Friday, June 17, 2011

Sousveillance: A New Era for Police Accountability


Police are waging a futile war against camera-toting citizens.

In several states, you can be arrested for filming cops on duty, even in a public place. With cameras growing ever smaller, conflicts are going to arise more often and there can only be one outcome. Police are just going to have to get used to it -- much as I forecast in The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom (1997).

Citizens of the future will be armed... with cameras.

One recent incident: “After a horrific shootout on the streets of Miami, Narces Benoit and his girlfriend witnessed the finale: police firing a barrage of rounds into a man's car. Narces recorded it. The police smashed his phone. But first? He stuck the SD memory card into his mouth and saved the footage.”

And then there's the story of Emily Good, who stood on her front lawn in Rochester recording police searching a man's car for drugs (none were found). Police responded that they didn't feel safe with her behind them...and ordered her to go inside her house. She did not comply, continued filming, and was arrested. Recording police is not illegal in New York, and she made no threatening moves. They declared that she was "anti-police" as a rationale. Watch the video.

And another horrific example. “Woman could get 15 years for recording cops after one of them allegedly assaulted her.”

I’ve been writing about this for decades. Some prescient passages in The Transparent Society, describe exactly this kind of tension, between citizens armed with new tools of vision and accountability, and tens of thousands of cops who - from day to day - see themselves as doing a harsh, difficult and under-appreciated job. Look, I appreciate it. Not only the skill and professionalism that has played a big part in decreased crime rates ion the United States, but also the daily fight that every officer must wage, to maintain that professionalism, under circumstances that might send any of us into uncontrollable rage.

We all carry hormonal and neuronal and psychological baggage from the million year Stone Age... and ten thousand years of urban life in which the king’s thugs patrolled the streets without having to think twice before slinging their truncheons at the heads of punks.

Well, sorry. We’re asking more of you, now. It is our civilization. Ours. And if you don’t think you can operate under the new rules, might I suggest another profession?

In fact, the glass is far more than half full. The men and women in most modern American police forces are adapting to the the new standards of behavior. Clenching their teeth and calling “sir” even the most outrageously abusive drunks. I am proud to know some of these folks. Moreover, I can understand why they might worry about that one time they lose their cool, coming back to haunt them, because some putz on the nearby street corner decides to record that momentary lapse on a cell cam.

I sympathize. I do. Yet I refuse to accept the assertion that good cops need “privacy” to perform their jobs. It doesn’t wash. It is a ridiculous argument, aimed at achieving convenience and evasion of accountability, and we will not allow it.  

Technology will not allow it. For -- according to “Brin’s Corollary to Moore’s Law” -- the cameras will get smaller, cheaper, more numerous and more mobile every year.

So figures of authority might as well get used to it now.

== A World Watching ==

This is the new world. It will be watching -- assume it at any given moment.

And I promise you this... juries and citizen review boards will bear in mind that we're all human. When you suffer that inevitable, occasional, not-too-awful over-reaction, there will often be a second chance. We're human too and we want our cities patrolled.

When all of this equilibrates, we will have to make some allowances for good people, caught making a rare mistake.

But what’s the alternative? Are you really going to try to push this "never record us" lunacy? Do you really want the law to deny us the only recourse that a citizen has ever had, against bullying and abuse of power? Really? The only thing that we have on our side?

It is called the Truth. And if you fear it, then we do not want you as our hired protector.

We are changing the rules. And from now on, only adults need apply.

For Follow-up see:

You Have The Right To Record Police -- a look at recent court rulings on this important topic.

and The Transparency Amendment: The Under-Appreciated Sixth -- which examines the legal basis for our right to look back.

More: collected articles on Issues of Transparency.

== Finally, a Few Announcements ==

Living lasers?” Way back in 1980, my first novel Sundiver proposed that living matter might be made to produce laser emissions. Scientists had already used organic dye as a laser amplification material. It seemed plausible (to me) that life could take the next steps, excitation and cavity reflection. All right, it's more than just a few steps to creatures with laser-shooting eyes! Still, three decades later, my forecast is coming true. Two Massachusetts scientists report having caused laser activity inside living cells. The photos are amazing. One for the predictions registry! (Someone please register it!)

