Sunday, July 10, 2011

Transparency Wars Continue: Some Untold Effects of WikiLeaks and more...

It’s been a productive month. First finishing a major novel(!), then flying off to give speeches and consultations to industrial clients (about the technological future), then keeping busy with journalism about our civilization’s struggle with ongoing change. Which brings us to our top link...

RADICAL-TRANSPARENCYThe Silicon Valley Metronews features my article “World Cyberwar And the Inevitability of Radical Transparency.”  The topic is both ongoing and ever-new. I discuss how WikiLeaks ignited the first international cyber war -- and how pro-business laws enacted to promote the growth of Silicon Valley's digital media and technology companies inadvertently nurtured transformation activists shaking up and toppling governments around the world.

With this fresh look at the cyber wars. I zero especially on several main examples... e.g the surprising ways that Julian Assange helped U.S. foreign policy far more than he harmed it... plus the ongoing battle between police and citizens armed with cameras... and much more.

Never before have so many people been empowered with practical tools of transparency. Beyond access to instantly searchable information from around the world, nearly all of us now carry in our pockets a device that can take and transmit images anywhere. Will the  growing power of elites to peer down at us --surveillance-- ultimately be trumped by the rapidly growing power of sousveillance?

=== One-sided Transparency ===

H.P. and Cisco Systems Inc. will help China build a massive surveillance network in the city of Chongqing -- aimed at crime prevention. The technological part of it is impressive, as it will "cover a half-million intersections, neighborhoods and parks over nearly 400 square miles, an area more than 25% larger than New York City." This extensive surveillance system may potentially implement as many as 500,000 cameras, far more even than the 8,000 to 10,000 surveillance cameras currently estimated to exist in cities like New York. Yet -- note that few of those New York cameras report to a centralized system.  

The anti-crime benefits of such systems might be achievable without tyranny -- if citizens were equally empowered to look back at the mighty, via “sousveillance.” But such reciprocality is not likely in the near Chinese future. Human rights activists worry that such extensive surveillance will inevitably be used for other purposes -- to target political protests. 

Are companies responsible for how their products are used? In a recent Wall Street Journal poll, over half responded that U.S. companies should be allowed to sell high-tech surveillance tech to China. Meanwhile, H.P. executive Todd Bradley dodged the issue, commenting that “It’s not my job to really understand thewhat they’re going to use it for.”

Meanwhile, in New York City, there are 238 license plate readers. Many of these are mobile devices, mounted on the back of patrol cars. Others are set up at fixed posts at bridges, tunnels and highways across the city. These license plate readers have helped in the tracking down of major crimes suspects; they have provided also clues in homicide cases and other serious crimes. But they have been used in lesser offenses, such as identifying and locating stolen cars. But there are concerns. The police have established an extensive database tracking citizens' driving patterns. How long is this data maintained and who can access the information?  

Cracked gives us six legit ways cops can screw us over... including the fact Asset Forfeiture is factored into their budget. Or in other words, if cops weren't allowed to seize our stuff and sell it, even without proof of a crime, they'd suffer budget shortfalls.

====Looking toward the Far Future==== 

NASA's Hundred Year Starship and the Yucca Mountain nuclear depository are two examples of "deep time" thinking -- casting our eyes over the next horizon, anticipating the needs of our descendants. While top priority must go to freedom, progress, full brains for all kids and saving the planet -- some ambitious, forward-looking innovation and commitment to our grandchildren must be on the agenda.  

 In June I keynoted the annual Managers’ Conference at PayPal and Qualcomm's Innovation Network (QUIN) "Venture Fest."  Many thanks to Alex Tosheff and Ricardo dos Santos, my hosts for those events, which showcased some marvelous talent in among the world’s best and most inventive technology companies.   

"The World Transformed" is an audio interview series by Fast Forward Radio. They interviewed me, along with P.J. Manney, Thomas McCabe and other visionaries, discussing some of the difficulties and prizes that await us in the years and decades ahead. 
=====More News====

Japanese scientists announced that massive deposits of the 17 elements used to produce hybrid cars, laptops, smartphones and other high-tech devices can be extracted from nodules on the floor of the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. Nodules were first touted as setting off a sub-sea boom in sci fi stories way back in the 1950s.  I certainly spoke of this in more detail... in EARTH (1989). But will it be economic to retrieve these resources?  

