Thursday, January 10, 2013

Transparency 2013: Good and bad news about banking, guns, freedom and all that

== Bank Secrecy 'ending' at last? ==

"Bank secrecy is essentially eroding before our eyes," says a recent NPR article. "I think the combination of the fear factor that has kicked in for not only Americans with money offshore, countries that don't want to be on the wrong side of this issue and the legislative weight of FATCA means that within three to five years it will be exceptionally difficult for any American to hide money in any financial institution."

In one sense, this would appear to be vindication of my forecast, in EARTH, that banking secrecy would become a major issue by the second decade of the 21st Century and that it would go extinct soon thereafter, propelled via anger by the rising worldwide middle classes plus the basic needs of democracy and true capitalism. Do I feel predictive vindication?  Sure.

BankingHavensBut at another level all of this is far less substantial than I depicted. The banking havens are retreating in good order, making deals and protecting what has become their core business -- sheltering lucre stolen from developing nations by their kleptocratic leader-castes. Those klepto-depositors aren't American or European citizens and hence need not be reported. Moreover, the amounts involved -- especially if you include so-called "sovereign wealth funds" -- vastly outweigh the deposits of a few U.S. and Euro mere-billionaires. Indeed, Western governments have been complicit, so eager to reclaim tax revenues from their own citizens that they have given assurances not to go after more general transparency.

The real scenario from EARTH, has yet to be played out. When citizens in Congo and the Phillipines, in Myanmar and Mexico and Malaysia and so on become radicalized and start demanding true international transparency of ownership...

... that is when we'll see such a crisis as I portrayed in the "Helvetian War." This ain't over by a mile.

== Tentative Good News ==

whistleblowerIn September, with most members out on the campaign trail, the House of Representatives approved final passage of the long-awaited Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 743), a set of 10 reforms intended to clarify the difference between policy disputes and whistleblowing. Sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, it would expand the types of employee disclosures of violations of laws, rules or regulations that are protected and beef up employee rights. It also would broaden coverage to employees of the major intelligence agencies and the Transportation Security Administration, prohibiting the revocation of a security clearance in retaliation for a protected whistleblower disclosure. And it would expand the rights of the Office of Special Counsel to file friend-of-the-court briefs.

The bipartisan bill would strengthen authority for reviews by the Merit Systems Protection Board and provide whistleblowing employees with more access to their agency’s inspector general. It would establish whistleblower protection ombudsmen to educate agency personnel about whistleblower rights. The bill now returns to the Senate, where it is up for consideration in a November lame-duck session. In the previous Congress, a version of the bill died in a December session.

Someone out there please report to us all -- what's the status on the legislation? *
This could be almost as important as last year's victory for transparency and civilization, when Illinois courts struck down a law banning the taping of police. No civil liberties matter was more important to our future. On this - no compromise, ever.

== Transparency in The Central Kingdom ==

As we speak, openness advocates are struggling for basic press freedom at China's Southern Weekly. This is not something I mention out of hostility but in hope that the rulers of that rapidly developing nation will come to see the benefits of light - the only possible corrective medicine for corruption - and find the courage to return to their earlier plan.

What earlier plan? Why, to let freedom at the local level clean up corruption where it does the most damage, in exchange for a social contract to leave top national power alone (in oligarchic hands) for a generation. It was a highly plausible plan and would have derived the top benefits of freedom -- accountability and prevention of abuse, crime and errors -- while still managing overall development from above -- the neo-Confucian solution. (Note: I disagree with all forms of oligarchy, but that version could have worked.)

Alas, it was a compromise they found inconvenient in countless ways (freedom often is) and so it fell aside. Overcome by the impulse, imbedded in human nature, to try to control everything.  I hope they will prove their vaunted high intelligence and go back to it, because, in reality, it is their only hope.

== Then there's Big Brother on the Bus ==

watchwatchersAccording to Wired: “Transit authorities in cities across the country are quietly installing microphone-enabled surveillance systems on public buses that would give them the ability to record and store private conversations, according to documents obtained by a news outlet. The systems are being installed in San Francisco, Baltimore, and other cities with funding from the Department of Homeland Security in some cases, according to the Daily, which obtained copies of contracts, procurement requests, specs and other documents. The use of the equipment raises serious questions about eavesdropping without a warrant, particularly since recordings of passengers could be obtained and used by law enforcement agencies.”

