Thursday, May 28, 2020

Seeking transparency in a threatening world... and answering Harari

First among links and midweek observations: 
Here’s a powerfully cogent interview with Yuval Noah Harari about our current crises. I have guardedly quibbled with some of his points in Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and elsewhere. But he is still one of the smartest observers around, unafraid to offer risky extrapolations. Perhaps we'll meet, someday. Meanwhile, do add this to your podcast list… and note the many overlaps with my arguments about reciprocal accountability, from The Transparent Society.

- A friend reminded me of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Minister's Veil,” wherein a New England town is amazed when their preacher takes the pulpit wearing a black semi-transparent veil that obscures all of his face but his mouth and chin from view.  Naturally, I take it in some ways as an allegory for my work on transparency. And for today’s masked life? But in the story it’s not a covid-style face mask. Hawthorne had the veil across the TOP half of the minister's face, as I recall, making it more pertinent to this era of iris/retina/face recognition than pandemic aversion.

- There was no justice for Ahmaud Arbery, shot down during one of his regular jogs through his own neighborhood by father-and-son loonies who went uncharged by law enforcement… till an anonymous person posted video of the horrific event, putting the lie to the accused’s excuses. And I was told years ago that cell cams would make no difference. They are making a whale of difference!

(Late note, the "anonymous poster" was later arrested as an accomplice! Oh the trap of self-promotion!)

== Snowden says “no aliens or contrails…” but crypto’s not delusional?”

- Edward Snowden is an interesting case who few understand. Okay, I don’t either, though I have some insights. First, that he truly views himself as a decent, reasonable and even patriotic fellow, willing to pay a reasonable price for his acts of “civil disobedience,” possibly with his gaze set on the life arc of Daniel Ellsberg . (Prison in your forties and then a hero of campus coeds in your fifties.) Certainly any comparison to Julian Assange benefits Snowden, immeasurably. He’s in the news again:

"For the record, as far as I could tell, aliens have never contacted Earth, or at least they haven't contacted US intelligence," Snowden writes in his recent memoir, Permanent Record.  "Also — Yes, man really did land on the moon. Climate change is real. Chemtrails are not a thing.” He tells radio host Joe Rogan that he “had ridiculous access to the networks of the NSA, the CIA, the military, all these groups. I couldn't find anything," he continued. "So if it's hidden, and it could be hidden, it's hidden really damn well, even from people who are on the inside."

Of course it is conceited to think he actually was at the innermost layer of the onion. Still, it leads to an important point. Seldom parsed is what Snowden resents, what he recommends, what did change as a result of his actions, what he did not  find or reveal, and what he completely fails to understand. There definitely were changes in the aftermath of his revelations, e.g. in compartmentalization, so no single fellow would ever know as much, and in FISA procedures, making them slightly more accountable and court-like. But it is in the lattermost category that I come in, as author of The Transparent Society. For it’s here that Snowden seems utterly clueless.

He believes - along with millions - that our freedom and privacy might be safeguarded by hiding from elites of government, commerce, criminality or fascism. This stunningly stupid notion is backed up with talk of cyber-cypher miracles that would encrypt our lives outta sight… as if a flying gnat cam won’t just waft into your home and watch as you type, or make love. Crypto-faith is not just marlarkey, it has always been mysticism based upon zero possibility it would work. Ever.

How ironic that Snowden himself is an example of the thing that actually does work. Indeed, within weeks (I hope and predict) it will be a flood of revelation and transparency (e.g. the Deutsche Bank records) that applies the light of sousveillance where it’s needed most. And still, when that happens, our would-be paladins of freedom won’t get it — the lesson that light is the way.

 - And while we’re on hackers etc.: The 15 Biggest Ever Cases of Bank Fraud. Wow, a fascinating recounting of thefts and such, showing how much is being stolen by hackers and insiders… and this is not a complete list, by far! And the only long term solution is not “security.” It is transparency.

== Vulnerabilities remain =

- This Los Angeles Times piece reveals how vulnerable our cell systems are to collapse when we need them most, when the towers go down, in a fire or quake. I’ve harped in this for two decades. See my interview in CACM about critical fragilities in infrastructure (reprinted in Polemical Judo.)

- I warned long ago (1997) in The Transparent Society  that ‘Deep fake’ videos could upend an election. This article suggests that Silicon Valley may have a way to combat them. It’s a critical problem, and tech will help, for a while. But over the long run, the answer to “lying witnesses” will be the same as it has been for 6000 years… more witnesses. This means we will likely have to maintain deniability by keeping our own diary-recording-logs of everything we do or say. It needn’t be the end of the world. 

- Meanwhile, a cogent Los Angeles Times op-ed talks about “Rules for a New Surveillance Reality,” and how some big thinkers aren’t giving in to the standard reflex among those fretting about Big Brother. Oh, it’s right to fret! We teeter on the edge of tumbling into the surveillance state that certain rising world powers are already building, at full speed. But it won’t be solved by whining “don’t look at me!” Or trying to pass useless laws limiting technology, ordering a halt to the tide. Or to a tsunami. What can work, because it has worked increasingly well for 200 years, is to insist that we have transparency and the power to supervise all elites who grasp these technologies.
== Again and again… blindness to what works ==

- Got me a message from Evan Selinger, co-author of Re-Engineering Humanity, who writes: “I've been arguing for a ban of facial recognition for some time. Do you really believe in a plausible future when overall the technology creates more accountability than harm? This is a genuine question, David! I'm admitting my bias in advance but am truly curious about your take. Thanks!”

My response:

Dear Evan, I appreciate that you are in our shared fight against looming Big Brothers and those who would draw curtains of darkness across our enlightenment experiment. I volubly and often urge folks to join ACLU and EFF and other shared efforts to preserve the experiment. Despite the tendency for activists like you to dismiss me as complacent about threats to freedom and privacy, I am in fact fare MORE sensitive to this historically-redolent issue, as I wrote in The Transparent Society.

Alas though. It truly is perplexing to me how sincere and intelligent folks imagine they can repress technologies that get smaller, faster, better, cheaper and vastly more numerous and mobile at rates faster than Moore's Law. Seriously, you are able to envision such a thing happening? Banning such exponential tech... with a LAW? One enforced by elites who will thenceforth be protected and shielded by such laws, from any effective supervision or accountability? Even if they start out sincere, such paternalists will always be propelled to use the techs "for our own good."

Banning face-recog is the latest utterly bizarre example of stunning myopia. Every year the programs get more efficient, smaller and spread more widely in dispersed – not centralized – databases and apps. Where you you think that leads? As Robert Heinlein wrote: “A privacy Law just makes the spy bugs smaller or more hidden.” Really, you can envision such a method working? I am a science fiction author, and I cannot imagine any conceivable way to do that. Unless...

...unless my method comes first. If all elites are stripped naked, then such a law might be enforceable, catching violators. Ironically, your approach can only work if I get mine first, and then your approach -- hiding and cringing from light -- becomes unnecessary.

As things are, with Face Recognition out in the open, flaws like racial or gender bias are being detected and pounced-upon, swiftly. That won’t happen if the systems get driven underground or kept by secret elites.

What is most bizarre about this is that the approach I recommend - reciprocal-lateral accountability - is exactly the core of the enlightenment experiment. It is the only thing that ever has worked, that does work, or that ever will constrain the human tendency toward cheating and power. It is the reason why Adam Smith and the American Founders prescribed methods for dividing power among mutually competing groups. And the downward-lateral spread of power and knowledge and sovereignty to ever-broader groups is precisely the only thing that has ever thwarted aristocratic cheating and other calamities. YOU are a product of 250 years of steadily increasing use of that method...

...which now seems to be totally invisible and counter-intuitive to all our brightest paladins of freedom. Like yourself. Alas.

But at least you are in the fight. Bless you for that. 

And hell yes, I approve far more of a fellow like this who is in the fight, vigorously disagreeing and arguing with me about tactics and curious about possible ways that his own might need improving... than I do the arm-chair warriors and 'summer soldiers' who whine and grouse and use every excuse to stay lazy during "times that try men's souls."

And if you are ready to stand up and get involved in the fight for your posterity and civilization, I know a place where you can study either new and innovative tactics...

... or else get tips how to efficiently use your scant time and resources in more traditional ways. Either way, we need you. And the time is now.


Alfred Differ said...


Larry got almost everything I would have said. I'd add just a bit more.

That warm fuzzy feeling we get when we do it right isn't Love in the sense I was describing. The warmth is the self-dosing that occurs later. I know for a fact my son is capable of that. I only have to watch him around little kids to see it. He CAN model them, thus predict them, thus self-dose and drive the behavior cycle.

Also, the block isn't 100%. There are other low bandwidth channels. A caring parent will find them and keep feeding information into them. Patience is required. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Now... back on topic... 8)

For anyone who thinks the world didn't change for professionals trusted with the nation's secrets after Snowden... well... it did. We don't talk much about it in public, but we still talk about HIM with each other.

No... I won't give you access to that without the proper procedure being followed. Remember Snowden?

No... I won't relax my coding security standards for any reason. Remember Snowden?

No... I don't care how much you smile. I won't let you in without authorization. Remember Snowden?

Is that a thumb drive? Really?! Here?!
Is that a PED? In this room? REALLY?!

Okay. There is a relaxation constant associated with security failures. The system is still likely underdamped. The friction force also oscillates. Argh.

But we remember Snowden.

A German Nurse said...

@ Dr. Brin:
1) What really shocked me about the Snowden Affair how much of the IC work is in the hand of private companies, with a much higher price tag. Everything else he revealed was already suspected, though evidence was lacking. The the tenacity of the law enforcement, though, is almost self-degrading. Better to admit a defeat and do better next time than behaving the way they do. Hope neither Assange nor Snowden are extradited, as they will make public examples of them. Like in good old commie and Nazi people's courts.
2) If your job security and career chances depend on anonymity or privacy, why should you give it up? In the end, companies would discriminate against you for being LBGT, having the wrong code of genes, having been tracked in the vicinity of known worker's right agitators and unions, having done something stupid in your youth etc.
3) Don't count on the Deutsche Bank to disclose it's secrets voluntarily unless the German FedGov is involved, and even that is unlikely to happen under the current administration (hate to say it, but this time, it is not the conservatives who have ties to Russia, it is the centrist wing of the social democrats). Perhaps a useful whistleblower will appear right in time, say in September or October, but don't count on it either.
4) In Tinkerers you made a side remark that attributes responsibility to Games. I'd add: The way games are constructed today, more and more emphasizing easy, shallow victories and constant gratification over long-term rewards could have an influence, too.

DP said...

Just watching the news last night made me think of this

“The Second Coming” by WB Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity....

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

DP said...

Dr. Brin, I know you hate theories of cyclical history, but his is very interesting:

They Predicted ‘The Crisis of 2020’ … in 1991. So How Does This End?

Two scholars coined the term millennial and developed a fan base for their grim theories. Now, the surviving one sees a generational realignment happening in American politics that does not bode well for Republicans.

They called it the Crisis of 2020 — an unspecified calamity that “could rival the gravest trials our ancestors have known” and serve as “the next great hinge of history.” It could be an environmental catastrophe, they wrote, a nuclear threat or “some catastrophic failure in the world economy.”

That was in 1991.

The scholars responsible were William Strauss and Neil Howe, whose book “Generations” introduced a provocative theory that American history unfolds in boom-to-bust cycles of roughly 80 years. Their conclusions about the way each generation develops its own characteristics and leadership qualities influenced a wide range of political leaders

Seems as if they were on to something. So now what?

Mr. Strauss died in 2007, before anyone could know how eerily correct “The Crisis of 2020” would be. But Mr. Howe, who now hosts a podcast and analyzes demographic trends for an investment advisory firm, is still very much in the insight business. And what he sees on the other end of the coronavirus pandemic — a generational realignment in American politics hastened by the failure of the baby boomer generation to lead the nation out of its quagmire — does not bode well for President Trump or the Republicans.

scidata said...

I've been trying to think of where I've seen this 'Escape from New York' story before.

A wealthy, confident, leather-faced NY high-roller tires of his ritzy Manhattan penthouse and his moneyed life in the clouds. He longs for a fresh start, closer to the land, where he can wander the open fields of personal freedom, unfettered by the chains of civil norms (like taxes and responsibility), to a place where he is master of his own domain. Perhaps becoming a greens keeper or gentleman farmer. He might even give a literal name to his new castle. He packs up his fashion-savvy, exotic, though hesitant, European wife and waves goodbye to the Big Apple. They won't have him to kick around anymore.

