Saturday, December 08, 2018

We can't own information


A cogent and interesting article from Forbes - Privacy is Not a Property Right in Personal Information - examines the well-intentioned “privacy reforms” implemented to some degree in Europe and pushed in the U.S., that would grant individuals “ownership of their own data,” plus the right of portability, to choose where it is to be stored and used.

As the author – Mark McCarthy - shows, this is a well-motivated… and utterly stupid approach to addressing a very real problem. The age-old problem of asymmetry of informational power, with elites like the rich or corporations almost-inevitably absorbing every bit and byte and fact about us, to use as they wish.

Look, I absolutely share that fear! It is why I wrote TheTransparent Society, because there are potential solutions, using the very same technique that has already worked increasingly well for 200 years. In contrast, the “data ownership” proponents cannot point to a single time in the history of our species when the citizens of a commonwealth commanded their elites “don’t look-at or know about me!” with even a scintilla of success. Again, that never happened. Because it cannot possibly work.

I’ve been dealing with this “don’t look!” fetish for 25 years, and they never learn. Ten years ago there were howls to banish and make illegal face recognition systems! And if that sounds quaint, well, talk of that vague “reform” is back, alas: It’s time to regulate facial recognition and affect recognition,” says Kate Crawford, a researcher at Microsoft. And yes, every worry should be considered. Yet, talk of curbing such technologies never forces the tide to go back out. Nor will any restrictions hamper elites, in the slightest. 

There is an alternative approach, the one responsible for all our freedom and progress. And it is always considered last.

In The Transparent Society I point out that all our great, positive-sum “arenas” - like markets, democracy, science and justice - thrive amid openness and light, but wither when shadows prevail. Forbidding others to know things is inherently aggressive and threatening, especially when they might view you as one of the dangerous elites they worry about.

And sure, I avow that yes, letting the mighty simply vacuum up everything about us, while they get to do mysterious things with our information, benefiting or even conspiring… heck, that’s a sure-fire path to Big Brother. So what's to be done?

There are some approaches that might work! Say, if hundreds of thousands of citizens were to pool their data rights in ways that could exert group efficiencies and group market power. This is simply an extrapolation of the greatest social innovation of the 2nd half of the 20th Century, the NGO. So we already know something like it could work.

Even more cogent is the suggestion by Jaron Lanier that we should not so much own our information -- creating a mythical and preposterous notion that you can exclude others from ever touching it -- as retain strong interests in it. A right to get feedback data on how it is being used, by whom, and to get paid micro-royalties if some corporation or elite entity benefits from using it.

But the fundamental remains the same. We are not made safe by hiding from power! It never worked and it won’t work in the future.

What gave us this window of freedom was not preventing surveillance, but insisting on sousveillance… looking back at power. Stripping the mighty naked, so we can supervise. Because it matters much less what they can know about you than what they can do to you!

And – as we have learned on the streets with our cell-cameras -- the only and best way to control what others – even the police – do to you is to let them know that even the watchmen are being watched.

== The Crux ==

How do you "own" something that -- when it (inevitably!) leaks -- can be infinitely duplicated at zero cost?

Is the word "ownership" even remotely applicable?

Even "control"?

Well, Tim Berners-Lee has some credibility... and he claims that a new online realm called "Solid" will resonate with the global community of developers, hackers, and internet activists who bristle over corporate and government control of the web. “On Solid, all the information is under (the user's) control. Every bit of data he creates or adds on Solid exists within a Solid pod–which is an acronym for personal online data store. These pods are what give Solid users control over their applications and information on the web. Anyone using the platform will get a Solid identity and Solid pod. This is how people, Berners-Lee says, will take back the power of the web from corporations.”

Um, while I’d love to be proved wrong, I remain boggled that folks believe there aren’t ten thousand ways for our information to leak through every such promise, if not through spychips in your Alexa or Charlie… or keyboard... or copy-plus-interpolation of every datum entering or leaving Solid. Go ahead and make that world! I’m concerned about the Olympian realms that elites are making for themselves. And dig it, they are likely to make much better use of secrecy protection methods than you ever will.

== News from the Transparency Front ==

Microsoft intends to develop two blockchain products designed to give consumers greater control of their personal data. One is an encrypted personal data store, or "identity hub," a combination of a user's personal devices and cloud storage; their permission would be required for third parties to access it. Also a "wallet-like app" that people could use, among other purposes, to manage these permissions to their data, including the ability to revoke them when desired. Decentralized identifiers (DIDs) do not require a central authority because they are registered on a distributed ledger. IBM, Accenture and RSA are working on similar concepts.

Fine. Go ahead and try. There may come a first time - in the history of our species - when a general approach to equalizing power via concealment will work.

Microsoft also aims at a system to allow a high volume of low-value payments, perhaps like the micropayments systems I have been pushing for almost a decade, which would then have the potential to smooth our commerce, save journalism empower creatives and finally end the era of domination of the Internet by advertising. Here's a good goal.

In a related development San Diego startup LunaDNA, which aims to create a community-owned database of donated genetic/health information for medical research, has filed with securities regulators to issue shares to people who provide their data, building  a credit union like co-op around an anonymous genomic and health database. People who donate their DNA/health data would get shares based on the value of the data, which LunaDNA calculates based on current market value. For example, a full human genome nets 300 shares.Three weeks of fitness/nutrition data gets two shares. "If LunaDNA ever makes money from fees charged to researchers who tap into the database or drug discovery royalties, shareholders would get dividends."

Another such venture is “Hu-Manity.co” whose app would let peoplespecify how their medical data can and cannot be used. Pharmaceutical companies could potentially pay each user $10 a month for access to their data, Etwaru says. The drug companies would also pay Hu-manity.co for access.

Combine these developments and we move toward a world predicted slightly in Neal Stephenson's SNOWCRASH but more significantly in Web philosopher Jaron Lanier's notion about personal data. To date, there have been three notions about our information future. 

== Three Notions ==

Here are the three most common mythologies:

(1) We are spinning into a dystopian age when the mighty elites will know everything about us and the little gal and guy will be helpless pawns. Naturally, this is the future we see depicted in a lot of sci fi films and novels because dystopia makes drama trivially easy. Besides, this is clearly where a world mafia-oligarchy wants us to go, so some paranoia is justified!

