Saturday, June 14, 2014

Must we hide behind masks?

== Hide from the Man? ==

hiding-behind-masks"Our world is becoming increasingly surveilled. For example, Chicago has over 25,000 cameras networked to a single facial recognition hub," reads the URME (pronounced U R Me) site:

"We don't believe you should be tracked just because you want to walk outside and you shouldn't have to hide either. Instead, use one of our products to present an alternative identity when in public." What product? A rubber mask bearing the likeness of URME's founder Leo Selvaggio.

If lots of people go around wearing these masks the proto Big Brother system of all those cameras will be…

 ever so slightly inconvenienced, while store-owners and bank guards and mere passers-by will have their tension levels ratchet up. That's pretty much it. Big whoop.

Yeah yeah, I've heard it all. This is a cool stunt and it draws attention to our decaying yadda yadda. And it accomplishes nothing else. Except to help promote the never ending chain of whining from those who think we can protect freedom by moaning "don't look at me!" (I lived in Britain in the 1980s, where the cameras were already blooming like dandelions, inspiring me to write The Transparent Society. In Kiln People I portray how masks will provide only slight and superficial anonymity, till someone is motivated enough to scrupulously backtrack images.)

Yes, proto Big Brothers are all over the place! And yes, the camera networks could help bring us Big Brother! I fear the same outcome and I am just as militant in opposing it. More so!

Only there's this. I know what works… what stands a chance of working. What has already worked well enough to give us the freedom that we do have….

…and it did not come from hiding...

...or whining "don't look at me!"

== Wiretapping updated? ==

Strict-liability two-party consent eavesdropping laws seemed fair when they were passed in dozens of states, back in Stone Age days— like the 1960s -- when the ability to record was unevenly possessed and when furtive recording seemed unfair. Today, it's foolish for anyone to assume, at any point, that what they are saying has no chance of being played back, some other time. In particular, such two-party consent laws have been used to criminalize citizen recordings of their interactions with police and other government officials.

As reported here, the most important civil liberties matter in our lifetimes -- certainly in thirty years -- was hardly covered by the press. In 2013 both U.S. courts and the Obama Administration declared it to be "settled law" that a citizen has the right to record his or her interactions with police in public places. No single matter could have been more important because it established the most basic right of "sousveillance" or looking-back at power, that The Transparent Society is all about. It is also fundamental to freedom, for in altercations with authority, what other recourse can a citizen turn to, than the Truth?

(This was forecast in EARTH (1989) by the way.)

openness-accountabilityIt is important to take a balanced view… not to surrender all expectations of privacy, but to know that openness and accountability will let us both stay free and enforce a little privacy, or at least insist that we be physically left alone.

In particular, the recent rulings about citizen recordings of police absolutely eviscerate the snarky-stupid shrugs of cynics who proclaim that it's all defeat and spirals into Orwellian hell. We can prevent that hell. We know that, because we have prevented it, so far.

Let there be no mistake. The cynics are enemies of freedom, not its defenders. Their tirades of gloom undermine the confidence and can-do spirit of problem solving that might get us across this transition era.

== Owning our data ==

haggling The Price of Haggling for Your Personal Data: This SLATE article discusses the notion that each of us might leverage and benefit from the economic value of our information.

It is one (absurd) thing to declare "I own all the info about me!" and to demand others not look. That's a non-starter and if we pass laws to forbid the mighty from looking at us, that will only make them furtive about it and ensure we will get no benefit. As Heinlein said: "The chief thing achieved by privacy laws is to make the (spy) bugs smaller."

But it is reasonable to say that people have "interests" and "value" in their information and a right to derive royalties or a fee for its use, especially if some commercial interest is making money off it. 

jaron-lanier-who-owns-the-futureMoreover it is in an open society that we might be able to track who is using our data and insist on routine and proper payment for such use. The idea of people controlling and selling their data for personal and economic gain — as Jaron Lanier describes in Who Owns the Future? -- and Doc Searls elaborated on in The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge — is gaining traction.

In this interesting article on Slate, John C Havens asserts that it's not just about money: "But it won’t take hold until we answer a more deeply fundamental question: What are we worth as a whole?"

