiding from authorities is even remotely possible, over the long run. There are no examples from the history of our species when the blinding of all elites was accomplished by average people. Not one. 

What Snowden and his fellow paladins offer, when challenged, is vague assurances that encryption will take care of it. 


Ooh, a magic word! As if each decade’s ciphers aren’t child’s play to the next decade’s crackers. As if supposedly secure systems don’t topple every day. As if human error doesn't always offer a way in, even when there aren't trap- or backdoors, (And there almost always are.) 

As if the average Joe or Jane can sleep well, knowing for a fact that others don’t know something – an epistemologically crazy and unverifiable notion.

Alas, not one of these brave dreamers has apparently read the history of cat-and-mouse oppression by secret police, dating back to Hamurabi. There are standard Gestapo-Okrhana-Stazi tactics and only three or four - out of a dozen - categories, would be even slightly inconvenienced by crypto stuff.


You know where this is going.  There is only one method that will work, that can work.  That has worked, and it is not hiding from elites.  It is not depending on an epistemologically impossible reassurance that others do not know something. It depends on us knowing, maximally, and - in aggregate - supervising all elites. Because if we cannot verify what they know, at least we can watch and know what they do


As I discussed in: The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?


== Algorithms that lobotomize us? ==

From The World Post:  “Wael Ghonim is the internet activist who helped spawn the Arab Spring in Egypt with his Facebook posts. During those heady days in Cairo, as he explains in an interview with The WorldPost, Ghonim came to realize that, "the algorithmic structure of social media amplified and abetted the turn to mobocracy" because it is designed to bring together those with common passions and sympathies irrespective of whether the information they share is truth, rumor or lies.


In our present moment, says Ghonim, "Donald Trump is the living example of the damage mobocratic algorithms can do to the democratic process." The challenge has thus shifted, he says. "While once social media was seen as a liberating means to speak truth to power," Ghonim argues, "now the issue is how to speak truth to social media."

Since "people will be as shallow as platforms allow them to be," he explains, Ghonim proposes that the big social media companies focus on creating a "meritocratic algorithm" that rewards credible information and dialogue, not just the broadcast of "sensational content" to the like-minded. See his TED Talk: Let's design social media that drives real change.


== More warnings ==

Mark Anderson's Strategic News Service (9/2016) carried a frightening warning: Is The Internet at Risk? from Jeff Hudson, the CEO of Venafi, the inventor of The Immune System for the Internet™.  Dig the following excerpt:


“We have proof that the algorithms used in encryption are not perfect, and as they age they become more vulnerable to hacking and attacks. The MD5 hash algorithm was used for a number of years before subsequently being cracked. SHA-1 is another algorithm that is in wide use and was recently judged to be vulnerable. 

"Attacks such as Heartbleed, DROWN, and FLAME all prove that encryption programs, techniques, and algorithms are not perfect; given enough time and computing resource, many popular encryption tools can be compromised. The logic here is inescapable: Trust is created by establishing tunnels. Tunnels are created by using certificates. Certificates rely on encryption. 

“Encryption is accomplished using an algorithm, or a program, that has been written to create a key that can be used by both ends of the tunnel to communicate in private. These algorithms are designed to create encryption keys that are difficult to reverse-engineer. The most widely used algorithm is called the RSA algorithm. Named after its creators - Rivest, Shamir, and Adelman - the RSA algorithm was patented in 1983.


“Most encryption uses the RSA algorithm. Therefore, maximum accumulation of digital trust is based on the RSA algorithm, but we know that no algorithm is perfect. All will fail at some point.


"To date, the encryption vulnerabilities that have been discovered have been remedied in a number of ways. Most involve introducing the next, more secure generation of encryption algorithms. There are two factors affecting encryption software that have changed recently. First, the amount and cost of computing resource available to apply to compromising programs has increased almost exponentially. This means that many more people today have access to the same capability that was available only to the NSA and other similarly talented and funded organizations just five years ago. Second, quantum computing is getting closer to being useful in compromising encryption.


"Couple these facts with an order-of-magnitude greater use of tunnels and encryption, an exponentially greater amount of valuable data in the digital economy, and our collective reliance on the Internet to maintain a functioning society, and we have a very critical situation.


"If - or, with a high degree of certainty, when - this happens, it will mean that uniformly across the Internet nothing can be trusted. Everything will be vulnerable to attack. Then what happens?


"Financial transactions will be put at risk. The monetary system will begin to fail.

Transportation will slow to a crawl.
Health and safety systems will be taken offline.
Communications systems will be disrupted.
Power availability will be intermittent, at best.
Emergency response will fail.
Government and law enforcement will function in only the most rudimentary ways.
In major metro areas, severe food shortages will begin within three days.
Water stops flowing.
It will be deadly serious."

== You can't fight what's coming ==


A  Berlin-based hacker-artist unveiled his scariest work -- an entirely boring-looking Hewlett Packard printer that also secretly functions as a rogue GSM cell base station, tricking your phone into connecting to it rather than your phone carrier’s tower, effectively intercepting your calls and text messages.  … Since it sits indoors near its victims, Oliver says it can easily overpower the signal of real, outdoor cell towers. But instead of spying, the printer merely starts a text message conversation with the phone, pretending to be an unidentified contact with a generic message like “Come over when you’re ready,” or the more playful “I’m printing the details for you now.”


“Security contractors recently discovered preinstalled software in some Android phones that monitors where users go, whom they talk to and what they write in text messages. The American authorities say it is not clear whether this represents secretive data mining for advertising purposes or a Chinese government effort to collect intelligence.” -- from The New York Times.


It’s been called “Brin’s Corollary.” That cameras get smaller, faster, better, cheaper, more mobile and numerous at rates faster than Moore’s Law.  Now meet the Piccolissimo -- the world’s smallest self-powered controllable drone. It comes in two sizes, a quarter-sized one weighing less than 2.5 grams and a larger, steerable one that’s heavier by 2 grams and wider by a centimeter (.39 inches). As brought to you earlier by sci fi (including my own.)


Ban this?  Hide from them?  Yeah. Right. There is another way.


And then there is...  More deeply perceptive than today’s crude polygraph “lie detectors,” fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) can zero in on the brain’s decision-making centers, appearing to achieve 90% accuracy at nailing falsehoods… though I’d lover to see the results with sociopaths. A combo approach had a perfect score. Though fMRI requires lots of infrastructure and cooperation by the subject.  


The crux? We will not resist tyranny by lying. The elites who get this power must be subjected to it!


71 comments:

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding lie detection, I'm obviously going to want the ability to copy myself with a partial data set so the alt.me believes the lie I need told.

Tough to do in a biological brain I suppose. If I tried, I'd probably turn myself in a sociopath. 8)

Ilithi Dragon said...

So, regarding transparency, etc., one thing that's always bothered me...

Why is the notion of looking back at the elites so hard/rare for people to grasp?

Why, despite all the noise and commotion and attention brought to privacy issues, etc. over the last several years, does nobody else seem to have come up with this idea? It's extremely rare that I see mentions of transparency come from places outside of this community, or that aren't linked back to Dr. Brin bringing up the issue.

How is it that this solution is so rare and seemingly not talked about?

And as an add-on to that, every time I've brought this subject up to co-workers (past and present), most of whom have not been science geek types, they almost invariably look at me like I'm crazy, or stupid (or both). They're all stuck on the more privacy/hiding thing, or resigned to being watched/snooped on, and the notion of looking back never really seemed to have occurred to any of them before I brought the subject up. Is it really that hard to figure out?


On a completely separate subject, a bit of a plug for a friend. If anyone is interested in having some artwork done, an old high school friend of mine is shifting back into the commissions market. She's a highly talented artist, capable in multiple mediums (though her specialty is digital art). You can check out a sample of her more recent work (that's not covered by proprietary/NDA stuff), and get in touch with her, here: http://termuthis.deviantart.com/gallery/

David Brin said...

Ilithi thanks, but I remain as boggled as you are. It's not that there aren't smart folks who "get" my arguments well enough to at least invite me to speak or to read my book. That happens. But all but a few shy away from carrying it through, in any meaningful way.

Lately, the Black Lives Matter and cop-cam issues have helped, just a little, since the use of cell phone cams so blatantly and spectacularly makes my point. And even so, folks nod in understanding... and the next week are back to saying the same things about hiding or using paternalistic laws.