 All decent folks who want to preserve freedom and individual opportunity rightly oppose this death mode for the Enlightenment. But in opposition, we've seen some pretty simplistic notions.

2) A wild west future of all information floating free and thus empowering the masses. Yes, at a very simplistic - and hence dumb - level, this conveys the notion of generalized accountability that I tout in The Transparent Society. Sure, I'd rather err on the side of everyone seeing! Because all our great enlightenment systems -- markets, democracy, science, justice courts and sports - all of them wither and die in fog or darkness. But the arguments in favor of transparency are more subtle than this. And yes, humans want some privacy and control. And any decent civilization will include those things.

3) Paternalistic walls. Alas, the vast majority of smart, sincere paladins fighting for freedom and rights and against the dystopian age almost all reflexively turn to demanding laws that restrict information flows. Supposedly empowering citizens to declare "you cannot know this about me!" Enshrining "ownership of my own information." 

It all sounds so positive and freedom-y, that no one -- certainly in Europe -- ever dares to respond: "Not only can that not possibly work, at any level, but it is exactly what elites and oligarchs want most -- walls, guarded by law and the state, within which they can connive and reach out to control." 

Alas, every last error that I just described can be found in well-meaning initiatives like this proposed "Internet Bill of Rights," which would have none of the intended benefits and a whirling myriad of horrific, unintended consequences. 

I mentioned Jaron Lanier's notion that merits repetition. It was not that we should own all information about ourselves, but that we should have strong interest in our data, and get to benefit from anyone who uses it... much in the way that patent laws weren't originally meant to prevent use of inventions, but to ensure the inventors got paid a fair share, so that sharing would make sense to them.

Which brings us back around to the stunningly foolish assertion that any kind of political agitation - or even law - can possibly thwart the arrival of easy-cheap face recognition. Again, the fear of sliding into an Orwellian surveillance/control state is genuine and terrifying! Alas, it is trivialized and lobotomized by those who think they can stymie the "surveillance" part, by howling at the mighty "don't look at us!" 

It is the "control" part that can still be prevented, via the method we used with increasing effectiveness for 200 years -- answering surveillance with sousveillance. 

== An Addendum... and Alert... on "war with Iran" ==

John Bolton and Mike Pompeo have long sought war with Iran. Now, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has repeated an earlier threat to block ships from leaving the Persian Gulf if the U.S. government continues to seek to block Iranian oil exports. Rouhani’s comments came a day after the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf on Monday, ending the longest period the U.S. had gone without an carrier in the Gulf over the past two decades.

Examine the pieces. The US Navy has been trying to ramp down tensions in the gulf, and especially to keep its most valuable assets out of a friction zone and potential death trap. ALso especially since the Persian Gulf is a lot less important to us, now that the U.S. has achieved effective energy independence. We shouldn't tuirn our backs on the region. On the other hand, it is an opportunity to stop being in reflex-reactive mode, no longer letting that crazy realm control what we do.

Ah, but our professionals have (alas) insane bosses. By clamping on the Iranian economy and ordering the USS Stennis into the gulf, Pompeo, Bolton and the Bannonites are setting a stage for what the Saudis and Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu all desperately need, an international distraction from their own mounting troubles. 

A “Tonkin/Reichstag/Gleiwitz/Sarajevo/Remember-the-Maine” “Incident” (look them all up!) is something that our professionals in the military/intel/diplomatic corps have skillfully forestalled, till now. But for how much longer? 

Especially when even the Iranian mullahs would benefit from a brief, colorful, pippety-poppety “tomahawk war” that does no major harm, but gives them an excuse to clamp down on their own millions of young liberals? 

Of course, the top winner of such a dog-wag is blatantly obvious. Only one man can possibly rake in all the marbles… when V. Putin steps up to spread the Russian umbrella and “protect our neighbor.” At which point Russia gets the Persian satrapy it has sought for 300 years. Thanks to Vlad’s agents in the White House.

67 comments:

Mike Will said...

The fear of the powers-that-be gathering info about citizens is not my greatest concern. Most lives are stultifyingly ordinary. Perhaps divulging our smallness is more to be feared!

But there is a dystopian vision far scarier than Orwell’s Big Brother. It came 17 years earlier – Huxley’s “Brave New World”. The terror wasn’t overt, brutal gov’t control. It was society’s complete lack of interest in information, especially knowledge. From something I wrote years ago:


Stability and predictability are the main goals in this world. It’s a future of zero population growth, unquestioned homogeneity, engineered lives from birth to death, a mindless, enthusiastic embrace of technology, and a drug-dependent, brain-washed, consumer society. There is no longing for freedom because people truly believe they are happy. It is enslavement by pleasure rather than by fear. The family is absolutely and entirely abolished in favor of the state. Romance and emotional bonds are seen as obscenities. Even death is not feared as lives are seen only as drops in an endless societal soup.

Privacy only has meaning in the presence of individuality. And individuality is hard work. People would often rather ‘amuse themselves to death’ as Neil Postman put it. Some worry that video games make youth violent. I worry that they make youth docile.
In our world, an extremely disadvantaged kid in a poor country can access the global mind with a $20 cell phone and a pathetic data plan. They can read Socrates and Asimov (the few I’ve met are more erudite than many first world frat boys). Isn’t that worth a little loss of privacy? The glass seems to be not only half-full, but brimming over actually.

Also, I have my doubts about the ability of elites to build and maintain an eternal Big Brother environment. AI is a double-edged sword than is crafted from newer and better steel almost monthly, not all of which is predictable and controllable. I expect to see a rapid rise in ‘personal agents’ that safeguard one’s privacy, analogous to a body guard.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Mike Will

Do you actually KNOW many real people?

Your societal soup would simply be the support media for everybody to exercise their own weird requirements

Actually I'm being a bit unfair - I did not realise just how weird most people are until I started looking to buy a house in the UK
Then you see how people live inside their doors.......

Buying a house in the USA (Indiana) was not such an eye opener the realtors seemed to have much more control!