Want kids to win the future? Turn them into Makers -- and Sci Fi Fans. I attended the recent Maker Faire and gave a keynote, then toured this “Woodstock for nerds” with my son. Highly recommended!

Want to hear some good audio sci fi? One of my stories - A Professor at Harvard - dramatized for a podcast on StarShipSofa. Others can be found on my website.


Mike said...

A perspective from the significant other of a police officer in Vancouver, Canada:

I'm in general agreement with you on a need for greater accountability in the actions of police. Video evidence has been useful to bring out the truth in a few recent cases here (most famously, the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski via RCMP tazering). Recently (two days ago), our city had a significant riot. The police were extremely conscious of the amount of video being recorded, and conducted their duty with a minimal amount and proper use of force. I have heard both praise and criticism of their reserve.

Despite all this, I believe there is a pragmatic problem. When the recording and editing is done by those holding the ideology that authority is necessarily evil, we end up with a disproportionate amount of video presenting this perspective. Police use of force is sometimes necessary, and as one who has never struck out in anger, I don't like to see it more than any other. I worry though, that any footage of the use of force, even if controlled and justified, will be presented as evidence of brutality against the powerless.

Perhaps it is good that we may soon have video from both sides of the fence.

ell said...

A long time ago I heard David speculate that his current family name was originally spelled Brain...

Anonymous said...

@Mike: I've often wondered why this hasn't been done - it seems like just a matter of time; 'badgecams' would be just like 'dashcams', but would present the officer's POV, and is just as available to defend an officer from accusations of brutality, etc, as it is to convict an officer of wrongdoing. Add a bit of tamperproofness and it becomes each officer's personal 'black box', able to provide evidence if even the officer is unable to.

Mike said...


Unfortunately, the officer cams will still be under control of the officer, so the potential for bias is still present. At the very least, I hope that the combination of police-recorded and citizen-recorded video will combine to form a complete picture.

sociotard said...

With cameras, the more the merrier, I think. Citizens should get to film officers, and officers should film citizens. And there should be cameras on street corners that both sides can use.

Anonymous said...

The policeman is only as good as the laws he enforces. In a state where the laws are corrupted to serve a vicious clique, honest cops may leave the force but there will always be enough thugs to fill their shoes. This is how dictatorships are all run. So the culture of the police, and whether they accept the sousveillance of the citizens, is all down to the culture of the higher-ups in the Justice Department, the courts, Congress and the White House.

I read a great book some years ago: Dug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State, by Richard Lawrence Miller (1996).

It made a good case that the drug war had eviscerated the Bill of Rights; since then the "War" on "Terror" has certainly finished them off as a practical matter. Expanding police power merely puts the same expanded powers in the hands of the worst police as well as the best; abuse is guaranteed. It's not enough to push back at the cop on the beat: the real problem is authoritarians on the bench and in legislatures and high office.

Anonymous said...

I can feel some workerly solidarity toward the cops when it's managerial or internal affairs surveillance, but in the case of the civilian public, that's barking down rather than up the hierarchy. Genuine sousveillance is from below.

And what "sociotard" said. Let all street-level surveillance cameras be webcams. All of them.

Tony Fisk said...

Good. A few others have already said it:

In this age of sousveillance, police officers need to record a celebration of their work, if only to balance the accounts against that one time when they do snap.

Anonymous said...

Here in Toronto we've got a good reason to want badgecams: our police are either incredibly bad at remembering and recognizing faces, or they are liars. How else to explain all those officers who couldn't recognize each other (even roommates) at the G20 last year?

(Personally, I'd bet on "liars" — those badges didn't get taped over or removed by accident. With badgecams, maybe those officers would have thought twice before assaulting people who were following orders — while ignoring the people who were smashing windows and burning cars.)

Corey said...

I wouldn't worry too much about tampering with badge cams, at least in time.

For the moment, early iterations will probably be able to be easily tampered with to alter any video that casts an officer in a negative light, but it seems like there's an easy solution there in simply having the cams transmit the video, say over cell networks, to a remote location where it's held. That eliminates the problem of having the officer "in control" of the recorded videos. If the officer is out of range to transmit such data, then it can be stored locally, and then uploaded the instant a connection is re-established to the server.

Of course, I'm still in agreement with many here that civilians should also be able to protect themselves with their own recording devices. I think it serves all sides to have as many perspectives as possible on alleged police misconduct, to convict or exonerate them, as is needed.

