[ExI] Privacy vs the future

Tomasz Rola rtomek at ceti.pl
Sat Aug 28 17:09:24 UTC 2010

On Sat, 28 Aug 2010, Sergio M.L. Tarrero wrote:

> This is my first post to this list in a very long time. I happened to open up
> this mailbox today, and what I saw compelled me to write.
> Very thoughtful observations, Samantha. I totally concur. Particularly with
> your comments in the last paragraph, following your questions.

I perceive both of you as quite optimistic. So, as an advocatus diaboli 
and cynic, I feel the urgent need to spice up discussion with my 
diabolically-cynical remarks. I don't think cynicysm itself is strong 
enough to change anybody's minds, not without money for bribing, but I 
feel a bit bored.

In one sentence, we humans display the well known tendency to heavily 
screw up everything that we touch. Including, it seems, evolution (now, 
the tale of Tower of Babel doesn't seem like cruelty anymore, but rather 
like a safety measure). It is important to note, however, that the 
tendency itself seems to be immune from us. Maybe we should start 
intentionally screwing up. Instead of this "all be good" moves, which 
always end up in hellish way (sometimes small, sometimes big).

Of course, this should not stop us from doing things. Our history is an 
ongoing race to escape our previous screwups (Stanislaw Lem, "Summa 
technologiae"??, probably), so if we stop we simply become finished even 
faster. Myself, I would vote for buying us some more time, if possible, 
mostly because I don't think being finished would be funny for me.

Technically, this was one sentence, repeated few times and with some 
letters permutated and changed/added/retracted. (No I don't have patent on 
this, fsck you patent parasites ;-), permutation and word play is prior 

> - Open source monitoring and police work. By pooling on the eyes, ears and
> brains (and cameras, mics, sensors, computers...) of the populace, it becomes
> much easier to spot foes, terrorists (or those promoting terrorist
> mindsets/activities), active criminals (of the kind that hurt or plan to hurt
> others or their property, women, children...), nasty polluting corporations,
> and so on. Once it becomes fashionable for people in mass numbers to record
> their lives much more intensely (initially with simple devices such as
> video-recording glasses), the wiggle room for people who hurt others or
> endanger others' lives (I am always annoyed and amazed by what some people get
> away with, day after day, while driving their death machines...),
> automatically and radically shrinks. So much so, in fact, the eventually it
> simply does not pay to do such things... and those who take their chances and
> choose to do it, would live much more paranoid lives (which would also raise
> some flags in people around them), try to avoid being watched or recorded
> (more flags), and mostly end up being psychologically so uncomfortable with it
> that they may desist in their ways. Or else... they may simply get caught
> doing harm or planning to do harm to others.

Yes, this "citizen eyes" reminds me of perils of one recently failed 
system. This "give me a man and I will find a paragraph (to sentence 
him)". Fortunately, this didn't work in a lo-tech environment. Hopefully, 
hi-tech will prove to be helpless too. How? Well, scratch my back and I 
will scratch yours, buddy.

It's not going to be "right minded citizens watch". It's more likely going 
to be "I cannot trust my wife and children anymore". Those kind of things 
are well known in countries in 1000 km radius from where I sit now. It's 
not going to be "bad men will have psyche damaged" - they don't give a 
fsck, I'm afraid. I would rather expect bad men to feel the winds and get 
promoted into right place, where they would become safe and profit from 
helping their comrades. Being sociopaths, they are marvels of camouflage 
and mimicry, able to become first among most righteous.

So, while I look at all this lifeblogging idea with some scepticism, I am 
at the same time quite cool about it. I don't expect revolutionary 
changes. People will find their way around surveillance. Business will 
make loads of money doing work for govt. Everything as usual, maybe 
there will be some positive side effect, as was the case with internet, 
but rather an unexpected one.

As I said, because of this one yet unknown side effect, I can go for it. 
Other than this, it's just another screwup for me.

> - Preventing police abuse.
> - Preventing abuse by employers and corporations of their workers.
> - Documentation of human rights and animal rights violations at home and

There are more ways of abusing people and animals, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

The last one genocide (and one before it, too) had been widely reported in 
the news, including leading broadcasters.