The simple folk of this simple land seem much more malleable, at least for a few short years. They include an eccentric, slightly frightening farmer, a strangely anthropoid pig, assorted goofy locals who drift in and out of the general store, and a shady trinkets peddlar who's always trying to flatter and gaslight his way to the next mark as he traipses around these acres unbowed by relentless failure.

I'm sure it will come to me at some point.

kvs said...

I've been trying to think of where I've seen this 'Escape from New York' story before

It sounds like Green Acres.

Tim H. said...

scidata, you may be thinking about "Green Acres". Reminds me of a related show "The Beverly Hillbillies" and the fun it poked at those who I'm amused to call "Mammonites".

scidata said...

Heh. Yup. Just trying to settle the jitters waiting for the next launch window. Wednesday's attempt was perhaps jinxed by the Grim Grifter. Go Dragon.

Larry Hart said...

Ok, I totally understand why Benedict Donald is lashing out about Twitter labeling his lies as lies. What I don't get is how his lashing out isn't counterproductive to his own goal. According to the article linked below, Trump is threatening to remove the protection that Twitter and company have concerning their responsibility for content of customers' tweets. If Twitter becomes treated as a "publisher", won't they be forced to fact-check content and remove libelous posts? Isn't that exactly what Trump doesn't want them to do?

I don't get it.

The silverback in the White House is seeing red because he believes the yellow-bellied curs at Twitter are in the bag for the blue team. And so, as promised, he did a little chest-thumping on Thursday, issuing an executive order in response to the social media platform's decision to add warnings to a couple of his tweets.

In an unsurprising turn of events, the order targets Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which is known as "The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet." Those words are:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

Larry Hart said...


The silverback in the White House is seeing red because he believes the yellow-bellied curs at Twitter are in the bag for the blue team.

That's a more accurate statement that it seems. Trump and his fellow Republicans are not upset about media bias because they think media should be un-biased. They're upset because they perceive that media are biased in a way other than they would like to see them biased. If a site was labeling Nancy Pelosi's tweets or Joe Biden's as untrue (whether or not the tweets were actually untrue), their reaction would be along the lines of "It's a start."

sdw said...

Yes, transparency is the answer. Radical transparency. But that requires radical acceptance and tolerance. Auditing, full records, and thorough policing and recovery, including being made whole to the extent possible when there is misuse. But no, not tolerance of intolerance.

The principles embodied in the way privacy is maintained by IRS, attorney privilege, HIPPA, right to publicity, and the right to privacy (specifically laws against making private things public) point in the right direction. We shouldn't care too much if someone somewhere sees snippets of what we do, what we watch, or what we think, as long as their use of that information is very narrow, with valid purpose, and has highly effective auditing and recovery. We know of many abuses in the past, particularly by the old FBI. And we know how to solve this, yet many resist. A while ago, I was in a position to advise the Department of Justice and some other departments and agencies: I wrote a book on secure application development, and I specifically advocated for thorough auditing of access to information and how that information was used.

Somewhat related to this are fears about use of information by Google, Facebook, Amazon, et al. There are legitimate concerns, and certain narrow mistakes have been made, but as part of this generalized fear of invasion of privacy, many become unnecessarily paranoid. This is a detriment to them and us. These commercial providers are severely limited in what they do, and would consider doing, in ways far stronger than government actors: Their worth, reputation, loyalty of workers, and very existence requires that they maintain reasonable privacy, security, and freedom from abuse. In many cases, transgressing that would be a payday to the affected customers. We need something as predictable and incentivizing for governments.

Participating in the Internet and closely related technologies and cultures for a long time, from the days when many were connected by uucp, I have followed much of the evolution of these ideas. I was on Cypherpunks for much of the 1990s, participating, and am again on the new incarnation, although now overrun by juveniles. I get the urge to go fully dark, totally secure, and completely out of reach by any 'outsider'. And I have the knowledge and technical skills to create a decentralized, highly secure, and resilient communication system to do so. There are events that push me in that direction. But also unfortunate failings that give me pause, causing me to think about alternate solutions. There are shades of that everywhere, but for me the possible failure modes crystallized with the Wikipedia: Indian WhatsApp lynchings. This kind of problem is, at its core, an intractable problem for completely private & secure communication networks. Our current somewhat-government-monitored communications networks are one solution. I have some ideas for a good enough decentralized solution.

We should be talking about security, privacy, accountability, and boundaries more broadly and honestly, thinking about how these work in current and possible future societies. We have made some good progress eliminating some terrible human rights problems that made transparency a toxic possibility in the past. But this is not uniform or complete, yet is linked intrinsically with the success of pursuing transparency. Even the very nature of our relationships is affected by this, and, for various reasons, has also been evolving. We should consciously identify and track the healthiness of different ideas and approaches so that we can design, engineer, and science the hell out of getting to a better future.

All problems are due to a poverty of imagination.

David Brin said...

Add pants-on-fire to our list of covid side effects. As if this is surprising from these states?

Georgia pneumonia case average for feb-may in previous 5 years --> 500. for 2020 is 1,368.

Texas pneumonia case average for feb-may in previous 5 years --> about 900. for 2020 is 4,217

Florida pneumonia case average for feb-may in previous 5 years --> 950. for 2020 is 4,259

Huh! a plague of deadly "pneumonia"!

. . . Meanwhile read the top Chinese epidemiologist - not a party hack - describing their methods for getting control of the epidemic. Yes, he is still an official of an autarky. Still, clearly a professional with important insights.

David Brin said...

sdw thoughtful offerings. Yet you miss the point altogether.

There are LEVELS to our Big Brother fears.

1 - If surveillance techs are monopolized by elites, they will use them to control us. Outlawing such techs cannot work - ironically - without omni transparency to prove elites aren't cheating. In which case the laws become a useless gesture.

Only sousveillance has ever, or will ever, prevent elite abuse.

2 - but let's say that Big Brother is thwarted by omni-veillance. Then have we entered a different hell of openly abusive gossip and oppression by a judgemental MAJORITY of millions of eccentricity repressing "little brothers?" That is the future China intends by instituting "social credit" and we saw it in Black Mirror's "Downfall" episode. (Or was it "Nosedive?")

Layer #2 has only one answer. Cultural. A norm that nosiness, gossip, bitchiness, orthodoxy and repression of harmless eccentricity are among the WORST things a person can get caught doing. If such nasty, busybody judgmentalism is deemed worse than almost any harmless eccentricity, then the light becomes privacy's friend, empowering you to catch the voyeurs and harpies and shout MYOB!

Mind your own business!

If we all can see... and force extra light upon those who arrogate to power... AND we value leaving each other alone, then most failure modes are addressed.

matthew said...

Alfred, just because you like a definition of Courage that only includes public perception of courage does not make it true. You are using definitions of "virtue" that lead to the outcome you desire. In other words, I don't think that you are arguing in good Faith on this matter.

The word courage has a common meaning. Defining the Virtue "Courage" as something that is at odds with "courage" is a rhetorical trick, nothing more. Basing your argument regarding societies and fairness on a strained definition invalidates the point you are trying to make.

David Brin said...

Alfred I have to side with Matthew on this one.

sdw said...

I totally agree with both of those points; apparently I failed to make that clear.

I normally think of 'little brother' as watching governments, large corporations, and others in power, but that may just be my bias about the worst kinds of power problems. It would be nice to have a different term: Little Mother? I agree that cultural failings are an important aspect: I was fairly direct in pointing out that the abuse of power usually has to do with problematic cultural norms. That absolutely applies in both private, interpersonal realms in addition to official actions.

In important ways, I agree with a strong MYOB cultural norm. It seems interesting to think about what the boundaries, rules, and effects of that would and should be. Seems like there are quite a number of gray areas where people would experience the apparent boundary differently. One person's helpful, well-intentioned comment is another person's nosy, bitchy repression. Do you see a clear framework that exists or could exist? Clearly, people are trying to accomplish this now with cancel culture and various forms of abuse when they are displeased. Anarchy to some extent, with some patterns and zeitgeist evolution that may or may not converge to a useful, stable meta-culture.

China's social credit system is yet another reputation system. For reputation systems, we have a credit rating system, criminal records available in background checks, public social media posts, licenses & membership, and things like github, LinkedIn, etc. We could have a more generalized 'are you a good person' reputation system, although reducing that to a single number is mostly worthless and wrong. As you say, such a system could be Little Brother tyrannical. We have laws to try to avoid that for credit rating, to the point where people who have financially wronged us usually get away with it. Reputation systems can be very useful, but they should not allow abuse or cross the MYOB line. Do you have a succinct opinion about what should or should not be in a reputation system? Credit ratings are opinions out, hard facts in. For other things, it may not be such a sharp line, but that makes them subject to gaming. Yelp for instance. Yet there are areas where opinion is distilled to get close to objectivity.

David Brin said...

There is a way reputational systems could rescue the internet from hell... if the systems were specific to Reoutation Management companies who themselves competed based on reputation. And the #1 item they sell would be PSEUDONYMS. So you could forge across the Web with the legitimate advantages of anonymity, carrying your reputation scores with you...

... but if you behave badly, the disses from wherever you went travel back and the RM company lowers your scores.

That's how to keep the good aspects of anonymity while eroding the horrible ones.

And I can't get the ear of those who could implement this.

Jon S. said...

In Minneapolis, the elites tried to ignore the results of sousveillance. There was a time when the attempted coverup of a blatant murder by a member of the police force would have worked seamlessly.

Today, 5/29? The Third Precinct building is a burned-out shell. The Fifth Precinct was under siege as of last night (haven't heard any word today on that). The officer directly responsible for the death of George Floyd has been arrested, and the Hennepin County DA's office has reversed course (yesterday, the video "doesn't give us a basis for charges or an arrest", today he's been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, which without evidence of ill intent on his part is as far as we can legally go - for now). The MPD's procedures have been roundly condemned by pretty much every other police department in the country (even the Benevolent Order of Police decried them!), and the mayor may finally be able to override the police union and fire a number of officers (including the chief, who's been at odds with the mayor about permissible levels of violence for years). And all of this only happened because someone filmed the crime in progress, and released the raw video.

Sousveillance for the win!

sdw said...

At the moment, large companies, especially social media companies, want to own their users, which includes internally managing a mostly-secret reputation for them. Some, like FB, try to solve a number of problems by requiring that you sign up as a real person even if your FB ID is somewhat a pseudonym. (Their system is actually failing somewhat as scammers create accounts with the exact same name as someone, then add their friends, then send them scammy messages.) Federated logins (Oauth2 etc., allowing you to log in with your FB, Twitter, Google, etc. IDs) shows that this can be externalized. In fact, an Oauth2 provider can give profile information with the sign in result. Including or referencing a signed reputation in an Oauth2 profile is a good reputation solution.

With a pseudonym-based reputation management system, a key feature must be that bad behavior must certainly associate with the real person and every pseudonym that they have. Anything else invites abuse by just creating endless pseudonyms, just what we have with Twitter and email. It is alright for this to age out, just as credit rating events do. But, at least in the short term, reputation must be for real people even if only identified by pseudonym.

I could create such a system, and I think I already have a domain name or two towards that idea. Getting other sites to use it is the issue, although I can think of some strategies.

On the other hand, with full transparency and proper culture, many of the reasons you might want to be pseudonymous go away. But some remain: If you are successful and famous and therefore a target, for instance. Or vulnerable in some other way: young, unprotected, shy, uncertain if you are up to writing a good book. Some of that points to the need for only propagating certain kinds of positive and/or negative reputation to the main or other nyms: Fraud & abuse should flood, while whether I am a good scifi author shouldn't be important in most other realms.

I am sort of pseudonymous to start with: My name is so common that I will have to use a pen name to become taxonomically unique.

Larry Hart said...

On the George Floyd incident and subsequent riots:

If you think...for one second...that the Capital will ever treat us fairly, you are lying to yourselves. Because we know who they are and what they do. THIS is what they do! And we must fight back.

I have a message for President Snow. You can torture us, and bomb us, and burn our districts to the ground. But do you see that? Fire is catching. And if we burn with us!

Alfred Differ said...


In other words, I don't think that you are arguing in good Faith on this matter.

Well… that's a stretch. And an accusation I'll choose to ignore for now.

The word courage has a common meaning.