Our data is being swapped about and - as author of The Transparent Society - I don't find open information flows to be the problematic thing. It is the cutting out of us little guys from any participation in the value chain deriving from our data.

Indeed, the way our data is shuttled and sold is invisible to us!

An article by Gregory Maus -- How Transparent Big Data Markets Could Better Protect Your Data...and Your Rights -- suggests setting up transparent, privately-owned, but publicly-regulated markets for the data. "Imagine something like an Amazon, Alibaba, or New York Mercantile Exchange, focused on the purchase and licensing of Big Data. Suppliers could increase their markets, buyers could increase their options, and all transactions would be public record."

Now comes the Hub of All Things (HAT) project. The HAT is building a database which will be owned by individuals who produce data in the first place. That includes social media data, energy use data and internet of things data from our homes, such as the goods you use or the medicines you take. Kind of vague, so far. Indeed, I am doubtful. But over time, we must as a society develop ways that each person benefits from a strong interest in his or her information.

=== Late development ==

cynicism-problem-solvingTake a look at this video taken by a fellow who launched his quad coptger to sous-veil cops at a police checkpoint. My reaction? That the officers seemed to be doing their jobs with professionalism and no fear of citizen supervision... which they are going to have to get used to. (In fact, their aplomb was kinda impressive.) Of course the drone pilot might still answer to the FAA....


Tom Crowl said...

From Conflict and the Evolution of Social Control by Christopher Boehm:

"100,000 years ago, humans, aided by much larger brains and by an advanced form of communication, created communities that could hold down not only domination behaviours by alpha individuals, but any other behaviour they identified as being directly or potentially deleterious to members of the group."

Its suggested by the Boehm piece (in simple) that political morality... and a more level (or diamond shaped) distribution of wealth and power may have its roots in the early human community 'overthrowing' the singular control by an alpha male (or female?)...

somewhere on the path from apes to human.

Just a hypothesis... but it may be that we need an 'echo' of that early revolution.

But can we do it (overthrow the alpha monopoly) without at the same time adopting a narrow cultural path? I believe its difficult but possible.

Sousveillance is certainly an essential element of the solution!

And so is cultivating a scientific outlook in the general population... (not anti-religion or spirituality... but only that evidence cannot be ignored in order to bolster belief)

A Very Brief Observation on Evolution, Scale and Wealth Division

Its a very narrow path...

Tom Crowl said...

Here's link to Boehm article which I meant to include...

Tom Crowl said...

Ya know I don't want... and am not trying... to play intellectual.

All I have is a B.A. in Anthropology. I'm an amateur. And would just as soon chuck all this and have some kind of retirement. But...

For what its worth... several years ago it became clear to me that if we can click a button and buy crud on the web for 50 cents (e.g. x-box)...

we ought to be able to throw in our opinion (our "2 cents")... or contribute to someone else's work or ideas(to support independent journalism) in much the same way...

And that with large numbers its a big deal.

Since then I've been trying to figure out what's hanging it up.

I think it may because while its technologically simple... and economically viable... it requires a lot of agreement among alphas.

I don't think there's any conspiracy of silence. I just don't think they see quick money out of it... and recognize its disruptive potential... which it surely does have.

SO feel no particular urge to deal with it.

To some extent its the same with sousveillance and VRM.

It has to be pushed from the bottom.

David Brin said...

I find it very hard to envision any point in human development when bullies with sticks would not form alliances to beat up weaker men and steal their women and wheat. Yes, depending on the society, there would be councils and demands by regular tribesmen for a voice. The Iroquois and Cherokee managed this, along with strong councils of women. But these were exceptions and still, cheating probably prevailed, by dint of intimidation.

And yet... we MUST have had experience along the way with more democratic methods. Or why is it still possible?

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

A very happy Father's Day to you.

I'm not at "college tuition" time yet with my daughter, but I see it approaching over the horizon. So, if you figure out a way to have a fictional character help out with that, please don't keep it to yourself. :)

Anonymous said...

A very important note about how "two party consent" generally leads to an uneven playing field when interacting with businesses.

One would think the ubiquitous "calls may be monitored" statement when you dial customer service means you also have the right to record the call - IT DOES NOT.