For real? (Someone dig for verification?) Israel will be using new technology to get oil from oil shale in the Shfela Basin. There's an estimated 250 billion barrels vs the Saudi's 260 billion barrels. This article is clearly biased and somewhat polemically exaggerated  - and conveniently ignores Rupert Murdoch’s deep bed-buddyness with certain pretro princes.  Still, if it is even half true....   

The Educational Value of Creative Disobedience: Read this article in Scientific American by Andrea Kuszewski about teaching children how to solve problems creatively, instead of flooding them with memorized information.  It really is worth your time.   

Comparison of the universe: moons, planets, galaxies, and clusters: Play this at full-screen. Enjoy the beauty and majesty of it all. 

Are the Japanese making human clones? Actually, just putting your face on a robot!

====On the Fiction front====== 

Thor-Meets-Captain-AmericaI've placed several of my novellas on Kindle: Thor Meets Captain America, The Loom of Thessaly, Tank Farm Dynamo, and Stones of Significance.

Continuing the trend of excellent fiction being turned into an audiobook in the form of a weekly podcast. This one I highly highly recommend!  A wonderful variation on the Harry Potter universe that I consider vastly better than the original, as well as more interesting and fun. 

A cool comparison of today’s tech to Star Trek

Even crude and half-finished, this “trailer” for a movie based on my uplift universe has a lot of fun and thrilling elements. Be sure and view it all the way through, for various versions. 
Meanwhile, io9 - the fascinating site for all things marvelous, ran a piece about Famous Sci Fi Dolphins... and featured my Uplift Universe.  I wonder why? 

Nor have I any monopoly on producing cool stuff! My Sci Fi author colleague and sometime collaborator Jeff Carlson has penned a way fun essay about the kinds of kooks and weirdos who wrote in to him about his novel.  Gee whiz, why are my own fans so staid and reasonable!   

See this about global warming. Oy!


Brendan said...

You finisher the latest book? Woohoo! Now I only have to wait for it to be released. :-D

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin,

Great news about the book, when will it be available as an E-Book?

"including the fact Asset Forfeiture is factored into their budget."

Do you have evidence of this? - it seems a bit smelly to me - unless you mean - "factored in" as saying - we ain't going to make significant money out of this.

In NZ the "take" from this is less than $1M in the whole country over ten years - about one policeman!

Alden said...

Very interested in knowing the name/topic of the upcoming novel. :)

David Brin said...

EXISTENCE is a great large beast of a new future novel for grownups, like EARTH. With the strangest-ever alien contact.

Stay tuned! SHould be out in less than a year from Tor Books.

TwinBeam said...

Yucca mountain does need a better name. Future Uranium Energy Larder?

Lars said...

The Financial Post article is of dubious credibility. Solomon, its author, has come down determinedly upon the "Global Warming is a Socialist Plot" side of the Climate Change controversy, and anything that he says with regard to petroleum has to be taken with a grain of salt. In addition, the Post is fastened remora-like to the backside of the Canadian Conservative Party, which has a reflexive pro-Israel stance; again, any editorial opinion concerned with that part of the world is likely biased.

Ilithi Dragon said...

I plan on buying Existence in hardback. Unless paperback or e-book provides greater revenue return to the author, though I'll definitely have at least one physical copy for sure, regardless (e-books are great and all, but I personally prefer to have actual physical books, both to read and to collect).

Also, Doc, I purchased and read The Loom of Thessaly over the weekend, and I absolutely loved it. You precisely defined the sickeningly horrifying problem I have with every story and worldview involving any form of the Fates. And you beautifully obliterated it. Superb, sir, absolutely superb.

Corey said...

I may be able to beat the idiocy of that last link on global warming.

Here's a letter to the Washington Times, claiming that Co2 couldn't possibly making a heat-trapping roof above the planet (even though AGW theory says nothing of the sort), because it's heavier than air, and would all sink to the ground:

What saddens me is not that you can find such levels of ignorance, but rather than you don't really have to look very hard

David Brin said...