But seriously people are incredibly varied - if they have the "freedom" to do things - not having to work/sleep/eat - then they will do all manner of things

Anonymous said...

Mike Will:
“Also, I have my doubts about the ability of elites to build and maintain an eternal Big Brother environment. AI is a double-edged sword than is crafted from newer and better steel almost monthly, not all of which is predictable and controllable. I expect to see a rapid rise in ‘personal agents’ that safeguard one’s privacy, analogous to a body guard.”

Do you mean hiring expensive hackers that continually erase the data we want to hide? How in the movie ANON? Necessarily, they would be expensive, because it would be a risky profession, since, to erase data, those hackers would have to get inside the government systems. To more clients in that field, plus the chances of being caught, so that customers would be few and very rich.
That would be an impossible expense for ordinary citizens. Only corrupt feudalists would have the ability to hide, and that is a problem that concerns almost all technology. Almost all.
As for the previous statement, that a government can not exercise an Orwellian control over the population, I do not agree with your deductions. There are hidden factors that you do not take into account. It is not the total picture that matters. What matters to "them" are the details ... The details that do not match the "harmony" of the total picture. But I will not say more about the matter, because I know that I often contradict too much. 8)

Winter7

David Brin said...

Yes,Mike Will, Huxley’s despotism is in some ways more chilling, based on pleasure and fun and led by geniuses who are logical and want to maximize health and happiness. It is the diametric opposite of Orwell’s “An iron boot smashed endlessly into a human face.”

You can claim you hate Huxley’s world more. But if you criticize in his world the Directors say: “Hm, another critic. Send him to the islands to live in comfort with other critics and write up his recommendations; we occasionally make adjustments.” Rightfully fearing he’ll be suborned at a tropical paradise, the hero chooses as his island… The Falklands.

I’ll take that over Orwell’s world in which I get tortured, snuffed out, forgotten, and the world decays into pain and madness. But then, that’s how the devil tempts us.

Back on topic. It is not privacy that bright kid in Nigeria needs. It is impunity for anything he dares to write and say. That comes from accountability. Elites fearing the repercussions of trying to shut him up.

Mike Will said...

I'm certainly no Pollyanna, and it's true, I don't actually KNOW a lot of people. But I do know a bit about AI, enough to see that it is a hyper-exponential and potentially utterly disruptive thing. We humans give ourselves entirely too much credit for innovation and greatly overestimate our power. Nature had levers, gears, even computers long before we ever climbed down from the trees, and AI is way more of a challenge to our dominion than nature is. If this seems paradoxical, it's because I think AGI will arrive via some vastly accelerated evolutionary process, not design engineering. It might well arrive with zero warning -- do ants on the sidewalk get any advisory about the approaching pedestrian?

So it's not that I'm complacent and optimistic that we will march inexorably toward a bright and civilized future. On the contrary, I just don't think we're clever enough to succeed at Orwellian order. Herding cats would be trivial compared to world government.

Not all hackers are expensive in their early days. And in tech, it's always early days. Consider these dropouts:
Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak
Michael Dell
Mark Zuckerberg
Bill Gates & Paul Allen (one of the true greats of AI development)
Larry Ellison

Anonymous said...


Mike Will

Hooo... The AI. Yes... They are an enigma. But it is clear that Russian AI are harmful to democracy. But I think that, if there is not a SKYNET style confrontation in the next three hundred years, then we can see a fascinating variety of bad AI, good AI and other very rare AIs.
In the long run, perhaps the IAs are our next step in evolution, if we can find a way to unload our consciousness in the AI. Which would allow me to participate in this blog, forever ... And maybe I will manage to become an entity capable of being in the entire planet. (Not to observe maliciously) (Rather, to take care of humanity, ensuring happiness for all, forever, forever, until our sun goes out)

Winter7

David Brin said...

Mike if the AI are so smart, they will contemplate context. Only one civilization was ever smart enough to make AI. That was the one that eschewed pyramidal-oppressive hierarchies in favor of looser systems of relatively benign reciprocally competitive accountability and diversity. Will a world of hyper-AI be so bad, if they compete with each other and we can still tip the balance in favor of those who seem helpful and friendly?

Anonymous said...

“Back on topic. It is not privacy that bright kid in Nigeria needs. It is impunity for anything he dares to write and say. That comes from accountability. Elites fearing the repercussions of trying to shut him up.”

I totally agree with that statement Doctor Brin. To reach freedom of expression to all the children of the world will be difficult, but it is necessary to achieve total freedom of expression. Without it, it will not be possible to consider ourselves free. In Mexico, politicians created two laws to legally punish those who speak ill of them. That is, in Mexico there is no legal freedom of expression. (Until now politicians have used murder and torture to silence journalists.) 120 journalists have been killed since 2000 and thousands of citizens are missing.
Finding a lever that can contain the oligarchs will be a complicated task. Of course, there are many quick ways to achieve that (guillotines) But perhaps there are some less drastic methods. Perhaps among all of us we find effective and more acceptable solutions.

Winter7

Mike Will said...

Dr. Brin, I'm not saying that AGI would be bad. I'm saying that it would be so non-linear, so disruptive, so alien, that we'd be pretty much out of the picture. They wouldn't object to human welfare, they'd just be indifferent to it. They will contemplate context, but theirs not ours.

Short of pulling all the plugs and returning to the Bronze Age, I don't see anyway of avoiding this. After all, we can't own information.

BTW I'm not a transhumanist, by the same logic. It's just too big a leap. Ants don't aspire to be humans (probably).

Alan Caulkins said...

I also came to this conclusion that information cannot be owned about 20 years ago, while an undergraduate. The nature of information simply makes it non-property; something you can possess, but that you can't keep from spreading. I certainly agree how silly it is to try to regulate it. Such laws governing the use of personal data have a flaw - they only work if you can enforce compliance, and you can only enforce compliance if you can detect non-compliance. I think that those who cry for regulation of the tech giants are naive to believe that the authorities would make effective use of those regulations, and downright simplistic to think that criminals wouldn't get all the data eventually, anyway.