Again, how will you prevent this? By banning them?  So that (as Heinlein said) the bugs simply are made smaller? Better have these things in the open… and insist that WE can zoom into the control room and watch the watchers.

== SMBC Rocks transparency and philosophy! ==

smbcSaturday Morning Breakfast Cereal captures much of the essence, how look-back "sousveillance" is our only recourse.

How many of you know someone who has done this? Used this cop-out? I know several.

== Update re HFT or High Frequency Trading ==

I've spoken of calamities far worse than the multi-billion dollar "oops!" mistakes already made by HFT systems... leading all the way to "terminator" problems with emergent AI... by far the most likely way the Singularity could go very badly wrong.

Now Greg Trocchia writes: "One of the about high frequency trading concerns I voiced, as a Software Quality Assurance (SQA) professional, is that even a rigorous software development process could not preclude emergent pathological behavior on the part of the algorithm that might occur in unpredictable sets of circumstances.  It now seems that things are even worse than I had realized.  In certain cases, at least, even the most elementary software engineering precautions were absent: Chicago Fed Study Blasts lid off of High Frequency Trading.  I am aghast that software of such critical importance should be treated with such cavalier disregard of the hard-learned lessons of SQA."

== Transparency and Guns ==

DailyShowFinally... On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart's riff on gun control touched most of the bases. Especially (and incredibly) he paid attention to the deep-underlying  motivation of gun enthusiasts.  One that needs to be addressed, if we are to calm them down enough so that the moderates join us in conversation.  That may demand some mental adjustments on our part.  Watch his episode then see my nuanced and careful logic about this: The Jefferson Rifle: Guns and the Insurrection Myth.

Alas, the Gun Lobby devotes far too much faith in the protection of the Second Amendment, a slender reed that will bend at some point, when, amid some future crisis, a Court will turn to the "well-regulated militia" part of the 2nd and interpret it in ways the gun fellows will not like.  I say this not out of hostility... indeed, I support core gun rights! Rather, I point it out as a futurist who knows his game.  You guys need another amendment. And my essay offers you one that liberals would help you to pass! It would be a shoo-in, if you'd stop panicking and negotiate. (And that holds for you lefties, too.)

How does transparency relate to gun control?  Simple.  As I point out in The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force us to Choose between Privacy and Freedom - almost all of the advantages and almost none of the disadvantages of personal firearms are available to us if we all go around armed (as we will!) with cameras.  All of the ability to hold others accountable... plus little of the ability to wreak tragic havoc the instant we fall prey to Homo-erectus rage.  Rage that - with cameras - one might later apologize for.  With a gun, it can bring regret for the rest of your life.

JEFFERSONRIFLEI am not for banning all personal weapons!  Read my proposal: The Jefferson Rifle, which is logical and preserves a certain level with safety. But try being openminded, and know that the new era will depend less on gunpowder and more on light.

And now pause... I'll have more transparency-related news, next time.

=====     =====     =====

==See more Transparency-related articles: Privacy and Accountability in an age of increasing surveillance


Catfish N. Cod said...

Hey Dr. Brin -- why not solve one problem with the other? Cameras are already small, cheap, and light enough to attach to most weapons. Most hunters, target shooters, and other actual firearms enthusiasts would LOVE to have 'gun camera' proof of prowess. True defenders likewise would like evidence that they have acted properly... And the other guy hasn't. It would even be a score towards gun safety, as you would know that you couldn't cheat on the rule that "you never point a gun at anything you don't want shot."

Make it simple -- so it can't easily be hacked. And make it voluntary -- you want to keep your gun the way it is, no problem. But make it so that if you want to buy or sell your gun (above whatever threshold we set your Jefferson Gun at), you MUST attach a camera. And once attached, a camera may not be covered, disabled, hacked, or tampered with in any way -- or else. Yes, it's your property and the gubmint must get a warrant to download from your gun, but it's there, and probable cause ain't that hard. Oh, and your gun technically isn't registered, but the camera IS. Having a gun camera under your name witness a crime committed with the attached gun, well, son, that's evidence of accessory. Arguing your gun was lost or stolen is not a defense.