Try informing the customer service rep at a bank or insurance company that you are recording the call. They will refuse consent, and either terminate the conversation or ask to call you back on an unrecorded (supposedly on both ends) line. According to my lawyer, the recorded message played establishes that the caller has provided consent, but not the person being called as no live individual is yet on the other end of the line. As a result, courts will not allow consumers to present recorded calls unless the CS rep being spoken to is asked for consent - and reps in most industries are instructed during training to refuse consent.

Techno-Skeptic said...

You say we are in a transition era. Transition to what? 1984? Brave New World? The Matrix? Terminator? Robocop? Does anyone have a plausible, non-dystopian vision of the future at this point? When the smartest guys around are resigning themselves to mass surveillance and seriously predicting the displacement of humanity by machines in the near future, it's hard not to be cynical, or to see what science fictional futures have to offer to sane people at this point.

I love those classic utopian science fiction visions, but those worlds just doesn't look plausible to me anymore. So again I ask: transition to what? Without a good answer to this, suggesting that people are traitors to civilization for not going along with your program is a rather empty threat, wouldn't you say?

David Brin said...

Techno Skeptic says: "I love those classic utopian science fiction visions..."

Um. Can you name one? Other than Star Trek? I mean even... one? I'll bet it takes you many minutes, if you can find even one example of optimistic-utopian SF.

Your reflexive diss on optimistic SF is a litany I have heard scores of times, from folks who sneer that they are so cool to be cynical. So original and wise for bucking the standard optimistic propaganda... then they get all tongue-tied and flustered when asked for examples.

What they'll never admit is the truth. That THEIR reflex is the lazy, standard one, the product of relentless propaganda that they've suckled in almost every movie, book or song. A litany of dystopia, gloom and relentless preachings of despair.

Ironically, the movie directors don't even mean it! They do dystopias out of sheer, storytelling laziness. See:

Here skeptic sits, in the nicest civilization ever seen, one in which there are fantastic positive trends -- one that (despite a mountain of problems to solve) has real prospects for creating a Golden Age. But does he contribute to problem solving and helping restore our belief that we Can solve problems?

Naw. Cynicism is easier, lazier, voluptuously satisfying and deliciously self-righteous.

Enjoy the drug.

Acacia H. said...

While I'm not the person in question, I did think of one fairly quickly: Songs of Distant Earth.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Oh, I can think of a dozen! But I have been thinking about it for a very long time.

If you count "guarded optimism," then the field expands to include most of my own works, I guess, and many of KS Robinson, and some others like Vernor's... indeed, it then expands to maybe 1%!

Acacia H. said...

By the way, here's an absolutely fantastic blog article in which a former Naval Intelligence Officer asks Republicans what we've "lost" in Iraq. Even better is a response by one lady, Naomi, on exactly what was lost and what Republicans are so pissed at losing: control over half the world. Ever since the Soviet Union went belly up... the world is going its own path and we can't tell them what to do anymore.

It's well worth reading. A bit... vehement at times, but it is an excellent point. And it also has one other reason why conservatives are so pissed at the situation in Iraq - because of Barack Obama. If Romney were President I doubt they'd give a damn. But because it's Obama in charge, they use it as another reason to hate.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

I believe David is thinking of films, Robert. (bookwise: I'd add a few of Egan's stories about galactic civilisation)

Films, more so than books, have a need to provide a sense of tension to propel the story action. The trick is where that tension comes from in an idyllic society? Is it a threat to that society? Is it the effect that society has on the characters? Is it some aspect of that society which isn't present in ours? Is it the way(s) that society may develop in future?

A simple criterion to apply: a nice place to visit, but would you want to live there?

'Minority Report' features a cop who's fallen foul of an experimental law enforcement system (that should still be in beta testing). Otherwise, it has a cool mass transit system... and a relentless bombardment of advertising.. that the natives ignore as blithely as we do ours.

'Gattaca' deals with the effects an apparently beneficial screening system has on those it misses. For most, it seems to provide a gentile lifestyle, and people aren't universally unsympathetic to the lead character's plight. Maybe, with six fingered piano virtuosos in the works, there's a bit of looking over one's shoulder at the next step?

The world of 'I, Robot' has definite possibilities, once you sort those Three Laws out.