Perhaps we should take a page from that last group's playbook? Criminals are pretty good at maintaining their privacy and hiding from power. Well, the successful ones are, at least. They approach the problem by carefully limiting the information they don't want to share. They use technology and personal awareness to ensure that information about them, connecting them to a crime, never escapes into the world to begin with. That's the idea behind lots of privacy tools, like TOR and Privacy Badger. I think that general data awareness could become part of everyday life, just as people know not to leave their credit cards laying around at their workplace, and women don't give their real phone numbers to random men at the bar.

My theory is that people become more sophisticated as technology advances, and they are starting to change as the real consequences of data collection become apparent. Right now, they are realizing how much the filter bubble affects their judgement and preferences. They are beginning to question videos and stories from social media. The word "Snopes" has entered the lexicon. Technology like Deep Fakes will hasten this even more. My hope is that next they will start questioning their polarization and extreme partisanship.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Yes,Mike Will, Huxley’s despotism is in some ways more chilling, based on pleasure and fun and led by geniuses who are logical and want to maximize health and happiness.


That's the thing--the rulers of Brave New World weren't evil in the sense that those of 1984 were. Mustapha Mond genuinely believed their way was the only way to maintain the lives of the overwhelming population of (gasp!) two billion humans. There's a very interesting chapter toward the beginning, told from Mond's point of view, in which he exposits the reasons why their society must be run the way it is, even at the expense of his own youthful aspirations.

BTW, I first read BNW in high school, which would have been 1977 or 78. It was almost 20 years later when I came across your homage to BNW toward the end of Sundiver. I didn't "know" you very well at that point, but I had one of those moments of, "Yes! Someone else gets it."

Larry Hart said...

Heh. I can't reproduce the image here, but this news item includes a picture of Trump Tower that someone has photoshopped into "Individual-1 Tower".

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2018/Senate/Maps/Dec09.html#item-1

It also contains screenshots of Benedict Donald's tweets denigrating a Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal for exaggerations about service in Vietnam. I suppose Trump is concerned about trademark infringement. :)

Mark Jeftovic said...

Dr. Brin, you said:

"Only one civilization was ever smart enough to make AI. "

Which civilization was that?

Mike Will said...

"Which civilization was that?"

The culture.

Carl M. said...

Sousveillance will lead to democracy of the bad sort: mob rule.

Don't believe me? Try this thought experiment:

Let's apply radical transparency to voting itself. Get rid of the secret ballot. Give everyone a receipt for their ballot and post the actual ballots on the web.

What happens?

Some good things, definitely! Voter fraud would become vastly more difficult. (And let us recall that the secret ballot was used by southern states to exclude blacks back in the day.)

But you will also get mass quantities of voter intimidation. Recall that the Vikings brought weapons with them when it came time to vote. Medieval Russian experiments in democracy (Novgorod) resulted in riots.

We already have examples of intimidation through public disclosure of campaign contributions. Recall what happened to the creator of JavaScript.

Alfred Differ said...

Mark

That would be us... when we do it.

The point he makes is any AI we build that is actually smart will recognize the ingredients that led to its existence.

David Brin said...

-Carl M. Apparently has shifted from argument by anecdote to argument by strawman. Um, if you ever read The Transparent Society, sir, or any derivative work, or even stretched your mind, you’d know that I am not opposed to all privacy or secrets. But
(1) pragmatically they should be few and limited to vital things (like voter ballots or the interior spaces of your home) and
(2) society’s elites need to be subject to special levels of accountability — a fundamental root concept of our enlightenment experiment.

Your strawman deliberately evaded the meaning of souvsveillance, demonstrating yet again what a large fraction of “libertarians” have been suborned away from the word that should have their loyalty… flat-open-fair “competition” …

…over to idolatry of “property”… the key food of oligarchy.

Your agenda in denigrating "sousveillance" is to prevent the one thing the rising world mafia fears most.

Light.

Anonymous said...

I understand that the Republican Party is already preparing for the next elections; but that the democratic party is not preparing, I think because they still do not define what the candidate will be. That's why? Because if that is the cause, you can start the campaign without a candidate. Let the preliminary messages simply urge people to vote for the Democratic Party. Emphasize the failures of the Republicans; Explain in advertising, the need for an honest nation that is not under the orders of Moscow.

Winter7

Anonymous said...

¿Could China retaliate against Canadians in China because of the arrest of the Huawei executive?

Winter7

Anonymous said...

Could China retaliate against Canadians in China

Yes.

Carl M. said...

David, given the nontrivial leftwing harassment of individuals for their political views, the issue is one that is ALREADY HAPPENING given current levels of public exposure. Campaign finance law is having a chilling effect. Inconvenient truth that.

I was not claiming that you wanted voting to be radically transparent. I was giving it as an easy to understand example of a process that is already happening.

---
The religious leftist harassment is not limited to the social sciences. They are going after software.

https://postmeritocracy.org/

And they will go after the advocates of space exploration as their klout increases. See the Jeff Bezos article in the latest Wired magazine. Or this attack on Elon Musk:

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/patriarchal-race-colonize-mars-just-another-example-male-entitlement-ncna849681

And you thought Fox News was insane...


Anonymous said...

Mike Will:

“I'm certainly no Pollyanna, and it's true, I don't actually KNOW a lot of people. But I do know a bit about AI, enough to see that it is a hyper-exponential and potentially utterly disruptive thing.”

I did not know the expression "Pollyanna". I did not know what it means: Be incredibly optimistic.
I admit that to be optimistic in these times, (especially in Mexico) a great spiritual strength is required. But it is convenient to be optimistic, because according to scientific studies, optimistic people live many more years in a healthier way:
Link:
https://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20041101/optimism-may-help-you-live-longer

Anonymous said...


Carl M:
Carl. So you are a physicist and libertarian and you are against everything that is left? If you are a theoretical physicist ... What do you think of time travel? Is it possible to go back to the moment of Donald Trump's adolescence and guide him to the Gay community? (In that way, the Donald of 2017 would only be interested in running a fashion design business) (although it is likely that Donald already obtained those customs when he dropped the soap on the floor of the steam baths in Russia) (That would explain the frequent visits of Donald to Russia) (Of course, it was recorded and now the Russians have it very trapped by the nuts) (although in the case of Donald, it would be "they have him trapped by the pine nuts)

Winter7

Anonymous said...