No. Not really. Many would like to believe it does, but it doesn't. I'd argue this goes to the heart of our culture war. We don't quite agree on the definitions of virtues and that bugs the @#*& out of some of us.

I'm not playing rhetorical games. I'm not trying to define my way to a win like locumranch did. I'm pointing to a definition that comes from Philosophy and is truly ancient. Not a particular definition of 'courage' because we've drifted away from the ancient, mostly Greek version of it. I'm pointing to the process and the difference between acquiring a trait and putting it into practice.

This is a huge #$^#'ing deal and distinguishes a momma's-boy-in-the-basement from people who demonstrate courage and justice. It's not enough to act privately when battle courage is required. It's not enough to act privately when police kill your neighbors. It's not nothing when we know we should act, but it isn't virtue when we don't do it in a manner that can be seen.

I'll offer a small example of an attempt to display justice on my part. My current avatar with the Morgan dollar and a PPE mask was something I cooked up on Apr 14 before everyone was really getting going with attempts to re-open. I was reacting to some nonsense I was hearing form local libertarians. I didn't put that icon on all my accounts to be cute. I did it to send a signal about justice. I was openly stating what my expectations were of others and what they could expect of me. No basement hiding. IN THE OPEN. [It's even on one of my work accounts where there is employment risk for me.]

You all are welcome to behave in good ways in private, but the only one that gets credit as a virtue is prudent behavior. You don't have to believe me, though. Check with fiction authors and the exemplars they put into stories. We have one here. More than one. Ask if 'acts done out of sight are courageous?' and you'll get a mixed response. A nuanced one I'd bet. 'Private courage' is different. I'm simply pointing out here that many of us don't treat it as a virtue. The good that comes from it is closer to prudence than courage. As for 'private justice' I don't even know what that means.

Love is also highly social, but doesn't require as many as courage and justice.
Private love is almost non-sensical... as a virtue. You can do it, but it ain't a virtue. It's just something else.

duncan cairncross said...

To sdw's point and in regard to anonymity in public

The USA has already got an excellent identity number system - the SSN - but it is ruined as people try to use the SSN as some sort of secret squirrel password!

Instead the SSN should be treated as a public unique identifier
The UK has a similar number as does NZ - I suspect every other country has the same

I would also say that the Norwegian system where everybody's Tax Returns are public documents is definitely a good idea
I can't think of ANY reason for keeping Tax returns secret that does not involve cheating somebody out of something that they are entitled to

scidata said...

Re: Reputation Management
Trust is entangled with transparency IMHO. Especially in a world where there are 'review sellers' and such. One of the many reasons why it would be good if the Enlightenment experiment continued for a while is the efforts of countries like Estonia.

David Brin said...

I think pseudonmy management & rental with reputational credibility and accountability could be a fantastic business. Vital to our overcoming the anonymity trap, but likely to require a truly major capital investment.

sdw accurately mentioned some groups that might want it even in a world where most bullies and elites are accountable... espcially the shy.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

I would also say that the Norwegian system where everybody's Tax Returns are public documents is definitely a good idea

A while back, I posted a link to an article describing how, when that system was put into place, everybody was busy checking out everybody else's tax forms. The activity even had a cute nickname, "Tax porn." So the law was changed such that you could still look at anyone's tax form, but the person whose taxes you were checking out would be notified that you were looking. And that put a stop to all that.

The whole episode could have made for a chapter in The Transparent Society

Keith Halperin said...

@ Dr. Brin,et al: re Transparency, Privacy, Sousveillance-
Do you believe there are certain things about a person which should NOT be accessible by anyone/everyone? If so, what are those things?

ISTM that unless you have an AI-driven Panopticon, it would be unlikely that sousvelliance would be allowed by the dominant 0.1%.

Also, "A norm that nosiness, gossip, bitchiness, orthodoxy and repression of harmless eccentricity are among the BEST things a person can get caught doing." seems to be a very strong American characteristic in many/most places and times.

In addition, as a BBer, it seems that many of "these younger people" are far more willing to be open about personal things than we were when we were young (back in the Bronze Age), and that (as I joked) "privacy" as we understand it may be a rather quaint, fading, Twen-Cen concept. As OGH said in "Earth":
"To increasing numbers of '*blackjacks'—or children of **century twenty-one—the mere idea of secrecy implied scheming dishonesty. 'What're you hiding, zygote?'"

If I wanted to further minimize/marginalize the privacy MYOB concept, I'd cultivate ***10k or so highly diverse, attractive, and "lit" internet influencers (or whatever their successers may be) to make the whole idea of privacy, MYOB, etc.,"ungucci","unfire" or "sus".

Have a Great Weekend, Folks!

* I prefer the rather patronizing term "millies," as in "silly millies"

** I never understood why you singled out children of a particular group of realtors....
(. ❛ ᴗ ❛.)

*** And most of them wouldn't even have to be human!
I'm waiting for the 1st computer-generated, AI celebrity (unless they're already here...)

Larry Hart said...

I've never been more proud of Chicago's mayor, Lori Lightfoot:

“He wants to show failures on the part of Democratic local leaders, to throw red meat to his base,” Lightfoot said in opening remarks at an afternoon news conference. “His goal is to polarize, to destabilize local government and inflame racist urges. We can absolutely not let him prevail. And I will code what I really want to say to Donald Trump. It’s two words. It begins with F and it ends with U.”

Asked later whether she should have used that language toward Trump, in light of former first lady Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high” mantra, Lightfoot didn’t back down.

“I don’t take the bait every time, but this time, when we are suffering pain and trauma at the killing of a black man in the street, to try to, for political gain, and blow the dog whistle to his base, I’m a black woman, and a leader, and I feel an obligation to speak out when something as offensive as that is said by anyone, but particularly the president,” she said. “And I make no apologies whatsoever for my word choice, and the way in which I’m calling him out for what he said.”

sdw said...

David Brin:
I think pseudonym management & rental with reputational credibility and accountability could be a fantastic business.

Pseudonym Management & rental! Well that just triggered a whole mindstorm of features and mechanisms. One in particular: Balancing the need to not let people off the hook for abuse / incompetence / malfeasance, yet resiliently allowing for appropriate education, reform, and redemption, with ongoing monitoring. (Not long ago, I had the idea for a service that keeps problem celebrities out of trouble by diverting them just before they do something bad.) An explicitly managed nym with coaching & costs could achieve that. Given a good name to use, I may have to seriously pursue it. Might require major capital investment, but I think enough sites / people / organizations are hungry enough for it that a well-designed system might bootstrap.

While I am looking for my next paying job / gig, at the worst possible time, I've been considering all of my recent ideas. One of them is a micro-work service with a twist (not mentioned here), potentially side work for everyone, but also specifically for fringe, homeless, etc. I had already been considering reputation and management systems for that. Another simmering idea is a replacement for dating sites that specifically encourages more people to spend more time together and to mentor and coach each other to be better friends / prospects / partners, keyed on karma, reputation, and experience while gracefully resilient to mistakes. Something I thought of for my last edtech startup, that we didn't use, is a way to capture & represent complex knowledge and experience, like a degree or job experience, succinctly in a compact URI. Like a CV / resume, but more concise and precise with decentralized versioned standardization. These are example uses, but also inform how I would design a solution.

Robert said...

Larry Hart: "If Twitter becomes treated as a "publisher", won't they be forced to fact-check content and remove libelous posts?"

Either they will have to fact-check every post by anyone, or stop any form of fact-checking.

Which do you think is more likely?

Robert said...

Alfred: "it isn't virtue when we don't do it in a manner that can be seen"

So feeding the hungry by, say, an anonymous donation of half your worldly wealth doesn't count as virtuous?

I'd argue over a beer that virtuous actions, done anonymously, are not less virtuous because they are unknown. Would Captain Oates be any less courageous if we didn't know what he had done?

David Brin said...

LH excellent riff to The Transparent Society pertinence with Norwegian tax-porn lurkers!

KH I am fine with there being a curtilage of personal life that is officially protected… the boundaries of your home & bedroom… the records of your meetings with the Jr. High School Boy’s Vice Principal… your web surfing list… sure, plenty. But it’s a fool who thinks such walls will work at all. Unless the act of snooping them is both disreputable and likely to be caught! The latter is vastly more important. Along with notions that we all have noxious past bits that are in forgivable range.

As Al Franken should have crawled on broken glass and been forgiven.

But yes, ‘blackjacks’ would be a better name for the millennial generation!

David Brin said...

"I'd argue over a beer that virtuous actions, done anonymously, are not less virtuous because they are unknown. Would Captain Oates be any less courageous if we didn't know what he had done?"

Maimonedes ranked anonymous giving as definitely more worthy than the thanked kind.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Starship just had an Unplanned Abrupt Disassembly. They probably heard it in Oklahoma. No reported injuries, fortunately.

David Brin said...

sdw: The first step toward any new kind of business to pitch is a power point presentation. In the case of Pseudonym Management & rental, that starts with an outline that I’ve never had time to create:

Start with history (I have some slides)

- Internet zealots proclaimed anonymity would liberate. It does! “On the Internet no one knows you are a dog.”
- Internet cynics proclaimed anonymity would unleash horrific misbehavior. It does!
Defenders of the status quo declare the benefits outweigh the cost… implicitly pushing notions of a zero sum tradeoff, ignoring even the possibility of a win-win. Can we preserve the benefits while undermining the bad?

Background fact #1:
-Every advance in communication for 500 years was at first misused for dire ends, before people made it a benefit. Printing presses exacerbated religious wars… then gradually spread tolerance and wisdom. 1930s Radio empowered hypnotizing monsters… then gradually proved beneficial. It’s happening again, only faster.

Background fact #2:
- Until approx. 5000 years ago all you had was your reputation in the clan/tribe/valley for reliably keeping promises to pay barter agreements. Even in Shakespeare, men were willing to die for their reputation.
- I do have a slide about how most of the things in your wallet are prosthetics for credit and reputation.
- So Banks’ core essence is the mediation of reputation tokens… credit etc.

Now put it all together.
- Internet users should be able to benefit from reputation “scores” that they have earned with talent, skill or hard work in a wide variety of categories. HOSTS might choose to be selective of whom they let in, based on a score or some mix.

- A ‘bad’ version of this is already underway with “social credit” in China, as an endeavor in social and behavioral control.

- The bad might be ameliorated by ensuring a wide variety of hosted sites, companies and communities, and by ensuring that “beneficial anonymity” versions remain available.

- Beneficial how? By fostering PSEUDONYMITY via trusted third parties… a version of transferable reputation carried by an ersantz identity that is rented or borrowed from a Reputation Management Intermediary (RMI.)

-This new kind of business (which only extends the core business of a bank) would let members or customers rent an identity to use online… only unlike today’s anonymous monickers, these pseudonyms would carry with them some or all of the user’s credibility scores. giving them entry to a wide variety of sites and services that can then ban purely anonymous visitors.

- Key to this is accountability. If the pseudonymous visitor misbehaves in some way - entirely according to the standards of the site community or host - a reputational “Accountability Ding” goes back to the RMI and affects the real user’s reputation scores. (These are NOT held by the state, but by the bank or RMI of the user’s choosing.) In this way, users who rent pseudonyms from an RMI retain many of the positive benefits of anonymity… a right and ability to experiment and play-act or overcome impediments like shyness… while remaining accountable if they spread poisons and lies or trolling or bullying.

Envision how much better Facebook or Twitter would be, if you could dislike a nasty troll, knowing that Wells-Fargo or Citibank were definitely going to apply your down vote to the scores of the true person behind the troll. A score which, if it falls too far, may get the pseudonym purchaser banned - certainly from many sites, but eventually from the bank or RMI.

While it won’t solve all problems, this could be enough to alter online chemistry, especially since major hosted sited would likely leap to use it. (And pay small RMI fees.)


Feedback or revisions or additions welcome. Ideally the power point could turn into a video presentation....

sdw said...

Yes, really interesting to know of the added access reporting for Norwegian tax-porn. Thanks LH!

On being public vs snooping: More and more people have become comfortable with being more public, for various reasons, while some still maintain mores and fears from earlier eras. Myself, I'm mostly perennial / a perennial, and happy to buck the norms. These are my thoughts, this is what I do (right now), what are you going to do about it? I talk to a range of people about lots of details, sometimes publicly. Culturally, if everyone is doing it, more common things are known to be common, completely obliterating long-standing lies cultural gatekeepers told everyone to keep them in line, then many things are not such a big deal. For instance, an article I read today about parents who accidentally appeared on camera nude in front of their elementary student's whole class: It happens, no big deal.