Paul said...

Phobos partially eclipsing Jupiter, via a camera on Mars Express. You can see the cloud-bands on Jupiter. Cameras everywhere!


Re: Badge-cam.
Real-time sending the video back to base via cell-phone technology is good, but make the audio publicly available over the interwebz. (IDed, time-stamped, GPSed tagged, etc.) Audio-only reduces the privacy issues, but shows any mysterious gaps in the version of the video controlled by the officer.

(ernsploo: No definition, I just wanted to share.)

Andrew Love said...


I think I mentioned this article to you, but thought I'd highlight it here

In summary, a DC area group of second-graders come up with an energy-saving, atmosphere saving carpool pickup schedule.

David Brin said...

Items:1. I hate MS Word. It is a deliberate attempt to ruin human creativity, productivity and sanity. It has no redeeming qualities and if I could avoid it, I would. Alas, one cannot.

2. Mike, I agree that biased parties can warp recordings of events. So? Please read The Transparent Society. As you allude, the answer to flawed vision is... more vision. Biased parties who warp testimony can then be nailed for perjury or false witness.

3. "originally spelled Brain"... ah, bear with me as I sing... "If I only had an A..."

Tony Fisk said...

... but they change the Word user interface so frequently! Surely there's been *one* you liked? neither. My theory is that it is being continually reviewed by the marketing department to extract and discard as much semantic information as possible. The goal is a word processor that is so simple to use you need only press one button.

ressob: the action performed by pressing said button

Nicholas Wilt said...

The technological trends are clear, but the political winds seem to be blowing in the wrong direction.

Re uploading video in real time, as they say, "There's an app for that":

TCB said...

Never used MS Word. I went with WordPerfect for years, and now OpenOffice. Free and versatile. What the heck does Word do that OpenOffice can't? If everyone expects you to submit text files in MS Rich Text Format .rtf format, why, just do the work in OpenOffice and save it as an .rtf. Assuming that's the only issue, easy-peasy.

Tim H. said...

Can an Officer be sure they confiscated/destroyed every camera? Do they want to risk not only the possible out of context vid going public, but footage of destruction of evidence also?

grayburst said...

I have to say that I have great hope on this issue because of all the cameras. The amount of cases that come out about police abuse are frightening these days, but with more accountability and evidence the more likely the trends and long patterns of a few police acting like thugs can be brought under control. It gives me hope for the type of society my children are going to have.

Paul said...

Brewster Kahle is the guy archiving human knowledge.

The article also speculates that we are in a unique period where books are cheap and plentiful, ie, between the start of the literate society and the end of physical books. ("Peak Book"?) And ironically, the most popular books will become the most uncommon, at least in physical form.

(boottops: The tops of boots. Neither blogger nor I are really trying today.)

Tacitus2 said...

Here at least is an issue that both ends of the political spectrum can agree on. Conservatives and Progressives both mistrust authority albeit with differing opinions on who Authority is and why we should be suspicious of them.

As to the police, most will be ok with this, I imagine most of them get fed up trying to protect the small minority who are not doing their jobs properly (due to any number of factors).

We will have to watch for tampering and hacking, but covering up evidence of this sort of thing is not that easy. Nor is creating such evidence where none exists-thank you very much Rep. Weiner.

I suppose we will have to tolerate many YouTube vids of donut eating cops, but this is not an excessive price to pay for a better society.


Anonymous said...

Meh, I don't think cameras will make as much difference as some of you seem to believe. Johannes Meserle, the BART cop who shot a handcuffed man in the back while the man was lying face down on the ground, got out of prison the other day.

That incident was on video from multiple angles and the cop still got off with far, far less punishment than a civilian would have for the same crime.

Consider also that the excuse Meserle gave was that he thought he was firing his taser rather than his gun. The murdered man was lying face down and handcuffed, the taser was totally unnecessary.

As long as cops are only slapped on the wrist for things that would send a civilian to jail for a very long period some of them will continue to abuse their positions.

dessest: dessert as the first meal of the day

Acacia H. said...

Here's a rather disturbing article concerning not only the illegality of tape recording officers... but also one instance where a man was arrested for legally carrying a gun with a permit and thrown in jail because he had a tape recorder record the incident.


