Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Toward a transparent (and safer, tolerant and more free) world

In an important step toward an accountably transparent world, offshore owners of British property will be forced to reveal their true identities or face jail sentences and unlimited fines under draft laws that aim to end the UK’s reputation as a high-risk jurisdiction for money laundering. Overseas criminal gangs were using British property transactions to launder billions of pounds in corrupt funds. Parliament’s foreign affairs committee went further earlier this year, saying that corrupt Russian funds laundered through the UK, including via property, posed a threat to national security.

The Brits and Europeans are the ones with guts right now, peeling away layers of what amounts to open warfare against the West by wold mafias. See how Russian GRU (KGB) agents have been running amuck, committing acts or sabotage, espionage and murder with increasing impunity, while Russian agent-hackers are caught red-handed spying on the investigation into the crash of flight MH17, as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency. 

And now the thing I've been demanding for 25 years. What is an 'Unexplained Wealth Order'? A UWO is a new power passed by the British Parliament to target suspected corrupt foreign officials who have potentially laundered stolen money through the UK. Take this example of the wife of a former Azerbaijani state banker who risks losing her £15m home near the London Harrod's store where she has spent another 15 million pounds, if she fails to explain the source of her wealth to the High Court. Now, if only some of the laundered money can make its way back to the poor citizens of the original nations.

God bless Europe for keeping a candle lit. Light is our last, best weapon. This has got to be just the beginning, or we will have that Helvetian War.

== The How and Why of using light to save civilization ==

So how does this relate to China’s Social Credit system? It’s probably the largest social engineering project ever attempted, a way to control and coerce more than a billion people… Smartphone apps will also be used to collect data and monitor online behavior on a day-to-day basis… The system will be enforced by the latest in high-tech surveillance systems and facial recognition as China pushes to become the world leader in artificial intelligence.”  

Moreover, as in the chilling Black Mirror episode “Nosedive,” your crucial score will be harmed if you associate with the “wrong people,” meaning anyone who dissents or even displays eccentricity.

How do I reconcile one form of coercive transparency while denouncing another? Duh? One is aimed at reinforcing the things that have kept us free, safe from coercion by topmost castes, by applying light to all elites who would exercise power. The other is a method elites can use to force obedience and conformity from the masses, from us. 

Germane to this is a site that quizzes you on which parts of "social credit" might benefit or harm you: "Social Credit Scoring is a way for governments, banks and insurers to grade you by your actions both on and offline. Overspending or associating with the wrong people could lower your score and lead to financial and social restrictions.  Starting with an average social credit rating of 475, find out if your actions would lead to rewards or punishment."

Dig it well, something like social credit is inevitable. We’ll see each other and adjust whom we want to hang or associate with. But there are two failure modes that we know how to evade, if we prove smart and wise and assertively determined.

1) If light is vigorously applied upward – thoroughly and habitually! – then these tools might hold elites accountable. More important, we can sic elites against each other, which was the great innovation set up under the U.S. Constitution. If that includes NGOs with millions of middle class members, then there’s a chance that transparency might serve and protect freedom, not crush it.

2) Okay, suppose we do that, then everything is open and democratic, right? No Big Brother. Only then what’s to stop a 51% prudish, oppressive majority from democratically and openly voting to cram conformity upon all the eccentrics and unusual folk out there? It’s happened before, and it is the style of democratic despotism portrayed in Ray Bradbury’sFahrenheit 451.  

Will a paramount Big Brother be replaced by millions of nosy, judgmental Little Brothers? See how there's great news... that the world population is now majority middle class! But that doesn't necessarily translate into pro-tolerance, diversity and eccentricity. Middle classes can be bigoted, too.

Only step back. The fact that I am asking that pointed question… and YOU are nodding with shared worry… is a clue to the answer. 


Transparency will empower the majority to impose its values. But if that value system extolls diversity, tolerance and MYOB… or Mind Your Own Business… then think about the effect. Bullying others to repress their  differences will be deemed a worse crime than any harmless eccentricities they exhibit. Let me repeat that, because it is what you believe should  be our future. If bullying and conformity-oppression are among the worst social sins, then that is what gets socially punished. And light just might be our friend.

No. You still don't get it. In all my life, I've found no concept to be harder to convey. This is the fundamental wellspring of all our freedoms and individuality, yet it seems utterly counter-intuitive to most folks. So let me illustrate with an example from mass culture-media.

Picture that scene from the movie version of The Circle, in which nasty putzes use cell phone cameras to torment a shy person. Blatantly, that is the kind of thing the director wants you to hate! Only dig it, in today’s America, those bullies would likely be shot - in turn - by the cell cams of better folks, who will show the bullies' nasty behavior to their moms.

Oh, you are steaming now, I bet. Fuming that we aren’t that vigorous at defending diversity and eccentricity. And you’re ignoring the very value system that taught you to feel that way! That drives you to be unsatisfied with our partial progress toward tolerance. 

And you’re right! We’re only vastly more tolerant and diverse and eccentric than all other human societies, combined. It’s not good enough! Those values must be reinforced, before the tools of social credit sweep the world! 

And here is just one example - out of many happening every single day - that should inspire you!