There are two somewhat separable issues around 'snooping': 1) Did someone break my boundaries to snoop vs. just paying attention, soft stalking, etc. 2) Did someone misuse private, or even softly public information, in bad ways? I am worried about 1 if I am worried about 2, especially if there is no suitable recourse. If 2 is unlikely and I can slap back sufficiently, I'm not too worried about 1.

Blackjacks is funny, therefore I like it.

Only anonymous giving is clearly devoid of ulterior motives like "seeking prestige, recognition and public adulation for their giving, or are donating because of social pressure ... conspicuous giving" [0]. I can be OK to have some of that, but you wonder with some people if that is all it is.

Now that I know about Maimonedes, I want to use his alias Rambam.


sdw said...

Yes, I like everything there. I have remarked to people that banks are in the trust business. However, they are very focused on just the financial implications even if they may develop some degree of general trust. Online, the obvious narrow need is just about the creator / fan/consumer/participant / troll trust spectrum. A solution like this can be generalized & multifaceted. At least that's what I want to create.

Alfred Differ said...


A test!
Fair enough.
[Thank you.]

I assume you are referring to the fellow who was part of Scott's expedition to the South Pole. The fellow who was recommended for the Victoria Cross. Right? The fellow who refused to surrender in battle earlier.

His courage was quite clear to those around him. Documented even. Scott's diary is just one more documentation of evidence. More importantly, Oates did it in front of the others in the expedition. The documentation isn't what makes the behavior virtuous. It is the openness that allows it to be seen and recognized as such… when it is. Which it was.

Openness isn't the point, but it is necessary. Imagine if Oates had slinked away instead leaving Scott and the others to wonder why. The practical result might have been about the same, but the virtuous behavior would be missing.


Another test!

Okay. I imagine I give $10K anonymously to the local food bank. Which virtue is in play? You have seven to pick from, but can mix and match all you want… and pick more than one. Faith, Hope, Love, Courage, Justice, Temperance, and Prudence.

I think I know which one it is. Two actually, but I don't want to blurt it out because I think we do an end-run around the anonymity aspect. We do something that would get us into trouble in that hyperspace you described with the roving memes.

DP said...

Dr. Brin - do you have a source for the Texas, Georgia and Florida pneumonia numbers?

Larry Hart said...


Would Captain Oates be any less courageous if we didn't know what he had done?

I think Alfred considers "courage" to be something whose power is in the example it sets. In which case, no observers means no example.

While I'm not sure I entirely subscribe to that definition, I think I understand it.

Dr Brin:

Maimonedes ranked anonymous giving as definitely more worthy than the thanked kind.

And here too, I don't think Alfred would say that anonymous giving lacks virtue. It's just not courage. It's a different thing.

Larry Hart said...


"If Twitter becomes treated as a "publisher", won't they be forced to fact-check content and remove libelous posts?"

Either they will have to fact-check every post by anyone, or stop any form of fact-checking.

Third option--they could delete those posts of Trumps which clearly violate their terms of service. They don't do so now because they consider his muckraking to be a net positive for their business model. If he makes himself an antagonist, then why not?

Also, I'm not sure your second option is viable. That's what they have the right to do as the law stands (their not being considered a publisher). If Trump changes the law as to hold Twitter to the same standards as The New York Times, I don't think "no fact checking" is an option. The "threat" is that they could be sued for libel or inciting or that sort of thing. Which liability would be triggered precisely by their allowing Trump's lying and libelous posts to remain public.

Ahcuah said...

OK, questions about Norwegian tax porn, and let's blend it with anonymity servers.

Why hasn't somebody just started a service where they ask for the tax return for a client who remains anonymous?

And if that is illegal, hasn't that just pushed the issue down a level?

Bob Neinast

Jon S. said...

Alfred, you say these terms are used in ancient Philosophy as if "Ancient Philosophy" were a scientific discipline like "biology" or "descriptive astronomy".

Ancient philosophers seldom agreed on what anything meant, and some argued that nothing really "meant" anything. If you want to discuss a particular philosopher's interpretation of what "virtue" and "courage" and "justice" mean, please name the philosopher and note that others disagree. However, I for one find this insistence that "virtue" is defined by the writings of one man, one philosopher no less, to be somewhat disingenuous.

Larry Hart said...

I've been wondering just what the Bill Barr/Donald Trump justice department thinks it wants to do by getting involved in the investigation of the police murder of George Floyd. I can't say this for sure, but I think I've figured it out.

Barr hopes to charge the cop with a federal crime, so that Trump can then pardon him. And then, they'll argue that any state prosecution for the same incident violates the prohibition on double jeapordy.

This serves multiple Trumpian goals. First of all, it helps him ingratiate himself with the "tough people" he wants to court--violent cops, bikers, war criminals. Secondly and maybe more important, it starts setting the precedent that a state can't prosecute someone who has already received a federal pardon. One doesn't have to wonder who that benefits.

David Brin said...

DD apologies to all. on FB I've already issued a retraction. Bloomberg reporter Justin Fox, the source of the original "pants on fire" posting about states hiding covid deaths as pneumonia, appears to have done some RETRACTION! We must be the ones who own up, when that happens! Those who claim this crushes our credibility are nuts.

Alfred, I think the list of virtues is incomplete of course. I rank Curiosity up there totally equal with all others, because with it, one is capable of re-evaluating errors and avoiding static smugness.

Likewise, EMPATHY is not the same thing as LOVE. They have a relationship, but so do many others. True empathy lets you understand where another is coming from, helping to love better and apply Justice better. But it also pragmatically helps you to defeat your opponents.

Which leads us to COMPETITIVENESS... which is never a virtue when standing alone, but is so fundamental to human nature that leaving it out is just preachy and bizarre. And when combined with the others can lead to a tribe/society people and person who achieve and prosper and grow.

Larry Hart said...

Bob Neinast:

Why hasn't somebody just started a service where they ask for the tax return for a client who remains anonymous?

I suspect that most of the peeking at tax forms was just spur of the moment because it's available and easy to do. There's not a lot of incentive to actually pay someone to get the information for you while revealing your nosiness to them.

David Brin said...

LH your concept for federalization of Floyd charges is a clever one. But they would not dare in a case this clearcut. And with a former Mrs. Minnesota just filing for divorce against the killer cop. This will add heat for Internal Affairs deivisions to get help from decent cops to eject more bad apples.

It had better.

matthew said...

Alfred, apologies if my pun on arguing in good Faith was hurtful to you. Not my intent to insult or hurt. I *like* arguing with you because you do such a good job at it and you and I have *very* different sets of basic assumptions. You sharpen my mind. I respect you greatly and sometimes do a poor job of showing it. I certainly value your wisdom, though I suck at showing my appreciation for it in this medium.

That said, I *do* think you are starting from your desired premise and choosing your definitions to support your desired conclusion. I call this "arguing in bad faith" because I perceive that you have a desired outcome that strains logic to achieve. It is not meant as a personal attack, just as a "I see what you're doing here"-type of admonishment.

I think in this case that you (and certain long-gone philosophers) are just wrong, wrong, wrong. Courage is an internal matter.
To paraphrase your argument, it seems to me that you are defining "Courage" as "being brave to inspire others" while I mean "courage" to mean "doing something that is scary." Internal versus external.
I suspect that 99% of the world agrees with my definition of the virtue of "Courage" is the correct one, which is why I think your argument is predicated on a flawed definition of "Courage."

matthew said...

Note that we are in the middle of the our Reichstag Fire moment.

Lots of reporting coming out to show far-right groups organizing the property damage of the last two nights. Unverified reports that undercover cops are starting fires, breaking windows to encourage looting.

Robert said...

Unverified reports that undercover cops are starting fires, breaking windows to encourage looting.

We had the same thing up here during the G20 and anti-globalization protests. Turned out in Quebec that many/most of the violent masked Black Bloc protesters just happened to have bought the same boots as the police. In Toronto it was interesting how the masked looters somehow knew where the police wouldn't be.

Darrell E said...

A guess, but I don't think anonymous giving presents any problems for Alfred's views about virtues. Other people see the giving. Knowing the givers identity doesn't matter. What matters is that other people see the giving.

Darrell E said...

Well done SpaceX and NASA!

Darrell E said...

Watching the mayor of Chicago tell Trump to fuck off, live on TV, will be a cherished memory for years to come.

David Brin said...

Spacex. AND they stuck the landing, too. But what the heck is going on with the Starship blow-ups in Texas?

Darrell E said...

David Brin said...
"Spacex. AND they stuck the landing, too. But what the heck is going on with the Starship blow-ups in Texas?"

I've got to admit that it's frustrating, because I want to see the beast fly!

But I'm not worried, yet. They are committed to this rapid prototyping concept, which is a new thing for machines / systems of this scale. They are doing many new things all at once. New processes, new designs, new engines, new performance capabilities and they are prototyping their manufacturing capability at the same time. Blowing a lot of shit up along the way is what they expect. Rapidly test, see what fails, make changes in the next iteration. They've already got another test stand that is near completion, and SN 5 is also near ready to begin testing while major parts for SN 6, are already being produced too. And they are still in the earliest stages of ramping up production.

If they get to SN 10 without having a largely successful test hop, then I'll probably start worrying. For now I think they've earned the benefit of the doubt. They have a well established record of success despite not doing things the way the skeptical experts think things have to be done.

duncan cairncross said...

Starship blow ups

The only way that you know something's actual limits is to exceed them!

I suspect the Starship testing is operating under an entirely different scenario than previous rocket development - they know that they will need to set up the manufacturing "machine" to make them in large numbers so they know they will have lots of test examples

The testing then becomes more like the testing of a new automobile engine - as opposed to the handbuilt approach in the past

David Brin said...

Of course the philosophy is different. You calculate a design. Normally you then build with a large margin in all components. If it works, you start slimming those down. But Elon's notion is to build to the design and find out which parts fail. It's very Silicon valley and needs a dedicated team, deep pockets, many prototypes and a reputation.

Acacia H. said...

Given the state of the world, it's kind of nice to hear about one of the COVID-19 success stories. And by that I'm talking about how Vietnam has managed to avoid any COVID-related fatalities during this period and some additional information that's been learned from the Vietnamese... that 43% of COVID patients are asymptomatic. Thus you can have a lot of people walking around infecting others without ever knowing what they're doing... which is a very important reason why people need to wear face masks to help lessen the spread of this viral disease.

While there hasn't been any direct evidence on my own personal theory, there is some correlation toward it and that is that COVID-19 is not nearly as dangerous if you have avoided multiple exposures to the virus. This also may explain why people can remain asymptomatic. If you have only a mild exposure, that may prevent the virus from spreading in the body to the point of symptoms being noticed. By cracking down on international travel and ensuring those coming back into the nation are isolated, Vietnam was able to prevent the disease from spreading and those multiple lines of viral exposure from causing lethal cases from emerging.

Of course, testing for that theory is difficult at best and potentially unethical.

Anyway, congratulations again to Vietnam for avoiding a large-scale infection of COVID, and avoiding any fatalities.


A.F. Rey said...

David, in case you're watching Channel 8 news, the protests in La Mesa are just a couple of miles from my house. The freeway exist the protesters were using to get on and off the freeway are the ones I use to get to my house.

Fun times. :)

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

Watching the mayor of Chicago tell Trump to fuck off, live on TV, will be a cherished memory for years to come.

Even more so for me as I live here.

Alfred Differ said...


Oh man. I utterly missed the pun. Sorry about that. I was beginning to get worked up too. I should know better. 8)

Something good has come of it, though. I think I found a way to work this into the Transparency topic. Every time our host comes around to this, I don't have much to say except "Yup… I agree. Mostly. Can't quite put my thumb on what bugs me, though." This time I can.


I've seen arguments for adding more to the list and certainly don't mind, but I'm a bit of a reductionist. If seven basis vectors span the space, every other vector is a linear combination of them. Arguing for more is a matter of showing that a new one isn't some combination of the others.

For example… Integrity. It's not difficult to describe that as a combination of Courage, Justice, and Faith/Loyalty-To. For empathy, I'd be inclined to mix Love and Temperance.