On a note looking forward, here's an article on a Mach 4 passenger jet that would be zero emissions and avoid sonic booms by traveling in a suborbital trajectory... and could travel the Atlantic in under an hour.


Finally, looking at a far nearer future we may be on the verge of developing cancer vaccines to help treat cancers and prevent them from going out of control.


Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

adastra said...

These "Eyez" glasses will be a great step forward for sousveillance!

Paul said...

"As to the police, most will be ok with this"

Apparently a cultural myth has developed within police departments that cameras will be used against "good" cops, ie, commanders using minor incidents to end someone's career for political reasons.

While it's likely the sort of crap spouted by bad cops who know they'll get caught doing bad things, it's become the "death panels" of rank'n'file police. It's beyond reasonable argument and negotiation. (It's probably also the reason why cops are reacting so strongly to being recorded.)

Jonathan S. said...

Well, I just checked with my brother (who is a cop); his opinion, and the general opinion around his station, is that they're already recording everything anyway, so as long as you don't interfere with their jobs, stick the camera like six inches away from their faces, or blind them with lights at night, there's no problem with recording them doing their jobs.

OTOH, the Seattle PD dern near had a strike a bit back, when badge cams were proposed. You'd have thought they were already being accused of wrongdoing! (Of course, given some of the things that have been recorded since, and the fact that the coverup went so far that the Justice Department is now investigating SPD, that might have been exactly the problem...)

demas: the mothers, in Brooklyn

sociotard said...

Tell your brother we appreciate his attitude!

matthew said...

Note that the "Eyez" are a hit for Brin's predictions registry. And that they are patent pending.

Paul said...

"Note that the "Eyez" are a hit for Brin's predictions registry."

Prediction or inspiration?

Tony Fisk said...

Speaking of cameras, check out what Cassini's been looking at. What on Helene has caused those markings?

"There are more lumps of ice and rock in the heavens than thou didst dream, Horatio!"

twelenth: the true witching hour, occurring between the eleventh and twelfth of each month.

David Brin said...

" that cameras will be used against "good" cops, ie, commanders using minor incidents to end someone's career for political reasons."

I never cease to be amazed by the sheer imbecile obduracy of 99% of the smart people who EVER think about this issue, but refuse ever to contemplate how their reflex complaint might be solved by MORE light, rather than less.

In this case, if all cops are equally recorded, including supervisors and all the bad ones, then attempts to screw good ones will collapse as corrupt bosses are nailed for protecting the truly awful ones.

The trick of making it work truly openly and equally will be hard, no question. corrupt bosses will start with the advantage. But the only solution will be more light.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

The trick of making it work truly openly and equally will be hard, no question. corrupt bosses will start with the advantage. But the only solution will be more light.

There almost seems to be a law of psychohistory governing this sort of techon-social change. The change will inevitably take place, and the benefits obvious in retrospect, but first we inevitably have to go through a period of intense resistance to that change.

You'd think that the inevitability of the eventual acceptance would be a good argument for skipping the messy transition period, but we as a society or as a species seem incapable of doing so.

Paul said...

Jonathan S,

David said: "if all cops are equally recorded, including supervisors"

I doubt that any "badge-cam" proposal would include "boss-cam", but I'm curious whether your brother-the-cop thinks that would ease the resistance amongst the street-cops to an introduction of badge-cams.

If so, it might have an interesting spin-off if the idea gets passed around police-unions. Senior admin wants badge-cams, lobbies politicians, police-union kicks up, so politicians and police unions negotiate a "equal recording" clause that applies to high admin as well. Suddenly the people who wanted to introduce monitoring of others find themselves being monitored.

Pangolin said...

It seems just about everyone is in agreement that police officers should be wearing badge-cams in order to recored their daily actions. Aside from making it difficult, not impossible, but difficult to be a crooked cop there are advantages.

Officer time spent in court testimony would be drastically reduced. The junior assistant DA simply pulls the vid and sits there and says "that really, really looks like you performing standard drunken stupidity X." Instant plea bargain.

Police officers could demand that city officials such as councilmen and mayors wear badge-cams too. Wouldn't that put a crimp on corruption.

I can't wait for congress-cams.

Jon said...