Hey… I… am… on… your… side in this. Now is not the time for complacency. If we don’t achieve miracle #1, then modern tech tools will enable some cabal of the rich and Mafiosi and demagogues and other fanatics to shut down this Periclean renaissance, possibly forever. Ferociously upward-aimed transparency is the only thing that can prevent it, and bring us miracle number one…

…but in order to achieve the second wonder - and stymie the pernicious scheme to repress diversity with things like "social credit" - it will be up to us to ensure the coming flood of light empowers our best values, encouraging a humanity whose wide stance – based on diversity and tolerance and MYOB – leaves us ready for whatever may come.
== Five Myths about Transparency ==

There is a clever "five myths" feature that appears in the Washington Post outlook section every Sunday.  For example, detailing and appraising five commonly held assumptions about recycling, or artificial intelligence or presidential pardons. I’m occasionally told I should write one of these perspectives… or ten, on different topics… but I never find the time.

Philosopher Arnold Kling has suggested especially something related to transparency. "Five myths about each new revelation of surveillance"  — or things that happen every single time the news reveals that we’re being seen, starting with the mythology that any of it is surprising. These surveillance myths are:

Myth #1.  We should be shocked by the arrival of new tools for surveillance. We should be surprised that elites (e.g. government, criminal, foreign, corporate, aristocratic or technological) will try to exploit them in secret.

Myth # 2.  That laws limiting surveillance tools have ever worked in the past, or can possibly work in the future.

Myth #3.  That such tools cannot be turned around to equalize the playing field, by letting average folk look back at power (sousveillance.)

Myth # 4.  That it even matters what elites know about us, instead of controlling and deterring what they can do to us.

Myth # 5.  Our culture must ban technologies rather than adapt to them.

Your feedback on rephrasing this set would be welcome.

== Can we even believe our eyes, anymore? ==

Which photos are real? We’ve all seen the recent videos, showing Barack Obama saying (harmless, so far) things he never said. It’s only a matter of time, before counterfeit “reality” floods our perceptions, the way fake news did, earlier.  San Diego startup Truepic raises $8 million to develop methods to certify the authenticity of online photos - and debunk "deep fakes.”

It’s a problem with deep roots.  In my nonfiction book The Transparent Society, I had a chapter entitled “The End of Photography as Proof of Anything At All?”  Even earlier, in my novel EARTH (1989) I discussed the likelihood we’d be dealing with this, by now.

Google's DeepMind computer vision artificial intelligence showed that it can generate an accurate three-dimensional map or graphic from a set of two-dimensional images. For many years, computer “vision” was poor and image fakery easily detected.  But that was during the Moore’s Law Era, back when hardware advanced swiftly, but software remained leaden and far behind.

In what I’ve called the “Big Flip,” we see Moore’s Law finally in its long predicted taper-off… while suddenly software has gone on a tear, accelerating in capabilities almost exponentially. And nowhere is this more apparent than in image processing.  Or “deep fakery.”

And yes, there is a solution — I talk about it, in The Transparent Society. It can work, because it is the only thing that ever worked against skilled liars. Unfortunately, it will only be done after (as Winston Churchill put it) we’ve “tried everything else.”


Treebeard said...

The world is too safe and domesticated already. Look how pathological humanity is becoming in its civilized captivity. Look at the dystopian future staring us in the face. More technology will only make it worse. More laws and complexity just add more restrictions, failure points and pathologies. We are not freer than our ancestors; we are probably the most colonized and controlled people in history. Even the simplest things we do every day are mediated by faceless forces from far away. Our minds are invaded 24/7 by other people's memes. Our lives are proscribed by a million laws and regulations. It's not hard to see why many pathologies are at all-time highs.

This is probably why humans are so fascinated by hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, shark attacks and other natural disasters: because unconsciously they long for civilization to collapse so they can live free of all these man-made control systems and closer to nature like our ancestors did for most of history. And just as importantly, free of delusional control freak-geeks who offer “solutions” to problems their kind created in the first place, and thus create a new layer of problems—a process they amusingly call “progress”.

more weight said...


Would you give a specific example? What do you want to do that you're prevented from?

Alfred Differ said...

@treebeard | Sorry dude. That makes you sound like a Luddite.

Our deep ancestors didn't have all the stuff we have. They didn't have all the neighbors we have. OF COURSE they didn't face all the forces and controls we face. Want to avoid all that? Limit the human population to about 5 million tops and tell the survivors of this purge they get to live off the land. They won't be able to maintain most of the tech we have and will be too busy to teach their kids about it anyway.

What a dumb idea.

We invented these bits of tech because we didn't like something or other. The climate changed on us and we had to change. Our neighbors learned to make bronze spears and we had to change. A volcano blew up, altered the weather for a few years, and we had to change. Don't like them? Think they can be rolled back? Not a chance. Even if we tried, we'd just re-invent them over the next 1000 generations.

We are what we are and not what we aren't.

One thing we aren't is static.
One thing we are more and more as the generations go by is loving.

Alfred Differ said...


When I first read your Transparency book, I got the argument you made for how verification of images would be done, but I think things are changing fast enough that you might need to rethink it (adapt it really) to a world that contains blockchain tech. If I make an image and record it in a sufficiently large blockchain db, everyone in the world can verify their copy of it against mine. They will also see timestamps on competing 'truths' presented in image variants.

Essentially, a blockchain network might take on the role of your 'many cameras, many angles' solution. One still can't trust that my first image is actually truthful, so 'many cameras' will still be needed. However, one WILL be able to detect alterations. Tiny image changes will change the file hashes.