Today I thought that it would be very difficult for the Republicans to enter the galactic federation, if the Vulcans locate our world. But maybe I'm wrong. After all, when I was young, I never imagined that the Klingons would be part of the Federation.

Winter7

Anonymous said...

Mike Will:
Yes. The AI could mean the extinction of the human species. But that is not the fault of the AI, it is the fault of those who program and build them.
But not everything is bad. I'm sure some AI will be crazy. Yesss.

Winter7

¡Hora de cenar! ¡Woooooojaaa!

Annette T. Thomas said...

Great post and comments all around. Anecdotally, I just found it amusing that the URL for this blog reads "not secure". ;)


Anonymous said...

See... what a differences between data in gov DB...
and in the raw dump of it in hacker hands?

First is verifed. Second is not.

Information which is not verified -- is pretty much the same as white noise. ;)

Carl M. said...

@Winter7

The Left has changed in the past decade. Once upon a time it was the Right that was prudish, humorless, had lax standards of evidence, and found Rooskies under every desk.

Today, the Religious Right has more sense of humor than a typical college student government.

I feel like I have fallen through a wormhole and into a parallel universe.

---
Once upon a time I spent a lot of time networking with progressives. Spent a lot of time talking ideas over beers and participating at events such as Jim Hightower's Rolling Thunder.

Something changed about the time Obama took office. The Left got hostile. Neoliberal is the epithet of the day.

Meanwhile the Right has become more open minded. Liberty University warmly received Gary Johnson. (Johnson handled it awkwardly; his fault entirely.)

Larry Hart said...

File under "You learn something new every day."

I've heard "The Night Before Christmas" for most of my almost-sixty years on earth, and it only occurred to me yesterday that the source of the reindeer names Donner and Blitzen come from Germanic mythology. "Donner" is an anglicized spelling of "Donar", the Germanic name for the god of thunder more popularly known as Thor. And "Blitzen", of course, refers to lightning in German.

Howard Brazee said...

It's interesting that the old SF idea of a super computer controlling the world has been superceded by a reality where we have billions of relatively independent computers. We collect data with cameras attached to our cars (or uniforms) to protect us too.

A question I have is whether this trend will enable us to find out what our politicians are doing.

Larry Hart said...

Carl M:

Something changed about the time Obama took office. The Left got hostile. Neoliberal is the epithet of the day.


The right got insanely hostile the moment Obama was elected. I don't hang with those insane leftists you consider typical, but if they did get worse in 2009, I'd wager it was in reaction to the birthers, the racists, and the McConnell-level obstructionists.

On the old Yahoo! list devoted to Cerebus, I used to have intelligent conversations with a conservative buddy in which we actually challenged each other's points and occasionally even admitted that the other guy had a point--until Obama was elected. He then started repeating every FOX talking point, no matter how irrational: Obama wanted to enact Sharia Law; liberals hate entrepreneurs, a snowstorm proved global warming is a hoax. When he accused me (personally) of being a danger to my child because of my liberal tendencies, I had to stop reading his posts altogether.

I suppose that "Where you stand depends upon where you sit,", but be aware that some people's experience is diametrically opposite of yours.

Anonymous said...

Although we can't own information, we can certainly learn to respect the originator and creators and the artists.

Mike Will said...

All these forms of polarization are caused by the same thing: lack of a common context (eg an agreed-to set of facts, although it's more than that). Scientific rationalism is a good solution. It doesn't need to be an ideology - it can just be a useful methodology. That's why I spend so much time with gov't types (here in Canada) advocating for a wider embrace of scientific literacy. It's not an easy task in this age of anti-science populism. It helps that I'm older, and not trying to build a movement or sell anything. It also helps that there are many rationalists spread across the political spectrum, so it doesn't need to get tribal. Many of them even say this is no longer a simple right-left split.

matthew said...

Carl would have individuals free from the effects of their free speech. "Campaign finance law is having a chilling effect." on those that are using their contributions to further political causes.

Lots of people do not understand that Free Speech (including campaign contributions) is not the same as Free From the Consequence of Speech. Carl is falling into this trap.

There are plenty of businesses and individuals that I boycott because I disagree with their political speech. My former employer's *lawyer* told me to fire anyone with an Obama bumper sticker on their car. This is legal in my state.

Carl, the Right doesn't get to be free from the actions caused by their political speech anymore than anyone else does.

Complaining that the Right should be free from the consequence of their political speech is interfering with my rights to punish them for their ideas.

Alfred Differ said...

@Carl | The Left got much more than hostile. They got indignant. From there perspective, after the 2008 election, it looked like their opposition was pissed off that a black man was sitting on the wrong side of a certain desk in the West Wing. Hostility is only part of their counter-response. It's much closer to 'How the @#%$ do you DARE that?!'

The Left thought they'd largely won the battle over racism and then people came out of the background to piss on them. You BET they are angry!

Alfred Differ said...

Winter7 | but that the democratic party is not preparing

They are. I see signs of it and I'm not even a Democrat. 8)

As for 'Pollyanna' that's one of those fluency things. Most of us will know the character from Disney's version, but there are many characters in other stories that cover the same ground. For a bit of background, you can check out the Wikipedia page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollyanna

For an American with a little education, the word 'pollyanna' gets used as an adjective or as a character comparison. Mike Will was doing the latter, hence the uppercase signifying it's use as a proper name.

Many of us here recognize parts of our character that align with Pollyanna. 8)

David Brin said...

Annette, I deliberately leave off moderation and other controls as an experiment. I remain stunned by the way we are seldom trolled or spammed here. We do have some kooks and a couple of mentally weird ones, but all of it tolerable for the degree of transparency and openness we've enjoyed. And it all may end tomorrow, alas.

Carl. M. "I feel like I have fallen through a wormhole and into a parallel universe."

Well, yes, especially since half of what you say (about the far-left losing all humor) is true... but was always true. And much of the rest of what you say is so spectacularly and diametrically opposite to true that I do wonder what universe you've fallen into.