One of the biggest historical changes to happen in the West occurred when the philosophers began to work at reducing all the others to Prudence. In search of some kind of State function to build an 'equation of motion', the reduction effort created new approaches and led to us all but abandoning Virtue Ethics as Aristotle might have understood it. The general public didn't go there with the same enthusiasm, but some did and there has been a serious political impact. Empty notions like historicism and max-utility were used to explain fields where real humans aren't the flat characters they are assumed to be in theoretical models. Only recently have economists begun to back away and consider that we aren't simply optimizing on Prudence.

As for anonymous giving, it isn't quite anonymous. In practice, there is often someone else who knows. Setting that aside, though, there is still someone present even when you manage to stuff the cash into the donation bowl when no person is looking. I'd bet a serious pile of donuts the anonymous giver is acting on Faith. They are loyal-to some kind of ideal that is likely shared by many in their community. Maybe we don't see them donate the untraceable cash, but we probably do sense their loyalty to the shared, possibly personified, possibly deified ideal.

I'd also throw in a dash of Hope as the donor likely imagines a donation will 'make a better future (tm)'. Is that not part of the point behind Proxy Activism?

Faith is backward looking. Hope is forward looking. It's not unusual that they are paired up, but they don't reduce. The 'person's present are transcendants of some sort and require a person almost to personify them. Believe(!) like we are asked to do at the end of 'The Hogfather.' 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Back on topic now.

I agree with about 95% of what I read in The Transparent Society. It's mostly small stuff where my opinion diverges, but it is growing with time. No harm in that as the book was written some time ago and we've had time to innovate since.

1) The smallest nit pick is I'm no longer sure it will be the banks that get into the identity business. I'm seeing a growing opportunity for the crypto folks to do it via a block chain method. It's a tiny nit, though, because it is likely at least one back will wise up and buy into the crypto platform. They won't own it, but their economic clout and ability to bundle other related services will likely put them in a position others can partially trust. Barrier to entry, though, is likely to remain low allowing others to play.

I have experience trying to set up small volume competition to big bundle players with my first start up attempt. It's not easy to make an actual business of it, but not hard to make a job of it. Think self-employed and never likely to have revenues large enough to employ anyone else. Lots of people run this kinds of companies. The banks will have to deal with them IF crypto methods for reputation take hold. Most will fight it, but I suspect they might lose. I would have scoffed at the possibility 10 years ago. Not anymore.

2) The bigger issue is the one that has bugged me for years. My initial reaction was simply "I don't like pseudonyms… they are cowardly", but my current position has changed. What they really are is unfaithful… to one's own self. You can do that if you wish, but I don't see it as a good thing. I recognize the necessity… at times… but I also recognize the huge potential for abuse.

Time for a couple of anecdotes. (Of course. That's me being loyal to self which probably is NOT a virtue.)

A) Back in the day when faced with the task of setting up my first account with an ISP (it was AOL), I stared at the registration form for a while. Lots of people were going anonymous. I had a decision to make and balked. After quite a bit of time, I settled on 'first intial.last name' and became a.differ. That's not exactly my name, but it takes less that a second to figure out how to figure out the rest.

Since then, I dropped the punctuation, but kept the unix-style ID. Really… it's not hard to figure it out. There were two adiffer's in the US and I was married to the other one. This choice left me pretty much in the open and once people started blogging, I dropped even that small shield. I've never regretted it.

I still recall staring at the reg form, though. I was bothered by anonymity and couldn't explain why.

Alfred Differ said...

B) Years later I was staring at a similar reg form for Second Life where the custom AND code almost prevented one form using their First Life name for the account. They don't do that anymore, but back then you could only free-form type your first name. Last names were chosen from a list. I had recently had a rough implosion of my second start-up attempt and the third was floundering. I pondered hiding a little from the former partner because we shared a set of friends. I still couldn't quite do it, though. I wound up using my First Life last name as my Second Life first name and picked a science name from the list. I became Differ Darwin. Not hard to figure out, right? Well… I figured I wasn't likely to run into most of our shared friends while I noodled with ideas in sandbox environments. I could be anonymous enough and take my work with me when I logged off.

Within TWO DAYS I encountered one of them and she made the connection in microseconds. And she was inclined to side with my former partner. I had some fancy talking to do. Fast. Which I did. The bomb was defused and after a few months I had a potential ally.

The take away lesson was simple. I was better served by honestly identifying myself. If I had failed to talk fast, things would have been worse. However, in failing to identity I would have missed out on a better, more hopeful future. Risk/Reward.

So my current opinion of the pseudonym discussion in the book is that it is a trap. I get that some will be better served by hiding, but it shouldn't be for long. There must be a sunset on pseudonyms along side the reciprocal reputation damage done to authentication agencies when bad things are caused by the pseudonym wielder. Without a sunset clause, they encourage a kind of cowardice and faithlessness that bugs me to my core.

David Brin said...

I understand othogonality, Alfred and hence I do instinctively seek vectors that don’t overlap… as in my political 3-D mappings, which unlike the famous ones actually don’t have tendentious overlap.

But I’d call empathy MORE basic than Love. empathy is the ability (a topic last week) to picture the needs/motives/feelings and behavior of others. If you have empathy plus courage plus justice, then you can defeat your enemies. Empathy plus faith and temperance could be requisites for love. I don’t see it going the other way. Love can be aggressively stupid and temperence only limits the harm such stupidly clueless love can do. See the book I have 2 articles in… PATHOLOGICAL ALTRUISM.

No, I think empathy is more basic. As for Curiosity, I see none of the others that add up to it. Indeed, it would have been held in deep suspicion by many of the olde philosophers, necessitating careful supervision and reserving it to elites.

But interesting riffs.

Banks getting into identity biz? Yeah, sure. They already are and have the logistics, especially bank branches, which will be essential for using biometrics to clean up all your credentials. What needs to happen is to make sure they are mutally competitive and there are at least fifty of them.

I grasp your objection to pseudonyms. But one of the biggest flaws to my Transp.Society is level three. Suppose transparency saves us from Big Brother and decent moral codes protect us from lateral bullying, there are still shy people. Folks with secrets in their hearts. Folks who’d like to experiment with personas in ways that do little harm. All would benefit from pseudonyms while retaining alertness not to hurt others or offend much.

Heck, back in the day I signed up for community classes under different names and got ID cards.

Oh, I have mixed feelings and think sunsets are an idea worth considering. In EARTH I posit secrets “caching” and it costs you to go above five years and you need paperwork to try for up to 15.

Alfred Differ said...


The way you describe empathy sounds like the unloaded description of love I learned. Hofstadter described it in his Strange Loop book. Love as a term in English is way too overloaded to provide a useful basis vector, so I'm going to settle on us basically agreeing on the thing that matters no matter what it is called. One needs the ability to imagine another real person in some detail. Those who can should be respected for it. That makes the trait a virtue. A social one.

[Hofstadter used 'love', but went on to describe what he meant in terms of cognition theory. 'Love' is an act of copying another self into your self. Recursion is his thing and by the end of that book, he had me convinced.]

Temperance is also overloaded. The meaning that tends to earn respect is the one we display when we silence our inner chatter and judgement long enough to listen to another. It's as hard to do that as it is for an alcoholic to put down the beer, so maybe that's why the overload happened. 8)

You may be right about Curiosity, but I wonder. If it is done strictly in private, I would treat it as how we generate practical wisdom… which makes it Prudence. If it requires a social setting… well… that may be an 8th direction.

In a feudal community, Prudence is a peasant virtue. Courage and Justice are for the nobles and a peasant who felt otherwise was acting above their station. If Curiosity is a variation on Prudence, of course the elites would be deeply suspicious and act to channel it. Can't let the peasants develop advanced pitchforks. [Keeping the peasants suspicious of the town folk / traders with zero-sum preaching was just one way to do it.]


As for sunset clauses, I've noticed in the training my employer offers regarding document classification that classification statements all have to have sunset dates on them now. Nothing is open ended. No forever secrets. They can be reviewed and extended by someone who cares enough to read old files, but we won't for 99% of what gets classified. The default isn't five years, though. More like 50 for the higher classifications. Still… some improvement.

Alfred Differ said...

Jon S,

I said 'ancient' mostly because I was misinterpreting Matthew. I was trying to point out that I wasn't making this stuff up out of think air. I also wasn't try to define the shape of the box to trap other debaters.

I AM interested in emergent definitions of virtues, but not overly interested in any single person's definition of them.

1) I note that an early version of Virtue Ethics comes from Aristotle which means it is infused all through the Roman version of Christianity and its sects.

2) I note the definitions from Aristotle were taught (with some debate) practically as gospel until Thomas Aquinas changed them a bit and added three more to Aristotle's classic list of four. [Faith, Hope, Charity] + [Prudence, Temperance, Justice, Fortitude]

3) I note the definitions alive today in liberal democracies have changed again. Some in subtle ways. Some in surprisingly broad ways. Practically anyone can show courage in big and small ways nowadays.

What they actually ARE isn't what's most interesting, though. What is? HOW we know what they are. We define them in story and expect children to learn them. Our fiction writers play a vital role in this. Think of all the story variants for King Arthur. Did he display courage? As much as Lancelot? What about stories involving city merchants? How far back time can you go before you essentially can't find any that had any virtues at all? Shylock? Zero-sum much? 8)

I actually depend more on fiction writers than philosophers for virtue definitions, but for the system itself, philosophers are the go-to source. I try to be careful, though, and read opposing arguments and about alternate systems.

[Never could quite stomach Rand and some of the other 20th century ones leave me confused. Too much parsing of language as though we could iron out definitions. Ugh.]

duncan cairncross said...

Classification - as in secrets

I have always thought that when something is "classified" the person making the decision to make that classified should have to attach his/her name to that decision and that along with the legal penalties for breaking the classification there should be legal penalties for excessive or incorrect classification

And that there should be a regular "audit" of classification decisions

matthew said...

One thing these riots have shown - the police are attacking journalists *specifically*. Over and over again, we see cops beating, shooting, insulting anyone that they identify as "media."

This is what prosecutors call "consciousness of guilt." It shows that our "protector caste" understand that what they do is wrong, and instead of fixing the wrong, they are striking out at those that would expose their actions as a crime.

If you have 1,000 good cops and 10 bad cops, but the good cops will not do anything about the bad cops, then you really have 1,010 bad cops.

I see a few examples of good cops right now - leaders stepping up to somehow bridge the great hurt being shown in our streets. There are bright spots.

But mostly, we are seeing that our police hate our press for turning cameras on them. We see that our "protector caste" are not sheepdogs, but rather, wolves.

Transparency and policing. This fight will define our time. If it is not won, all other efforts to further "the Enlightenment" will fail. If our protectors cannot be monitored in a transparent way, then the fight is lost. It's always been this way, but never made more clear.

A German Nurse said...

Congratulations for Crew Dragon. It was amazing to watch, especially jaw-dropping was the landing of the first booster.

On Virtues: In a crude way, the original catholic seven sins and virtues make sense psychologically and in healthcare - even if you are an agnostic.

Whereas I caution to guard against the sole adherence to Prussian, or "Secondary" Virtues (Dilligence, Loyalty, Obedience, Discipline, Dutifulness, Punctuality, Cleanlyness, Courtesity etc.). One could subsume them as "Professionalism" nowadays, but it always has to be counterbalanced by compassion.

@Riots: It makes me sad to see what happens, with violent agitators hijacking the peaceful protests. A number of random, relatively small, butterfly-effect style events sum up into a perfect storm. Perhaps, with all the bad things happening now and in the next few months, we will see an emerging turning point in history, building up to the needed pressure level that empowers lasting societal development.

Covid and the riots didn't create the cracks, they where made possible by them.

If I look at Trumps behavior in the last few days, I'd say, he panics. The more ground he looses to Biden, the greater the Black Hole inside him grows, the more bile and destructive energy he spits out.

reason said...

No that is an interesting idea. I have taken to using my name on a few sites - having been hesitant before because I still work. But on discus use a reliable alias and I also use it here without issue. But at Kevin Drum (mother jones) they switched to a new commenting and some troll stole my id. Private standards trouble me and can cause no end of frustrations. I'm not against standards being privately implemented - but I think you need some quasi-independent official standards enforcement, sort of like the way Brussels does in the EU. By the way I hsve a guess who sdw is, but I'm not saying.

reason said...

You would have limit the number od down votes someone could give. Otherwise every critic of say Donald Trump would be mugged by his fanatical supporters.

Tacitus said...

Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore, the oldest sci fi store in America, has been burned to the ground in the Minneapolis riots. It was a magical place with a great array of authors and fair prices. It had nothing to do with the political troubles of this age or of any time in its near 50 years existence.

I know Minneapolis well. Born and raised there, still close enough to visit. I have many friends there, they are smelling the smoke but thank God all are safe.

The suggestions that this is somehow the work of "white supremacists" and "foreign elements" are going to turn out to be nonsense. Unless you re-label Antifa and the local Latin Kings gang as such. I'm sure Governor Walz knows this, he's not stupid. If he has to deploy weasel words to help bring things under control, well fine.

I'm in touch enough with the local situation to be able to address it with a bit of authority. This is a failure of the local political system. Minneapolis has been entirely a Democratic enclave for decades. The Mayor, the city council, the press...they've all gotten lazy from a complete absence of the intellectual discipline that is required by serious political opponents. Nah, easier to just call them names. Governor Walz has had to deal with other points of view and often does so with ability.

At least in this situation the instability of the Democrat coalition is on display. It would take a skilled politician to keep two disparate and equally crucial political blocs - public employee unions and minority communities - happy at the same time. Mayor Frey is far from skilled and has been bumbling along with the help of prosperity....until recently.

The Minneapolis PD has a long history of bad behaviour. I say this with great respect for many officers and for the rule of law. I say this also with the same level of disgust that everyone seeing that horrid tape must have. But the Mayor and the police chief brought in a while back (when the prior chief resigned after the equally horrible Noor case) have been impotent in the face of the Union. They can't or won't impose residency requirements. They can't or won't fire officers with multiple abuse of force complaints.

The Police chief should have his resignation and badge on a desk Monday Morning. Mayor Frey lacks the class to resign but should decline to run again to spare himself the dishonor. The press conference where he announced that the city was distributing masks to the protesters ('cause social distancing!) belongs in the Stupidity Hall of Shame. He can move back to DC where accountability is not an expectation.

Ranting a bit on a Sunday morning. Of course I agree that single party Republican power also makes for lazy pols. When you no longer have to defend your principles it is easier to not have any.

Let's be better than that. Respectfully defending our principles so we continue to have some.

T. Wolter

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

[Hofstadter used 'love', but went on to describe what he meant in terms of cognition theory. 'Love' is an act of copying another self into your self. Recursion is his thing and by the end of that book, he had me convinced.]

And you convinced me as well, at least somewhat. But I still think Dr Brin is correct that empathy is more basic. A cat uses a form of empathy to understand how its prey will react, which helps it to hunt. That doesn't mean the cat loves the mouse (except in the sense that I love a well-prepared steak dinner). Empathy helps warriors understand how to defeat their enemies too, and that's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing from love.

Maybe to continue the metaphor, empathy is the understanding of the principles of photography, whereas love involves cataloging particular pictures in an album that you don't just hide on a shelf somewhere, but actually peruse often with enjoyment.

Larry Hart said...

The Chicago Tribune being "sophomoric" in the literal sense of smart-stupid.

Here's the smart part, which agrees with me about Trump's reaction being counter-productive to his own ends:

The other problem for Trump is a conspicuous irony. Should Twitter be deprived of this protection, it would have to be far more active in monitoring content and deleting tweets that could invite lawsuits, including his. Or it would have to ban a wide range of content, as it has done with political ads. Trump could end up getting himself blocked from his own favorite mode of communication.

But then, in their misguided attempt at balance, they had to go here:

There’s no doubt that he sometimes abuses his bully pulpit. But it’s a mistake for Twitter to act as his personal hall monitor. Everyone is familiar with Trump’s habit of exaggeration and prevarication. To put warnings on his tweets is to underestimate the intelligence of Twitter users.

Once Twitter embarks on that project, it will find itself burrowing down an endless rabbit hole. How to choose which Trump tweets deserve a warning? After all, the ones it cited were not really different from hordes of others he has posted. Once it focuses on him, it will have to apply the same diligence and standards to every other prominent user.

Besides, letting the president tweet without interference is a public service of sorts. It allows ordinary people an unfiltered look at Trump’s thinking. Some find his tweets inspiring or entertaining; others find them outrageous. But no one can deny the tweets are revealing.

In order:
The election of 2016 proves that you can't underestimate the intelligence of Twitter users. If anything, the Tribune is overestimating it. Willfully and disingenuously so, I would add.

They don't have to apply adult supervision to every prominent poster--just to those who violate their terms of service. If Trump insists on not being footnoted, he can be banned instead.

Trump, as occupant of the White House does more than just express opinions on Twitter. He issues orders, as well as suggestions that are taken to be authoritative. Therefore, as the conduit for such assertions, the platform is justified in taking steps to protect itself from complicity in libel and incitement.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Never could quite stomach Rand and some of the other 20th century ones leave me confused. Too much parsing of language as though we could iron out definitions. Ugh

The Star Trek TNG episode "Darmok" cured me of that forever.

Metaphor and allusion is what we do.

gregory byshenk said...

Tim Wolter wrote
[in part of a 'rant']
They can't or won't impose residency requirements.

I have read that the reason they "can't" is that the state (with support of the Police) passed a law that forbids cities from imposing such requirements.

Is this incorrect?

Larry Hart said...

@Tim W,

I see the rioting in the same way that I see the French Revolution. I can be horrified by what is taking place while also realizing its inevitability as a reaction to decades of frustration at injustice. Right-wingers seem to think they can perpetually enforce their privileges by force of arms, but there's always a breaking point at which those who have no stake in the system's continuity strike out.

In Martin Luther King's words, I am probably guilty of valuing order sometimes at the expense of justice, but I can also see when I clearly have no right to do so. I wish the protests didn't turn violent and dangerous. I also wish the protesters weren't angered to the point where order and stability have no value to them.

"Antifa"? Really? You're the second conservative I've heard throw that name out as the root of agents provacateur. I find the notion that the "tough people" courted by Trump would try to stir up antagonism at anti-police protesters more plausible than the notion that a group whose raison d'etre is opposition to fascism would want to burn bookstores and engage in looting. This is obviously the latest talking point making the rounds, masquerading through repetition as established fact, but someone is going to have to explain to me why "Antifa is behind the rioting" fits the known facts or makes any sense at all.

My wife is from Minneapolis, and I grieve at the images we see each night (as well as those from downtown Chicago itself and other cities). But I understand why it has come to this. Rembemer that Colin Kapaernick is not even allowed to peacefully and respectfully protest indiscriminate killings of black people without being labeled as anti-police and anti-American, which says more about the police and about America than it does about him. Some of the blame for non-peaceful protesting falls on those who quash peaceful protesting and therefore leave no alternative.

gregory byshenk said...

Alfred Differ wrote...
1) The smallest nit pick is I'm no longer sure it will be the banks that get into the identity business. I'm seeing a growing opportunity for the crypto folks to do it via a block chain method. It's a tiny nit, though, because it is likely at least one back will wise up and buy into the crypto platform. They won't own it, but their economic clout and ability to bundle other related services will likely put them in a position others can partially trust. Barrier to entry, though, is likely to remain low allowing others to play.

I can't say who will be operating the systems, but it seems to me that nothing will really work - as some general authentication system until government authorizes it. Consider already how often one needs to present a "government issued ID" to authenticate oneself. Consider also that when it might really matter whether it was or was not person X who did Y, it will end up in the courts, and the courts will have to determine the outcome. (And it won't work to "agree to" some other sort of adjudication, because when the question at issue is whether it is actually me who authorized whatever it was, then one cannot just assume that "I" agreed to any such thing.)

And some governments are already in the business. Estonia is the poster child, of course, but here in the Netherlands we have 'DigiD', which can be used for all manner of government activities (used for online tax filing, and other purposes). One problem with the DigiD is that it is not really convenient for normal day-to-day use. Another player is iDIN, created by the consortium of banks (there we go!) who operate iDEAL (the online payment system, which is very broadly used), but so far has seen only limited uptake.

One issue is that, while the payment application can be used only after prior agreement between you and your bank, a useful general authentication application needs to be usable particularly in cases where that prior agreement does not exist. The critical case of authentication is my authenticating myself to you when you don't already know me. That is, the exact sort of case where someone would ask for a government issues ID.

A.F. Rey said...

And the "fun" goes on in my little town.

While protesters shuts down freeway traffic nearby, a large group surrounded the police station and had a stand-off with police for a few hours, with what appeared to be the county sheriff's department helping to hold the line. An armored police vehicle came by and was pelted by rocks and bottles and spray painted. Finally tear gas and flash grenades were used to dispel the crowd.

Then, later at night, the rioting began. Two banks, a Chase and a Union Bank which were next to each other were burned. The downtown Vons grocery store was looted. I've heard reports that the local Sprouts food store was defended by its neighbors. The Target and the Wallmart at the nearby mall were both looted.

Any heard of La Mesa, CA?

You expect such stuff in the big cities where there are concentrations of the dispossessed and down-trodden. Not so much in the smaller cities. Not a couple of miles from my home.

If I hadn't grown up in Pomona, CA in the 60s and 70s, I might be freaking out right now. :)

scidata said...

Empathy (or syntonicity) is fundamental to human intelligence, and recursion is fundamental to artificial intelligence. Two of the conclusions (originated by others, of course) I came away with after all my computational psychohistory modeling and reading ten years ago. Another is the notion of 'mirror neurons', which don't simply participate in patterns, they reflect them, possibly even inferring others' intentions.
I never got much further than that.

Tacitus said...


I'm sure Uncle Hugo's was just a convenient target. No symbolic import....just flammable. Doubtless some copies of Fahernheit 451 went up nicely.

I expect we'll hear more about who is actually involved with the riots in the days to come. I'm quite willing to admit when I'm wrong. But as I said, I'm relying on people I know in the city and honestly if organized teams of people decked out in black attach themselves to civil disturbances I think it's a reasonable jump to assume they are Antifa. I predict that there will be no agents provocateurs found. But it would not surprise me if a few media whore milita types do turn up late and mug for the cameras, to the delight of same. Maybe they pay these morons to turn up and play a role?

I expect things will quiet down a bit from this point. The damage to the community will take years to repair. But hey, if your cause requires you to burn low income housing and grocery stores, well these must be good things, no?

A bad cop. An inept mayor. An incurious media.

To end on a positive note, one of my lads had a suggestion. We've enjoyed our trips to Uncle Hugos and he said if they rebuild he'd contribute some volumes from his shelves. I think many others would do the same. Got a few signed editions David?


Jon S. said...

I'm told that the protests in La Mesa started when a black person was confronted by La Mesa PD, and the officer escalated the confrontation to the point that he felt he could do violence.

I'm also informed that the smashing and looting, as we've seen in other cities, seems to be carried out more by people who look like me than people who look like my wife.

I await further data, of course, as I do with any breaking story - initial information is often confused and confusing, as so many wish to rush to judgement - but the data I've gotten so far are quite interesting.

Larry Hart said...

gregory byshenk:

"They can't or won't impose residency requirements."

I have read that the reason they "can't" is that the state (with support of the Police) passed a law that forbids cities from imposing such requirements

That sort of thing seems to be in the right-wing playbook these days. They assert that Democrats/liberals/urban politicians are doing their job but make it sound sinister. The assertions over Michael Flynn and "Obamagate" are Exhibit A.

Larry Hart said...

With apologies to Alfred, and recognition of the difference between fiction and reality, I do think this paragraph is relevant.

From "A Tale of Two Cities" :

Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrils carry the day's wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those which have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.

sdw said...

David Brin:
Did you see my email? I am interested in more discussion about RMI, in some context that allows convergence on a solution.

Empathy is about understanding. Loving is about caring and motivation to action. Often, understanding leads to loving or at least fair dealing, but only if your baseline motivation is neutral or better.

Each police department is responsible for making it clear whether they are on the 'force at all costs, you will submit to us' side vs. 'we are servants and protectors of the entire public, we hate this too, and we pledge to not let it happen here'. Clearly, in La Mesa, the police chose the former earlier in the day so the public reacted accordingly later. Quod aliquid mali malus. You can quod me on that.

gregory byshenk:
It is already legal in the US for any form of signature, wet, facsimile, or digital such as 'Bob Smith' or '/Bob Smith/', to be used as proof of identity and commitment to an agreement, contract, or official statement. While that makes it painful to prove or disprove in court, that pain has no legal force in dictating a level of technology. Using credit card numbers, a PIN, smart card chip, encryption, etc. is mostly an economic choice by banks and others. HIPAA places constraints for medical info, and the government has regulations on what they do, but the rest is mostly commercial. PCI most notably:

Another good example are the services, and many related patents, for esignature. While it is convenient to be able to say there is a reliable third party and system to provide proof when eventually going to court, you can get much the same thing by just emailing a copy of signed agreements to your attorney or other court-respectable party.