The great part of this is that it also makes Alex Jones types feel better! If some thug ally did try to confiscate the guns, they can not only shoot them, but download the evidence, stick it on YouTube or underground flash drives, and spread the word faster! ( On Planet Reality, this would more likely happen in Syria, but the argument is still valid.)

tragedy restore said...

I will try to keep this short and pithy. If we truly want to move towards the center and have reasoned debates on these things, then we need to let go of the notion that the people worried about government tyranny are all paranoid yokels grappling with some vaguely defined future event.

There are a growing number of people in the United States (and quite a number of us outside of it) that consider the American media to be no-holds-barred propaganda working to push an agenda of collectivism, and concerned that the United States is galloping towards a totalitarian crackdown within the next few years, if not months.

Gone are the days when these people can be dismissed as "conspiracy theorists". A scientifically minded person has to pay attention to the facts, witnesses, and documents being circulated. Isn't it curious that Homeland Security is buying millions of rounds of hollow point ammunition for "training exercises" when FMJ ammo is cheaper by a factor of five? Isn't it strange that the director of Canada's spy agency, CSIS, has gone public alleging infiltration and subversion of Canadian politics by China and other foreign powers? Isn't it bizarre that AP is publishing Excel tutorial spreadsheets as "secret Iranian nuclear weapons research"?

We think propaganda and corruption and evil are things that can't happen to us. We're wrong. I'm saying this as a guy with a history degree and years of experience working in media monitoring and informational logistics to the highest levels of government.

The "liberals" in America need to discover intellectual honesty, quickly, and realize they've been duped. The Obama presidency is a farce. Agree or disagree with them on the particulars, but the Ron Paul libertarians have the moral high ground and should be seen as quite distinct from the neocons and religious fundamentalists generally associated with the GOP. The left-right paradigm has broken down entirely, and we need to start looking for things we can agree on. War is bad. Financial fraud is ruinous. The news is agenda-driven.

I will leave this by saying that I think we need to look at methods of non-aristotalean logic, such as Popperian critical rationalism, to have any hope of achieving productive political discourse.

David Brin said...

Tragedy Restore, I appreciate your coming here with courtesy to express your concerns. Alas, it is filled with irony. You speak repeatedly of science and scientific values...

while reciting turgid and lurid conspiracy tales that are concocted in the same propaganda mills that are currently waging war on science. And not only science but almost every single other clade in American life that both knows a lot and is subject to professional standards.

Please name the exceptions? Scientists, economists, journalists, teachers, medical doctors, law professionals, professors... I know of three exceptions... but do you? All of the others are under relentless attack by Limbaugh/Fox. And all the others have fled the GOP.

40 years ago, in the era of Barry Goldwater and Bill Buckley, 50% of scientists were Republicans (in the US) so it isn't some pointy-headed thing. Now it is FIVE PERCENT. The conservative movement, in going crazy, left them, not the other way around.

Sorry, but your scenario is florid and evidence free. It depends upon ALL of the smartest people in America either being in on some conspiracy or being far stupider than you. (Hint. They aren't.)

Please do not lecture us about political discourse. THE core agenda of Rupert Murdoch and his Saudi co-owners of Fox has been destruction of American pragmatic discourse.

Point in evidence (among a million.) Jon Stewart has on his show, in any month, more top Republican or conservative or libertarian minds, to challenge him and vice versa, than Hannity and all the other fox shills have opposing guests on their shows in a year.

That is not discourse. It is propaganda and cowardice.

David Brin said...

PS... Ron Paul does not have the moral high ground. Libertarianism is supposed to be about safeguarding COMPETITION which is the great creative force of the universe. And anyone here will tell you that I go on and on about that. See The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?

Competition is the central icon of any true libertarianism. But the Rand-ites have forced the movement into instead wallowing in idolatry of unlimited personal property... the basis of feudalism. That idol is the ENEMY of competition. Adam Smith said so and you know it. Yet you worship the idol.

Dan Eastwood said...

I've been pushing the idea of Firearms Insurance, with moderate success, because even the staunchest of gun advocates can't find much to say against it. I had missed (or forgotten) that you suggest this same thing long ago.

Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

Well now Jumper old son. I do care about freedom and I feel I am the "true libertarian" among all the randroid heretics. Maximizing the creative positives of competition while minimizing the bloody awfulness is the great achievement of the Enlightenment. But the methods require a balance. A balance that is as easily ruined by collectivism as it is ruined by feudal oligarchy.

locumranch said...

Financial (Banking) transparency may or may not be a good thing ... mostly because our financial emperor has no clothes !!

As the gold standard days of fixed monetary valuation are long gone, currency values are determined by a combination of relative international economic strengths, government chicanery, shady corporate agreements (ie. LIBOR),
consumer brand loyalty and blissful monetary ignorance.

It's a given:

Monetary transparency has the potential to even out the financial playing field by keeping our corporate masters (more) honest.

But what happens to the price of a basic commodity like bread when the public suddenly realises that prices, wages and/or value are entirely arbitrary?

The world descends into chaos & economic collapse.

Finally, Tragedy_Restore does have a legitimate point even though it tends to be lost in conspiratorial details:

How do we keep our representatives, like our governments, politicians & police, from becoming our masters?

Who watches the watchers?


Acacia H. said...

Why does gold have value? Is not a Gold Standard absolutely arbitrary? It's as arbitrary as the current system at least.

Ro H.

Ian Gould said...

David, do you have any evidence of any sovereign wealth fund being used for money laundering or being embezzled on a large scale?

Sovereign Wealth Funds exist precisely to prevent the behavior you're complaining about and they do it through your favorite tool - transparency.

TCB said...

In the linked video, Jon Stewart notes that "Technology has democratized carnage."

This, along with the link about high-speed trading programs run amok, reminds me of what somebody said in an AI forum I followed a while back: "Every year, the IQ necessary to wipe out the human race gets a little lower."

Catfish N. Cod said...

According to THOMAS the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 is now Public Law 112-199.

THOMAS: one of the very few true transparency measures -- or positive measures of any kind -- enacted by Newt Gingrich's 104th Congress.

Paul451 said...

"The world descends into chaos & economic collapse."

When has that ever happened? When has a public disillusionment ever led to "descent into chaos & economic collapse", rather than a perfectly ordinary revolution or uprising? "Descent into chaos" seems to be a top-down phenomena, where the ruling caste collapses and takes society with it.

Paul451 said...

From the last thread:
Rob H,
"the fact that there is no rational and intelligent gun legislation available."

So the call for requiring gun show, online, and private sales to comply with existing commercial sale laws is a bridge-to-far liberal-madness for you? Likewise making the background-check system more efficient and more universal for gun purchases? Because those are the only two concrete suggestions I've seen from people on the left with actual power. The other suggestions are to end the (Republican-created) restrictions on Federal agencies (FBI/BATF) publishing figures on gun crime that they already collect; and doing research into the causes of gun violence. That's it. We are not even seeing suggestions like mandatory licensing, registration and insurance (as is required with cars) being taken seriously by anyone on the left with actual political power/funding.

Personally I'm more concerned that in their never ending quest to negotiate with people who won't negotiate, the Dems will buy into the NRA-funded right-wing push of media-violence-not-guns and pointlessly try to restrict/censor video-games as a "compromise solution" with the right. Because it will paint them into a corner, where the only thing that gets passed is the video-game censorship, "see, even the liberals agree", without any improvements in gun laws.

"And the NRA honestly can't gripe at laws that punish criminals harsher because it's not regulating guns."

You say that, but they always object to tougher gun-use laws, "there are enough laws on the books, just enforce those" is the standard spin. This makes sense because the NRA does not represent gun owners, it represents and is primarily funded by the gun manufacturing and retailing industry.

Re: Second Amendment
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
In short, it can be ruled that the people allowed to keep and bear arms are: the military."

The US government's authority to create, regulate and arm the US military, and create a "well regulated militia" is provided under Article 1, Section 8, enumerated powers. It does not require an Amendment. And it especially doesn't make sense to include it in the Bill of Rights, which otherwise consists entirely of limitations to the government's power over the guaranteed rights of individuals.

Tim H. said...

Why not leave the relatively lax regulations for weapons that would qualify as a "Jefferson rifle", and the folks who want something more military can at the price of real background checks, and rhe ocaisional drill, and civil defense training.

