[ExI] Privacy vs the future

Tomasz Rola rtomek at ceti.pl
Tue Aug 31 00:05:47 UTC 2010

On Sun, 29 Aug 2010, Sergio M.L. Tarrero wrote:

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

Yes! At first moment I wanted to pretend this was intentional. But, you 
are right - while I may show some signs of culturation, beneath this thin 
skin there is my brutal, bestial me :-). However, I am glad you were not 
put off by my true nature.

> 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.

Muddied, eh? The problem is, I have no problem at all. I have realised 
possibilities of widespread surveillance long ago (few years ago, ten 
years ago? I don't care much and besides I have probably read about it 
somewhere even earlier). The technology is there in the labs, I guess. The 
labs are owned, so the technology is owned already. Maybe sometime in the 
future we will hear that it has been available for quite long.

I am a bit disillusioned about all those citizens, majority and so on. 
Also I think all of your postulates will be realised and I am not going to 
stand in the way. Most of the effects are behind the door and are to be 
unknown until the door are opened. I can, however, deduce some of them 
from my knowledge of human nature. And I don't expect anything unusual, at 
least I don't expect to be surprised. Well, maybe one or two unexpected 
side effects will be there, but since we can't see throu the door...

Perhaps I am not so much experienced wrt human nature, but I am cynical. I 
have learned once (from animated Dilbert series, a source that is hardly 
disputable) that cynicysm can be a substitute for experience. Since that 
day my experience has only grown (I have a hypothesis that, if I grow 
cynicysm to x, my experience grows by x*x, so it pays better to be 

So, I have just put my hands in the water and stirred. But the mud was 
there already. It always is there.

> 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.

Trans-survivalist? Who is this? Google gives me barely anything 
interesting about this, and I couldn't spot any kind of definition.

> > >- 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
> >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.

Contrary to the popular belief, it is a bit hard to find places where 
there are no rules of any kind. So fear of lawlessness is, I think, 
overemphasised. The only question that remains, is whether one will play 
along, or not.

> >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.

Seems like you definitely don't get what I am talking about. Let's hope 
you will never have to learn more about it.

> 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),

Yea, yea, been there, done that, no damn about it.

> and if everyone did this there would be a whole lot less violent crime.

Oh, I wouldn't be so sure about it. How about reprogramming sensors, so 
that they move and block a trachea of a victim?

> >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.

The whole culture has as one of it's unwritten laws the idea of right to
temporarily or permamently separating myself from the rest, by my own 
will. But again, I can imagine reprogramming sensors so that they don't 
show that a pocket is full.

Now, this would mean your postulates suggest penalizing ability to program 
devices, right? War with hackers? You really want such stupid move? Even 
if this so called "society" could win such a war, there would come another 
kinds of penalisations - high IQ would be more dangerous than ever. This 
is simply going down and down the drain.

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

Yep. "Everything as usual" is a way of the present. Present is a future, 
just right now. I don't doubt in the future there are going to be some 
deep changes, I just doubt a little that the future will happen anytime 

> >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.

It was done. It didn't work (or it worked in ways that could stand hairs 
on one's head, those that one didn't pull out oneself). So, if it is done 
again, it won't work again (or worse, it will work, again). I have 
accepted that people have to do same things over and over. No problem at 
all. I have lots of interests to keep me occupied. 

> >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.

Sure, at least we can try. Who knows, maybe it can be done, some few 
hundreds years from now (you know, genocide is still a novelty for us, 
and it is so exciting!, so... forbidden!!). Or maybe there would be too 
few people to perform next genocide. Boredom or technical difficulties, it 
will stop one day.

> > >- 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 majority is kind of herd. If there was any thinking in it, SETI 
would have discovered it as one of it's false positives. You could point 
to ants, but I wouldn't risk and say ants think. They are quite capable, 
but their thinking process is yet to be discovered.

> 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.

Yes, about this one I do agree. At least giving people access to the net, 
since I don't think educating people would educate anybody. One has to do 
some conscious work to become educated (I don't mean going to school for a 
number of years). I don't see too many incentives for average Joe to do 
this work. Quite the contrary.

> 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.

You know... there is so many positives in your thinking, that people will 
buy it right out from the truck. They like this kind of sweet fantasies 
(no offence to you but this is what they want - a good tale for a good 

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

Agreed. Nice goal, that everybody says to be wanting.

> 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...?