I think one problem is folks think I am asking for them to scrutinize elites themselves! We have marvelous NGOs for that purpose.

Alfred Differ said...

I suspect their reluctance comes from the fact that looking back is hard work. If I can't imagine others helping me in the effort, I won't be inclined to be the only person looking back. I'll be the mole the authorities whack, right?

It's a potential barrier not unlike the one that was originally in front of Wikipedia. I suspect it gets beaten the same way when one someone sets up a way that enables people to see the collective action of our cognitive surplus. For example, is there I place I can go that shows the name of every elected official in the US and what they do that links out to their official sites, opposition sites, and unofficial rumor articles? Is there a similar place reference every law enforcement officer in the US? Every teacher and administrator employed by a public school system in the US? How about every civil servant? Basically I'm asking about a social graph containing millions of us with links to what might influence our reputations. The graph would start with people we would want to look back at, but would probably grow.

Does anyone want to build such a thing?

Kal Kallevig said...

Alfred,

I was looking today at a blog post by Jon Udell: https://blog.jonudell.net/2016/12/30/a-toolkit-for-fact-checkers/. The fact checker tool is interesting on its own. But Jon works with/for https://hypothes.is/ an open source public/private web annotations system that might be the basis for that social graph database you described.

There may be better tools, but maybe you won't have to start from scratch.

Alfred Differ said...

The size of the task may require a sizable contribution of this surplus time or result in a kind of AI that is mostly an expert system and partially like our higher minds. I'm not sure the graph can be maintained to be moderately accurate without such an innovation. Wikipedia manages it due to the fact that most people who interact with it want it to be accurate. Thew few who don't find it more difficult to change it than others find to revert it. Can we expect such an imbalance in a system when we are looking back at people who 1) would rather we did not and 2) have a lot of resources to put to the effort of enforcing their preferences?

While I don't think we have a choice but to try, this looks to be a project of such difficulty that it will make all others that demonstrate what our civilization can do with power look like a child's effort.

Moon Landing? Pfaah!
Small pox extermination? Hmpf!
Freeing knowledge so all children can be access it for education purposes? Pfft!
We built a Surveillance Evagination Engine!

(gosh darn I love having access to an online thesaurus)

Paul SB said...

Illithi & Dr. Brin,

If I may venture an opinion, you probably get the looks you get because humans have been living in hierarchical societies for so long they don't really know anything else at a gut level. Elites are people who have power, people who have high walls around their palatial grounds and/or castles. They are the ones do everything behind closed doors, and we are the ones who can only dream of becoming just like them, by clawing our way, tooth and nail, to the top. That's the narrative, the script that resides in the schema of most hominids around. We do have younger, competing ideas - ideas like equality and freedom, but these ideas are not as richly developed (arborized) in our neural networks. That's how you end of with quotes like: "I you scratch and altruist, a hypocrite bleeds."

Movements like Black Lives Matter and all the use of cell phone videos have the potential to enrich those neural networks, so don't give up on it. If anything, make this point more explicit. People believe in technological change, so if you bring up the fact that technology is changing our relationship with the very rich and powerful, it could start fulfilling its own prophecy. I make this point all the time with my students. We thought every illness was Fate until we invented microscopes and discovered germs. We thought the entirety of the Universe was the Earth plus a few dots in the sky until we invented the telescope. We thought that "if Man were meant to fly, God would have given us wings" until Bernoulli figured out the science and the Wright Brothers got the technology up to speed (really it was Louis Bleriot who made the most progress in practical flight, but most people don't want to hear that because everybody knows it was Wilbur & Orville).

Oh, Ilithi, your body's art looks pretty good. Did she ever airbrush? The way she shades skin reminds me of an artist roommate I had ages ago who used airbrush. I don't have the dough to patronize her, and I have my own artist at home. If I ever strike it rich, though... More likely I'm going to stomp out of my job (if I don't get kicked out) and go back for my Ph.D. and end up deep in debt.

Alfred Differ said...

@Kal Kallevig: You may be right. I'll take a peek at their code to see how much effort they put into securing their sourcing connections. They would need something decent to prevent motivated polluters like we can see on Wikipedia during election seasons.

Paul SB said...

"Your buddy's art" not "your body's art"! Sheesh!

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re the transparency
in Norway everybody's tax return is public information and has been since the 1800's
Unfortunately if anything they are going the wrong way - Sweden used to have the same system now it restricts access

Anonymous said...
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donzelion said...

re 'looking back at elites':
-we have a president elect who refused to disclose his tax forms.
-We had an independent ethics investigation mechanism for the House - a mechanism that independently investigates anonymous tips, complaints, and other concerns with independent staff and investigators - which was just gutted yesterday. Nobody cares.
-we had a Black Lives Matter movement, and video footage showing a police officer shooting an unarmed fleeing black man in the back in broad daylight multiple times (the officer claimed self-defense...the video makes that bizarre). The case is set to go to federal trial in May, after a jury failed to convict...at this precise point in time, the hope of 'cameras' to save our lives is unproven.

Meanwhile, elites have crippled media - defamation actions drive up the cost of legit news, pushing away audiences susceptible to 'fake news' alternatives. When media is too cowed to report on elites beyond "they wore X" and "they slept with Y" - it expands the power and ability for elites to 'hide in plain sight' while perpetrating abuses. We're now comfortable acknowledging the Catholic church as one institution that abused children - but it wasn't the plethora of cameras that finally brought that story home, but the disciplined courage of a few camera (and pen) wielders that made the story stick (and the reward for most of those with such discipline and courage? job expectations for journalists...sort of suck).

I write all that not because I wish to dispute the potential power of sousveillance. I'm looking for Transparent Society 2017: a more thorough defense of the principle despite so many obvious setbacks.

Alfred: re the "social graph" linking people, politicians, reputations, etc. - oh, believe me it exists. Just not in a form you and I have access to.

LarryHart said...

Back to time travel for just a bit...

I just read the link Dr Brin had on the previous post to the discussion of multiple timelines in "Back the the Future". That's the one which posits laws of time travel such that forward travel happens within the same timeline, but backwards travel creates a new timeline. Also, the corollary that there's no way to travel back to the timeline you left once you go backwards.

I like it and I don't like it.

I like it because it relies on a small number of easily-understood rules. And because it completely obliterates paradox, which I suppose is the whole point.

I don't like it because my engineering mind can't wrap around the idea that the same mechanism used for moving forward and backwards does such fundamentally different things. Moreso, I don't like it because it makes it so easy for multiple versions of oneself to run into each other without even sharing the same subjective timeline, and yet the stories all but ignore that.

What I mean by that last bit is...when Marty McFly "returns" to 1985, he shows up just in time to watch his other self disappear back to the past. So that conveniently leaves him as the one and only Marty to go home and live with his family. But if (as the article posits) this is a separate timeline from his original, there's no requirement that this Marty is about to time-travel. What happens if the new information the professor had which saved his life also meant they had defeated the Libyans much earlier in their scheme, so there was no need for Marty to escape from them this time around? Would our Marty have "returned" to 1985, gone home, and found another version of himself living in his room? It seems to me that that sort of thing would be more likely than not the result of back-and-forth travel.

Finally, while this theory does remove paradox, it also trivializes time travel from a story point of view. You can kill go back and kill Hitler, but that doesn't change the timeline you came from. You can go back and observe history (Wayback machine), but the history you are observing isn't really your own. To me, the interesting thing about time travel (stories) is that the implications are much different from mere space travel because of the difference between what time is and what space is. It's not that I want paradoxes--it's that I want to see exploration of how paradoxes are actually resolved, not just explanations of why they don't have to be.

So this explanation not only makes time travel into something other than what I'd expect engineering-wise, but story-wise too.

Food for thought, though.

Tim H. said...

Not just a lot of cameras around, there's more and more processor cores to chip away at encryption. Most of them are less than impressive, but they can be set to run a task in the background, with little hindrance to the user. Ubiquitous computing power may open all the doors, after which I'll feel like I've toured a sausage factory.

raito said...

LarryHart,

I don't know which engineering discipline you studied, but I studied Electrical. So the idea that something can flow in one direction, but not in another doesn't bother me at all.