And, before Star Trek, there was 'Space Patrol'! (OK a bit aged to meet David's thesis about modern movie making, but I thought I'd throw it in for childhood nostalgia)

Looking the *other* way, I caught 'Clockwork Orange' on ate TV a year or two ago. The two impressions I came away with: 1. Alex is merely a product of a simply *awful* society, and 2. 40 years on, thank goodness that society isn't us.

David Brin said...

I agree that ANY Steven Spielberg film will evade the idiot plot and instead show a functioning civilization. The reason is simple - gratitude. Spielberg is a mensch and a decent person who knows that America and civilization have been very very very very good to him. He refuses to insult it.

Targeted criticism is not insult! It is helpful and hence I do not mind films and books that show dramatic failure modes! THIS particular agency gone rogue. THAT evil corporation.... Yay criticism!

But GAttaca and Minority Report show functioning civilizations wrestling with real issues. The society in MR is so good that Spielberg has to posit a ridiculous trait for his pre crime law... that Predicted felons are punished far WORSE than folks who actually do it! For plot reasons,

Again, see:

Alex Tolley said...

1. Alex is merely a product of a simply *awful* society, and 2. 40 years on, thank goodness that society isn't us.

We are moving more in the direction of that future. e.g. "ultraviolence" - movies today depict much more extreme violence than even that show in CO. Real world violence is following suit. The thuggish cops which was shocking to Britain in the early 1970's and now exposed in Britain and more commonly in the US. T%he only part we haven't reached is the attempt at rehabilitation aversion therapy through conditioning. We still use plain brutality. But I wouldn't be surprised if it was attempted in a backlash against increasing incarceration and a need to reduce its costs on society. What better way to square the circle between keeping society safe without incurring deaths by releasing violent criminals? Clarke had suggested a tangential approach in 3001:The Final Odyssey - mind wipe the individual - which increasingly looks possible.

thrig said...

What has worked, in the physical sense, is the energy savings consumption over the last few centuries. But if calling out this clothing on the Empire is an insult—well, that's a thoughtstopper. America is still quite high on 37% coal, the single largest source, and all those fancy cameras and their supporting server rooms and whatnot—stuff mostly from China, who is now shooting up a 70% coal high—will be so much junk once we get through with trying to burn our way off of the exponential function. It is good to see you embrace the era of transition to the low energy future that awaits. Maybe some sunny day the last working security camera will be got going again, just for old time's sake? As for films, "Tengoku to jigoku" points to a craftsman ethic, which could work well in the low energy future.

Unknown said...

Mr Brin

Have you looked at the "app" "Orewll" for your phone, it does offer "Looking Back" as a enticement for checking it out.

Lots of magical thinkers use masks for hiding behind, I opine that it gives the rest of us yet another "tell" on to whom we are dealing with. I tried explaining "gait" analysis software to a magical thinker and so they put a rock in their shoe and laughed behind their mask, oh well. There are more of them ( magical thinkers ) than reasoning thinkers.

locumranch said...

Privacy implies ownership much in the way that ownership connotes control, and it therefore follows that 'transparency' (aka 'the loss of privacy') also connotes a loss of both control & self-ownership, the most laughable assumption being that the loss of privacy will somehow correspond to 'more' privacy.

This is utter nonsense. Rather than offering more, transparency works only by offering less ... for with less privacy comes less privilege, less ownership & less control ... which is very good & egalitarian if you have none of these things at the onset, but very bad & unenlightened if you happen to be a privileged child of the West.

No more & no less, transparency is a death knell for the Social West, a culture which once put a premium on personal freedom, control & self-ownership, having more to lose by settling for a more transparent & collective 'less'.

Instead, let me offer a different & more consistent approach wherein more means more & less means less. We redefine the social contract as a bond; we demand more privacy for the individual; we deny the concept of privacy & primacy to any collective; and we empower the individual to pursue justice in a private & autonomous fashion.

One, two! One, two! And through and through! Deprived of the primacy of the collective, the oligarchs must fall -- hang'em all -- as will the manipulators, exploiters, financiers & liars who think themselves above the rule of law & custom, proving the logic social of either hanging together or hanging separately.


Gator said...