Why, I like to see people voting. This gives some hope that one day they 
will vote for something real.

> 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.

Guns and ammo are our last hope. So that when next time some benevolent 
bastard buddies want to screw us, we can defend our beloved, children and 
families (you should like the idea) and blow them their lies back into 
their buddy smiling mouths. I could also lifeblog this and put on my 

If the shit hits the fan and people decide to kill each other, there are 
still plenty of kitchen knives. There are clubs, machetas, hammers, 

If the shit hits the fan, military and police will gradually convert into 
bandits. You sure they will be scared away by your camera?

Bad guys seem to always find a gun for themselves every time they need it. 
No matter if this is forbidden or not.

> 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 problems.

The solution, IMHO, would be to educate ghettos and give them decent jobs. 
Giving out cameras, this doesn't sound too well - until the ghetto is 
populated by well fed people, who can think positively about their future.

> >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

You know, if you could point nonsense somewhere in my reasoning, I 
wouldn't mind at all. Educating oneself is sometimes painful, but in 
theory I end up being better man, so why not?

> > >- 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.

I was pointing out that while we chase terrorists, a lot of other issues 
remain. And human cost-wise, I wouldn't be so sure they should be left 
unattended. From this page [ 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drunk_driving_in_the_United_States ], "17,941 
people died in 2006" and "275,000 were injured in alcohol-related 
accidents in 2003". This is just one country, one cause of death. Or, 
consider landmines: [ http://www.unicef.org/graca/mines.htm ]. There are 
mechanical ways of clearing landmines, but I'm not sure if they have been 
adopted globally and if they are cheap or not.

So I would be more for checking first, if we really need to deploy global 
invigilation "because there are terrorists out there". Where, where? 
Everywhere? If so, no invigilation is going to save us. They should be 
running towards White House and Capitol right now, being so ubiquitous as 
proponents of invigilation seem to suggest. Or maybe, some money could 
be spent on addressing some real problems, that kill thousands and cripple
tens of thousands. Every year.

But, as I said, no need for me to worry about it. There is going to be 
great deal, worth shitloads of green. The deal will buy a lot of shiny 
cute devices, that will hoover and look at us, but the world as such will 
not be much better (or not at all). And things written above will be 
repeated years later by someone else.

Of course, in the news, there will be some great stories. Some new 
workplaces. Check. Some criminals caught. Check. Nothing surprising. Check.

But yes, there will be some crimes, that would be forced out of the 
streets. This doesn't mean they will end, no matter how many spybots you 
push out of factory and how small they are. The psychological and economic 
roots of crime are not addressed by your spybots, seems to me.

> >I think (but I'm not afraid, mind you) they will welcome everything you
> >propose.
> Sure. Everything but the "us watching them" part.

Well, we agree on this, but each in one's unique way. I think they will 
not only adopt the idea, they will also implement it... for our good of 
course. As of "watching them", good luck.

You seem to believe that if the technology is adopted by so called 
citizens, "they" will be watched and all ends well. Some time ago modern 
judicial system (supported by journalism) have been adopted with same 
promises. Didn't it work as expected?

> 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.

I will not protest. I would rather drink some vodka, this alternative is 
much more interesting. They allow vodka in transparent society? Otherwise, 
I will scream, kick and protest like burning hell. But, well, if they 
allow drugs, why not vodka. So, no reason to protest anyway.

> > >- 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.

No, I guess that I have internalized it quite well. There are, however, 
questions if such superintelligence will be allowed to exist at all. Those 
in power have only one thing, and they would rather not give it away.

> 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.

As I said, since I consider humanity to be kind of bigger cockroaches (I 
must be in bad moods today, really), so as SuperAI I would rather play 
with us, not go openly against us. Being smart, I would be able to play 
for millenia, and condition my human subjects in such way that they never 
realize what I do to them - that is, keep them down and low, to give me as 
much advantage as possible.

Of course, one day favours being so much on my side, that giving a 
decisive blow to the humanity wouldn't be any problem.

Caring for humanity? Well, humans are psychologically unstable. Like 
schizophrenics, they can go from being best friends to killers in a 
second. Caring, bah, sure, why not. But more as in terminal care (read: 
loads of morphine or maybe stronger things).

Naw, ok, I went too far. We are not that bad. Maybe we could fancy AI, to 
make it interested in our twisted ways.

> Strange it will be, indeed.
> Sergio

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             **

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list