[ExI] What surveillance solution is best - Orwellian, David Brin's, or ...?

TheMan mabranu at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 25 16:08:43 UTC 2007

Jef Allbright <jef at jefallbright.net> wrote:

> The cosmic race is simply a fact of nature,

The _cosmic_ race? You mean the fact that tech races
will go on throughout universe for eternity anyway,
with or without mankind's participation? Don't you
care whether this particular race going on on Earth
now is going to continue leading to better and better
things for ever, or soon stop itself by creating
something that kills us all?

> as
> fundamental as the
> entropic observation that two can move a large mass
> that one can move
> not at all.  Whether this is considered a nightmare,
> a
> dream, or
> merely the way things work, is entirely in the mind
> of
> the observer
> but it's worth recognizing that our very existence

The tech race on our planet in inevitable - until it
stops itself by leading to something that extincts
all. The race can take differing paths, and we should,
at least to some extent, be able to influence what
path it will take, because we are the ones creating
it. What I wonder is what path is safest, what path
minimizes the risk that the race stops itself through
a disaster (or an evil deed).

> and our future
> -- depends on it being so.
> I tend to favor a model of our subjective awareness
> in
> the form of a
> tree of the probable, exploring the possible.  As
> subjective agents,
> we are each but the tips of the branches.  Looking
> back, we see
> increasingly thick branches -- increasingly probable
> principles --
> describing the "reality" of our subjective branch
> converging all the
> way back to the thickest branches representing our
> most fundamental,
> and therefore most general, principles of physics. 
> Looking forward,
> we see the growth of increasingly diverse branches
> of
> the possible,
> supported by the probable, to be pruned by natural
> selection in ways
> consistent with what has gone before, but always
> surprising from our
> subjective point of view.
> Staying in the Red Queen's race, from any subjective
> point of view,
> involves the discovery and exploitation of
> increasingly effective
> configurations -- configurations representing that
> with which we
> identify: our subjective values -- and increasingly
> effective not only
> within existing degrees of freedom but in terms of
> synergistic
> configurations presenting new dimensions of
> interaction with the local
> environment, the adjacent possible.
> In principle, this is a race of information,
> supported
> by
> configurations of what we currently see as matter. 
> This reflects on
> the question of surveillance and sousveillance --

Sousveillance implies watching "from below", meaning
there is someone "above" you, someone who still has
more power than you. This is not the only alternative
to surveillance. A society is thinkable where there
are no governments with any of the advantage in terms
of surveillance and overall power that they have
today, a society where everybody has equal ability to
watch each other, and equal power to stop each other
from doing evil. That would not be sousveillance
but... equal interveillance?

Would you rather have that kind of system than the
kind of system we have today?

If yes, do you think extropians can increase the
probability that mankind will choose and implement
such a system globally? If yes, how?

> while the tree can
> and will branch unpredictably, a fundamental trend
> is
> toward
> increasing information (on both sides.)
> We can take heart from the observation that
> increasing
> convergence on
> principles "of what works" supports increasing
> divergence of
> self-expression "of what may work."  If we recognize
> this and promote
> growth in terms of our evolving values via our
> evolving understanding
> of principles of "what works", amplified by our
> technologies, then we
> can hope to stay in the race, even as the race
> itself
> evolves.  If we
> would attempt in some way to devise a solution
> preserving our present
> values, then the race, speeding up exponentially,
> would soon pass us
> by.
> In short, yes, we can hope to stay in the race, but
> as
> the race
> evolves so must we.

Nice word ambiguity! :-)

I don't really understand whether you answer my
question though. Basically, I was wondering what is
the best way to minimize the existential threat from
technology, in terms of _what_ people should have the
right to watch _what_ people, and to what extent, and
how, and how it should be governed (if at all) etc.

Who stays in the tech race and who doesn't is a
decisive factor, but this doesn't automatically mean
that you are more likely to survive if you choose to
stay in the race as strongly as possible an
individual, as opposed to staying in the race as a
part of [society's staying in the race - through the
power of governments - against certain people]. You
might be better off handing over a lot of power to
your government, or you might not. That's the question
I want to discuss. There is a race not only between
individuals but also between certain individuals and
society. Continuing to equip the governments with much
greater resources than most people (ie resources for
tech research and surveillance of others) (and maybe
even discouraging each other from competing with the
governments), may be considered one way for us as a
society to "stay in the race" against anti-humanity
cults, terrorists and dangerously naïve engineers.
Another way of "staying in the race", one that
excludes that way, would be that each person tries to
stay ahead of [everybody else including any
governments] as strongly as possible. The former
strategy could lead to an Orwellian nightmare, the
latter could lead to anarchy with a lot more different
wills and a lot more uncontrolled dangerous
experimenting with unknown technologies. 

Which of the two strategies is safer, if the goal is
to maximize the survival chances of mankind (and of
whatever good it will become and develop), from now to
when the singularity comes?

Are there better solutions than these two (+solution
along the spectrum between them), when it comes to the
distribution of the power (ability, right, authority)
to acquire and control information about others?

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