Thanks Ilithi... those Kindle versions of short stories seem to be making everybody very happy. At 99 cents, they beat any other form of entertainment! ;-)

Paul said...

Researchers in France (mais naturellement) have found that red wine may offset the harmful effects of zero-g.

(Also, enjoy the embedded Inebriati/knights-tippler sketch, if you haven't seen it before. Tres drole.)

sociotard said...

I do like the Methods of Rationality, but I do wish he had ended it on more of a, well, end. He could have ended it at the end of the last arc and I would have been mostly satisfied. Instead he partially started a new arc and just kind of petered out.

Oh, and as for Cracked, it is always a good idea to double check their findings. They're like Jon Stewart: sometimes they provide good information, but they're primarily a comedy outlet. If they provide that, everything else is just gravy.

sociotard said...

here is an NPR article about Asset forfeiture. It has the same conclution, but they're more authoritative.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Oh, those e-books are amazing deals! Seriously, I would have paid fifteen bucks for The Loom of Thessaly. I'd be willing to pay more for a hardcopy version. For $0.99? Sheej! That's a steal!

Tyler August said...

On Israel's oil:
The FP article doesn't come right out and say it until the end, they're not actually talking about oil. They're talking about oil shale, and that's a very different beast. A no-net-energy-gain sort of beast, at least for the past 30 years of attempted exploitation. Whoops.
Sorry, Dr. Brin, but I'd put my money on this not being even half true. They might be able to frac some gas out of it, though.

MoR is expected to finish, eventually-- but LessWrong, AKA Eliezer Yudkowsky, is also currently writing a non-fiction book on rationality which he can legally get income from. So the fanfic on a bit of a hiatus whilst that happens.(Originally he wanted to work on them in parallel, but obviously that isn't working out.) The word is that he has all arcs mapped out and ready to write, time permitting, and fully intends to do so.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi sociotard,
Great article - I can see how the drugs traffic can fuel a huge expansion in dirty money movement in predictable locations.
The article says "The government must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the money is dirty; then it's up to the owner to prove that his cash is clean."

I personally would not worry about problem (1)
Government confiscating honest money
BUT I would worry about the corrupting effects on the police departments of so much loose money

Overall another good reason to end the "War on Drugs"

We have our own "War on Drugs" here but we don't have the money/drugs corridor - so we don't have anything like the problem

sjmalarkey said...

How about re-publishing "The River of Time"? I remember some other good stories in the as well as "The Loom"

sociotard said...

Worth reading:
Lab Brats: Eight great scoundrels of science

David Brin said...

Hilarious but also so terrifying:

Ilithi Dragon said...

So the first part was the spoof, right?

Acacia H. said...

A sun-grazing comet was caught on camera disintegrating as it collided with the Sun.

Rob H.

sociotard said...

Oh, speaking of Methods of Rationality, has anybody figured out why girls keep swooning over Snape? We've seen it happen from the POV of at least two different girls, and I can't figure out what it is supposed to mean.

Jacob said...

Human nature. Power attracts. It would make sense for at least a 3rd of House Slytherin girls to make moon eyes at him. Heck Draco has respect for his cunning which is about the equivalent for a straight arrogant boy.

sociotard said...

Oh, I thought it was maybe the whole stereotype of "girls like the ones who are bad to them". I just thought was odd, especially since it never happened in the original books. Also, Harry describes Snape as greasy and gross and covered in stains. Not exactly a James Dean style bad boy.

Jacob said...

Very little happened in the books that wasn't Harry-centric. What I like most about the fanfic is how much more realistic Prof Quirrell is. But then again, this alternate reality wasn't meant for children so we shouldn't be too critical of Rowling.

sociotard said...

True. A lot of the things in her books would be stupid, but they're there to tell an effective story.

Gringots is a lousy bank. They just give you a vault and charge you for it, instead of loaning it to other people and giving you a little interest. And where is the ATM? I don't want to ride a roller coaster every time I want to make a withdrawl. But it is a good way to tell the story. Harry finding out he's rich is more interesting if he does it by walking into a room full of gold coins than if he does it by looking at a ledger with a big number on it. And a roller coaster is fun if it only pops up in the story once.