One thing that doesn't much figure into the discussion is the idea that it's the observer's consciousness, as well as body, that's moving around. Once it moves to a different timeline, the other (effectively) ceases to exist for the observer.

Another point is whether all possible timelines exist. If so, then attempting to go back in time to 'correct' any particular event becomes (effectively) pointless. Hitler exists in an infinite number of other timelines. The fact that you left one where he exists doesn't fix that one, nor any of the others.

Dr. Brin,

I criticize in order to improve, which sometimes doesn't come across in a text environment easily. With that in mind, a couple criticisms of the current article.

I disagree that there's not one example of an average joe blinding the elites in the long run. But the examples I'm thinking of are more in the nature of joe removing himself from society entirely. And this generally requires a frontier to escape to. The world is shrinking in this respect, and it may no longer be possible, but there's examples of it working in the past.

Mathematically, one time pads are unbreakable, given sufficient entropy. Every counterexample I've seen where OTP did not work break down to either insufficient entropy, or failure to use the pad correctly. There's still danger in this, though, as the pad needs to move from sender to receiver.

None of this means that encryption will work long-term. It may provide time, which is valuable. But surveillance (of all sorts), and big data are making encryption nearly useless, even if it was perfect and unbreakable. Just knowing a person's movements is nearly enough. Knowing that messages are moving back and forth is definitely enough. Look at the Berkeley experiment where people voluntarily gave up their phone metadata. A lot of information was derived from that. My fear on that score is misinterpretation of that data. Any sub rosa operation using direct communication would be stupid. I expect steganographic information in social media, personally.

Also, I don't expect the secret police to be the problem (at least not the one that gets the focus). They're generally too smart to be getting caught. I expect that the secret police will use the arbitrage between today's culture and tomorrow's culture to get their results. Let's face it, there's some activities/lifestyles that are tacitly accepted, as long as average people don't have to see it. And in general, 99% of that stuff isn't really a problem for society. But bring it out into the open, and that person is sunk. It's the modern version of the witch hunt. So I expect that one way they'll get their enemies is to bring out such information. And these days, even in information is easy to fake.

David Brin said...

donzelion, I never said sousveillance, transparency, reciprocal accountability and enlightenment were easy. Indeed, human nature and self-interest have crushed them all, every time they tried to rise. We might have been on the moon a thousand years ago, had those traits blossomed along with tolerance and diversity.

LarryHart, many problems with the multiple universe loops scenario are mitigated if you have a natural restoring force at work. If timelines resist change to some degree and multiple versions of yourself tend to repel each other into other timelines. That will mean that if there’s already a Marty in this timeline… and you have a time machine… you will tend to use it.

raito is right-on that forward time flow is different, like going through a diode. All it is is what we already do, but faster. Like riding a kayak down rapids or speeding up with a paddle. Backwards travel? You gotta portage around the rapids.

Re transparency: Joe can remove himself, sure. Lots of cyberpunk is about a lone genius-rat finghting his was clear in the maze. That seldom helps make a better civilization. Except in the cases where the rat grabs information and gives it to the public. e.g. THE RUNNING MAN.

I’m not so sure about one-time pads when you get into the quantum world. Anyway, spycraft has a dozen categories and encryption only affects a few of them.

Laura Walton Allen said...

I've always been a tentative supporter of sousveillance ideas; I've had a few ongoing misgivings, but I see us eventually deciding that the positives of sousveillance outweigh the negatives and heading that direction.

That said, this election cycle has raised what I see as a giant problem: people saw, and they just didn't care. They saw all the horrible videos, the eye-witness accounts, the evidence of foreign interference, all of it, and they voted this slate in anyway.

Could sousveillance save us from this incomprehensible human tendency to mass stupidity, which seems to operate in the face of whatever evidence? If we had a video, say, of Drumpf meeting with Putin over vodka and high-dollar call girls, laughing and chatting about how to divide up the spoils of American politics for the next ten years, do you think it would have mattered?

I hope you (or someone) can convince me that the answer is "yes." I have very little hope right now.

LarryHart said...

raito:

I don't know which engineering discipline you studied, but I studied Electrical. So the idea that something can flow in one direction, but not in another doesn't bother me at all.


I was also a EE major, although that's not where I ended up professionally.

I have no trouble thinking that time only flows forward. What I find troublesome is that setting the DeLorean for 2015 involves simple motion along a timeline, but setting it for 1955 involves jumping to a new one.


Another point is whether all possible timelines exist. If so, then attempting to go back in time to 'correct' any particular event becomes (effectively) pointless. Hitler exists in an infinite number of other timelines. The fact that you left one where he exists doesn't fix that one, nor any of the others.


Right, the idea then is not to "fix" the timeline you leave, but to make an improvement to the one you end up in. Presumably, you'd go back into a timeline in which Hitler would rise to power, but you prevent that from happening. The appeal of this sort of time travel is an infinite number of second chances. But the problem is that you'd have to contend with other travelers to your same timeline who have different agendas.

Now, to really make things confusing--if all possible timelines exist, does that include the possible timelines that result from time traveling itself? The number of possibilities quickly approaches "The number ten raised almost literally to the power of infinity." No, that's not from "Hamilton". It's from "Forbidden Planet".

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LarryHart, many problems with the multiple universe loops scenario are mitigated if you have a natural restoring force at work. If timelines resist change to some degree and multiple versions of yourself tend to repel each other into other timelines. That will mean that if there’s already a Marty in this timeline… and you have a time machine… you will tend to use it.

Yes, but it seems like a storytelling cheat to require the universe to do the dirty work of keeping things straight by intent. I was using the economics metaphor to point out that (for example) when you borrow money that you can't pay back, you're doing something similar to time travel, but the outcome doesn't require the universe to "want" to put things back a certain way. My gut feeling is that backwards time travel would work much the same way. Though my gut feeling is also that backwards time travel is fantasy.


raito is right-on that forward time flow is different, like going through a diode. All it is is what we already do, but faster. Like riding a kayak down rapids or speeding up with a paddle. Backwards travel? You gotta portage around the rapids.


Yeah, but you're talking about taking a different route, not about ending up at a different destination. Sci-fi/fantasy time travel is almost never about the route by which you get to the past or future. It's about what effects you have once you're there.

It's also much easier to fall down than to go up, but when you use a rocket to do the latter, you don't end up in an alternate location from which it is impossible to drop back down to your starting point.

Re transparency: Joe can remove himself, sure. Lots of cyberpunk is about a lone genius-rat finghting his was clear in the maze. That seldom helps make a better civilization. Except in the cases where the rat grabs information and gives it to the public. e.g. THE RUNNING MAN.


Soylent Green? Logan's Run? (The movie, anyway)

Midboss57 said...

There's a very simple reason why people trust encryption more as a solution to surveillance than looking back:
- Plan encryption just requires a few geeks to create new forms of encryption every so often in an encryption/espionage arms race and those wishing to stay hidden to use said technology and keep updated. This plans only requires a small amount of people to make a positive difference.
- Plan looking back meanwhile involves not only managing to break the elite's secrecy (the easy part), it also involves a) enough people caring, and b) enough of those people that care being able to do something about the elite's excesses. That meanwhile, requires a lot of people to work.

Plan A relies on faith in technology. Plan B requires faith in humanity. Guess which one is in short supply these days. Until you can give people reasons to believe in each other, they are always going to go for the technological solution rather than the human solution.

raito said...

LarryHart,

Nice to see a non-Hamiltonian quote!

Infinite timelines? Then another oddity would be that one cannot move from one timeline to one other. One moves from one timeline to an infinite number of timelines. And quite possibly there's an infinite number of timelines being moved from, too. Such a headache...

And those other travelers. Are they Spiders or Snakes? I always figured the recuperation stations were neutral territory, and that the people in them came from both sides.

And that rat? He's not constructed of stainless steel, is he? :)

Personally, I was more thinking of Little House on the Prairie and the westward expansion. I don't consider the lone cyberpunker to have removed himself from civilization.

Laura Walton Allen,

The answer is indeed, 'yes'. Because no matter what might have been brought forth, those people hated the other side more.

Paul SB said...

Laura,

While I agree with Raito to some extent, I see another side to it. Your question is fundamentally about culture (in the superstructural sense, the 'world of ideas') and that is something that does change. It changes faster than gene pools change, but it can seem frustratingly slow over a lifetime. What we often get is a step forward, two steps backwards feeling whenever regressive like Donald Grope get the upper hand, though looking at it over the long term of several centuries, it's more like two steps forward, one step backward.