I tried to post this the other day, Blogger ate it. Short version, one of the biggest changes in police etiquette (according to my teacher in intro to Criminal Justice-- a retired officer --) came with small personal tape recorders. Some cops were tired of all the complaints they had against them, decided to record their encounters discreetly so they could present their side of the story, and then heard themselves on tape, and hadn't realized how abrasive they were being. I wonder if badge cams will have the same effect for training purposes. (and instant Video APB's, and locating an officer in trouble, etc...)

Paul said...

New York, where the streets are paved with gold, platinum, diamonds...


"Officer time spent in court testimony would be drastically reduced."

Evidence can't testify. Someone has to sit in the witness box and say, "Yes I filmed that."

"I can't wait for congress-cams."

Ewww. Talk about watching "sausage" being made.

Anonymous said...

So someone is actually trying to build those eyeglass cameras seen in so many spy and detective movies! It would be difficult to seize all cameras when they are disguised. Perhaps some camera-detecting technology can do it. Till then, nanny-cams will be hidden in teddy bears and clocks. Teacher/student-cams will hide in globes and desks. Imagine the scandal if a boss tried to seize a button-cam off an employee's blouse.

rewinn said...

"..."Officer time spent in court testimony would be drastically reduced."

Evidence can't testify. Someone has to sit in the witness box and say, "Yes I filmed that."

This is true. However:

1. Before trial, the video can promote pleading out or dropping charges based more on on the merits of the case, thus reducing the need for actually showing up and testifying.

2. At trial, the time spent testifying as to the chain of custody can be relatively short and require very little pretrial prep time.

3. One could imagine a small change in the rules of evidence that would permit batching evidentiary hearings together, so an officer need go to court only one time to testify as to having taken a large number of videos, at least in those cases in which defense does intend to question the chain of custody or circumstances under which the video was made. Obviously this would not apply in every case; often the defendant would still want to use the constitutional right to confront the witness who made the video, but it could be helpful in those cases in which the video content is not contested.

rewinn said...

OTOH Apple and/or governments desiring secrecy may simple embed code letting them disable cameras.
The Arab Spring uprisings are fed by freely available video; I'm sure the government that makes nearly all of Apple's hardward in its modern slave provinces would not like the same to happen there.

Tony Fisk said...

I can't see Apple's camera disabling patent ever being practical: we don't all use iPhones! (if it ever is, then it will be because we citizens have been asleep at the wheel!)

Whilst I'm here, Jamais Cascio has a few things to say on Al Jazeera about recording police misconduct

Finally, if monitoring earth bound services is getting you down, you can always help New Horizons look for Kuiper-Belt Objects

selvas: as good a name as any for an outsized snowball.

rewinn said...

While Apple's camera disabling patent alone would not suffice, please keep in mind that most electronic devices are assembled in a small number of nation-states that have one thing in common: they get the contracts to build the stuff for us because they can do it cheaply, and they do it cheaply because they've recognized that human beings make great machine tools: humans are programmable in natural language, and when they break down you don't have to repair them because you don't own them - you just tell them they don't work for you anymore.

Why would such nations NOT take advantage on their corner on the production market to require cameras built there to incorporate shut-off features when they become available ... if they felt it helpful to forestall a robot uprising?

Such a mandate might be disguised as yet another effort by government to protect property rights. One is reminded that even so great a champion of liberty as the USA will lend its Secret Service to help a suffciently-well-connected technology giant imprison a competitor on charges so absurd that our Canadian allies laughed us out of court - but not before the prisoner settled on terms apparantly favorable to the giant.

Tony Fisk said...

I think that nation states that persist in thinking of their organic assets in that way will be in for a rude shock...

When said assets start agitating for improved conditions

When said assets, for their own interests (see 'The Witness Project') start disabling 'certain features'

As I said, we'd have to be collectively asleep at the wheel.

Gripping hand is this: how can you ever be sure you've successfully put the genie back in the bottle, and aren't being recorded by 'unapproved' technology?

roglacy: a state governed by roogs.

LarryHart said...

I just heard about this on Thom Hartmann's radio show yesterday. Very on-topic for this post:

Apple’s recent patent for an invisible infrared sensor that would block piracy at concerts and movies has net neutrality enthusiasts rattled, but some patent bloggers enthused about the possibilities.