Tim H. said...

Saw "Deathly Hallows pt 2" this morning, the flashback to the childhood of Harry's mother and Snape was done with sensitivity and economy, (So they could extend the battle?), the movies have been kinder to their material than the LOTR movies were to theirs.

Acacia H. said...

I got this off of Facebook from a friend who loves debating any topic. =^-^= And yes, she's more than smart enough to realize that the Republicans are nutters, though she's a bit of a Ron Paul fan.

Anyway, here's the quote (which she got from elsewhere I think):

"Tea party" used to denote children serving an imaginary solution to stuffing-headed friends in a make-believe world. And it still does. -Hr Mitchell

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Detritus of Empire

Wherein the Colonial Marines try to rescue LarryHart.


Tim H. said...

Something interesting here:
Charles Stross on crime and punishment.
"One of the major influences on Rule 34 was a throwaway idea I borrowed from Vernor Vinge — that perhaps one of the limiting factors on the survival of technological society is the development of tools of ubiquitous law enforcement, such that all laws can be enforced — or infringements detected — mechanistically."
Considering that many state & local governments don't mind confiscating property makes it even more alarming. Seems they found a way to raise taxes without alarming conservatives.

Jon said...

This article seems very related to our esteemed author's latest topics:

"Is the US government at war with whistleblowers?"

Paul said...

Volunteers responding to the Mumbai attacks:

It's only a minor thing, a spreadsheet for volunteers. But the fact that it is seen as significant shows how little the powers-that-be have done to tap into volunteers for crisis-response.

Paul said...

Has anyone posted this...

Between a quarter and two thirds of recipients of government welfare programs claim they've never used a government welfare program. (Depending on the program. 25% for foodstamps. 40% for Medicare. 60% for mortgage interest deduction.)

Quote: "a society of people who subsist on mutual aid and redistributive policies who've been conned (and conned themselves) into thinking that they are rugged individualists and that everyone else is a parasite."

Tony Fisk said...

It's useful, owning multiple media outlets. You can hold more than one opinion at a time. You can... bait and switch.

'.. I know that he is a truly great and good man, for he told me so himself'

Acacia H. said...

Going on a quick political bent for a second: Politico has a rather interesting article concerning how the Republican Party has betrayed its core concepts of Smaller Government and embraced a Lower Tax platform instead. It also mentions little things like Reagan's policies would not be considered Republican in this day and age and how Republicans increase spending while reducing taxes consistently since the time of Reagan.

In essence, they're stating what Dr. Brin has said numerous times. Considering Politico's more... balanced viewpoint (they tend toward conservative in their views and articles concerning President Obama). It's a good read, and it also makes me wonder if we're witnessing the final hurrah of the Republican Party with a significant downturn of power in 2012 and beyond because of their refusal to negotiate or do the very job they claimed as their mandate to get elected (cut the budget).


On a more scientific bent, we've an article here suggesting that Earth has retained half of its primordial heat from when it first formed... and suggests that Earth will become tectonically locked billions of years from now... very likely when the Sun is in the process of dying. Of course, when the Sun starts dying, its atmosphere will expand and engulf the Earth... causing it to heat up. Hmm, how does that work again? ;)


Another bit of science news is that the Dawn satellite is now orbiting Vesta. It will take a little bit before we know exactly WHEN orbit was achieved as we don't know Vesta's exact mass, but once that's squared away we should be able to figure out the rest. And considering the Japanese rocket that missed Venus a year ago, I think Dawn's success will be proof positive for future rockets to utilize ion engines instead of chemical rockets (as it's easier to deal with misses than with the Japanese rocket).


Finally, more science news: scientists have created a time cloak allowing light to pass through a region and emerge on the other side as if nothing had happened to it. I'm not quite sure what this means... but it sounds cool enough. ;) I also have to wonder if time cloaks could be used to extend the lifespan of antimatter and thus be used as a means of storing it until it's needed... and thus make it a viable source of power for future space travel.

Rob H.