Acacia H. said...

Any attempt to regulate video games will find the First Amendment biting them in the ass. Though I will link a very succinct Penny Arcade webcomic concerning the attempted destruction of First Amendment Rights by the NRA (which I then reviewed... and some people took umbrage at).

Rob H.

locumranch said...

People in general, and economists in specific, seem to have a very short memory when it comes to financial collapse.

Financial collapse preceded the French & Russian revolutions; the collapse of the Weimar republic (1919-1933) lead directly to the rise of the Third Reich; the Latin Debt crisis led to years of tyranny, social disorder & intercine warfare in Mexico, Argentina, El Salvador, Chile, etc; and the global monetary shock (1979-1981) had a similar effect in Africa which continues until this very day.

Although the effects of the above meltdowns were arguably local, the causes were most certainly global. And. in the age of global interdependency & instantaneous international financial correction, the potential of a global collapse precipitated by (say,) the collapse of the euro, has increased exponentially.

Robert points out that the value of gold is relatively arbitrary. This is most certainly correct, but he fails to acknowledge that gold represents a material commodity. This was the beauty of the old gold standard: The value of paper money was tied directly to another commodity in so much as 1 set monetary unit would always buy a loaf of bread.

Finally, any pediatric toxicology textbook, including the NHANES 3 lead study, will tell you that lead-based paint is the primary source of pediatric lead toxicity in developed countries.


Acacia H. said...

You forget something. If I have all the food, then I can charge whatever I want for a loaf of bread. Thus even if you own all the gold in the world, you're going to starve unless you give me what I demand for a loaf of bread. Thus I can charge all of your gold for one loaf of bread.

What then is the value of gold? Nothing. You can't eat it. It has some value in electronics and in jewelry, but really it has no special value to it. Thus a gold standard is in fact unstable and ultimately will not last, as the Nixon Shock showed. In fact, the Gold Standard for money is no more real than the current monetary standard and is just as arbitrary.

Or to put it another way, if you state one gold coin will buy one loaf of bread, you have set a price. If I say "I won't sell my loaf of bread to you unless you give me 30 gold coins" then I've just devalued your gold. And I can get away with it because I've got the bread you want.

Rob H.

Tim H. said...

Speaking of money, a century ago the almighty dollar was a regional currency, with sufficient budget shenanigans, it could be again. Wonder if the deficit hawks are looking for non-dollar assets?

Jumper said...

No one has proposed a diamond standard, either. We likely know why, too.
I wonder what gold bugs would find to freak out about if high tech cheap transmutation of elements was discovered? I know the growth-through-planned-obsolescence people would get quite upset if everlasting products began to be made.

atomsmith said...

I hear complaints that modern "fiat" currency is only worth what people will trade for it.

And I think: Unlike gold? A commodity that is only worth what people will trade for it?

(And, as Krugman points out, a commodity whose price fluctuations are determined partly by advances in dental science!)

David Brin said...

Tim H said: "Why not leave the relatively lax regulations for weapons that would qualify as a "Jefferson rifle", and the folks who want something more military can at the price of real background checks, and rhe ocaisional drill, and civil defense training."

That is essentially my proposal. Only I up the ante by demanding a constitutional amendment that protects the Jefferson Rifle in all ways and from all ambiguities even from being registered.


1. It would safeguard basic gun ownership from the fact that the Second Amendment is utterly ambiguous and some future court - amid some national panic - will remember the regulated militia" part. If the Gun Guys had ANY sense of futurism or perspective, they would know this and leap at the chance for a stronger amendment.

2. Liberals would go with the new amendment too! If in exchange they got to treat all other weapons like cars? This could be the easiest and quickest amendment in history.


I propose replacing gold with hardcovers of my books. With reprints firmly regulated. If people had confidence that OTHER people would accept them for food, you could bypass all the gold bugs with their stashes.

David Brin said...