This method isn't bullet proof, but altering the first truth to undermine it would require 51% support in the peer-to-peer network. No easy feat.

David Brin said...

Only a couch potato would bemoan how lazy-ass everyone has become. Never before have more people been actively seeking adventure. Every active avocation is skyrocketing. What other civilization ever invented skydiving in scuba gear or with snowboards? Who the heck ever would have invented PARCOURS? Have you any idea how many high schools now have robotics teams that vie with football for budgets and popularity? Every hobby flourishes and especially those preserving ancient arts & crafts.

Oh, but not in the immediate area around indolent, treelike ents, I suppose. (Guessing.) But the experiment is underway, fellah! Move to regions that share your view! How about in Red America, where obesity, smoking, gambling and every other verifiable type of sloth occur at far higher rates. Is that what you see around you? Cause it’s not what I see.

michaeljpastor said...

The problem is that we can't get everyone to agree on what things should or should not be shamed publicly, and nothing seems to stop people from self-righteous judgment and picking something *anything* as a trait to be scorned. Yes, eventually cooler heads prevail that a given arbitrary trait isn't shameable, but in the meantime, countless innocents will be "rep-raped"

David Brin said...

Still, I disagree with Alfred though who said “OF COURSE they didn't face all the forces and controls we face.”

This is only true is the sense of the number of specific acts (mostly stupidities or crimes) that are forbidden. But there is a huge reason for the complexity of our laws, and that reason is NOT higher population OR the extra intricacy of modern life.

The reason is that most human societies had a central principle: “Whatever is not specifically allowed is automatically prohibited.”

In the past, a cop or priest or thug would approach you and demand “Who gave you permission to do that?” Unless you were a lord, you needed to show it was allowed. There was no need for a lengthy rule-book. The law was: “ask first, or die.”

Our fundamental premise is the opposite: “Whatever is not specifically prohibited is automatically allowed.”

If no one is being endangered and no harm is being done, you can demand the state’s officials prove to you that it’s forbidden. (Granted, you should demand very carefully if you are black, alas, still.)

That is why our laws are so complex! Those of you who have taken flight school know about the “upside down wedding cake” control zone around airports where you must obey traffic controllers. The complexity of the shape is because regulators carved away every chunk of sky they did not NEED to regulate. Because they shared the same instinct.

Dig it again. US air traffic maps are far more complex… more “regulated” … precisely in order that pilots should be more free.

The tragedy is that we don’t teach Americans that this is their core assumption, so they never parse it out. And hence, you get jibbering loonies like Treebeard, who cannot acknowledge the freedoms they take lazily and ungratefully for granted.

David Brin said...

Re: the “upside down wedding cake” control zone around airports where you must report in and obey traffic controllers. The complexity of the shape of this zone arises for a simple reason. It is complex because regulators carved away every chunk of sky they did not need to regulate. Because they shared the same instinct.

(See it explained in detail.)

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

We invented these bits of tech because we didn't like something or other. The climate changed on us and we had to change. Our neighbors learned to make bronze spears and we had to change. A volcano blew up, altered the weather for a few years, and we had to change. Don't like them? Think they can be rolled back? Not a chance. Even if we tried, we'd just re-invent them over the next 1000 generations.

Kurt Vonnegut covered that in his 1953 novel Player Piano. Human labor was made obsolete by technology, and most people couldn't stand living without meaningful work. So they rebelled and destroyed machines. Then what was the first thing they did? Fix machines so they worked again. Not in the sense of "We were wrong--let's put things back", but more like "What else are we going to do? Fixing stuff is fun."

Alfred Differ said...

I would argue that a lot of the controls we face are voluntary even if one lives in a community where it's 'ask first or die'. The actual control in those places isn't 'Whatever is not specifically allowed is automatically prohibited.' It is closer to "Whatever is not specifically allowed and can be prevented is automatically prohibited.' I'm not quibbling with that. No central authority has been so successful that they can stop all that is not specifically allowed, so they have to settle for what they can detect and what is worth preventing.

I wasn't trying for this argument, though. I was pointing out that complexity is a reasonably expected result of more humans on the planet. We aren't simple minds with simple motivations. OF COURSE there is complexity now. How could there not be if we remain human?

Our flip on the premise just makes it MORE complex. Much more. Fractal-like even.

Our flip on the premise is (in the crudest sense) an admission that the Leviathan isn't viable. We approximate it when we pursue the attactor, but we don't actually achieve it. Free thinkers come along. Peasant rebellions are so numerous through history it's hard to record them all. We try and try and try and try, but though the attractor keeps pulling at us the Leviathan fails.

Dwight Williams said...

Unexplained Wealth Orders? Is this a thing that could be tied into a Magnitsky Act?

Alfred Differ said...

There is another issue with Treebeard’s position that should be pointed out with big, glaring arrows pointing to the mental error. It is the connection between complexity and failure. Many people imagine a correlation between complexity and the rate of failure. Nature doesn’t support this very well.

Taleb draws a distinction between processes that are fragile, robust, and anti-fragile. The first two are obvious to anyone old enough to handle things they’ve made by hand. The third isn’t so obvious because we don’t really make stuff like that. We ARE stuff like that. Only lately in our history have we built stuff that is anti-fragile (so far) and people haven’t quite caught up yet.