Jesus. What an incredible pile of donkey dirt! I can only reiterate that I am well familiar with loony campus leftist social justice warriors, who poison the air on 200 university campuses and Berkeley, and that's pretty much it. For you to swallow the Fox line of "here's a horrid lefty flake bull! And ALL LIBERALS ARE LIKE THAT!" only shows that you are on your knees when you swallow.

Dig it, oh, one who is desperate to retain the "crazy right is slightly less stinky!" narrative.

Yes, the FAR left CONTAINS troglodyte-screeching dogmatists who wage war on science and hate the American tradition of steady, pragmatic reform, and who would impose their prescribed morality on you.

But today’s mad ENTIRE right CONSISTS of troglodyte-screeching dogmatists who wage war on science and hate the American tradition of steady, pragmatic reform, and who would impose their prescribed morality on you.

There is all the world’s difference between FAR and ENTIRE. As there is between CONTAINS and CONSISTS.

And your assertion otherwise, in the face of the right's all-out war on all fact-centered professions, is simply clinical.


Anonymous said...

Today, the Religious Right has more sense of humor than a typical college student government.

Back in the 1980s, when I was at university, the student government was just as humourless as right now.

Anonymous said...

it looked like their opposition was pissed off that a black man was sitting on the wrong side of a certain desk in the West Wing

A friend of mine has a brother who works south of the border. He says his brother knew Obama was going to win the first election when he asked his (suburban) neighbour who he was voting for and was told "we're voting for the nigger!".

No idea whether that correlates with any actual voting patterns.

In the last election, votes for Trump are correlated with Google searches for "nigger jokes". At least according to Seth Stephens-Davidowitz in his book Everybody Lies. (It's a great book and well worth reading, btw.)

https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062390851/everybody-lies/

David Brin said...

A Canadian can get away with that. We'd have to say "we're voting for the N-word guy!"

"Today, the Religious Right has more sense of humor than a typical college student government."

Oy. Comparing apocalypse junkies says what? Argument by anecdote is dumbass and both extremes do it. So go with what's inarguable.

1) The right's extremes own the right, starting at the Kremlin-mafia-Saudi-oligarch top all the way to the fundie-confederate hate-all-nerds bottom.

Whereas if you stand at a lefty campus demonstration and throw a stone in any direction, you'll likely hit a scientist or teacher or journalist or law or intel or military professional whose "liberalism is entirely positive sum and pragmatically contingent on evidence, and who is embarrassed by Social Justice Warriors.

2) Even the Apocalypse freaks on the far left DON'T WANT IT TO HAPPEN! They want to prevent it.

Whereas Apocalypse freaks on the far-right... now including a very large fraction that's about to control our nukes, actively yearns for the end of the world. They openly avow to praying for it.

And for Carl M. to not make these distinctions shows you what we face, trying to lure our fellow nerds - those libertarians - off their knees, to rise up and remember who oppressed liberty across 6000 years.

Mike Will said...

"actively yearns for the end of the world"
- that's pretty much the definition of a death cult...


He who does not desire or fear the uncertain day or capricious fate, is equal to the gods above and loftier than mortals.
- Justus Lipsius

Larry Hart said...

Annette T Thomas:

Anecdotally, I just found it amusing that the URL for this blog reads "not secure". ;)


Dr Brin:

Annette, I deliberately leave off moderation and other controls as an experiment.


From the smiley face, I'd guess that Annette was not complaining about the lack of security, but was rather amused by the juxtaposition with the subject matter of the post.

Anonymous said...

Even using the Google translator, I can see that Carl M. uses a very unusual way of speaking and presenting ideas. It is as if he is not really a speaker of the English language. In fact, I did not even understand more than 10% of what he said. And soon after, someone named "Mark Jeftovic" appeared.
Maybe the Russians are getting more interested in this blog?
Whatever. Comrade Jeftovic speaks like someone who mocks without knowing what really happens in matters of politics or science. I do not think he wants to know the truth. Some people are happy consuming the official propaganda without trying to reason something.

Winter7

Anonymous said...

A Canadian can get away with that. We'd have to say "we're voting for the N-word guy!"

Well, that's one Canadian (me) quoting what another Canadian told him an American said. Implication being that if even racists who used the N-word were planning on voting for Obama, he was likely to win. Anecdote-not-evidence, of course.

Anonymous said...

Is it my imagination or are some trying to bring up the issue of racism? Wufff. Racism is something so anachronistic ... Something pertaining to times of ignorance.
In fact. I am convinced that those who are racist are simply people who are chronically idle and do not find something useful to do.
Since it is almost impossible to convince a racist that racism is stupid, I conclude that racism will diminish only as the races mix more and more, until the issue of racism becomes a matter officially cataloged as a racism. sign of stupidity.
As I said before. Mixing races is a good thing. There is a reason why the members of a tribe preferred to look for wives in other tribes.

Winter7

Anonymous said...

New news: In France, Macron raises wages and cuts taxes. Waw; ¡that of mass rebellions does work!
¡ France gu bràth! ¡ France gu bràth! ¡ France gu bràth! ¡ Saorsa! ¡ Saorsa!

Winter7

David Brin said...

I do agree with Winter that a majority of American "racists" are probably racist out of culpable laziness. Given an excuse to reclassify a person in some other way, they often do ("my favorite sports star!" "Entertainer!") without noticing a spark of hypocrisy.

But then, many of us non-racists still do the human thing and are quick to "classify" any person we meet. Lacking another immediate category, race can take the foreground. It is a human thing. Though I can squint and imagine how wearing it must feel for a black man - to have to reassure white folks with his "white voice" and to see the look of rushed relief on their faces as they think: "Reclassified! He's black SECONDARILY to being a nice man on the street who held that door open an extra second with a smile. Yes! That's it! Be friendly back at him!"