@Alex Tolley:
"We are moving more in the direction of that future. e.g. "ultraviolence" - movies today depict much more extreme violence than even that show in CO. Real world violence is following suit."

In the US at least, violent crime rates of all types have decreased by 40% - 50% over the last 20 years. The world is actually getting better!

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

Looking the *other* way, I caught 'Clockwork Orange' on ate TV a year or two ago. The two impressions I came away with: 1. Alex is merely a product of a simply *awful* society, and 2. 40 years on, thank goodness that society isn't us.

I have a somewhat similar reaction every time I watch "Soylent Green", which I have the urge to do every few years. In 1973, it was sort of fun to imagine that world, safe in the knowledge that it could never actually come about. Every time I see it again, it seems closer to being "torn from today's headlines".

Actually, though not sci-fi, I got the same vibe off of a recent re-read of "The Grapes of Wrath", both the "Thank God it can't ever happen again" in the 1970s, and the "It IS happening again" just a few years back.

LarryHart said...


One would think the ubiquitous "calls may be monitored" statement when you dial customer service means you also have the right to record the call - IT DOES NOT.

Try informing the customer service rep at a bank or insurance company that you are recording the call. They will refuse consent, and either terminate the conversation or ask to call you back on an unrecorded (supposedly on both ends) line. According to my lawyer, the recorded message played establishes that the caller has provided consent, but not the person being called as no live individual is yet on the other end of the line. As a result, courts will not allow consumers to present recorded calls unless the CS rep being spoken to is asked for consent - and reps in most industries are instructed during training to refuse consent.

I've noticed the essense of such recordings twice now since you've mentioned this.

A question I have for your lawyer is what benefit does this provide the corporation? If two-party consent is required and they haven't given their consent yet, then how are they allowed to use their recording against you? Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems to me that either two parties are required to give consent or else they aren't. I don't see how they get to use one-party consent but you don't.

LarryHart said...


Thanks for linking to Stonekettle Station, which specifically led me to this post about the hysterical GOP reaction to the Bowe Bergdahl affair (or as Norman Goldman would have it, "Bowe-ghazi").

I can now see even more clearly than before that sociotard's recent out-of-the-blue "Oh, by the way, Dr Brin, how do you feel about Bowe Bergdahl? Me, I think the president should be impeached" is the sort of fly-by right-wing post that the Koch brothers probably pay for.

LarryHart said...


@Alex Tolley:
"We are moving more in the direction of that future. e.g. "ultraviolence" - movies today depict much more extreme violence than even that show in CO. Real world violence is following suit."

In the US at least, violent crime rates of all types have decreased by 40% - 50% over the last 20 years. The world is actually getting better!

I think Alex was talking about violence performed by the authorities--the increasingly militarized police, the real military, and all sorts of private militia groups.

Hank Roberts said...

> Take a look at this video

That's good, and Dr. Brin is right, the calm and professional behavior by the officers being recorded from the drone is admirable.

I think there's a lot more to think about here as this tech is evolving fast.

At antiwar demonstrations in the '60s, I was, almost always, one of the group standing at the back demonstrators, looking away from the protest.

Why? to watch for the provocateurs who would come behind a nonviolent protest and throw rocks over that group into the police lines, trying to provoke a police charge. The "revolutionary ... party" people for whom making things worse was the political goal.

Same for drone operators nowadays. Watch your back, watch the other drone operators as well as the people you want to watch.

Battery packs now have an energy capacity uncomfortably close to that of your basic hand grenade. .... A flying drone, or a little rolling toy, could be mismanaged to make a lot of trouble, or just to seem to be a threat.

There are crazies and wackos out at the far ends of every radius from the political center. Few of us are really at the center -- but if we reach across it we can find that center. It's the sum of our best efforts to work with those we don't agree with.

locumranch said...

"If two-party consent is required and they haven't given their consent yet, then how are they allowed to use their recording against you?"

It's called 'implied consent', meaning that your consent is implied by social interaction with another entity, much like the operating agreement on any Windows or Apple product. Just try checking 'I don't agree' & see what happens.

Like the social contract, implied consent is a strange game ... the only way to win is not to play.


Acacia H. said...