In the first episode of James Burke’s ‘Connections’ he describes the fragility of the US power grid. Last time I watched it was after I was an employee at CAISO, so I knew the engineers put a lot of work into designing the grid for robustness. Still it fails occasionally and the consequences can be dramatic. By the time a view gets to the end of the series they are aware of several other technologies they knew little about (at the time) and he asks if this is the world they want. No? What are you going to do about it?

In the next Connections-like series, he tells the stories in a different way. They start and end in the same place, but in different times. Each story is designed to show how the universe seemed to change when it was really us changing. It was especially how we saw the universe that changed. After several stories, he finishes by pointing out that what we are depends on all those stories. What we think the other people are does too. Who is to say what is valid? Each of us? Right at the end he has a short scene with a small digital (circa mid-80’s) chip on his finger and points out that it could be used to enforce conformity or blow the lid off everything by giving each of us a voice. It’s a spooky scene to watch from a future perspective. He did NOT know which way it would go. He didn’t even realize that the stage for that was already set and the forces advocating for conformity had been already been mortally wounded.

In the next Connections-like series in the 90’s (two of them actually), he isn’t asking those old questions anymore. It is becoming blatantly obvious what is happening. The Cold War was over. Fiber optics was being laid across the oceans for whatever reasons people do such things. Market opportunities were expanding. Change was accelerating. By the end of the last series he had obviously concluded that old ways were melting away. Not all of them, but enough of them that the world could not stop what was coming… and no one really knew what was coming. What was most interesting (I think) about the last series is what he did NOT mention from the mid-80’s one where he pointed out in the last episode our East and West differences. The West is a culture of change and the rules driving change are changing too. The East was not. He did not mention that in the 90’s because it was no longer true. Something frickin’ huge had happened to humanity and it simply wasn’t mentioned.

The error Treebeard makes is that our social complexity and the recent technology that supports it is anti-fragile. It learns from errors and corrects. It learns because it is us. It corrects because we want it to do so. We are already the tech, but we are also learning how to automate some of this learning capability too. We are also learning how to get around our biological inclination to not trust each other. Anti-fragility is the kind of thing that comes from emergent behaviors that evolve. Treebeard isn’t just unappreciative of the community that made his life possible. He’s missing the point. The Universe changed and he didn’t notice.

David Brin said...

But Alfred, none of that gives treebeard what he needs... to sit and mutter-grumble how stupid are all the fools surrounding him, their pathetic delusions of 'civilization' and especially all the smartypants types, who are unwise in direct proportion to their vaunted knowledge, skill and brains.

Tony Fisk said...

I have my doubts about blockchain. It seems to me that the energy demands prevent it from scaling to ubiquitous use. Of course, that may simply prove to be a teething problem.
Of more concern is the recent discovery of an exploit in one system. This is an underlying problem with encryption in general: mathematicians can define whether or not an algorithm is "hard" (ie it takes more steps to solve than generate), but they can't determine whether or not there's a short cut in the algorithm.

Unknown said...

Blockchain or another distributed consensus mechanism can work for this (many new blockchain type projects will abandon the blockchain for newer technology).

As to the blockchain requiring many resources, well that is specifically Bitcoin's initial tech to ensure distributed consensus - there are now many more - some of which are not resource (electricity) intensive. They are not as battle hardened as Bitcoin of course yet.

Finally, there have been lots of bugs found and corrected in all projects - like any new technology in its infancy, lots of running repairs are needed - but these all serve to increase security. Obviously one big challenge on the horizon is quantum computers/Shor's algorithm but there are nascent solutions for this challenge too.

There is something there, maybe it won't remake the world but it will be an important technology - it will revolutionise supply chains and accountancy at the very least!

Alfred Differ said...

Judging from what Treebeard mentioned a few weeks ago, he's tried his hand at competition, got knocked off his horse, and hasn't climbed back up onto it yet to try again. Can't blame him. It's painful and takes one hell of an ego to believe in one's self enough to think it won't happen again... which of course it could. Much easier to lick one's wounds, mutter-grumble, and do the sour-grapes thing.

It's the people who read the kind of material Treebeard produced that could benefit from seeing the error. Even if they don't climb on their own horse and give it a try, they might appreciate better those who do try... even if they fall off... which happens a lot. Most of us who try fall off.

Alfred Differ said...

The "P is not NP" problem. That middle ground between finding and verifying. Polynomial time algorithms for some, but not known for others. I've thought about it enough that (short of functioning quantum computers) I'm willing to bet the house on P not being NP. I'm willing to bet it all.

All software can be buggy. Mathematically sound encryption algorithms can have flaws introduced by flawed human thinking. There are always other methods besides decryption to get at encrypted content created by people or ways to fake their digital signatures. All given. What's going to matter is how blockchain removes trusted third-parties in the middle of contracts. Doing that changes the costs of transactions and should scare the pee out of bankers and lawyers.

The more I read about this stuff, the more I realize I have to retool. I'm an IT guy in danger of being made obsolete.

jim said...

Besides the obvious problem that not all people (and organizations) share the same values, even people who’s values overlap to a great degree will not necessarily rank their values in the same way and how a person ranks their values also changes depending on the situation they are in. For example, a person can put the highest ranking to honesty and transparency when writing a scientific article but put rank them much lower when writing an article meant to persuade people to your point of view.