The coalition, a group of some two million people devoted to a free and open Internet, want to send Steve Jobs an online petition, “Dear Apple, Don’t Shut Down My Phone Camera,” to ask that he reconsider the patent. The patent, which would enable a device’s camera to shut down during a movie or concert, applies to iPhones, the iPod Touch and iPad 2.

In the petition, the coalition argues that the patent is dangerous because of the way smartphones are now used for political expression and community organizing:

That’s why I’m concerned that Apple wants to patent a sensor that would detect when people are using their phone cameras — and give corporations the power to shut them down. ... As we’ve seen in Egypt and elsewhere, the images and videos we take with our phones can be powerful forms of free speech. That’s why governments and businesses that feel threatened by the democratizing nature of mobile devices are doing what they can to control how we use them... If this tool fell into the hands of repressive regimes or malicious corporations, it would give tyrants and companies the power to silence one of the most critical forms of free expression.

Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt has long warned that anti-piracy laws might be disastrous for free speech.

LarryHart said...

Wow! That should teach me to read to the end before posting. Looks like every post since yesterday afternoon is already about that Apple camera-disabling thing.

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

I can't see Apple's camera disabling patent ever being practical: we don't all use iPhones!

I'd like to agree. But I could easily see use of camera-disabling software becoming "industry standard" or even mandated by law, in the same way that they're trying (or is it already a done deal?) to force music recordings into a format that enforces copywrites.

That will be the excuse here too--that cameras have to be prevented from recording "proprietary" content. But anyone with enough money or power (governments, corporations, billionaire) will have access to the disabling technology.

Paul said...

Tony Fisk,
"I can't see Apple's camera disabling patent ever being practical: we don't all use iPhones!"

"But I could easily see use of camera-disabling software becoming "industry standard" or even mandated by law"

A number of countries required camera-phones to have a "shutter" noise whenever a photo is taken, to prevent up-skirters and locker-room-pervs. It doesn't seem hard to believe that governments could be goaded into mandating block-sensors in FCC (or equiv) standards.

Apple may have done us a favour. Other manufacturers get that much more traction arguing, "You can't require us to pay Apple royalties!" and the legislators not being willing to pay to nationalise the patent, or compensate the manufacturers (as many national constitutions would require.)

Paul said...

Tony Fisk,
"how can you ever be sure you [...] aren't being recorded by 'unapproved' technology?"

It doesn't really matter. If it's illegal, then the recording itself is grounds for conviction. (Against both the recordist and the camera manufacturer.) Chilling effect and all that.

David Brin said...

Insanely intense efforts have gone into making sure that the 21st century technologies are not prone to owner control, the way VCRs and tapes and magnetic media were, in the 20th.

Notice how frustratingly disobedient DVD devices are? Refusing to skip previews? Refusing to record when you want them to? Why hasn't a manufacturer COMPETED by selling versions that bypass all that crap? Would that not be a feature to advertise?

But no one has. Anybody smell... collusion?

BTW see:

Pangolin said...

David_ You seem to be under the illusion that you "own" the electronic devices that you've "purchased." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Example: The software that runs this Mac computer updates itself every week or so. Of course it "asks" permission but that request never includes a valid explanation of what changes are being made. Apple could lock me out of this machine and disable it's internet access anytime it wanted to.

Some time ago Amazon removed thousands of copies of a book people had "purchased" from their Kindle units which they had also "purchased." It's clear to me that the "owner's" of such units don't actually own either the unit or the content in quite the same way I own my battered paperback copy of Startide Rising.

If Apple wants to turn off your Iphone you own a bunch of electronic junk and there is very little you can do about it. Isn't the future fun?

"Open the pod bay doors HAL."

Stefan Jones said...

Charlie Stross on why you shouldn't count on the Singularity to make you immortal or even happen in the first place:

Three arguments against the singularity

'copip': Personnel required for complex operations where one Pip is not enough.

rewinn said...

"Tony Fisk said...

I think that nation states that persist in thinking of their organic assets in that way will be in for a rude shock...

When said assets start agitating for improved conditions...."

The only "rude shock" they're getting now is the ease with which the robots that wear out from 16-hour workdayschose to dispose of themselves via suicide; the response was to ask them to sign no-suicide pledges. I mean, seriously, what do you THINK is going to happen?