Launch of the 'Global Futures Intelligence System' From:

http://www.prweb. com/releases/ 2013/1/prweb1030 5282.htm

The Millennium Project to Launch the 'Global Futures Intelligence
System' at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
in Washington, D.C., January 16th
A demonstration of how this pioneering system could help top
executives, experts, and the general public monitor and better
anticipate future change. The event will be webcast live at:
http://www.mga- Guest-Live. html from 12:30 - 1:30 PM on
January 16, 2013. *

A framework for anticipating global change
The Global Futures Intelligence System (GFIS) is The Millennium
Project' s unique integration of critical intelligence for the
global future. This groundbreaking system, continuously updated
and improved by world experts, is being made available to the

Someone tune in & comments?

Tony Fisk said...

...Dark chocolate hardcovers. Then you link your currency to a basic resource, *plus* perceived value.

And they will certainly be accepted as food.

Ian Gould said...

"Financial collapse preceded the French & Russian revolutions; the collapse of the Weimar republic (1919-1933) lead directly to the rise of the Third Reich; the Latin Debt crisis led to years of tyranny, social disorder & intercine warfare in Mexico, Argentina, El Salvador, Chile, etc; and the global monetary shock (1979-1981) had a similar effect in Africa which continues until this very day."

And the Asian financial Crisis of 1997/98 led to the overthrow of th Suharto dictatorship and the establishment of a democracy.

There are also plenty of examples of economic crises NOT resulting in dictatorships.

Ian Gould said...

(And, as Krugman points out, a commodity whose price fluctuations are determined partly by advances in dental science!)

Not to mention sea freight charges (a major source of gold these days is recycling e-waste but it isn;pt orth shipping e-waste to Africa and Asia for recycling if sea freight charges are too high.)

The other major factor is the Indian wedding industry - India accounts for about 1/4 of world gold consumption and that's in large part because of the tradition of giving gold jewelry to brides as a gift.

A single big Bollywood movie where the happy couple eschew a traditional Indian wedding for a western-style one can depress gold prices for months.

In many ways industial diamonds would be a better basis for a currency, both supply and demand would be a lot more predictable and you could probably design a spectroscopic test to detect counterfeits on the spot.

Jumper said...

A warehouse full of high grade tungsten tool steel ingots is nothing to sneeze at, either, and is a lot closer to my sense of "wealth" than a lot of other foofaraw.
BTW the diamond market is very manipulated and it's now possible too to make gem diamonds artificially at profitable rates.

Ian Gould said...

It's the ability to manufacture diamonds that makes them attractive as currency, the value of the currency is never going to rise much above the manufacturing cost and if it falls below it currency will be diverted back to the industrial market.

David Brin said...

The White House has turned down the petition to build a death star! Partly tongue in cheek but also with some sober bits and rah rah for science.

Tony Fisk said...

Amusing response. With what tone was the petition presented in the first place? I'd like to think that question didn't need asking, but we've been seeing quite a bit of the dark side, these past few months, and it aint pretty.

Paul451 said...

Re: Death Star response.
The response wasn't too bad. But I was hoping they'd critiqued it as if it was a serious proposal, a la Dante & Randal. For example, pointing out the limited strategic value of a single orbital laser platform, due to the horizon problem. It's likely vulnerability to a variety of relatively inexpensive counter-measures, due to our lack of force fields to protect it. Or just the risk of an arms race in space. Or the danger of orbital debris to other space users following the destruction of either the Death Star or an enemy fleet sent to destroy it.

The examples you give were economic collapses followed by political unrest. You still haven't provided an example of where the reverse happens, where disillusionment with some aspect of a still functional system results in such a loss of confidence that it causes "descent into chaos and economic collapse".

Bank runs are the only case I can think of. Where a rumour of a bank in crisis becomes a panic and causes the bank to fail. But that's a fairly limited case.

Jumper said...

David, your emphasis on anger addiction has been quite rewarding on several levels, for which I thank you. Both for understanding of human psychology in general, and in self-improvement, for once the concept is scrutinized, I think many will find it easier to root out as a bad habit.

Having thought about it for a couple of years now, I ineluctably am led to also thinking about the concept of victimhood. The movie Dead Man Walking, as I remember it anyway, homed in on a moment when the Sean Penn character vented his anger at those who thought of themselves as victims in this world. In the telling he then confesses that he himself considers himself a victim of "them."

It seems to me this phenomenon goes hand in glove with anger addiction.

This is the part of the equation which deals with the "righteous" part of indignation.