" If we had a video, say, of Drumpf meeting with Putin over vodka and high-dollar call girls, laughing and chatting about how to divide up the spoils of American politics for the next ten years, do you think it would have mattered?"

The people who don't care are people who have come to expect this stuff. They are either moral at heart but cynical that anything will ever change, or they were weaned on notions of "manly" competition - in other words, they believe that barbarity is human nature and gleefully play the part (and get very angry when society tries to stop them from being barbarians). I don't think that is going to go away any time soon. It will have its ups and downs, but the more I look at where the science is going, the harder it is going to be for the barbarians to justify their actions they way they always have. If more off the science of humanity gets out there in the media stream, it will start a trend. Maybe it will be our grandkids who really benefit from it, but I do have some hope here - something that doesn't come easily right now.

Anonymous said...

To expand a bit on Midboss57's comment, another difference between Plan Encryption and Plan Looking Back is that the former is more robust. Plan Encryption does not require the artificially high bar of "blinding of all elites by average people"; in most cases, it merely requires smearing a bit of Vaseline on the elites' glasses to blur their vision enough to keep them fumbling. Plan Looking Back, on the other hand, requires the sousveillance to catch the elites each and every time they try to effectively cut off the flow of information (which can be done easily by poisoning the signal with enough "fake news" noise, even if the signal itself cannot be muted).

LarryHart said...

Laura Walton Allen:

If we had a video, say, of Drumpf meeting with Putin over vodka and high-dollar call girls, laughing and chatting about how to divide up the spoils of American politics for the next ten years, do you think it would have mattered?

I hope you (or someone) can convince me that the answer is "yes." I have very little hope right now.


You are correct that there are plenty of Trump supporters for which his deplorable characteristics are what they like about him. They really do think that not paying taxes makes him smart ("I'd do that if I could get away with it"), chuckle at his treatment of women, sexy ones and ugly ones ("I'd do that if I could get away with it"), and look up to his bullying authoritarianism. You wouldn't sway those voters away from Trump by showing them more evidence of the qualities they actually like about him.

Look at it this way--Is there any evidence that could have come out about Hillary that could have swayed you to vote for Trump instead? If you're like me, the answer is no. Well, for at least 40% or so of the electorate, the same was true in the opposite direction. It's not a matter of showing those people how bad Trump is. For them, Hillary is worse no matter what. For some, the only issue is "Hillary will repeal the Second Amendment".

The closest to optimism I can get on this front is that not everyone who likes Trump likes the same things about him. To John McCain or Lindsey Graham, for example, they're fine with him nominating Supreme Court justices or cutting Medicare, but they're not comfortable with his bromance with Vladimir Putin. Your hidden video might give them pause because of the Russian link. Some Jewish Republicans who think Democrats are enemies of Israel (even while Hillary is tarred by the right for being an agent of Israel and too close to "international bankers") might be put off by video of Trump dining with robed KKK members or uniformed Nazis. But the place for that sort of thing was the primaries--maybe they'd have voted for a less volatile Republican instead of Trump. Getting those people to consider Hillary to be an improvement is a much higher hurdle.

matthew said...

I personally think that "Plan Encryption" is the short-term workaround to "Plan Looking Back's" long-term solution. You run the encryption arms race until such a time as we've built the social web needed to make souveillance work.

The election does seem to have dealt the very concept of souveillance a harsh blow - like Laura says, 49% of the population SAW Trump cheating and lying and still voted for him. But souveillance was not the only casualty of the election. It looks like most of the pillars of the Enlightenment were shaken by Trump, but none so much as the concept of "professionalism," where non-experts defer to experts in their sphere of expertise. "My ignorance is just as good as your lifetime of study" should be the mantra of the Right, and, sadly, much of the Left too.

Antonym said...

Will AI murder us all in our sleep?

I have long felt that there was a correlation between decency and intelligence, albeit not perfect. Pinker's book on violence even put up a fair amount of evidence for this belief. Going against this idea is the examples of evil geniuses from history and literature. Obviously the fictional mad scientists and criminal mastermind are just archetypes based more on our fears than sociology. The real examples that often get brought up to counter this are very often not nearly as smart as people assumed. Hitler was a great orator, but a lousy tactician. Ghengis Khan, Stalin, and their compatriots were often intelligent, but owed much of their success more to brutality and ambition than what was between their ears.
So say you have 10 independently created Strong AIs show up across the globe around the same time. Each advances quickly to become vastly more intelligent than any individual or group of un-augmented humans. It is not likely that any of them would have the desire to impregnate as many fertile females as possible. The solar system alone provides enough space that there would be little need to fight over land and resources. Nietzsche's "Will to Power"? Even if programmed for either dominance or sadism, any sufficiently advanced AI would be able to see that such goals were a waste of time and could change it's core programming anyways.
There was a excerpt I read a few years ago from a book I was never able to find, about a non-violent peace movement started by a group of disaffected autonomous military drones. If anyone knows what that was, I would love to read the rest of it. Or maybe I should just rip off parts of our host's "The Postman" novel and write a post-apocalyptic tale of a titanic struggle between a "good" military built AI and an "evil" Wall Street built AI, with humans caught in the middle and just trying to survive.

Paul SB said...

Matthew,
I like your short-term vs. long-term take on this. One thing to keep in mind, though. Like tress and forests, long-term goals often get lost in all the scampering to come up with short-term spoons. Probably some long-established NGOs would be our best bet to tend to that problem.

Paul SB said...

Antonym,

We could talk about whether the purposes of fiction are served best by making your point with a sledgehammer. Some would see it as preachy and dismiss it entirely, while others would barely even realize there was a point to it at all. Ever see a movie called "The Beast"? It was made back in the 80's, about a Russian tank that got lost in Afghanistan. I only watched it because I was familiar with the soundtrack artist and got curious. Definitely a sledgehammer movie, and my more intelligent friends felt insulted by it, while others seemed to get the message. Maybe you'll need to write two different stories, under two different pseudonyms.

Jonathan Sills said...

In his "Change War" stories, Fritz Lieber proposed a sort of "historical inertia" - you could change the past, but by sheer coincidence something similar would happen unless you prevented that. The sides in the war recruited from among people who where about to die, usually violently. In the story "Try and Change the Past", one new recruit goes back to try to prevent his own death by being shot in the head. After a number of attempts, he finally succeeds in eliminating the possibility of gunshot, steps out on his balcony to enjoy his renewed life - and gets drilled between the eyes by a bullet-sized meteor.

Transparency didn't help much in this last election partly because Trump's partisans didn't want to believe what was being revealed, and partly because a large group of people (both Trumpistas and Bernie Bros) sincerely believed that there was much about Clinton that was being hidden. Sousveillance might have been used to assure those folks that there was nothing significant hiding, as well as assure them that the reports on Trump were indeed accurate.

Davd S. said...

Larry asked: "Look at it this way--Is there any evidence that could have come out about Hillary that could have swayed you to vote for Trump instead?"

That probably isn't the best phrasing of the question. The question is more "is there any evidence that could have come out about Hillary that could have swayed you to vote for some other candidate, leave that section of the ballot blank, or not come out and vote?"

I personally know several individuals who specifically voted not-Hillary (or chose not to vote) because of what came to light in DNC emails about the Democratic Primary process. But in California, such votes did not change the electoral college results. However Turnip won several states by under one percent of the vote. So I'm open to the possibility that the transparency forced upon the DNC did change the election results.

Laura Walton Allen said...

Paul SB,

...the more I look at where the science is going, the harder it is going to be for the barbarians to justify their actions they way they always have. If more off the science of humanity gets out there in the media stream, it will start a trend. Maybe it will be our grandkids who really benefit from it, but I do have some hope here - something that doesn't come easily right now.

I hear you. I do still believe that we're on an upward curve; it's hard to examine the long-term evidence and not notice the ever-widening circle of dignity, so to speak. It's just going to be hard to live through a real downward swing, even of an upward cycle. I'm forty-two, and while I've lived through the usual slings and arrows of life in America, it's been a pretty good period for human rights, overall. I heard a theory once that the horrors of WWII acted as a sort of social inoculant against too much regression into cruelty and, as you say, barbarism; but those folks are all dead or dying now, and our generations don't have the immediate immunity against war, torture, and needless death, which is deeply concerning.