And combining the social psychology ideas from the Obedience to Authority studies with the more recent research in cognitive psychology on cognitive bias and the “gameification“ of social control pioneered in on line gaming should allow groups of people and organizations to develop very cohesive “shared reality” in both belief and action that are very much in conflict with the “shared reality” of different groups.

I used to have so much hope for the Information Revolution, I thought it could bring us all together so that we can solve our common problems, but it looks like it is bringing groups of people to together and they realize that they don’t really like other groups of people.

Anonymous said...

You guys have been picking apart poor Treebeard's post. That's not nice.

I am quite sure he is, right this minute, crafting a wicked counter that will shame all of you lesser beings. His intellect is truly dizzying!.

Any minute now...

Wait for it...

SQUIRREL! Heat Death of the Universe!

David Smelser said...

A block chain can be used to distribute and authenticate that an image hasn't been altered since it was put into the chain. But how does it prevent an altered image from being loaded into the block chain in the first place?

David Brin said...

jim thank you for cogency. Indeed, every new information system, back to the printing press, has has ill effects before positive ones fully kicked in. The worst example was radio and loudspeakers, which amplified the power of the human voice, making gifted ranters like Hitler sound like gods. There were similar voices in the US and Britain but the public rejected them, in favor of Churchill and Roosevelt. We can hope for the same.

David Brin said...

DS see my chapter "The End of Photography as Proof?" in The Transparent Society. The solution remains the same.

Alfred Differ said...

@David Smelser | I don't think we have to prevent the insertion of the altered image from being recorded. What we have to do is capture valid timestamps. Even better would be time and location stamps, but that would require the digital cameras capture it all and upload in one swoop with us avoiding any opt-out features.

There still wouldn't be anything to deal with a rogue device recording, altering, and then uploading its manufactured truth. What a decent blockchain db could do is detect later alterations by other agents. Got an image or audio recording you want to use to establish priority? Get it uploaded early before anyone can get to it and alter it. Want to establish the event? Capture time and location and sign the package digitally. Others might still debate the truthiness of your contribution, but there won't be a debate over who arrived in the world first. Your package picks up another timestamp on entering the blockchain.

Larry Hart said...

David Brin:

The worst example was radio and loudspeakers, which amplified the power of the human voice, making gifted ranters like Hitler sound like gods. There were similar voices in the US and Britain but the public rejected them,

Way back in the 1990s, I read a non-fiction book called "The Hacker Crackdown" which explained a lot of history of then-nascent internet culture and how it was an offshoot of earlier phone culture. The book made the point that the telephone as we know it is a very American (or at least very democratic) application of the technology. In a dictatorship, the telephone would have been more likely used more like radio--a way for the authorities to push communications downward rather than for interactive communication between individuals.

Alfred Differ said...

@jim | I used to have so much hope for the Information Revolution...

Sounds like you fell for the utopian illusion people often spin with each new technology. It can be painful when the illusion pops and we realize we've been taken in.

That doesn't mean we haven't come together and solved problems, though. Try to imagine this world and that revolution from the perspective of someone who didn't believe the illusion. Imagine a cynic (or even just a hard skeptic) looking at the possible future from back then. They would have made a prediction that was only a little different from the world they knew or a prediction of something worse. Remember the folks who thought the internet wouldn't amount to much of anything? Remember the ones who thought it would be little more than Usenet lists and BBS's? Remember the ones who thought that only a few nerds would want their own PC's?

First time I got a chance to see email, I didn't really get it. 'So what' I thought. First time I could 'finger' someone who was logged in, I DID get that. Nowadays it would be instant messaging or something close. I was one of the nerds who bought a computer in 1980. I still have my Commodore PET in the garage somewhere. It's cute. I didn't buy another until the mid 90's when it became unavoidable. If I wanted to do what I wanted to do, I simply had to have one. Still... I bought cheap. It was a souped up x486. Woo-hoo!

I assure you that people HAVE come together and solved problems. I could see some of what was coming, but not so much that the utopian illusion made any sense to me. From where I sit, the future has turned out more like that illusion than what I thought would happen.

The illusion I fell for involved flying cars and space travel. It's very disappointing to be in my mid-50's and know humanity is still stuck on the ground. In the mid-90's, one of the things that drove me to by that spiffy computer was a realization that our future in space wasn't going to happen unless we rolled up our sleeves to make that future ourselves. No waiting for the government. No waiting for academia. No waiting at all. I had a lot of things to learn and I could get some of it from NASA tech docs, some of it from libraries, and some of it from academic home pages. See the problem I was looking at? See the solution? I joined up with like minded people a couple years later. See the people coming together? I do now, but I didn't then. Later I got it.

It's happening, but it's hard to see when you don't believe and/or you are immersed in it.

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | a way for the authorities to push communications downward

Like FEMA test announcements? 8)

I think the counter-response I saw to that test from the other day is a wonderful example of 'cantankerous American'.

locumranch said...

David finally admits that top-down transparency (aka 'surveillance') is frequently utilised in a destructive, dystopian, controlling, coercive, abusive & authoritarian manner.

His solution to the malignant aspects of transparency is 'sousveillance' (aka 'turning the the tables of transparency against the would-be abuser'), and it amounts to a 'tit for tat' transparency-based assault on any would-be transgressor.

This, I term 'Mutually Assured Transparency', as it represents a shameless adaption of the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) theory of nuclear deterrence.