I suspect in all manner of criminality, and we can confine ourselves to common law of the sort which exists for centuries for definitions if we must, although I think the broadest of sets might be used, the criminals may almost always consider themselves victims, in order to justify themselves. Indeed, that might be the departure point for technical psychopaths, who might not even need such justification, although I have not really determined that hypothesis's validity much at this point.

David Brin said...

Jumper very interesting and thought inducing.

David Brin said...

Can you believe this?

I generally shrug off minor cases of borrowing, but this one gives me real pause.

I seriously need to consider my options.

sociotard said...

Heh, I posted a link to that on your blog last year. You must have missed it.

I have the core book. It's fun.

rewinn said...

What if we replaced the Gold Standard with the Gun Standard?


1. Many of the same people demanding a gold standard also demand that we have more guns. This way, they get recognition of the intrinsic value of their guns but are motivated to limit the increase in the number of guns, lest they devalue the currency.

2. In the event of currency collapse due to an overwhelming number of guns, hey no worries ... you've got guns - ever so much more useful than gold ingots!111111

rewinn said...

About panopticon/eclipsephase thing ...

... forgive me for not having a tight grasp on the issue, but at a cursory glance I did see use of "uplift" in the Startideverse ... is that the main problem here? Or are there likely to be more substantial "borrowings" in the work that is being sold?

I've always assumed that "uplift" is a term coined by Dr. Brin, and that therefore the authors of "Panopticon" should have come up with their own term, as an exercise of creativity and authorship. But is it customary in SFverse to authors to "borrow" terms from each other, e.g. hyperdrive. Or can sufficiently powerful intellectual property owners protect terms such as "phaser" or "lightsaber" that are intrinsic to their work?

As a matter of natural justice (...not talking law here...) at the very least, works that talk about Uplift should seek permission and, if granted, include a citation to the term's originator and recommendation to purchase The Uplift War or something. But if the term has escaped the barn and entered the public lexicon, another approach would be to host a public Naughty And Nice list, of those who haven't and who have given agreed-upon value for the use of an author's published ideas, in the hopes of using shame and reward to discourage the one and encourage the other.
I don't envy the creators of easily-copied intellectual property.

Paul451 said...

"include a citation to the term's originator and recommendation to purchase The Uplift War or something."

They do have a list of "SF writers to watch", under the "Resources" tab, "Eclipse Phase borrows heavily from a genre of science fiction that is in turn influenced by several key writers..."

...with David listed near the top.

David, are you bothered by them using your terminology/ideas, or have they lifted actual text? Ie, homage or copypasta?

LarryHart said...

In college in the 80s, my roommates and I tried to detail a pizza-based economy.

We had trouble with the fact that the currency base would be continually produced and consumed rather than a relatively static medium such as gold. On the other hand, pizza seemed an ideal medium of exchange because it's almost-universally desired.

Paul451 said...

Re: Gun-based economy.
Gold is an element, so it's easy to define a standard for an "ounce of gold", but what is a "unit of gun"?

rewinn said...

I'd rather discuss the pizza-based economy, but if we need a "unit of gun", a couple of ideas:

1. The DPS (damage per second, from videogaming) Standard: projectiles per minute times projectile weight (assume solid projectiles/no explosives) times muzzle velocity.
2. Simple system: Breech counting. We can't go with barrel counting since that advantages Gatling guns, so let's just base the system on the number of breaches (with a special allowance for muzzle loaders). I seem to remember an early alternative to the Gatling gun that used multiple breaches but they'd be uncommon and unwieldy enough not to seriously distort the system.
3.Ammo counting. As people point out, guns don't kill people, bullets kill people. So let's make bullets our unit of currency.
4. Variable denomination depending on symbols printed on each gun, similar to paper money backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government. One advantage of this system is that it would reward people for registering their firearms. Each weapon would have a serial number prominently attached along with its denomination and the signature of the Secretary of the Treasury, authenticating it as an actual weapon worth money and good for all debts, public and private. You can still choose not to register your gun, but its cash value would be limited to the value of the gun itself.

Acacia H. said...

Amusingly enough, in the Kate Daniels line of urban fantasy books, bullets are referred to as "plug nickles" and are used as currency in some rural regions (despite the fact that during magic waves, bullets don't work).

