My second piece on American News X appraises the diagnosis made by Dilbert creator Scott Adams that Americans are so stupid they will all fall for Donald Trump's emotional manipulations and make him president. Half-right, Scott. But fortunately just half.
‘He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space ... and like the air in which we breathe ... incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.’
Yes... well... that's how reasonable citizens do it. May we start remembering.
== Can we learn to look-back? ==
Cell-phone cams have not improved citizen power by blinding the state. They have improved citizen power by empowering us to look back - at least at power-minions on the street - doing far more good for civil liberties than marches or protests.
The most difficult quandary I have faced in this issue is not how to stymie would be Big Brothers... for that, transparency and sousveillance are the only things that can possibly work. By comparison, "encryption" is a transcendentalist religion of stunning technological myopia and romanticism. No, the question I have wrestled with is this: "Suppose transparency does eliminate Big Brothers. Won't we then face a completely legal and open oppression by majority rules? By 51% bullying 'little brothers'? Judgmental gossips and nosy busybodies enforcing conformity?"
A consensus that eccentricities and embarrassments (teenage photos posted back when you were rash and stupid) are not held against you, over time. That there is a sin worse than any quirk or stupid posting or awkward sex-selfie... the sin of gossipy bullying.
But those millennia are our greatest ally, in this revolution of light. We can look back on their darkness and say: "Not that. We tried that. It's no good."
== We are in the future - tidbits from next week ==
|Trying out Virtual Reality at UCSD|
* Longtime colleague Kevin Kelly takes us on a detailed tour of the varied (and many) endeavors in Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality that are looming at us from companies like Magic Leap, Occulus, Microsoft, Apple and many others. Kevin’s fascinating account introduces the innovators who will change everything, as much as they were changed by the arrival of the computer monitor, then the laptop, the web browser and the cell-phone.-
* Using a little play-dough and dental mold, you can clone someone’s fingerprint and fool a modern phone. “As hacks go, it ranks just a little harder than steaming open a letter.” Other methods include 3D printing a fake from just an image. Which brings home a point I made in The Transparent Society (1997). “unlike a passcode, you can’t change your fingerprint, so a single credential theft creates a lifetime vulnerability. What looks like a security upgrade turns out to be something much more complex.”
* An amazing, almost Kafa-esque story about how one company’s carelessness has created aggravation for scads of innocent people. A service that associates Internet IP addresses with real world locations has a default answer for those IPs it can’t figure out. A default location in the geographic center of the US… or the center of any state in question. And hence, there are now over 600 million IP addresses associated with that default US coordinate. “If any of those IP addresses are used by a scammer, or a computer thief, or a suicidal person contacting a help line, MaxMind’s database places them at the same spot: 38.0000,-97.0000.” Which leads to one little farmhouse in Kansas and a world of trouble. Others on the top default list have had police raids, death threats. A Monty Python-level problem that can only be (and now is) solved by transparency.
Because of good investigative journalism, the company has scurried to fix the problem and shift the default locations to the very middle of large lakes. And Nessie is getting perturbed by strange calls in the night.
* And now... SkySafe has developed technology that will allow institutional users to disable drones flying in areas that are off-limits, or those in accessible areas that may be flying dangerously. The technology leverages radio waves to override the instructions from a drone owner's remote control unit, thus taking control of the airborne device. And so it begins. The arms race.