> - Focused sousveillance of those in positions of power, and particularly those
> in positions of high power. We are all human beings (for now). A lot of power
> can be concentrated in specific people or groups--this is not the best
> situation, but that's just the way things are. However, these people or groups
> should not be allowed by the majority to live in total unaccountability and
> secrecy... particularly because their actions, their 'conspiring', and so on,
> affect many others' lives, sometimes in very deep ways. Their decisions can
> mean the life, imprisonment, or death of some (or sometimes many, sometimes
> many many) other human beings.

You seem to believe too much in majority. I think majority will allow what 
it is being said to allow. Heck, it will even be sure this is majority's 
own will.

> - Huge employment opportunities. Very few people could afford, or be inclined
> to, without compensation, donate a lot of their precious lifetime to become
> sousveillance agents. So... as the opportunities for employment decrease with
> time, particularly as technology starts taking more and more jobs from the
> economy, there seems to be a niche there which could potentially grow
> indefinitely. It would be nice if, once given the appropriate training and
> certification, any decent person could engage, maybe with greatly loose, open
> schedules (or no schedule at all... you do it when you want to do it... you
> can consider it a "back-up job" that is always there), on sur/sousveillance
> activities. Always in groups of at least 3 people (who don't know each other),
> chosen at random from a huge pool of sousveillance "agents" who happen to be
> online at any given time, they could go in specific missions to investigate,
> eavesdrop, gather evidence, etc., in situations or contexts which require
> such.

What I pray for every day (not really, in fact) is to never become subject 
of majority's interest. While I have no fear at all of police, 
intelligence, military, Catholic Church, mafia etc. (well, I feel a lot of 
respect, sure, and I show my respect by staying away).

Maybe I would be more enthusiastic about this if I had a gun and few boxes 
of patrons. Or better, unlimited ammo mod. Nowadays, majority is so 

BTW, your visions do include ghettos, don't they? But frankly, I wouldn't 
go to ghetto with cellphone camera turned on, or showing off my cool 
camera binoculars... As I would have even less protection there than a 
policeman, and they kill policemen in ghettos. And if you were living 
there, and they learned about you, well, man, your genitals could become 
your last supper.

> - The more power and influence a person or group has, the more lives her/its
> everyday decisions touches... the more intense the scrutiny that may fall upon
> her/it.

Great. However the mob of well meaning people is, basically, unpunishable. 
And somewhere in the backs of their heads they know it, all the time.

> - Those people, groups, organizations, agencies, governments trying to create
> (illegal, hopefully according to international law, whatever that means at the
> time) pockets of privacy, could be easily spotted, and something done about
> it. A "transparent society", fairly established (after much discussion of what
> this means, and some sensible agreements reached), would be, by definition
> almost, much more humane, its peoples' much more accountable to each other, to
> humanity at large.

Big ideas don't breed well in transparency (before you shred this 
sentence, try to analyse it). This kind of society seems to be doomed by 
design. I don't think that group think has contributed anything valuable 
to humanity (other than abhorment for group think). Of course I will gladly 
educate myself about counter examples.

> - With such systems properly in place, it should be easier for us to stop some
> highly visible and potentially deadly acts of terror before the perpetrators
> of such acts have the time to cause mass death and destruction. With the
> advent of cheap DIY bio and eventually nanoengineering, it becomes important,
> for public health reasons, to start being a lot more vigilant.

While terrorists look very well in TV, there are many things far more 
dangerous, like driving under influence. Other example - there are bilions 
of people lacking potable water, proper food and shelter, ready to 
incubate super virus (which is going to happen by pure chance rather than 
concerted effort).

While there are milions (bilions?) of computer owners, and they are all 
capable of DIY electronic warfare (giving us a looong holidays in best 
case), I have yet to hear about anything bigger than fscking up Windows 
world-wide. And I expect very few are capable of actually doing anything, 
and even fewer are motivated - and if they are, they would rather rob the 
bank than destroy electronic currency. Or they will set up a botnet and 
make money from it. So it seems to me, most dangerous and capable guys are 
connected to crime world, which is not so much interested in burning the 
tree that gives them fruits so sweet.