And, like the historically-relevant Cold War deterrent, it will lead to the mutual destruction of all participants UNLESS a transparency-based cease fire can be declared...

A cease fire which appears 'technologically impossible', according to David, as he consigns 'privacy' (and it's synonym 'secrecy') to the rubbish bin of history.

And, so we see an escalation of 'tit for tat' transparency-based sociopolitical attacks that include (but are not limited to) one-off events, out-of-context statements, adolescent transgressions & McCarthyesque allegations.

Welcome to Civil War II & World War III, the only solution being a moratorium on transparency analogous to SALT.


Dig it well:

Social credit systems have a long & gory history, leading to Victorian 'Debtor Prisons', the French 'Reign of Terror', the Bolshevik 'Red Terror', Stalin's 'Great Purge', Mao's 'Cultural Revolution' and the Khmer Rouge's 'Killing Fields'.

Thus, I give our host '2 demerits' for the crime of supporting arbitrary social credit, '1 demerit' for unspecified privilege, '1 demerit' for elitism, and I declare him 'unmutual'.

Unknown said...

"David finally admits that top-down transparency (aka 'surveillance') is frequently utilised in a destructive, dystopian, controlling, coercive, abusive & authoritarian manner."

I'm curious as to whether you read his posts at all. He hasn't "finally admitted it", he screams it from rooftops.

Well, not really curious, I've watched your behavior for some time.

Larry Hart said...

loc is much like the Bizarro character in Superman comics. Him say oppozite ov what him don't mean.

In this case, I he's accusing Dr Brin of saying a different thing, in fact the opposite thing, of what he actually said.. To wit:

…but in order to achieve the second wonder - and stymie the pernicious scheme to repress diversity with things like "social credit"

Does that sound like he's fer it or again' it?

A.F. Rey said...

I suspect locum thought David was using the work "pernicious" in the positive sense. ;)

But disregarding the first sentence and the post script, I think locum actually summarized David's position nicely, that MAT is the only way to convince people to leave each other alone, harking back to the wise man who said, "Let he who has not sinned throw the first stone" (while hefting a huge rock in his own hand and staring at the crowd). :)

Alfred Differ said...

I agree. Locumranch's attempt to paraphrase was actually pretty good... up until he confused 'cease fire' with the Luddite approach of depopulating the battle field as a DMZ. MAD is indeed the risk, but a cease fire would involve us choosing not to act directly on what we know. Indirect action might still happen, but that would be more defensive.

David Brin said...

Me too. Shrugging aside his inane - even psychotic - use of "finally admitting" , locum actually strings points together better than usual and must be on his vitamins. Yes, Mutually Assured Transparency can lead to a truce... that is exactly what I've been saying for decades. "Trust but verify," as Reagan said. The truce would be social... exactly as I described in this posting, if poor L ever could actually read without the fog of rage getting in the way.

David Brin said...

BTW: "a shameless adaption of the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) theory of nuclear deterrence."

No, it is application of reciprocal accountability, which is THE core discovery of the Modern Enlightenment, from which everything we have arises out of Markets, Democracy, Science, Courts and Sports. All of which the enlightenment's enemies are desperately seeking to corrupt.

yana said...

Just from where we were to where we are, a couple things are likely coming. Instead of snapping 2 flat images and generating a 3D for facial recog, teensy sub-IR pulses collect real 3D data from a whole area at a time. First, for facial recog, then software will start asking questions, like "is that person's backpack outsized from her normal daily range of backpack sizes?"

Next thing coming is Google Glass. But not eyewear. A bluetooth earpiece which many people have, but now with a camera. A hat with a camera, a brooch, necklace, earring, the jauntily turned-down collar of a sweater. I don't think we'll ever be able to fight the onslaught of transparency. What locumranch thinks Dr. B has shocklingly converted to, just yesterday, is simply inevitable. Cheering for or against it is like taking bets on whether or not the sun comes up tomorrow.

Block-chain verification of media files won't solve anything. If someone's going to concoct a hoax, they'll do it secret, in isolation de rigueur. They'd use only sources personally collected or from a neat cabal. The fraud would be first in its chain, giving cover to the goofs who fall for it. This only has to happen a few times, for the scheme to be abandoned.

Here's the kicker, it's something few people know about. Not one of the classic logical fallacies, but something that smart folks fall into, all the same. Sun and Machiavelli knew it, there is a Conspiracy Coefficient. Politics, business, war, all the same.

Put simply, the duration and effectiveness of any conspiracy is inversely related to the number of people involved.

Duration and effectiveness of any conspiracy is directly related to risk/return, and directly related to each link's ability to lie comfortably.

But the primary determinant of any conspiracy's success is the number of people involved.

This principle will survive the 3rd communication revolution.

Anyone who calls for a truce in transparency, who thinks people are better off M'ing their OB, that's a set of blinders. We are monkeys. We can't mind only our own business. Thus, there is a Conspiracy Coefficient.

Larry Hart said...

Cheating begets power, which begets more cheating, etc. Are we nearing or past the point where small-d democratic remedies to unpopular policies and officeholders are not viable precisely because the party in power is allowed to disenfranchise opposition? If so, then in the words of Hamilton's King George III, "What's next?"

On Thursday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit against [Georgia Secretary of Stage who is also running for Governor] Kemp on behalf of a coalition of Georgia civil rights groups seeking an immediate end to the “exact match” program. Kristen Clarke, the group’s president and executive director, told me that were the Voting Rights Law still intact, the program would have never been adopted.