That's not "racism" in any of the older ways. But I am sure it wears away, like a bit of grit you can't get out of your waistband. And many of our kids are already past it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. And, really, I believe that we must motivate and favor the mixture of races, to put an end to racism. It is feasible to create laws that offer more generous credits for the acquisition of a house for interracial marriages. I would propose to create funny television series with the theme of interracial marriages, to make the idea popular, but those television series already exist.
Did you know that a Japanese scientist said that the Japanese are in danger of extinction due to the massive use of sex dolls? I guess this is an indication of future trends. (Do you remember certain romantic scenes in BladeRunner 2?)
Link:
https://www.rt.com/news/434058-japan-sex-dolls-demographic-crisis/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/andreamorris/2018/09/25/prediction-sex-robots-are-the-most-disruptive-technology-we-didnt-see-coming/#5e5fea9b6a56

Winter7

David Brin said...

"create funny television series with the theme of interracial marriages"

This has been a staple for 20 years and in the last ten it has filled advertisements and commercials.

"Did you know that a Japanese scientist said that the Japanese are in danger of extinction due to the massive use of sex dolls?"

Well it's the women who are choosing.

Anonymous said...

Mike Will said...
\\Scientific rationalism is a good solution.
\\advocating for a wider embrace of scientific literacy.

Sorry to disappoint you... I strongly dislike to do this.
Because I myself positivist.
But "Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas".

I'm from country ("smart" cage for countries) where THAT was government politic from the very beginning -- USSR.
Religion was banished. Science proclaimed to be something like official religion.

But it helped nothing.

It was historical argument.

And here is pragmatical.

Science -- is TOO complex. And changes constantly.
So make it serve as some ethic standard -- is no good idea.
As for science itself as for socium that used it that way.

Anonymous said...

Carl M. said...
\\and found Rooskies under every desk.

Pardon my idle interest.
But if you dislike "Rooskies under every desk" (peculiar thing, why "Rooskie"(only 27k by Google) not Russians?)
so much,
so how'd you like Gulag?

If you don't know, its a place where all different libertarians, physicists and other smart-asses of "1/6th of sushi" ended their days.
Akin to China during "Cultural Revolution" or Kamboja under Pol Pot...
but not that nicely.

Death from Sibirsky Moroz is not on the "Plain and Simple, Easy ways of death" list.

Same way as death from starvation during Golodomor.

Same way as death from radioactivity... because of Chernobyl or numerous dirty Nuke Trials.

Etc.

Mike Will said...

"Because I myself positivist."

Study Mach vs Planck. (Einstein's evolving view on Relativity is helpful)
Study Plato vs Socrates (yes, I said 'versus')

Be aware that AGI will not care about your 'isms' or 'ists', it will simply do science, "Too complex" will not be a barrier. The universe is a domain of computation and evolution. Math, symbols, sensory experience, 'isms', and similar tools enable a 3-pound hominid brain to hold a vastly simplified model of reality. Our quaint notions have the limitation of fitting within the human cranium. This is why I often compare us to ants when describing AGI.

Anonymous said...

>> Mike Will said...

Thank you for your attention.


\\Study Mach vs Planck. (Einstein's evolving view on Relativity is helpful)

And what it'll help in real world problem solving?
Like choose what gov. politic to support.
How to meet deadline with limited resources.
Or how to talk and come to agreement with people... (that last is most important by far... as we now talking -- can we agree on something?)

\\Study Plato vs Socrates (yes, I said 'versus')

Very enticing... but hardly usefull...


\\Be aware that AGI will not care about your 'isms' or 'ists', it will simply do science, "Too complex" will not be a barrier.

How could you be so sure? %)

Are you have developed and complete enough Theory of AI?

For now... our understanding of it... akin to medival superstitions like
"Mandragora is sprouting under dead man hanging"
or more like
"Flogiston is immaterial substance which embody heat by itself".

Yeah... we till now think that that "intellect" is something we can squize out from raw data... and then make it potent with help of some kinda philosophical stone. %)
And Voila!


PS All other is just truism. Need no comments.

Mike Will said...

"And what it'll help in real world problem solving?"
Yup. Getting physics correct is kind of important.


"Like choose what gov. politic to support."
Yup. I think Ampère was on the right track with his "Cybernetiques"


"How to meet deadline with limited resources."
Yup. There's little that impedes efficiency like delusional human bias.


"Or how to talk and come to agreement with people..."
Yup. Starting from a common context and applying rationalism and computational thinking would be helpful.


"Are you have developed and complete enough Theory of AI?"
That's a great question. I'm from a time before deep learning started churning away on ponderous heaps of data. I think that a real, 'neurological' theory of AI would be truly useful. Others agree and have been working on this for a long time (eg Numenta). Having said that, I also think that AGI will arrive by evolution, not design.


I'm glad you think I spout 'truisms'. Many aren't that kind :)

Anonymous said...

\\I also think that AGI will arrive by evolution, not design.

Than we have nothing to debate.

And maybe... can humbly share views on evolutional ways of AI ;)

\\Many aren't that kind :)

Most of piople are plain idiots. :)

Mike Will said...

I hesitate to put links to my own writing in someone else's blog, especially when it belongs to someone I respect as much as Dr. Brin. If you dig through his many, many posts going way back, you'll find a lot of gold. In addition, most of my thinking is wound up in "Foundation" and psychohistory, which puts me way deep behind David's shadow.

Here is my 30,000 foot view:
Intelligence (language, social history). has been achieved only once that we know of - hominids on Earth. This was an interesting branch of evolution, but certainly not the 'culmination'; evolution is ongoing, in all life forms, be they simple or complex. Evolution works away on all things, living or not. It's really just a gradient applied to processes, not some deep 'meaning of the universe' concept.
We can augment evolution to our own needs. Examples are animal husbandry and agriculture. Another example is AI --> AGI. Biological evolution is nifty, but glacial. The last century or two has shown that information technology can speed up this process *significantly*. There are many ways to do this. Neural networks are a brute-force attempt. A more 'natural' way is agent-based (also called multi-agent) systems. Another way is to artificially recreate a brain, even if you don't fully understand its workings. Another way is to search nature for clues and shortcuts using our technology. This latter one has caught my interest of late, such as teasing out potential physical laws or informational relationships by computation and simulation.
Eg https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612358/an-ai-physicist-can-derive-the-natural-laws-of-imagined-universes/
But this is Dr. Brin's blog, not mine, and I have little interest in convincing, defending, or building a following - it's all just too much work.