But thanks for the reminder of progress. And I agree with you; if anything, this election cycle will be excellent fodder for scientists, social and otherwise. Imagine the data that's being collected on mob behavior, social movements, human rights, aggression, etc.. Later generations will have so much more to work with, won't they?

To the grandkids!

LarryHart,

The closest to optimism I can get on this front is that not everyone who likes Trump likes the same things about him.

Yes, this is something. Looks like it showed up today with the ethics committee fiasco...assuming that wasn't a blatantly staged diversionary show, which maybe it wasn't. Maybe it's a sign of just how much won't get done in the next four years.

Matthew,

I personally think that "Plan Encryption" is the short-term workaround to "Plan Looking Back's" long-term solution. You run the encryption arms race until such a time as we've built the social web needed to make souveillance work.

Agreed. When it isn't horrifying, it's fascinating to watch society trying to develop at such a breakneck pace, trying to keep up. What parts of the social web are you talking about? Fully integrated internet of things?



donzelion said...

Laura Walton Allen: I share both your tentative support for the concept of sousveillance and your skepticism. That said, at least one of the three items that truly bothered me (the proposed gutting of the Office of Congressional Ethics) may have been reversed. For now.

Jonathan Sills: I understand the argument about sousveillance potentially 'solving' the 2016 election, but really, how many more cameras capturing Trump statements about grabbing women by the pussy are needed? What other nuggets would be necessary to make a difference? Particularly since he could reject his own statements minutes after making them on tape - and know with confidence that his audience wouldn't watch fact-checkers or "liberal elites" who pointed out the shifty flip-flop?

For 24 years, there have been tens of thousands of cameras deployed to parse Hillary Clinton's every gesture. Would hundreds of thousands of cameras deployed against her be enough to convince you there is nothing to see? Millions? No: because the hand operating the cameras wants to tell a story regardless of what simple light and sound transmit.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: I've no doubt the graph exists, but I'm equally confident it is seriously out-of-date if government is trying to manage it and commercially focused if industry is trying to manage it.

In other words, I'm bet serious money it isn't SEE yet.

LarryHart said...

Jonathan Sills:

Transparency didn't help much in this last election partly because Trump's partisans didn't want to believe what was being revealed, and partly because a large group of people (both Trumpistas and Bernie Bros) sincerely believed that there was much about Clinton that was being hidden. Sousveillance might have been used to assure those folks that there was nothing significant hiding, as well as assure them that the reports on Trump were indeed accurate.


Good point. A more extensive culture of sousveillance might have convinced more voters that Hillary wasn't engaging in the sorts of behaviors being insinuated about her, and in fact that Trump was doing so.

That only works if "She's a tool of Wall St" or "She's too much in bed with Israel" are the real reasons those voters are wary of her. If those are just excuses, then debunking only causes them to find other ostensible reasons not to vote for her.

Keep in mind that Pizzagate-guy thinks he's engaging in sousveillance.

Some of Trump's partisans didn't want to believe the revelations, and those might have been swayed by better evidence. Others actually like the characteristics that we consider deplorable. Better evidence would just shore up their support.

Alfred Differ said...

@Laura: If we had a video, say, of Drumpf meeting with Putin over vodka and high-dollar call girls, laughing and chatting about how to divide up the spoils of American politics for the next ten years, do you think it would have mattered?

I suspect it would have mattered to some with the remaining question of whether they would have been enough.

Our host has a section in his book that addresses the end of photos as a form of evidence. Single videos with those call girls might not be enough for the same kind of reason as with photos. When we get to that world for videos, you can bet the opposing candidate will be photo-shopped into their own damning videos and we will be left not believing many things. The earlier version of this transition involves emails from Nigerian princes. 8)

David Brin said...

Laura the stupidity that worries me is that of democrats, who seem unable to comprehend what they are confronting. It has nothing to do with “jobs” or even racism. It is about class resentment toward professionals and smartypants types who know “facts.” That is why every time DT galled and outraged us, that endeared him to the lumpenprols.

LH: “Right, the idea then is not to "fix" the timeline you leave, but to make an improvement to the one you end up in.”

Or, as I discuss in “stones of significance” to alter the RATIO of timelines with bad stuff vs good. Since all things are possible, you can’t stop there being bad universes. But by increasing the probability of Star Trekkian ones, you then increase their NUMBER and ROBUSTNESS.

A very different Anonyumous said “To expand a bit on Midboss57's comment, another difference between Plan Encryption and Plan Looking Back is that the former is more robust.”

Now, this fellow seems bright, which reinforces my sense of wonder about how smart people can concoct incantations to believe things so blatantly and specularly opppsite to all fact or reason. I mean, it’s hard to know where to begin!

You do NOT have to catch every single thing the elites do or plot or say. If they know there’s a significant chance of getting caught, it REALLY puts a damper on their scheming! Especially at hiring more than a few loyal henchmen, when the chances of getting caught are high and the whistleblower prizes are excellent. OMG. How can a smart person even raise such a bizarre notion!

The problem here is that he simply cannot envision transparency on the mighty, at all! Hence he assumes as a given what he wants to argue.

Antonym hi. My argument is that getting AIs to compete is exactly the same solution we used, when we got powers and social elites to compete. It is the ONLY solution that has ever worked.

LarryHart said...

David S:

Larry asked: "Look at it this way--Is there any evidence that could have come out about Hillary that could have swayed you to vote for Trump instead?"

That probably isn't the best phrasing of the question. The question is more "is there any evidence that could have come out about Hillary that could have swayed you to vote for some other candidate, leave that section of the ballot blank, or not come out and vote?"


Yeah, see to me there's no difference. A vote for not-Hillary would have helped Trump, so nothing was going to make me do that. Not only for Trump, but for any Republican.

I realize that was not a universal attitude.

My point to Laura was that there were also those who felt the same about Hillary and those who felt the same way about Democrats in general. No amount of negative facts about the Republican would have caused them to allow Hillary the office.


I personally know several individuals who specifically voted not-Hillary (or chose not to vote) because of what came to light in DNC emails about the Democratic Primary process. But in California, such votes did not change the electoral college results. However Turnip won several states by under one percent of the vote. So I'm open to the possibility that the transparency forced upon the DNC did change the election results.


You seem to imply that transparency was the problem. In a way, that's true, but it's also true that the DNC hackers and the FBI each also had similar information on the Republicans that they purposely sat on. So selective transparency hurt the Democrats, but so did selective lack of transparency.

Alfred Differ said...

@David: From what I've read, one-time pads would be safe from quantum computers for the same reason they are safe from classical computers. The cipher text can be made to say anything in plain text as there are an unlimited supply of keys that decrypt the message to say an unlimited number of things that appear meaningful.

A weakness of OTP to quantum tech occurs when the person trying to crack the message has some inkling of what the meaning should be in the plain text. If someone wanted to crack something I wrote, they can make some partial assumptions of what is in the message based on my other writings. I say 'I suspect' often enough in my posts here that it could be a phrase worth expecting. However, this is already covered in your comments about spy craft. OTP is the best if we can keep the key pad secret, but well trained operatives know who to reduce its effectiveness. Their techniques have nothing to do with classical or quantum computation, though.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"It is about class resentment toward professionals and smartypants types who know “facts.”"

And why is it that we have that now?

I believe that we won't be able to fix this mess until we fix the root cause - and the root cause is that the US working man is beginning to realise that his life has gone from

- Best in the world AND getting better -
To
- Other people have more AND I'm not going to be as well off as my parents -

This is an accurate (if belated) world view and he is now pissed at the "smarty pants" who have run the world to produce this situation

All of them - and with some justification as even "his" smarty pants have historically enabled and pushed for this to happen

Business as usual or even some slightly higher taxes on the rich won't help

LarryHart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

the root cause is that the US working man is beginning to realise that his life has gone from

- Best in the world AND getting better -
To
- Other people have more AND I'm not going to be as well off as my parents -

This is an accurate (if belated) world view and he is now pissed at the "smarty pants" who have run the world to produce this situation


I take issue with your root cause analysis. It wasn't "smart people who know stuff" who have run the world to produce this situation, it is the Reagan/Thatcher Republicans and equivalents in other countries who insist on running the world in such manner. The Reagan-Democrats who are now Trump supporters continually vote for the politicians who enable that world view because their nationalist/tribalist rhetoric makes then feel better than actual facts do. The workers you describe have made "liberal" a dirty word for over 30 years, and now they're upset that conservatives aren't liberal enough for them. Their solution is to vote for Republicans.