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

I've occasionally thought an interesting idea for a story would be the social effects of an invention that stopped projectiles cold.

The idea's been used in SF stories before (Anderson's 'Shield', and the personal screens used in Dune... except when sandworms are about!) I'm thinking of what happens as the technology becomes increasingly available.

It would probably screw the economic systems being discussed here!

Acacia H. said...

People would switch to flame-based and acid-based attacks. Though in India (I believe) it's already commonplace for Indian males to assault young women with thrown acid meant to disfigure the young women. Personally I think the punishment for such actions is for said people to be forced to bathe in high-strength acid until THEY are scarred irrevocably.

Rob H.

sociotard said...

So, Dr. Brin, does the resident comet expert have a prediction for the registry regarding how bright that highly-anticipated one will get? I've heard a few astronomers telling me not to get my hopes up.

Also, are you reaching out to the local cults to see if any of them need good information about this one? Because . . . you know.

Anonymous said...

As it is related to the problems of transparency and open information, I would be interested in reading Dr.Brin take on the recent and unluckily final development of Aaron Swartz case:

Paul451 said...

Pizza's have the same problem (plus the whole spoilage issue). What's a standard pizza, a unit of pizza? Gold (or silver or uranium) is completely exchangeable. Every ounce of gold is, sans fraud or debasement, the same as every other ounce. The form is irrelevant, it's just weight and purity. But with Pizzas and Guns, the form is the heart of their value. An anchovy pizza is not a vegetarian pizza is not a super supreme is not a deep dish Chicago-style "pie". Ray's Original pepperoni pizza isn't even the same as Original Ray's pepperoni pizza.

And a handgun is not rifle is not a shotgun, a Ruger is not a Colt is not a S&W. A gun (or pizza) based "currency" is really just a barter system. Every transaction will still have to involve individually assessing whether the payment item is worth the same as the trade item. And putting a denomination on them doesn't fix the problem, a 20 year old gun is not the same as a brand-new one, you've just created clumsy and expensive banknotes for your existing fiat currency, you haven't actually fixed the value of the currency to anything.

Oh wait... damn. A bank note in a "gold" currency is not actual gold... it's a promissory note by the government that they'll give you a set amount of gold in exchange for that piece of paper. An golden IOU signed by the government.

So you could fix the value of the US dollar to the National Rifle, a standardised rifle manufactured and stockpiled by the US Treasury (and Armory). If the note is worth less than the resale value of a National Rifle, people go to their bank/armory and convert, leaving less bank notes in circulation. If the government prints too much paper currency, the value of the dollar drops, but the value of the Rifle increases, so people stock up on Rifles, pulling currency out of circulation. (Likewise if people don't trust the government, and switch their savings to National Rifles, reducing the currency in circulation, increasing its value. And reducing the value of the Rifle.) If the Rifle is worth less than the official value, people trade them back to the government for their standard value in notes.

So right wing panic increases the value of the US dollar. While trusting the government causes inflation. W00t! And David gets to get people to accept his Jefferson Rifle before he asks them to vote on swapping out the Second Amendment for a better version.

[Too much Internet today, I actually read that spam as "most popular and famous hot grits".]

David Brin said...

COMETS. Ison appears to have many of the traits that MIGHT turn very gaudy. We certainly are overdue for a gaudy comet show. But frankly... most of them fizzle. Don't blame me!

The Aron Swartz case is sad. Tho somewhat unsurprising -- he was a hothouse depressive type -- I am also very angry that prosecutors tried to high-ball their preliminary plea charges at 35 year... for what was in effect a civil offense that should have been dealt with in civil court.

Anonymous said...

The Prisoner's Dilemma is actually pretty broken.

Real, guilty criminals plan for exactly this sort of situation in advance, skewing the outcomes in their favor.

Innocent pairs generally won't accuse each other either, so again the outcomes are skewed in their favor.

Of course, if one is innocent and one is guilty, the guilty can always expect to benefit most by lying and accusing the innocent one. But the fact that the dilemma is only likely to "work" as claimed when it would put an innocent person in jail, indicates that it is broken in a deeper sense.

David Brin said...

GUYS! go vote at:

But it is more important that you join the San Antonio worldcon and nominate for the Hugos!


Hank Roberts said...