[ExI] Privacy vs the future

Sergio M.L. Tarrero sergio.ml.tarrero at mac.com
Sun Aug 29 03:30:51 UTC 2010

Tomasz, your comments sound... hmmm... a bit primitive...

But I will take a few minutes to comment. Hopefully someone else here  
has something interesting to say about the idea of sousveillance. If  
so, please feel free to take it from the top, instead of from this  
already muddied dialogue.

On Aug 28, 2010, at 7:09 PM, Tomasz Rola wrote:

> 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.

We are trans-survivalists. I wish more people were. However, I see  
myself more of a realist than an optimist. I don't have much hope, and  
however that is no good reason not to do things to make the world  
better or safer.


> [...]
>> - 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.

With all their perils, limitations, and evils, some modern legal  
systems work, somewhat. It's better than total lawlessness, anyway.

Some nations' legal systems are ethically about others, without a  
doubt. We can only kick and scream to our lawmakers to learn from past  
mistakes and abuses, and slowly evolve our systems so that they become  
more inclusive, less biased, more ethical, etc.  Practical examples:  
allow marriage between any 2 people (no matter their sex or sexual  
preference); get rid of all the handguns out there (so that ghettos  
and mafias won't so easily emerge - no handguns out there, in the  
hands of the people, where I live; penalties for those carrying are  
steep); legalize drug use (so that ghettos and mafias won't so easily  
emerge); get rid of the death penalty (so that there is no way that  
you will kill the wrong person); and so on.
> 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.

I use lifelogging and casual video-recording equipment on a daily  
basis. I use it to document my life, and trust loved ones just as much  
as ever. I use it for self-defense, particularly in case some idiot  
hits me while driving (which wouldn't be the first time, every  
accident I've had has been due to idiots doing something wrong). I  
think there's nothing wrong with using tech for self defense, and the  
defense of children.

The conditions will soon be set so that even your closest relatives  
won't be able to easily access your data. But the fact that sensors,  
cameras and mics are getting smaller and smaller... does warrant some  
concern. However... it's the way of the future, and that's why David  
Brin has called it the transparent society. It forces us to act openly  
and without shame. Because we could be being watched. I've learned to  
adapt to this (as a psychological experiment), and if everyone did  
this there would be a whole lot less violent crime.

> 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.

Not forever. Not when the cameras are hidden in tiny (or even  
invisible to the naked eye) artificial insects, and it becomes illegal  
to actually create these secret clean pockets of space.

> 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.

"Everything as usual" is not the way of the future. Deep changes are  
not unexpected if society became a whole lot more transparent.

> 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.

That's why we need more eyes and ears everywhere.

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

That's what broadcasters do. Which shouldn't stop us from trying to  
prevent future genocides.

>> - 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.

Well... democratic systems do work by majoritites. Now, if we could  
only educate our people to the point that democracy becomes fairer...  
that would be something. I think that's a job for everyone: from the  
state, down to every last individual. Trying to become wiser, and  
educating others. At least we now have the Internet, which potentiates  
one's ability to educate others, and makes knowledge available to  
anyone seeking it. We need to make the Internet available to everyone  
in the planet, and that's going to be challenging.

But yes... I think most people would actually welcome this stuff, if  
they knew what's at stake. If they understood that their livelihood,  
their well being, even their own survival and that of their loved ones  
(their very societies), may be at stake... the logical option is to  
want it. I don't know if you understand that living in a largely  
unpoliced world is quickly becoming incompatible with survival.

Also, I think most people would rather someone watches the watchers  
too, and those in positions of power. Instead of the status quo of top- 
down surveillance only.

>> - 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
> numerous.

The ethical legitimacy of democratic systems does involve an aware and  
educated populace. We should strive for that.

In the meanwhile, you have the option of moving to a tiny country. Or  
do you prefer to live under some other system, where the people have  
no vote? Monarchy...?

As far as the guns and the ammo... all you need to do is move to the  
States. You can actually carry concealed weapons in public in some  
states. That shit's scary--one day the shit will hit the fan, and  
people will be literally killing each other with way too much ease. I  
prefer societies where handguns are extremely rare and hard to find.

> 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.

Ghettos could be cleaned up. People given better living conditions,  
education, options in life. Much more transparency (in this case,  
maybe using artificial insects, if going in there is too scary for  
anyone but especially armored police forces) would only make it easier  
to get rid of the weapons, and arrest criminals within the ghettos.

But cheap and nearly invisible AV-recording devices, given out to  
those being abused within the ghettos in mass numbers, would only make  
the picking-up of serious wrongdoers much easier. Yes, I guess you  
could say I am an optimist, in some ways. I look for solutions to the  

>> - 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.

Nobody is "unpunishable". Well... today, too many people are not being  
punished for too many horrible things. But they're only "umpunishable"  
until they get caught.

>> - 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.

I think that's just nonesense. No need to analyze further.e

>> - 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).

Yes, the idea has to do with preventing drunk-driving too. As far as  
superviruses, I do think they can be much, much more deadly if created  
by design. And it's becoming all too easy to do just that. That is,  
partly, the point of this thread, and this idea of sousveillance.  
Getting regular people to be whistle-blowers, and getting regular  
people to do what the police cannot handle in its present form.

> 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.

All bad things are worth making an effort to have changed. One thing  
does not stop other people from improving other problems.

But, as I've said, cheap and tiny, disguisable AV equipment connected  
to the Internet is fast becoming ridiculously cheap. Pretty soon,  
people will realize that. So it doesn't make sense not to use it for  
the benefit of mankind, and exploit its potential for better vigilance  
using the crowds... the average citizen.

> 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.

Sure. Everything but the "us watching them" part.

> 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
> surveillance.
> 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
> :-).

Many people will protest, kick and scream, and have a hard time  
adapting to a more transparent society. This will not prevent it from  
becoming a reality, though.

>> - 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.

I guess you have still not internalized the fact that, if a  
superintelligence does not care for our well being, we are pretty much  
doomed. It may not even consider keeping us around for very long... or  
it might allow us to destroy ourselves. So, I don't follow that train  
of thought very far. I am assuming a superintelligence which actually  
cares about us and our well being. Of course it will also go out into  
outer space and explore and process, regardless whether it decides to  
keep us alive and well or not.

> 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
> words.

Strange it will be, indeed.


> Regards,
> 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             **
> _______________________________________________
> extropy-chat mailing list
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
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