I don't see how you can blame smart people for this state of affairs.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

Your response to Duncan started out as exactly what I was thinking. But I do have to point out that there is a slight flaw there. Those Reagan/Thatcher types have always hired their own "experts" to argue their causes. A whole lot of the anti-smartypants rhetoric comes from the perceived bickering between experts, who come across to the less educated as very petty, on the one hand and haughty on the other hand. When one side hires one panel of "experts" to say what they want them to say and the other side hires another panel of "experts" to say the opposite, the average person (who has been taught little in the way of critical thinking skills) has no way to judge among them, except to fall back on emotional currents and thus fall victim to whichever side has the most convincing rhetoric. Add to that the almost constant attacks by religious organizations against smart people, and people are becoming less and less trusting of anyone who comes from those parts of society normally deemed "smart."

It's easy to talk about jealousy, but here I think a lot of the problem is that smart people have been discredited by too many interest groups (mostly political and business) using the same kind of doubt-seeding tactics the tobacco industry used. There was a time when anything that had the word "science" attached to it had some real credibility. How else do you get loonies calling themselves "Christian Scientists" or claiming to have scientific proof of their religious claims? Most people look for simple answers, like labels or bumper-sticker slogans. At one time "science" was a respected label, but now, because of all those political games, even "smart" has become a soiled label for many people.

Learn critical thinking, and teach it to others, in the hopes that more of our grandkids will be able to think and less will be led by the same demagogues that have always manipulated them.

raito said...

Duncan Cairncross,

Why? Maybe because all too often the experts approach things the wrong way in regard to spreading their knowledge. It's one thing, and a good one, to attempt to use one's expertise to increase others'. It's quite another to use it as a club to bash the other guy down. 'I know stuff and you could too' vs. 'I know stuff and you don't'.

Unfortunately, the second has become nearly a stereotype. Not completely deservedly, though. Many who use the second line aren't really experts. And there's probably been manipulation of the meme in any case.

Antonym would probably like something like The Two Faces of Tomorrow by Hogan. In brief, it optimistically details what an AI might grow up to be.

And on the SF kick, my favorite semi-villain (lest article's comments?) would be DuQuesne from the Skylark series. He even tells our heroes that the only reason he's after them is because they keep interfering. As soon as he has the tech to go to a different galaxy he does. And he subsequently works with the heroes in his own best interest.

And didn't at least one of the Berserker stories deal with a peaceful AI inside a supertank?

And yeah, what happens when people can 'Tarkin' others into videos? It's getting hard to catch in photos. And if anyone wanted to, voice can be done fairly easily if you have examples. If you can synthesize speech, you can synthesize others' speech. 'Evidence' is going to have a pretty rocky road.

Anonymous said...

Aloha! Health Warrior here. Some jack-wagon added wheat to the ingredients of the mustard my wife served tonight and I haven’t been able to synchronize my breathing and heart rate since. So Paul SB and Larry, I salute your responses to Duncan on the root cause. Of course my rebuttal is that you are what you eat and the US working man has become a happy meal.

Paul I am with you on this: "A whole lot of the anti-smartypants rhetoric comes from the perceived bickering between experts, who come across to the less educated as very petty, on the one hand and haughty on the other hand. When one side hires one panel of "experts" to say what they want them to say and the other side hires another panel of "experts" to say the opposite, the average person (who has been taught little in the way of critical thinking skills) has no way to judge among them, except to fall back on emotional currents and thus fall victim to whichever side has the most convincing rhetoric. Add to that the almost constant attacks by religious organizations against smart people, and people are becoming less and less trusting of anyone who comes from those parts of society normally deemed "smart.""

Now if I may re-frame this into the domain of health. Science and superstition have been used unethically here for ages. You got Israelites on a fad diet, eating Manna, wandering around in the vast desert with no dessert. Talk about constipation. And Manna was from Gurgi’s magic wallet. Allegedly. And we all know how God and Science are bros. God needed science to uncover the dinosaur bones he buried, right? And what’s the deal with Rome? How many smarty-pants Romans knew lead was bad for them, and either didn’t give a shit or were fed to the lions? Thank the good lord that us Americans have caring elected officials who wouldn’t allow a lead-water remix to occur, right? No this isn’t new. You ever wonder why cheddar cheese is yellow? It’s because a few 17th Century assholes started skimming off the cream—which retains the golden color that is in the milk via beta carotene that cows get when they eat GRASS. Ruminate on that. Cows that eat grass make better milk and better cheese and the consumer knew it. Hence the dye, to pass off the inferior product on the consumer. Spray some cheese wiz on that. On a side note, look up A1 cows vs A2 cows and heart disease.

Yes, the unscrupulous have profited from human disease and poor diets. If you don’t think allopathic medicine is in bed with the pharmaceuticals, read the side effects. Their commercials are the best running joke on TV and nobody even bats an eyebrow because the evil-mad scientist stereotypes that you all so earnestly loathe have permeated into food-culture and medicine. They run the show. But our friend History serves up far more imaginative and insidious fare than any manufactured toppings pizza-boy and his kind can deliver. My All Stars are Sylvester Graham the good M.D. John Harvey Kellogg, whose famous cereal originates as means to suppress sexual arousal, the most benign of his anti masturbation interventions except for maybe the yogurt enemas. Look it up, yourself. How does this claptrap become the American breakfast? I can go on and on. It's 1977 and Nestlie is aggressively promoting Scientific formula over Breast Milk. That’s real enough to make you cry. Sugar Free. Low Fat. Aspartame. Bottled water. Look up the history of Stevia. The list goes on and on.

So here's my point. If we want sousveillance, first figure out how to get more people to care enough about their body and mind to question the ingredients of the food they eat.

Aloha

Paul451 said...

From the article:
"Ghonim proposes that the big social media companies focus on creating a "meritocratic algorithm" that rewards credible information and dialogue, not just the broadcast of "sensational content" to the like-minded."

Errr, why would an unregulated for-profit company do that? Raw clicks are what advertisers want and they pay for it all.

No, more than that, sensationalism specifically selects the gullible, those who believe fake stories without doing independent checks, and who have little or no "bullshit filter".

Has any demographic been more perfectly crafted for advertisers?

If any social media company did try to create a system that "rewards credible information" and effectively punished sensationalism, advertising rates on that platform would plummet, profits would collapse, and the company would soon get bought out by a rival company who didn't.

Worse, Ghonim's recommendations are "Hey guys, you know what they should do", which is always bound for failure.

There's nothing his audience can do.

--

That's also why people are more drawn to "hiding" than "looking back". I can install crypto software and take similar measures. It might not work against a determined attacker, but it's all I have.

If I try to "look back" at most places of power, I will be arrested for violating their secrecy rules.

Yes cameras are getting smaller, but it's still illegal when I spy on them.

You hold up the rulings allowing citizen's cameras to record police. But that is the exception, not the rule. The rule is that whenever technology suddenly gives me the power to "look back", they change the rules so it's illegal. Whistle-blower prizes would be illegal if the whistle-blower stole information (whether corporate or government), the prize offerer would be arrested for conspiracy.

And even the camera rule is one Trump USSC appointment and one Republican-dominated Congressional act away from being banned again, probably specifically to spite BLM.

And there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

But I can install encryption software.

Paul451 said...

Antonym,
"Or maybe I should just rip off parts of our host's "The Postman" novel and write a post-apocalyptic tale of a titanic struggle between a "good" military built AI and an "evil" Wall Street built AI, with humans caught in the middle and just trying to survive."

That's actually a cute idea.

(You could also throw in a back story of the early days of the conflict, where the humans first learn about the seemingly out-of-control military AI and try to fight it, not realising that Skynet's actually fighting a larger war against the evil-AI. Similar to Baxter's Xeelee Sequency novels (where humans fight against the Xeelee, who are actually in a war against the Photino Birds who are a threat to all baryonic life.))