This is not a movie. What do you think Foxxconn would do if 10% of their workers demanded a 40-hour work week?

Paul said...

Lightfield cameras are apparently nearly ready for consumer sale.

These were first created in the mid-'90s, requiring 100 cameras in a room for a single shot. But the company claims to have shrunk the tech down to a single consumer-level camera.

Play with the images in the gallery. Click anywhere in the image to bring that part of the image into focus. It's pretty cool, macro and landscape in the same shot. (It looks like there's a limit of three focal depths in the images, but that may be a limit of the player.)

(I wonder if it works with video?)

David Brin said...

Does anyone know if ATT will let you pay JUST to forward mail sent to your current ATT email address, if you move your internet ISP service away from them? That would be an honorable thing to do.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

My wife and I had ATT internet service back when it was still associated with Worldnet, and when we changed service providers, we were able to keep the .att e-mail address for a very small monthly fee--I think it's $7.99

We still have the .att addresses, although they now receive mostly spam.

So I don't know if they'll do what you specifically asked about, but they should let you keep the e-mail address active even if they are not your ISP. The only caveat is that ATT is now associated with Yahoo rather than Worldcom, so I'm not sure about current policy.

David Brin said...

Ah... now (in my last-week slog to finish a novel... I must slog through customer support to find the right person who might be able to help me set up such a forwarding service.

David Brin said...

Carl has shared this interesting article about the current state of conservatism.,8599,2077943,00.html


Tim H. said...

The publicly visible part of the conservative movement has become little more than fanboys for wealth. Just when the nation could use both hands on the wheel. Matt Taibbi has raised the possibility of Michelle Bachmann being elected by a grudge vote:
With the choices being "In thrall to Wall $treet" and "Deeply enthralled by Wall $treet" it's nearly plausible.

Tony Fisk said...

The article doesn't answer its question: How conservativism lost touch with reality.

The answer: conservatism hasn't lost touch with reality so much as it has its shop front. What's being paraded by today's republicans is self-servatism.

...Ooh! Ooh! What's this about 'last week'?

holomarb: a projection service that gives you the statue without the lifting crew.

Rob said...

"Does anyone know if ATT will let you pay JUST to forward mail sent to your current ATT email address, if you move your internet ISP service away from them? That would be an honorable thing to do."

$7.99 a month for a service that cannot cost them more than $0.20/month to provide. And I'm estimating very, very high.

In my experience, they'll either be so complacent about a forwarding setting that it will forward forever, or they have some automation that will shut it off completely immediately upon cancellation.

In either case, they have no honor, because phone companies aren't run by honorable people.

Eneasz said...

Speaking of fiction being turned into an audiobook in the form of a weekly podcast...

(yes, a bit of a plug, but I'm rather proud of it :) )

Eneasz said...

Or heck, even with a clickable link:
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

(sorry for the double post, didn't realize some blogging software still didn't auto-convert pasted links)

adastra said...

This sounds like another great step for SOUVEILLANCE:

CopWatch and OpenWatch: covert recording apps for interactions with authority figures

"OpenWatch is a project that publishes open/free apps for Android and iOS; the apps (called "OpenWatch Recorder" and "CopRecorder") covertly record audio and, at your direction, transmits it to the OpenWatch site. There, it is reviewed for significance, stripped of personal information, and published. It also has a video mode. The OpenWatch site looks for regional patterns in authority-figure interactions -- for example, whether a county operates its drunk-driving checkpoints in an illegal fashion..."

more (including a short video) at:

Tim H. said...

Recently read Charles Stross's "Halting State", interesting perspective on ubiquitous cameras.
A thought, are we seeing a privacy concern, or a dominance game?
"idepa", something less than a clue.

Paul said...

Article in New Scientist. Birds tweet using learned rules of grammar. Researchers traced it to an area of the birds' brains that corresponds to Broca's area.

Should give uplift researchers an extra tool to work with.

(A commenter notes the irony of bird tweets having grammar, when human "tweets" often don't.)

china electronics said...

Ttansperant society?! I want to read this book.

Rob said...

All I have today are quips:

-- Let's not forget that every policeman already enjoys the right to film his encounters with the citizenry.


-- If those people are "job creators", they're performing execrably at it, and need none of the disincentives the Republicans threaten to keep doing it so badly.