“None of these schemes or tactics or new policies would have passed the smell test,” she said, adding, “What we are seeing in Georgia is the clearest evidence that states in the South that were subject to the Voting Rights Act are moving quickly to turn the clock back in ways that harm minority voters.”

That will make it easier for Republicans to keep getting elected in these states. Once in office, they will help to put more conservative judges on the federal bench, who will make it harder still for Democrats to vote. The never-Trump conservative David Frum has written: “If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.” In Georgia, they already have.

Larry Hart said...

Here's the link to that article above:

Larry Hart said...

I have no dog in the fight over whether to like Kanye West or not, but some of the crap he mouths seems so ridiculously egregious that I have to wonder if he pulled the short straw and is implementing Dr Brin's strategy of sucking up to Trump in order to have his ear and influence him in ways that arguments about issues from lib-ruls just won't ever achieve.

matthew said...

Kanye is just feeding off of the Trump reality show - He has a new (not great) album out and needs the publicity. Trump likes having a black popular entertainer fluff him. It's that simple.


Distraction from real events.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Who would have thought, three years ago, that we would have a black entertainer meeting with the president in the oval office and arguing for the repeal of the 13th amendment?
Trump has hit the trifecta of crazy: Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and now Kayne West. A pity Charlie Manson is dead: he could have visited and argued for lowering the age of consent to six.

matthew said...

Donzelion, if you are able to comment on the ramifications of the murder of Khashoggi, I'd love to hear your take on what is happening. I understand that sometimes you cannot comment on Saudi politics, though.

My take is that MBS got pissed at Khashoggi and decided that Trump wouldn't retaliate if MBS was blatant. The tapes that the Turks allege they have of the murder reportedly have a good deal of torture before the killing. My guess is questions regarding Khashoggi's sources inside of Saudi Arabia.

Oh, if you don't know what I'm talking bout then here is a good primer -

David Brin said...

“Put simply, the duration and effectiveness of any conspiracy is inversely related to the number of people involved.”

It depends upon the situation. In a tyranny, the anti-government conspiracy must be small because of informers, but the pro-government conspiracy can be huge, as we see in the unlimited scope of Russian war efforts against the West. In a truly free and open society, it is hard to hire henchmen for something dastardly because one of them may blow the whistle. That is why blackmail is the best system for mafiosi and oligarchs. Keep each blackmail victim isolated, thinking he’s alone and helpless.

Larry Hart said...


My take is that MBS got pissed at Khashoggi and decided that Trump wouldn't retaliate if MBS was blatant.

Jeez, now that there's another reason to despise the current administration, is that one more example of liberals "moving the goalposts"?

locumranch said...

The parallel between MAD & MAT is lost upon most of you:

In the case of the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) theory of nuclear deterrence, more & more nuclear proliferation quickly revealed itself as an INSANITY that virtually guaranteed the destruction of both nuclear antagonist & protagonist, leading to the worldwide adoption of well-reasoned nuclear disarmament & reduction treaties.

In the case of the Mutual Assured Transparency (MAT) theory of political deterrence, transparency advocates like David demand ever-increasing amounts of transparency (moar moar) even though its relentless proliferation virtually guarantees the political destruction of both antagonist & protagonist.

Do people coexist with the known backstabber? Do they negotiate with the proven liar? Do they trust & believe the confirmed dissembler? Do they offer good faith in return bad?

Of course not.

They distrust, punish, imprison or exterminate them !!

Taken to an extreme, transparency only proves that damn near everyone is a prejudiced, flawed, deceitful, spiteful. hypocritical, self-serving HUMAN interested only in their hierarchy of needs & the accoutrements of power.

David needs to understand that we desperately need LESS transparency if he actually wishes to restore our increasingly fractured society and avoid Civil War II because (howsoever falsely) we need to believe in universal human decency & fellowship if we wish to believe the big lies like Love & Mercy.

Said the deplorable to commiebastard.


Larry Hart said...


David needs to understand ...

So you're saying there's something he should do?

Just checking.

David Brin said...

Gawd it never ends. He knows that he does not understand positive sum minds. So, does he try harder to understand us? Even as foes? No, all he can do is repeat the same howls:

"Do they offer good faith in return bad?Of course not. They distrust, punish, imprison or exterminate them !!

Um... no? That is what you have repeatedly made clear you will do to us, if you get the chance. You declare it is the only outcome conceivable to you!

But that is not how reciprocal accountability can and has worked, brilliantly, in science, democracy, markets, etc. The example of sports is a spectacularly simple and perfect refutation. By this point, you are only demonstrating to us, again and again, that humanity includes types who are congenitally unable to grasp the possibility of other kinds of humans and who are terrified by the gaps in their percepts.

"So you're saying there's something he should do?" Alas, we have asked for him to stick his neck out and prescribe his program. He never has and never will.

Slim Moldie said...

There is something we should do. For instance, iif I were advising a political campaign, my commercials would feature split screens. It would be a day to day timed stamped vlog/journal. On the left, found footage of my opposition x, (or animated courtroom sketch art with narration. For late night bathroom tweets etc.) Simultaneously, on the right portion of the screen my candidate, y going about their day to day. Subtitles might run stats such as tax payer money spent or money spent etc. As long as Y walks the walk, you have a persuasive arguement. Another tactic also using found footage and the split screen would just contrast your opposition with Mildred the plumber or Locum the physician. I would totally use stereotypes and make fun of the hypocrisy of my own base, too and would show texting Susie and fortnight Bob taking naps during their college classes because truth resonates with people. So use it. Duh.