Going back to the "negotiating with terrorists" rants earlier, I'd like to ask sociotard a question: is it better to have terrorists and militants outright kill American soldiers, or if they are in a position to do so to take them alive so to negotiate with the U.S. for some of their own people back?

Because let's think about this whole "no negotiating with terrorists" thing for a moment. Are you saying that a dead American is better than a living one? Because the "no negotiation" rule just encourages terrorists to kill our people.

I'd like to think that an American soldier is worth more alive than dead... for his friends, his family, and his country. And I'd rather the Taliban and other groups took the chance to capture alive one of our soldiers or citizens in the hopes that they could negotiate a prisoner swap or the like rather than just outright kill that potential prisoner.

Rob H.

Hank Roberts said...

Here's a mask worth looking at twice:

"... we MUST have had experience along the way with more democratic methods. Or why is it still possible?"

Representative methods, rather than democratic methods -- and they worked with a frontier within walking distance. The 'American Dream' was being able to walk away if you didn't like how the town was being run, and (belying the native population) carve out a new site.

See this, if you can find it -- you'll have to get a librarian to borrow it, as it's been removed from all the places it used to appear online for free:

Merino, Barbara D. and Mayper, Alan G. “Securities Legislation and the Accounting Profession in the 1930s: The Rhetoric and
Reality of the American Dream.”
Critical Perspectives on
August 2001, pp. 501-525

That'll answer your question about governance, I think. It's sharp painful reading.

David Brin said...

LarryHart, by distant and insufficient hearsay, one gets a tentative impression the Bergdahl (BB) might have been a somewhat fragile individual who was both traumatized and radicalized by some of the rough stuff — perhaps some of it criminal - that he witnessed. A soldier is still duty bound to comport himself in a professional manner. Unless there is explicit criminality to report, he must do his duty, which does not include leaving the base for walkabout… even if it was during free time. Tentatively, it seems likely that BB was neither a top soldier nor a sensible person.

None of which is relevant. No charges have ever been placed against him, only rumors of the sort that proved to be damned lies, when they were hurled at John Kerry. And even if he were under valid charges, we still owe it to ourselves to leave no man behind.

On the level of realpolitik, eliminating the irritation of a lingering POW while chipping away to close Guantanamo seems a win-win in my book. The 5 traded were not master terrorists but mid level Taliban government officials. Given the almost infinite supply of Qaeda-type recruits , adding a few now-elderly men to the other side’s ranks seems the least of our worries.

Hank R you raised REALLY good points about drones.

re locu, who is back to strawmanning, I again suggest he try the Paraphrase Challenge. Clearly, he does not even remotely understand the logic of how transparency helps privacy. And I mean with a dullard lack of comprehension that renders him impotent to refute it! Because he smugly thinks he understands what it is he is refuting… and demonstrates utter lack of comprehension.

Try paraphrasing son. Summarize what it is you THINK the other fellow means. In terms the other guys might admit captures what he means. It is empowering, actually. Try it, some time.

LarryHart said...


"If two-party consent is required and they haven't given their consent yet, then how are they allowed to use their recording against you?"

It's called 'implied consent', meaning that your consent is implied by social interaction with another entity, much like the operating agreement on any Windows or Apple product. Just try checking 'I don't agree' & see what happens.

I get all that. And I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on tv.

But I still can't wrap my brain around the assertion that the customer can't make a recording because the company's "This call may be monitored" recording doesn't count as their consent, wheras the customer's staying on the line does imply consent.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding what "two party consent" means. Because to me, if the company hasn't given you their consent, then there is no "two party consent" in force for either side to use? What am I missing?

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, their part is dominance, ours submission. We are not so much customers, as a resource.

Cameron said...

Here's an article that speaks to the current lack of transparency, and the need for it. Written by someone who has apparently made a huge personal sacrifice to affect change:

Personally, I'm still on the fence regarding just exactly how transparent our society should be, but I see zero downside to increased transparency (read, scrutiny) of those who would govern us. Especially those who would wage war on our behalf.

A.F. Rey said...

Here's an interesting article, positing that the Fermi Paradox is explained by habitable planets moving out of the Goldilocks Zone.

Sounds possible.

Hank Roberts said...

Remember another way to hide information is to flood the resource with garbage, and this is routinely done. Convincing individuals to be open makes them fodder if they can't trust what they find disclosed by others.