Block chain is basically doing just that: Causing every participant in the system to be a reliable witness to every transaction. A distributed digital notary system where the reliability of every transaction is predicated on the reliability of every other. Self interest is intrinsically linked to everyone else's self interest.

In constructing a new system, all of these approaches are options in the security calculus.

Who do you think that I am?? I'm easy to find, with posts going back to the early 1990s. But even if you are wrong, I am curious who my posting-ganger is.

TCB said...

The tumbrels are getting closer.

Acacia H. said...

Given that some of us can't protest but may wish to show other ways of supporting those demonstrating, might I recommend a variation of the Buddy System? If you have friends who are planning on demonstrating, offer to be their Contact Person. Take down the phone numbers, names, addresses, and contact information for those demonstrating. Also take down their work number.

Police can arrest people and hold them up to 48 hours before having to press charges. While they are holding someone without pressing charges, they often get away with refusing those people being held with a phone call. After all, they're being held, not arrested. And thus when released, those people may end up losing their jobs because they can't call in sick or the like.

That's where the Contact Person can help. People protesting should send regular Text Messages to their Contact. If they go over 4 hours without contacting them, the Contact should consider them possibly arrested, and if they go 8-12 hours without calling or texting in? They should definitely be considered arrested or worse.

The Contact person can then call into the workplaces of those who were demonstrating and who "vanished" into the system to let those workplaces know that such-and-such is feeling ill and cannot make it into work that day. This can help protect those who are arrested or held from losing their job due to overzealous police.

I'm sure you all can come up with other ways this can be expanded upon and to help out in ways beyond marching in the streets.

Acacia H.

David Brin said...

Tim W: Agh! Uncle Hugos. Now that hits close to home.* The proprietors are friends of mine… and among the greatest friends that science fiction ever had. Even insured, survival would be iffy and much of the stock simply irreplaceable.

Please keep your antennae out for further news and ways to help. I’ll supply a bunch of hardcovers for auction, if that’d help.

*I met Ilithi Dragon there (and we miss him.)
sdw I replied to your email and attached a power point. Did you get it?
Great buddy system concept Acacia.
Alfred: Well, well… it seems to me that “love” is somewhat pre-specialized. You have already decided upon a sector and range of types of policies toward the other and actions to benefit them. Without effective empathy to their wants and needs, this can translate into Pathological Altruism. Even WITH effective empathy, it can misplace or misfire.

Gieven that much Love - e.g. of your children - is partly driven by enlightened self interest plus chemical addictive systems (try resisting a baby’s smile), I’d say empathy combined with compassion will venn over much of the rest of Love.
As for "temperence" well, that overlaps with "satiability" which is the one common trait nearly all schools of psychology associate with sanity.
Riots redux:
1- We keep waiting for a nationwide movement by good cops to disown the bad ones. In fact, every constabulary in the country should have a provision for the rank and file to “ote bad apples off the force” by secret ballot. In some departments the baddies will try for a reverse trick. Fine. We’ll soon see how that works out for them.

2- If there are outside agitators, the FBI’s top priority should be to capture many and question them!
reason... if pseudonym intermediaries were major institutions like banks, then yes an industry oversight is needed.
“You would have limit the number od down votes someone could give.”
—> In the old concept of “evilling” you get a down vote for every one you give, deterring dissing others unless they are truly awful. That’s not a good ratio. But taking a 10% or 5% hit every time you diss another… with five free disses a month? That could work.
I got no objections to anything Tim W. just said (thanks for the observations) and I will be happy to get back to times when conservatives have an iota of credibility to criticize entrenched Democratic pols, who certainly deserve it often. Except for the implicit assumption that our worst problem is NOT an entirely KGB-owned and operated Republican Party that's hell-bent to absolutely and deliberately destroy America. Except for that.
AFR … La Mesa. Cripes. Stay safe neighbor.

Like we needed this.

Larry Hart said...

Tin Wolter:

honestly if organized teams of people decked out in black attach themselves to civil disturbances I think it's a reasonable jump to assume they are Antifa.

I think it's reasonable to assume that they are white supremacists trying to discredit protests against police, whose job they perceive as "busting black heads." We may find out which is correct in our lifetimes, but I'm calling out what I see as a concerted attempt to portray violence as perpetrated by Antifa, and therefore making the actual fascists into victims.

I predict that there will be no agents provocateurs found. But it would not surprise me if a few media whore milita types do turn up late and mug for the cameras, to the delight of same. Maybe they pay these morons to turn up and play a role?

So with no evidence either way, it just "makes sense" to perceive the rioters to be lefties, whereas even if righties present themselves as the perpetrators, they're probably paid to play a part? Heads, you win; tails I lose, eh?

A bad cop. An inept mayor. An incurious media.

This is why peaceful protests never seem to do enough. Because the comfortable see this as a single incident, which unfortunate as it is shouldn't provoke a hysterical reaction. Those prone to escalating riots see decades and centuries of systemic violence, torture, and murder against blacks as intolerable. Each new example is one more straw breaking the camel's back, but the reaction is not just because of one bad cop.

Nice job blaming a Democrat and the media in there along with the cop, though. The mayor should have done what--fired more cops before this happened? Do you think it is Antifa or right-wing media pressure which prevents mayors from exercising such power? The police unions are too strong? Whose side do you think those powerful and intimidating police unions are on--Colin Kapaernick's or Donald Trump's? If politicians and pundits share in the blame, which side do you think supplies more of the guilty?

sdw said...

David Brin:
No, I did not receive email from you. I did a hard search. You can copy both email addresses to be resilient.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

2- If there are outside agitators, the FBI’s top priority should be to capture many and question them!

In theory, yes. In practice, the FBI reports up to Bill Barr, and so probably sympathizes with the outside agitators if they are white race warriors. If the IA's really are left-wingers like Antifa, then Barr's FBI would pursue them with the goal of discrediting the entire protest movement--demonstrating that decrying the killing of a black man in custody is just a "convenient excuse" to riot.

matthew said...

By the way, Tim, Antifa means "anti-fascist." You seem to be confused by the labeling coming from right-wing media.

Antifa is a political designation going back to the resistance against Mussolini and eventually Hitler. Very closely tied to soccer fandom kicking right-wing racists out of soccer fan groups.
Here in Portland, we sing the "Bella Ciao" a song with its roots in the Antifa movement in Italy, at Timbers matches. It is a way of saying "our fandom will not include racists." The Iron Front symbol (three arrows pointing down and to the right) is considered an Antifa symbol. There was a large fight between the MLS league office and the fan groups from the Timbers / Sounders / and other supporters groups over displaying the Iron Front symbol at matches.

What you are calling "Antifa" are Black Block Anarchists. They are not the same thing, in fact they are opposites in many ways. The Black Block really got their first big political notice as part of the anti-WTO protests in Seattle in 1999. Black Block are mostly GutterPunks, homeless street gangs. They revel in destruction for its own sake. Young, dumb, and have no hope, mostly. I knew a lot of Black Block-types from my involvement in local music scenes. Usually the idiots I had to throw out of punk shows. Black Block activities have been part of the political scene in the pacific northwest for 25+ years. We know these assholes well in Portland.

Trump and conservative media conflate the two, blaming Black Block anarchist actions on "Antifa," because Trump knows that he can diminish legitimate protest against his fascist actions by mislabeling his critics and blaming them for the actions of a bunch of CrustPunks.

Of course, as the link from Vice I shared earlier has shown, there is a whole lot of "Accelerationist" action being taken by literal white supremacists now. Much of the damage, looting, and burning, are being done by racist white groups trying to start the "Boogaloo," which is their term for Civil War II, or a race war.

Antifa generally do not support Trump, or the GOP, because the GOP is literally a fascist party now. Antifa are not non-violent, but tend to, say, punch a Nazi in the face. In punk circles, the fight between Antifa and neo-Nazis goes back at least 40 years now. Used to be you could tell the difference by the color of the laces on their Doc Martins.

Black Block want to accelerate the destruction of America. They are spiritual descendants of the Weathermen, the SLA, and other bomb-throwers.

Antifa want America to be free from fascists, Nazis, and the KKK. You can see why Trump doesn't like them, though. Trump used to keep a copy of Hitler's speeches on his bedside table, reportedly.

Trump attempting to label Antifa as domestic terrorists is his move to start to use the power of the intelligence agencies against his political opponents. If Trump gets a 2nd term, many of his critics will be silenced by a weaponized DoJ using our anti-terrorist statutes to punish legitimate political speech.

Calling rioters "Antifa" is simply a way for Trump to lay blame at the feet of his opponents, when much of the damage is being done by his most ardent supporters.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I’d say empathy combined with compassion will venn over much of the rest of Love.

Hmmm, that's closer, but I still think a third element that is more specific is required. Empathy and compassion might make me do something nice for a stranger or a cat and even feel good about having done so. But to me, the desire to please a beloved woman is motivated by something more than that--some cross of desire and devotion perhaps?

I'll add that there is a "Two kinds of people in the world..." thing at work here. I understand that to a large segment of the powerful male population (see Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein) when they find a woman attractive/desirable, their fondest wish is to make that woman feel threatened and powerless. For whatever reason, I fall into the other "type of people" category. When I find a woman attractive/desirable, my fondest wish is to have her feel gratitude, that her life is better for my presence in it. I say that not to brag, but only to point out that the former type of person seems constitutionally unable to understand that the latter type of person even exists--they think we're lying in order to virtue-signal, but that everyone is really like them.

sdw said...

On the topic of reputations, this is another interesting, potential angle:

The triple bottom line valuation (social, environment, and economic impact) of a company and their products & services. Could be just about reputation (Do I want to buy from this seller?) and/or putative pricing. Is that $50 item / share $50___60 or $50___40? (I just coined that notation for TBL values. Analogous to imaginary numbers, I can see a whole TBL calculus for accounting & decisionmaking.)

DP said...

Setting aside one-day disasters like 9/11 and Pearl Harbor - these recorded deaths have been annualized and pro rated per 1 million population of America at the time of the event (or the start of the event for multi-year events).

The results are shown below. They show how horrible the Spanish Flu really was (exceeding even the Civil War), how proportionally WW1 was actually worse than WW2, and how brutal the American Revolution must have been.

They also show Covid-19 is on track to exceed the average annual death rate per 1 million Americans of WW2.

Event Total Duration Deaths American Deaths
Deaths (Years) Per Year Population Per Million
(millions) Per Year

Spanish flu 675,000 1 675,000 103.2 6,541
Civil War 655,000 4 163,750 31.4 5,215
American Rev 25,000 8 3,125 2.5 1,250

World War I 116,516 1 116,516 103.2 1,129
Covid-19 97,414 0.33 295,194 331.0 892
World War II 405,399 4 101,350 134.9 751

Mex-American War 13,283 2 6,642 17.1 388
Death by Vehicle 2019 38,800 1 38,800 328.2 118
Flu Deaths 2018-19 34,200 1 34,200 328.2 104

Korean War 36,516 3 12,172 152.3 80
Gun Deaths 2019 15,292 1 15,292 328.2 47
2008 H1N1 Pandemic 12,469 1 12,469 304.1 41

Vietnam War 58,209 11 5,292 200.7 26
Iraq War 4,497 8 562 282.2 2
Afghanistan War 2,216 19 117 282.2 0.4

DP said...

Now that we are launching men back into space again can we go back to drinking Tang?

Seriously, I could never decide whether Elon Musk is a genius or a con-man. After yesterday I know he is a freaking genius. The most technically impressive feat is the safe landing and eventual reuse of the the first launch stage.

Could this really make spaceflight as cheap per pound as air travel?

DP said...

To paraphrase another great SF writer:


Seriously, I rather dislike the delayed comment publication - is it really needed?

TCB said...

Here's a really good movie I saw about a bar owner who gets seduced by Antifa ideas and ends up murdering a high-ranking policeman.

duncan cairncross said...