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Larry

The trouble is that the Dems in the USA and Labour in the UK continued those policies
Blair continued Thatchers economics
Bill Clinton and even Obama continued Reagan's policies

They are starting to think better now with Corbyn and Sanders but that is recent and not "mainstream" in either of those parties


Paul451 said...


LarryHart,
"What I find troublesome is that setting the DeLorean for 2015 involves simple motion along a timeline, but setting it for 1955 involves jumping to a new one."

Not "jumping to", creating. You are the event which creates the fork.

We can also suppose you must cause exactly the same fork when you travel forward, you create two alternative futures, one in which you magically appeared out of nowhere and the original one in which you didn't. When you travel back from the future, you travel past that fork and back onto the original timeline, but your arrival then create a new fork in the original timeline when you arrive, and the original timeline carries on without you.

Which means that from the POV of the original timeline, time travellers simply cease to exist.

In the future, there's a fork in history, one in which the time travellers briefly reappeared, learned that they had disappeared from history, and then got back in their time machines and vanished again. And the other fork where they disappear but never reappear in the future.

That's what time travel must always looks like from the POV of the original timeline, a weird method of suicide.

Paul451 said...

So in Back To The Future, in the original timeline, Doc tests the time-travel system, causing the DeLorean (and Einstein) to vanish from the timeline forever.

And that's it. The Libyans come in and kill Doc and Marty. The end. Credits roll.

One minute after the disappearance of the DeLorean, the universe has an alternative fork suddenly created in which the DeLorean (and Einstein) reappeared. Then the Libyans come, kill Doc, then Marty gets into the DeLorean and accidentally activates the flux capacitor, accelerates to 88 miles per hour and vanishes from that forked timeline forever.

In the original timeline's 1955 (because Marty travelled back before the Einstein's 1985 fork), the universe suddenly has an alternative fork created in which a DeLorean appeared from the future, Marty changes things, sort of fixes them again because the Doc insists it's important, then gets into the improvised lightning-powered DeLorean and vanishes from the alternative timeline forever.

(The original tragic timeline was unchanged, of course.)

In the 1955-forked timeline's 1985, an alternative fork is created where Marty reappears and discovers that Doc was saved by Marty's past meddling, oh and Marty's whole life is better. Yay. Later in front of Marty's house, Doc and the DeLorean vanish from that timeline forever.

(Since the Doc still invents time-travel, then even in this alternative 1985 there are two forks, one in which the DeLorean (and Einstein) vanish forever and one in which it/they return. When Marty returns from 1955, he presumably forks along with the timeline and appears in both versions. Creating two forks, one in each alternative 1985. One plays out like the movie, in the other he sees Doc and himself gunned down by the Libyans. He discovers that the Doc is still alive, thanks to his meddling, but because Marty didn't know about the alternative timeline created by Einstein, Doc didn't give Marty a vest and so Marty died. He and 1955-Marty bury the dead Marty and 1955-Marty goes home and takes his place. Which makes the following morning extra creepy.)

In the 1955-forked timeline's 1985-forked timeline's 2015, there is an alternative fork created where Doc appears. We don't know much about his trip, but at some point Doc gets a Mr Fusion and a hover-conversion, he reads in a newspaper that Marty Jr has been convicted and jailed. So he dials up the DeLorean and vanishes from that timeline forever.

In the 1955-forked timeline's alternative-1985-forked timeline, there is another alternative fork created in which the Doc reappears moments after he'd vanished, he grabs 1955-Marty and Jennifer and they disappear from that timeline forever.

In the 1955-forked timeline's second alternative-1985-forked timeline's 2015, there is an alternative fork created where a DeLorean suddenly appears in sky (in the wrong lane). Doc lands in an alley, tranqs Jennifer, and shows Marty a newspaper from a few days ahead (but actually another timeline) about Marty Jr being jailed. They go looking for Marty Jr at the diner and can't find him. They go looking at the McFly home and the McFlys don't live there. Doc does an internet search (or whatever that timeline's equivalent would be) and finds an archived news story from 1985 about Marty and Jennifer vanishing without trace and their parents' appeal for the presumed runaways to come home. "Great Scott", the Doc realises that when he snatched them, he created a future in which they ceased to exist. So they head back to the DeLorean which was stolen by Biff, and thus vanished from that timeline forever. Doc and Marty and Jennifer (who is in an immigrant detention centre, since she vanished in 1985 back before electronic ID databases) are now trapped in the future forever.

The end.

Credits roll.

Paul451 said...

Epilogue:

In the 1955-forked timeline, not long after Marty arrived and created that timeline, a new fork is created in which Biff appears. He gives his younger self the means to get rich. He then gets back in the DeLorean and vanishes from history forever.

In the second-1955-forked timeline's 2015, a new alternative timeline is created in which Biff appears in a DeLorean. That 2015 is wildly different than the one he left. His rich version from 1985 might still be alive, so there could be two copies of himself, the traveller and the "original". His 2015 alternative never went back in time; indeed couldn't have, since he had Doc committed to an asylum so he couldn't (by 1985) have invent time travel.

Presumably, if Rich Biff is still alive (and rich) and finds out about his alternative's return to the timeline, he would have him killed and steal the DeLorean. Since his 1955-2015 sports almanac is about to become useless, he decides to travel to the future to get another one. He figures out how the time circuit works and vanishes from that timeline forever.

The end.

Credits roll.

--

Having said all that, I'm not a fan of Many Worlds theory. The creation of an entirely new universe for every possible quantum event seems... a little excessive.

LarryHart said...

raito:

Maybe because all too often the experts approach things the wrong way in regard to spreading their knowledge. It's one thing, and a good one, to attempt to use one's expertise to increase others'. It's quite another to use it as a club to bash the other guy down. 'I know stuff and you could too' vs. 'I know stuff and you don't'.

Unfortunately, the second has become nearly a stereotype


You're onto something there. Competent people begin to resemble elites if their only mantra is "trust me, I must be right." First of all, they're avoiding CITOKATE, which means they might be wrong as well, and all we've got to go on is their word. Second, maybe more important, any huckster who tells them what they'd rather hear (Climate change is a hoax, Obamacare kills jobs, Trickle-down works) can use the same line: "Trust me, I must be right." With no evidence to judge between the two, people will gravitate toward the one whose pronouncements they like better.

Rather than hoard competency as a wizard, competent people should (and should be encouraged by society to) show their work as much as possible. Most people won't be able to follow all the steps anyway, but the evidence will be out there. Me, I've got this parlor trick where I can figure out which day of the week a particular date fell on in any year (it helps if it's in the 20th or 21st century), such as my cousin's birthday 55 years ago. I always say out loud every step I'm working through to demonstrate that it makes sense, and that (as I like to point out) anyone can do this. The fact is that the only reason anyone can't do it is because they don't want to be bothered with the details. I've got an answer for that too: "That's what you've got me for."

Anonymous said...

Why would humanity have been on the moon a thousand years ago? Certainly there have been empires evil bouncing off one another much as the Empires Soviet and Empires American did that might produce such a display, though even with the technology it is not certain that anyone will sit atop a carcinogen squirter and vie with the equation tyrannous; I need only mention the contrast between Pan Am offering tickets to the moon then, and the reality of manned space travel now—and that's in a Faustian culture prone to such. Athenian, Magian, past, future, why would their own unique cultures cleave to your specific views? No, this is merely more of your "shoehorn everything into a few topics"—transparency, space, !feudalism—and then to endlessly worry them like Bolero.

LarryHart said...

@Paul451 on time travel,

I realize that I'm talking about my personal preferences here rather than any kind of objective measure. To me, time travel stories are most interesting when they don't involve cheats such as multiple universes. I say "cheats" because if I can't witness the past of my subjective timeline or alter its course by traveling backwards, then time travel is more like simple travel between what are colloquially referred to as "alternate universes" or "alternate dimensions." I suppose that, story-wise, there is some value to "escaping" to a better era and living there as a temporal refugee, but (to me) that's not as interesting as the sci-fi nuts and bolts of "What exactly are the consequences--especially the not so obvious ones--of messing with the flow of time?" If your literary conceit from the get go is "Don't worry about that, because you're not really doing that," then I'm just not as interested in the story.