There's an old trick lawyers use in discovery -- if the other side has the right to look at your files, take a large selection of useless crap, photocopy that multiple times, and scatter it through the file drawers before turning them over to the other side. The other side has to copy and uniquely identify every page in every folder in every drawer -- making the cost of discovery go up astronomically.

Same happens online in discussions and reviews.

Openness is fine, when it's reciprocal.

Good discussion at:

points to this tool for example:

"... When it comes to verifying information online, journalism could be seen as a type of frontline service in dealing with false information online. Initiatives such as the Verification Handbook offer important insights and guidelines about how to deal with different types of false information. It essentially encourages readers to assume online information is false until verified.

Tacitus said...

The problem with the Bergdahl trade is that it is really not certain what was traded for what. On the one hand we have a soldier who was somewhere in the vague realm of possible AWOL, prisoner, collaborator, Stockholm Syndrome victim. He resembles in some ways that Robert Garwood fellow from the Vietnam era. Garwood was allowed, but not really welcomed home.

On the other hand we have some guys who may or may not be serious Taliban. It is actually very difficult to get a clean reading on how many former GITMO inmates have returned to take up arms. What I can find is fewer than I would have imagined, but so often there are issues on false or similar names, dubious reports as to the activities virtuous or nefarious, etc.

Fine. As I said earlier, an honest case could be made for a deal and those with the most information on hand have to make the call.

But....the political tone deafness of this thing is appalling. Undertake at least nominal consultation with Congress, have McCain over for a chat. Don't do a big dog and pony press conference, it just makes you look needy in the face of other disturbing events.

G.W. Bush gave up golf for his Presidency because he did not want to be seen as frivolous in time of war. He made a lot of personal visits to wounded vets that were off the record. He was far from an acceptable leader, but I think he was the better man.

David, do your many friends in uniform still hold Obama in such high regard?

And if so, why?


Hank Roberts said...

Dr. Brin, you said you thought I raised really good points about drones.

Um. Please tell me they didn't surprise you. Because I can think of a lot more cautionary ideas along those lines.

You know the line attributed to Bradbury -- writing not to predict the future, but to prevent it?

You, Peter Watts, Cory Doctorow -- all do that in different ways relevant to these privacy/openness/transparency issues

Makes me wish you all would set up a contact point and invite ideas about futures you all would agree ought to be prevented.

Call them "story ideas" or "policy concerns" rather than "terrorist suggestions" -- ways the tools we're building so fast are not smart to leave lying around where malefactors can get hold of them.

Could the US end up voting in the fascists? Godel would seem to recommend planning for a scorched-ground information approach against that eventuality.

Not that it would be perfect. But that intermittently, partially scorched ground would make instant totalitarianism less convenient to implement overnight.

Any of us smarter than Godel?

I think back to the day that Earthlink bought out Netcom -- overnight all the user accounts were set globally world readable.

What's the worst that could happen?

Hank Roberts said...


David Brin said...

Tacitus said: “David, do your many friends in uniform still hold Obama in such high regard?”

In fact, I do not know. Most of our discussions compared their grudging respect for Clinton to their deep loathing of W. My impression is that they like general outcomes under Obama. He ended the devastating effects of grinding insurgency war and has allowed the DoD and military staffs to rebuild both the reserves and military readiness.

They tend to typify it in terms of benign indifference… they do not feel loved by him, but they liked Gates and they like Hagel and they appreciate being allowed to simply do their jobs.

Oh… they liked getting bin Laden and they dislike Guantanamo. Mind you my sampling set is small! A couple dozen senior or retired guys and a similar number of Lt. Colonels, skewed toward the bright -nerdy types… and these are often cautious, expressing their feelings in very careful language.

But for you to typify GW Bush as anything other than a disaster in every conceivable trait and action… that is simply beyond belief. The sheer uniformity of his malignant outcomes makes the question of it arising from stupidity a strain on credulity, and raises other scenarios as distinctly plausible.

The fact that McCain and Romney distanced themselves from the Bushites, verbally… while retaining the entire “brain trust” and power network, down to a man… is a fact that YOU should find deeply disturbing.

David Brin said...