Re the police

The comment "a few bad apples" - was originally meant to mean the whole barrel was bad as rotten apples give off a gas that starts the other apples rotting

So when people say its just "a few bad apples" they don't mean that the rest of the police are OK
We see this with the choking incident - there were four other cops on the scene and rather than stopping the murder they prevented the public from stopping the murder

duncan cairncross said...

I would also add that despite Tim Wolter's protests there do appear to be an awful lot of white faces prominent in the worse "rioting" and rather more dark faces in the "peaceful protesting"

Alfred Differ said...


the person making the decision to make that classified should have to attach his/her name

They do.

should be legal penalties for excessive or incorrect classification

They exist.

The question is whether these things are detected and enforced. Detection is probably the biggest problem as our host has pointed out. Getting Caught.

I'm a contractor, so I haven't classified anything under my mostly non-existent authority, but I do use the FOUO label when writing anything that shouldn't be easily exposed by a FOIA request. I have the bullet list of allowed exceptions for FOIA on my desktop to remind me and get retrained on it each year. [Lately, I've put in bold and large font the admonition against using the label to prevent embarrassment on the belief that could possibly do harm to the nation.]

If I'm doing anything that might reasonably deserve to be classified, I get a civie and see if they agree. If so, it is classified under their authority with appropriate log book entries made and markings put in the document. Those markings allow readers to trace the authority back to the group making the decision while the log book enables that group to figure out who did it. They do all that primarily to find and convince the source of a possible future change, but also so people put their necks out when making decisions.

Larry Hart said...

Well, it didn't take long to find a boogeyman to blame for criticism of brutality:

President Trump said on Twitter on Sunday that the United States would designate a group of far-left anti-fascism activists as a terrorist organization, a declaration that lacked any clear legal authority, as his administration sought to blame the group for violent protests across the nation over the weekend.

“The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” Mr. Trump wrote.

Remember the absolute froth-at-the-mouth uproar against the Clintons, and then again at President Obama, for daring to assert that right-wing domestic groups posed a terrorist threat? Apparently, the rules are different for left-wingers (in other news, the sky is blue and water is wet). So now, presumably, FOX viewers will assert that any outrage shown toward the right is part of a nation-wide terrorist plot that must be quashed at all costs. Not by refusing to be the douchebags that decent people protest against, but to outlaw the protesting of douchebaggery.

"Because we know who they are and what they do. THIS is what they do!"*

It seems incredibly revealing to me that conservative Republicans are "terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought"**at a group whose mission is opposition to fascism. Showing their true colors, red, white, and a twisted black cross in the center.

* credit Hunger Games: Mockingjay
** A favorite phrase from Ghostbusters.

A.F. Rey said...

A piece of good news amid all this craziness.

A thousand people show up Sunday morning in La Mesa to clean up after the previous night's destruction.

Meanwhile police are using tear gas to break up protests in downtown San Diego.

Let's all stay safe.

David Brin said...

LH: ‘For whatever reason, I fall into the other "type of people" category. When I find a woman attractive/desirable, my fondest wish is to have her feel gratitude…”

One of the things about modern feminism I find least worthy of respect has been the unwillingness of feminist leaders to call sagacious conferences on this topic. How better to evaluate and get a handle on men and what we want from them. The reflex is that finger-wagging chiding is all that should be necessary is fundamentally lazy and success-limiting. Oh, most of the chiding is correct and we need to be doing all the #MeToo hard press on accountability. (I’d gladly see all world positions of power taken over by women for ten years.) But the aversion to applying methods of science — e.g. speculation, hypotheses, experimentation, analysis and conferences — to appraise pragmatic elements and solutions is… well… disappointing.

DD: Sorry but you just delayed the re-opening, so to speak. Every day my system presents me with a one-button flush of fecal spew from a pathetic obsessive who clearly cannot find better ways to apply his obvious intelligence without trying to rankle others. The flushing process is trivial… it takes about two seconds per day, and I can make it automatic. But you’d “rather dislike” much more if I let the stink through. And this much attention will (I promise) provoke another shit storm.

LH you pinned Tim nicely… but you too deserve some. You assume the FBI obeys Bill Barr, just because he is above on the chain of command. I’d wager real money most of the rank and file hate his guts.

matthew, my dad (Bernie’s clone) was the original antifa. He infiltrated the Chicago chapter of the German-American Bund in the 1930s . Dangerous work and vital.

Alfred Differ said...


Maybe to continue the metaphor, empathy is the understanding of the principles of photography, whereas love involves cataloging particular pictures in an album that you don't just hide on a shelf somewhere, but actually peruse often with enjoyment.

Okay. I'm in danger of spilling too much ink on this since there are actual riots underway, but I'll offer one small point from what I understand of MacIntyre's position.

A virtue is an acquired human quality the possession of which …

Empathy works under that definition. Works just fine.
Curiosity does too.

I'm still inclined to think the space is 7-D, but admit it could b 8-D. Probably not more.

What's odd about it (and breaks the vector space metaphor) is that one can't optimize for all of them simultaneously. Too much of one ensures too little of another. Our stories are full of this fact-of-life.

Larry Hart said...


Let's be clear. Being opposed to fascism is considered a terrorist act. Why? Is that not a tacit admission that the present administration is fascist itself? Please explain an alternative story around the same story elements.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH you pinned Tim nicely… but you too deserve some. You assume the FBI obeys Bill Barr, just because he is above on the chain of command. I’d wager real money most of the rank and file hate his guts.

When my forecasts are pessimistic, I really do want to be proven wrong. Think of me as a warning siren, not a reporter.

Alfred Differ said...


That is, the exact sort of case where someone would ask for a government issues ID.

Ugh. I couldn't disagree more. I don't mind government being in the ID business, but I'd rather they didn't own it. I don't mind if they publish standards and state clearly that they require them before they will accept ID's from any commercial system, but I don't want them writing those standards to ensure there are no independent, commercial providers.

I'm possibly being too American on this, but I'm deeply suspicious even of people I elect to hold office. I don't think I'm TOO suspicious, though. We managed to let go (somewhat) of the internet we created for Cold War communication purposes and the world is better off for it. I think we can let go of the ID system too, but don't mind if it is done incrementally.

We already do this in small ways in the US. When I sign documents in front of a Notary Public, that person records the fact that they have authenticated my identity. In their logbook, they effectively validate me AND my choice to sign. There are rules they have to follow when identifying me and it is those rules that can be adjusted to enable commercial ID assurance. A Notary who knows nothing of me would require quite a bit more than one with whom I had a history.

I used to work for the Notary division of the Secretary of State of California. Briefly. (The UCC division too.) This stuff is almost entirely a matter of State Law. We could change that without the Feds having much say. We should coordinate with other States in some kind of pact, of course, to ensure we don't mess up cross-state agreements. We should prepare for Congress to weigh in as they DO have legit powers regarding interstate commerce. There is a way forward, though, that can't be filibustered in the Senate.

Tacitus said...


I actually did encounter the term Antifa for the first time in Europe. Lyon France to be specific. It has been blurred a bit in wider use. Thank you for the insights regarding Black Bloc and variants of same. They are useful. The insights that is, not the idiots.

Minnesota has rather good sunshine laws and an interested person can look up who has been arrested for riot. With various caveats (instigators careful not to get caught, giving fake names and addresses, just not catching a representative sample) it sure does not look like right wing militia types to me. I generally have no use for twitter but here: Lots of citizen provided photos/video in real time. And public record arrest info. Its sousveillance time.

Larry, you seem pretty worked up. I'm not quite sure how to unpack the material in your last post. I'm blaming the cop for the man's death. I'm also pointing out that the police department has had multiple such cases and has not reformed. It is the job of the Mayor and City Council (or possibly police and fire commission, have to check) to do their damnedest to keep this stuff from happening again and again. I do think big city Mayors defer to public employee unions. Or they soon become ex Mayors.

Regards evidence either way I suggest a cruise through the arrest info in the Crimewatch feed. Or look up the supposed Umbrella Man Agent Provocateur story. Here's a very left favorable, if rather hard to believe take on it:
Gist of the story. Well, the one guy is an activist from a really swell group so the fact that he appears to be acting for the cameras and is actually seen chatting companionably with the supposed provocateur surely has an innocent explanation!

I'm content to let the picture clarify a bit but the efforts to find a White Supremacist in there somewhere are almost comical right now.

Having said that there are some weapons charges in the arrest reports that seem to be folks from smaller, redder communities. If the addresses given are indeed true ones.

Hey, I'd be remiss if I did not tell you to be personally safe.

All of you really.


Tacitus said...

Duncan I entirely agree that the actual peaceful protests, which I would be proud to join, seem to be people from the community involved. Whereas the rioters seem to be a different group. I just don't think it is some secret Fascist army that has suddenly shown up and gotten organized just for the purpose of...of...well not sure what. Making the Mayor of Minneapolis look bad? He hardly needs any help with that.

My problem btw with Antifa is not that I'm in favor of fascism. It is that they define fascism so very broadly.


duncan cairncross said...

Daniel Duffy

I like your comparison

However I don't understand it fully - can you have a look and extend your explanation

Larry Hart said...

...and I don't assume the FBI will do whatever Bill Barr tells them to because he's their boss. But I do assume that--despite Trump's bizarre theories to the contrary--the FBI tends to be pro-authoritarian and to have it in for liberals and Democrats.

Am I wrong?

David Brin said...

“I do think big city Mayors defer to public employee unions. Or they soon become ex Mayors.” While there’s a true element to that… and in normal times I would offer conservatives a “give” on those unions’ power in exchange for needed things… let’s be frank here. There is no such politics today. It is killed dead and the corpse stinking up the nation. And the fault for that is entirely Republican,Republican,Republican,Republican,Republican,Republican,Republican,Republican,Republican,Republican,Republican, and communist.

And Mayors obey state law.

Tim, If it were a wager right now, I’d give 70% odds that BOTH the antifa and KKK provocateur theories prove to be exaggerated. But let me ask you this. IF the latter proves true, would THAT be a ‘red line’ for you? I truly am curious what it will finally take.

David Brin said...

Okay, you guys are having fun. While I don't have the massive sized communities of others like Jim Wright, I don't think there's another on line with this vibrant intellect.

But it's time.



Tacitus said...

I'm taking the night off from this sort of thing. I've already said that I think there are people outside the community who are exploiting the situation for their own ends. Black Bloc (seems a more appropriate term) almost certainly. That some mutt variety of right wing kooks turn up by and by? Would not surprise me. Will their presence be exaggerated? Maybe and Yes. It's hard to define membership in either. But the hunt for MAGA hatted kooks is certainly exaggerated. Maybe the other will be too.

KKK? Does that even exist any more? Let's not lose sight of my original observations, that the leadership of Minneapolis has failed. Their party affiliation does not particularly matter to me.

We've been over the Red Line question several times. I keep an open mind and have been known to change my opinions on significant matters.

signing off for 5/31

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

Larry, you seem pretty worked up.

I feel like the only white man in America who doesn't take white privilege for granted. If black people can be treated as lacking in civil rights, then it's possible for the same to be true of myself. Probably not because I'm white, but maybe because I'm Jewish, or because I'm a liberal.

Some probably see the George Floyd incident as being a black problem that doesn't affect them personally because their rights aren't being violated. I see the only way for my rights to be secure is if everybody's rights are secure.

"First they came for the blacks, and I did not speak out—because I was not black.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

David Brin said...



Robert said...

Larry: "I see the only way for my rights to be secure is if everybody's rights are secure."

Reminds me of Billy Bragg's "Freedom is merely privilege extended, unless enjoyed by one and all." from his version of the Internationale.

This version has the story of how he wrote it:

Akash Kanojiya said...


The question is whether these things are detected and enforced. Detection is probably the biggest problem as our host has pointed out. Getting Caught.

I'm a contractor, so I haven't classified anything under my mostly non-existent authority, but I do use the FOUO label when writing anything that shouldn't be easily exposed by a FOIA request. I have the bullet list of allowed exceptions for FOIA on my desktop to remind me and get retrained on it each year. [Lately, I've put in bold and large font the admonition against using the label to prevent embarrassment on the belief that could possibly do harm to the nation.]

If I'm doing anything that might reasonably deserve to be classified, I get a civil and see if they agree. If so, it is classified under their authority with appropriate logbook entries made and markings put in the document. Those markings allow readers to trace the authority back to the group making the decision while the logbook enables that group to figure out who did it. They do all that primarily to find and convince the source of a possible future change, but also so people put their necks out when making decisions.