Is this good enough reason to put so much of effort and resources in 
surveillance, while not giving even 1/1000 of it to try and really improve 
things? Like, helping people to be less self destructing. Drug abuse, 
violence (not just physical one), many other abuses - I believe they have 
much bigger costs than few crimes that could be prevented by citizens 
looking inside my anus. And I am not sure that existing prevention 
mechanisms really lack so much that they need to be extended in this new 
brave way.

It looks more like not repairing a bridge, and when it finally develops 
holes and corrosion, building a new one few meters away. One could only 
guess there was monetary interest, not well meaning, in it.

> Some major problems that I see achieving this vision:
> - Those in positions of power (or high power) may likely, at least initially
> and probably for some time, oppose it (some fiercely). Given the fact that,
> today, they have the "upper hand", it may be hard to reverse this. They might
> fight, kick and scream so that this is not done... so, without strong social
> support for such systems, and quite a bit of activism, they may never come to
> pass. This view is hard to accept even by the average citizen right now, still
> living in 20th century technological and scientific realitites (in their
> minds), and with 20th century threats in their minds.

I think (but I'm not afraid, mind you) they will welcome everything you 
propose. From what I've heard, the best surveillance in London was in a 
City (i.e. financial district). I guess they will be delighted with 
prospects of always knowing what those pesky dirty paupers are going to 
do. Some paupers will be given well looking positions, to establish more 
democratic feel of all this. But to be frank, English paupers seem to be 
less and less willing to do anything, especially anything worthy 

Unless you would like to make miles of porn involving pink fat teenagers.

> - Even if one nation were to decide to test or implement such sousveillance
> systems, others may not. Unless sousveillance systems are organized somewhat
> globally, via adequate international organizations, it would be hard to
> properly monitor activity of the worst criminals and terrorists, who have the
> freedom to go elsewhere to plot their misdeeds.

The way I see it, the most advanced country will execute it's newly found 
power worldwide. Other countries may protest, of course. We are not 
barbarians (and no commies), we allow for opposing opinions :-). In 
Poland, we will protest more if the country happens to be China and we 
will only mention about France protesting if the country happens to be USA 

> - It would be complicated to set up such a system. If we end up doing none of
> this, maybe for lack of public support for such measures (a public which may
> not hear about these possibilities in the first place), maybe a benign
> superintelligence, if we are successful in developing such, may eventually do
> the equivalent (both the top-down and the bottom-up monitoring), but without
> taking so many resources, and without taking so much time from people (the

There are quite big possibilities of such superinteligences being simply 
uninterested in doing such menial job, as caring for us human ants and 
preventing us from harming each other (this was described in a great way 
in Stanislaw Lem's "Golem XIV"). Even if I am far below such level, I 
would take any chance of going out of this planet and build my home in 
space (especially having millenia if not eons to live). Also, I would 
consider preventive war against humanity, just to make sure I am too far 
to be chased and punished for my "disobedience". Or, to be even more sure, 
I would shoot out only kind of seed probe, that would replicate myself on 
the Moon and spread me further, while here on Earth I would play with 
humanity to keep it busy for a long, long time...

One thing I would be a bit afraid about humanity, it would be similarities 
to cockroaches. One can poison, drown, shoot or burn and still, there is 
no 100% effectiveness. I think this could be depressing, but I am not sure 
if mechanical intelligence can feel depression. The best strategy seems to 
be playing us against each other, make use of our own screwing ability to 
keep us in line, or more like keep us from stepping over some line.

Another take on such super-supervisors is given in Lem's "Wizja lokalna" 
(not translated to English, but judging from wikipedia there are German, 
Japanese, Russian and Italian translations [ 
http://solaris.lem.pl/ksiazki/beletrystyka/wizja-lokalna ] , [ 
http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wizja_lokalna ], so bilinguals can help 
themselves a little). In one sentence :-), the endproduct is strange. The 
soil is penetrated to few meters depth by small bots creating so called 
"ethicosphere", which prevents citizens from harming each other, sometimes 
in a very depressing way, like for example when boys are unable to act 
upon little bastard who laughs at them and bullies them with abusive 

Tomasz Rola

** A C programmer asked whether computer had Buddha's nature.      **
** As the answer, master did "rm -rif" on the programmer's home    **
** directory. And then the C programmer became enlightened...      **
**                                                                 **
** Tomasz Rola          mailto:tomasz_rola at bigfoot.com             **

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