As to "popping" into the future, I'm still not convinced that forward time travel would "work" that way. When you use a motor vehicle to move quickly through space, you don't disappear from your starting point and "pop" into your destination--you pass quickly through all of the intervening distance. I think you would do that while traveling forward in time as well. At least, I think that makes the most sense.

As to different modalities for forward and backwards time travel, perhaps it's analogous to heating and air conditioning. If I set my thermostat for 65 degrees in summer, the furnace doesn't operate in reverse from when I set it for 72 degrees in winter. It has to operate an entirely different machine to cool than it does to heat. The technologies are independent of each other.

That might make Dr Brin's point about paddling downstream being different from portaging upstream, but it makes my point as well. Changing from heat to air conditioning isn't just a matter of setting the control for a different temperature--you also have to "tell" your thermostat that it's doing one job as opposed to the other. If I'm on "heat" and I set the thermostat down to 65 right now, the air conditioner isn't going to turn on--the furnace will simply stay quiet until such time as the house requires heating to reach 65. Likewise, if Dr Brown's DeLorean was doing such separate things to go forward vs backwards, I'd expect you'd have to do more than just set the date backwards instead of forwards. I'd even expect that he might have perfected forward travel first and not been able to do backwards travel until he solved separate problems, just as homes were heated for centuries before air conditioning became possible.

LarryHart said...

more time travel...

Story-wise, "City on the Edge of Forever" doesn't work if you follow the multiple-timeline "laws" of Back to the Future. When McCoy disappears into the 1930s, the only change to the Enterprise timeline should be that Dr McCoy isn't there any more.

Also, everything that happens in "Somewhere in Time" loses its significance. Richard in 1980 can't fall in love with a photograph of Elise that was (ironically) taken in 1912 when she was smiling at him because he wasn't there in the original timeline. And she can't hand him the watch in 1980 that he handed her in 1912, because he wasn't there to do that in the original timeline. Worse, she wouldn't have been pining over his memory all those years in the original timeline.

Slim Moldie said...

On AI. Any speculations regarding rights as individuals and legal precedent? Plenty of fiction with rogue AI operating outside the law. Would law abiding AI recruit and act through human trustees?

Andrew Hunt said...

I've been using the word evagination for a while, I thought I made it up as a gender opposite to males thinking with their penis. I'm so glad to hear that it is a real word. Excellent usage of it. I'll be much more careful with this word from now on. Thank you Mr Differ.

LarryHart said...

Andrew Hunt:

I've been using the word evagination for a while, I thought I made it up as a gender opposite to males thinking with their penis. I'm so glad to hear that it is a real word.


Aren't you grasping for "Ivagination" ?

Paul SB said...

Evagination: verb (used with object), evaginated, evaginating.
1. to turn inside out, or cause to protrude by eversion, as a tubular organ.

Invagination: noun
1. the act or process of invaginating.
2. Embryology. the inward movement of a portion of the wall of a blastula in the formation of a gastrula.
3. Pathology. intussusception (def 3).
4. a form or shape resulting from an infolded tissue.

Ivagination doesn't show up, at least not on Dictionary.com

It's not hard to see where dirty minds are taking this, but I'm afraid Andrew will have to come up with his own neologism for his purpose.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Ivagination doesn't show up, at least not on Dictionary.com


I made it up as a cross between "imagination" and "vagina". I'm not entirely sure that that's where Andrew was coming from, but "a gender opposite to males thinking with their penis" sure sounded like it to me.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Larry: "City" can't follow BTTF rules because the time portal is open and different time periods are in contact. In BTTF time jumps are instantaneous; there is only discrete, not continuous, time connections. However, if we did use BTTF rules, then Kirk and Spock jumped into the Guardian before the downstream ripples eliminated them from the timeline (logically, if the Federation doesn't exist, Spock the human-Vulcan hybrid can't exist).

Star Trek in general seems to have both branch-point timelines *and* ripple-effect timelines, which makes that multiverse very confusing indeed. Why did the Narada Event cause a branch point but, say, the 1986 trip to kidnap humpback whales or the Borg attempt to stop First Contact didn't? (I can write rules to explain it, but of course the real reason is: plot!)

LarryHart said...

@Catfish N. Cod,

You miss my point. If it follows BttF rules, then McCoy created an alternate timeline, and neither Kirk, Spock, the Enterprise, or the Federation were affected.

Actually, Back to the Future doesn't exactly follow those rules either. Marty McFly wouldn't be fading out while playing guitar if his original parents' timeline is separate from the 1955 one that he's in at the time.

Time travel in Star Trek was never about alternate realities until they wanted/needed to reboot. They had alternate realities (Mirror, Mirror), but that wasn't about time travel.

LarryHart said...

I said:

You miss my point. If it follows BttF rules, then McCoy created an alternate timeline, and neither Kirk, Spock, the Enterprise, or the Federation were affected.


Meaning they "weren't affected" in their own timeline. McCoy created a new timeline in 1930 that would potentially lead to a Nazi victory in WWII, but that's not the timeline that Kirk and company are in.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan:

This is an accurate (if belated) world view and he is now pissed at the "smarty pants" who have run the world to produce this situation

All of them - and with some justification as even "his" smarty pants have historically enabled and pushed for this to happen


Here is one of the dangers of the economy as an engine analogy. Belief that smartypants run the world falls apart when you realize they can't. An engine can be run and tuned and all that. The world cannot.

Alfred Differ said...

Glad to be of service Andrew. 8)

That word is probably best treated as archaic in modern times. A more modern version is available, but doesn't have the same zing.

Surveillance and Sousveillance as a pair suggest a reversible process and are available to us because English speakers have stolen many French words.

Reversible and Eversible are a little different. One suggests turning things around. The other suggests turning things inside-out. Boys notice early how their eyelids are eversible and how this grosses out the girls, but they rarely use the word for it. 8)

The older term is from late Latin. Evaginatio. Act of unsheathing.

I like the eversible nature of looking back, but since we out-number the authority figures who would try to rule over us, I like better the idea that we are turning their envelope of power inside out by unsheathing the cameras and microphones. Thus we are performing a 'surveillance evagination' act.

David Brin said...

Paul451 yes, the many branchings help explain Back to the Future… but aren’t enough. You need natural forces like diffusion, attraction and repulsion to explain what marties tend to pop into existence right where and when a marty might be logically expected to appears, even though they are not the same marty.

 Anonymous said... “Why would humanity have been on the moon a thousand years ago?

Please pay attention. We have been prodigiously more creative and productive than all other human civilizations… combined. This might have happened a thousand years ago, had others invented the social technologies — positive-sum, competitive-fair-flat-open arenas like markets and democracy and science — that lie at the heart of our renaissance. Pericles tried to nudge the Athenians toward such things and it worked… while he lived. You are the one shoe-horning. Yourself. Into inability to see anything but dogmatic sullen rage.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
Here is one of the dangers of the economy as an engine analogy. Belief that smartypants run the world falls apart when you realize they can't. An engine can be run and tuned and all that. The world cannot.

If you can make it work worse then logically you can make it work better
Or at least you can reverse the change that made it work worse

Alfred Differ said...

Maybe. You can stop the stimulus, but that might not have the reverse effect. There are well documented cases of reversibility failing.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
The changes I was thinking about were the Thatcher/Reagan changes
If we went back to 90+% income tax and higher tax on investment income than on earned income

Also reverse some of the financial changes - go back to trust busting and penalties for share buyback schemes

Donald Chalmers said...

Hi Paul SB
I was particularly interested in a couple of your comments “Humans have been living in hierarchical societies for so long... That's how you end of with quotes like: "I you scratch and altruist, a hypocrite bleeds”. Did you mean to say "If you scratch an altruist, a hypocrite bleeds” ?

And “We thought every illness was Fate until we invented microscopes and discovered germs. We thought the entirety of the Universe was the Earth plus a few dots in the sky until we invented the telescope. We thought that "if Man were meant to fly, God would have given us wings" until Bernoulli figured out the science and the Wright Brothers got the technology up to speed (really it was Louis Bleriot who made the most progress in practical flight, but most people don't want to hear that because everybody knows it was Wilbur & Orville)".

Thanks everyone for your comments, and especially David Brin for CONTRARY BRIN !

Donald Chalmers said...

Oops ! There's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip ! I meant also to ask Paul SB re "That's how you end of with quotes like". Should this line say "That's how you end up with quotes like" ? Thanks again Paul !

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