A.F. Rey said...

Here's an idea.

Advertisers have to comply with the truth-in-advertising statues.

Why not expand the laws to apply them to politicians?

Couldn't hurt (especially in this political climate)... :)

yana said...

A.F. Rey thought:

"Advertisers have to comply with the truth-in-advertising statues. Why not expand the laws to apply them to politicians?"

Good the intention, but it was obvious so it's already been done. That's why we have politicospeak, and why we can't get politicians to answer a single simple straight question, like ever.

yana said...

locumranch thought:

"fractured society" and "Civil War II"

Because this is what the wrack of guilt does, to a mind desperate to believe that everyone is as wicked as itself, the salve of rationalization, and a hope for a future of violence, where its own failures will be pleasantly lost in a general purge of bad faith.

locumranch thought:

"we need to believe in universal human decency & fellowship if we wish to believe the big lies like Love & Mercy."

If a tortured mind knows it has done terrible things, it can not believe in anything until it covers the wounds with thick chitinous scar tissue. But that's not far enough. It also must maintain scorn for others, specially ones who appear to maybe not have been as wicked.

I give two merits for the elder woman who shooed me ahead of her in the checkout line today. One merit for her selfless act of consideration, the second one for the true smile when i thanked her again on my way out. I don't give the merits to her, but to the whole of human culture.

The sun will rise tomorrow, and there is no escaping the onslaught of rampant transparency coming soon. You can't put baby back in the corner. Luckily, because we are social monkeys, ubiquitous surveillance will record far more acts of kindness than acts which are... "prejudiced, flawed, deceitful, spiteful. hypocritical, self-serving"

The only refuge then, for the tortured mind, will be a haughty proclamation that "kind" acts rose 2.6 % after everyone started recording everything. So it's obviously all an act and surely, everyone else is just as wicked deep down, just as guilty of 'something' certainly.

Thus, good news. locumranch is not a threat to national security nor domestic tranquility. Now we know, despite the froth, that locumranch desires redemption. If society should fracture or there's a CW2, then most ilks get redemption by default, many slates cleaned. That's the easy way, the intellectually lazy path to redemption, id ac deus ex machina salvatandum.

The hard way is girding the self against living the 'unexamined life' for more than a day or two at a time. At first, the wracked self recoils. But, with babysteps backwards, even someone who has done terrible things can rejoin the normal people, learn (relearn?) how to do mercy, can begin to grasp why real charity is anonymous, and might even dip a toe into love.

Erik Welson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
locumranch said...

As in the case of Mutually Assured Destruction, the production of 'more nukes' led to desensitisation and (eventually) to nuclear disarmament, attendant on the realisation that the threat of being killed one thousand times over is no more frightening than being killed a mere half-dozen times.

And, so it is in the case of Mutually Assured Transparency, as the production of 'more transparency' inevitably leads to desensitising yawn-inducing boredom, along with the realisation that pretty much every individual capable of 'compromise' has somehow compromised themselves at one time or another.

In fact, this has already happened, as evidenced by the public's response (election & re-election) to Berlusconi's 'Bunga Bunga' parties & Trump's 'pussy-grabbing'.

Pretty much nobody cares anymore as once-shocking allegations about behaviours like Al Franken's and Brett Kavanaugh's 'booby-grabbing' have become so commonplace as to become meaningless.

And, like an Opioid addiction, it now takes unprecedented levels of transparency to generate an ever-decreasing level of transparency-related outrage, triggering the Media's descent into Chicken Littleism wherein every athletic event, storm, outcome or outrage must be described with superlative terms like 'biggest', 'worst' or 'apocalyptic', leading to diminishing returns & public disengagement.

This just in: Individuals with power & authority tend to abuse their power & authority; western women are enraged; and water is wet.

Nobody gives a poop anymore.


locumranch said...

CNN resorts to Chicken Littleism to describe Hurricane Michael:

"Survivors scramble for food and water...," it says, obfuscating the fact that almost everyone survived this storm except for '17 confirmed casualties' which is statistically irrelevant as this death count is actually LOWER than the routinely anticipated traffic deaths that usually occur in the same location over the same time period.

Of course, significant property damage has occurred -- much 'worse' than previous storms that have impacted the same area in the past -- which in no way proves that this is a 'worse' storm because (in the past) there was much much LESS developed property in this area that could be adversely affected by any storm.

Thus, we are left with a FAKE NEWS story about a real storm & real storm-related hardship, but (just to be thorough) let's unleash the fake news kracken in order to blame Climate Change (which, as you know, is NOT responsible for a 30 year construction boom in storm vulnerable locales).

Some much for truth in transparency.


David Brin said...

It's reached the boring point again, where it becomes obvious that he doesn't care to read or grasp what's being said to him, anymore, nor how many times he is dared to answer simple questions. The howls of an animal in pain.



yana said...

David Brin thought:

"obvious that he doesn't care to read or grasp what's being said to him"

It reads. I've told you before, locumranch is not just being cantankerous, it's being contrarian simply because of the name of your blog.