David Brin said...

There is no contradiction in the fact that the Leninists styled themselves as "logical" and yet governed abysmally. "Logic is just like imagination -- an excellent hypothesis-generator. Logic can also (carefully) serve as a sift for eliminating the worst hypotheses.

But logic does not PROVE positive assertions, especially in the real and complex world. In most societies, both logic and faith were used as catechisms to rationalize and justify autocratic rule and oppression. It was just another way to wallow in self-justifying delusion.

Only in those societies that instituted competitive , evidence-based pragmatism did humanity every take off, rising above delusion. Periclean Athens, Renaissance Florence, and our own cyclically improving Burst all show the power of reciprocal criticism to pierce beloved delusions and allow synergistic recombinations to combine truths and refute errors, creating positive sum outcomes.

Plato railed at the Pericleans and declared that he could logically derive truth. Bah. Give me Michael Faraday. Ben Franklin. And a social contract that subjected even them to endless pokes and jabs from critics.

It is the Dance of Shiva. We destroy what was (previous paradigms and accepted "truths," by showing they were "only"95% correct. Take that!. And as Shiva dances away, there rises from the ashes something that's 97% correct! And Shiva smiles and say's "I'll be back."

David Brin said...

Dang. Shiva played by Arnold S?

Jon S. said...

Organizing your data in logical fashion, and thinking about it as clearly as you can, are important to analyzing the data - but in the absence of data, all you're engaging in is philosophical masturbation, unconnected to reality in any meaningful way.

Thus, all the people with Frankenstein Syndrome, whose "data" consist largely of pop-fiction stories about the horrors of AI and robots (most recently embodied by all those who see footage of the Big Dog series from Boston Dynamics, and can only envision that episode of Black Mirror with the killer robot, not the physically-disabled person who is no longer dependent on another person to open doors or get things off of shelves for them). They're hypothesizing in an utter absence of data, and confusing their worst fears for the "logical" consequences of a procedure that has never happened yet.

(Of course, they should also bear in mind that in the original tale of Frankenstein, the monster was not created as a being with ill intent; rather, the treatment it experienced at the hands of humans terrified of it, particularly its creator, left it desiring revenge against the doctor for doing this to it. Perhaps automatically fearing AI is the worst thing we could do...)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re- AI

At worst a rogue AI would want to rule us

Humans are simply necessary to provide the interface between "intelligence" and the physical world
The "Robot" that can replace a human is a LOT further away than AI - and one that can do that for an affordable amount is even further

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

But logic does not PROVE positive assertions, especially in the real and complex world.


Logic is a good way to get from point A to point Z by way of points B, C, D, etc. It does not tell you that point Z is more desirable than point A in the first place. It's the argument I kept having with a guy whose posts I don't read anymore--he insists that "You should do..." is a nonsense statement because it can't be proven. Whereas I claim that "You should do..." makes perfect sense, but only and always when paired with, "...if your goal is...".

There's also that pesky (but accurate) quote attributed to Yogi Berra:

In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is.

Mike Will said...

Sure it works in practice, but will it work in theory?
- French joke

Larry Hart said...

Gotta love the snark from my girlfriend, Nancy Pelosi:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/11/us/politics/takeaways-trump-pelosi-schumer.html

After she returned to Capitol Hill, Ms. Pelosi said that for Mr. Trump, the wall was “like a manhood thing for him.

“As if manhood could ever be associated with him,” she said.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Anonymous said...

>> Mike Will said...

Thank you. I appreciate it much.


\\you'll find a lot of gold.

Have no doubts... but saddly enough, mining gold is still too expensive.
So, I have a thought -- what if there'd be a way, a place where all gold of the world could be combined... (some kind of social network? semantic net? mind map?)


\\Intelligence (language, social history). has been achieved only once that we know of - hominids on Earth.

Than you may benefit from Stanislav Lem's insight here -- that human language its might be the same kind phenomen as "language" of DNA .
Shamelessly advertise here his "Golem XIV" where all such ideas was artfully presented. (because his unparalleled "Summa technologiae" are too hard in compare)


\\It's really just a gradient applied to processes, not some deep 'meaning of the universe' concept.

Big YES... and small no.
No, because our Universe is discrete in nature... so we could not know -- is it some deeper meaning behind it or no? (while in continuum based universe we could check the gradient)


\\This latter one has caught my interest of late, such as teasing out potential physical laws or informational relationships by computation and simulation.

Thumb up! Notion articulated by Lem in many of his writings.

Anonymous said...

David Brin said...

\\There is no contradiction in the fact that the Leninists styled themselves as "logical" and yet governed abysmally.

Its just logically. They violated rules of logic. "From False can follow anything".
And this "anything" was perpetum mobile for all existence of USSR.

The False is "labor theory of value".

And... there was NO "leninists"... after Stalin eliminated ones who can rightfully call so themself. %) He was the last one. %\


\\"Logic is just like imagination -- an excellent hypothesis-generator. Logic can also (carefully) serve as a sift for eliminating the worst hypotheses.

"Logic is just a schema" -- I'd said. (claim no credits on it)
So its plain wrong to attribute it to something beyond "just schema".


\\But logic does not PROVE positive assertions, especially in the real and complex world.

Why not?
Its just well known observation -- its too hard to maintain and process usefull in practice chain of logical inference...


\\In most societies, both logic and faith were used as catechisms to rationalize and justify autocratic rule and oppression. It was just another way to wallow in self-justifying delusion.

Not sure.
Politics use catchphrazes, not logical inference.


\\Dang. Shiva played by Arnold S?

Yeap. %) Shuwa-tan (as japanese playfully call him) in his earlies. %)

But I myself think that Jeckie Chan would be better in that role. %P

Anonymous said...

\\In most societies, both logic and faith were used as catechisms to rationalize and justify autocratic rule and oppression. It was just another way to wallow in self-justifying delusion.

Not sure.
Politics use catchphrazes, not logical inference.
upd\\And use "ad baculum" in case you are trying to argue logicaly, to show falacies in their words.
Be it in form of guillotina, Gulag or just court trials against bunch of lawyers.