Hank, Heinlein was the predictor, calling these times "The Crazy Years."

Hank Roberts said...

Oh, I remember

They took the House of Representatives instead of the Presidency. Off by one.

Tim H. said...

The idea of GWB quietly visiting wounded soldiers does somewhat weaken my antipathy, but I've thought for a long time that the man was used as a hand puppet by people with no good in mind. And RAH is largely correct about the crazy years, but it's unevenly distributed. And if campaign finance is the blight of politics, wouldn't JFK have as good a claim as any for original sin?

reason said...

I sort of wonder if Leo Selvaggio isn't planning on robbing a bank or something similar. What a great way to avoid identification.

Alex Tolley said...

Wired has a nice article on anonymizing online presence.

Mo perfect, but a start to keep some things private. It will upset the ad industry though and the likes of Google and Facebook.

I always liked the "scramble suit" in PKD's "A Scanner Darkly".

A.F. Rey said...

Just in case you're interested, KPBS did an interview yesterday with a couple of inewsource reporters who rented a room at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort a day before the start of a secret Koch brothers fundraiser conference. They didn't see much, but it is interesting to see how Big Money can buy an entire hotel for a weekend, bring in their own security, and then go off for secret presentations just for them.

Kinda like your conference in Existence. Life imitating art?

The write-up (and what looks like an audio link) is at:

matthew said...

Tacitus, the problem with the Bergdahl trade is that it wasn't done by a Republican President. That's it. End of story.

McCain and the Congresscritters weren't briefed because one of them (at the very least) would have leaked their indignation and gotten the deal shot down before it could occur.

Once again, prisoner of war swaps happen at the end of wars.

No one has risen to my challenge about "Who profits from ending the 'no soldier left behind' rule," I note. If you are not asking yourself why Fox is insisting that Bergdahl was not soldier enough, or American enough to be traded back from his captors, then you are truly drinking the Kool-Aide. Why does Fox want all US soldiers to question whether their government will act to save them? Why? Answer me that one.

sociotard said...

Or maybe they'll ask why we're giving the guys trying to kill them better leadership.

Yes, the released prisoners are Taliban, not Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda wants them. Al Qaeda needs good leaders who can make their operations run smoothly, especially if they carve out a new piece of Iraq or Africa or somewhere else.

Tacitus said...

Matthew my point on the trade was that it was an exchange of two unknown quantities, and so a degree of skepticism as to its merits it appropriate.

Now, as to your point. I think I agree. The public as a whole and the military in particular does appear to give Republican presidents, at least recent ones, the benefit of the doubt.

Ronald Reagan and the whole Arms for Hostages thing. Stupid, ill conceived, probably illegal. But RR was trusted to be trying to do the right thing.

btw if you really want the opinion of the military on the Bergdahl trade the only data I have seen is the Army Times poll that gives 23% approval and 67% disapproval. The deaths involved in the search are known, tragic events.

The current administration has not, in the opinion of many, earned the benefit of the doubt in such matters.

See recent example, the Dog ate Lois Lerner's computer ! As revealed on page 8 of a letter delivered late Friday afternoon !!

But lets be human. The deal is done. I hope for the best case scenario which is a decent and long life for Bergdahl. And even for the five Taliban if they turn to peaceful ways. Otherwise, if they return to violence may their careers redux be brought to a kinetic conclusion with all dispatch.


David Brin said...

Again Tacitus... all "polls" of military personael will be skewed. The corporals are far more numbers than generals and they mostly come from rural regions and the South... and I honor that volunteering , as eel all should! But their politics will be predictably simplistic.

Majors and colonels and generals are highly educated and know vastly more. And they keep their mouths shut to pollsters. My own anecdotal experience finds them cooler toward Obama than they were toward Clinton, but respectful and appreciative that he supports Hagel and Gates in the repair of the huge damage done to our military by the Bushites.

David Brin said...


Hank Roberts said...

If there's something you'd like the government to tell you, all you have to do is ask -- at least, that's where to start:

rewinn said...

Army Times pools are not scientific polls. Unless they've changed their methodology recently, they simply ask people to click buttons on their web page. Who does that? Angry people.

Hank Roberts said...

more, cautionary if you're in Texas:

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