[ExI] Privacy vs the future

samantha sjatkins at mac.com
Tue Sep 7 09:34:38 UTC 2010

 On 8/28/10 1:22 AM, 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.
> In case some people here have not read it, the Lifeboat Foundation has
> a program which advocates sousveillance via all kinds of sensors, from
> the large to the very tiny. It's currently called the Security
> Preserver: http://lifeboat.com/ex/security.preserver

The trouble with the Security Preserve is that it seemingly falls for
the notion that threat of terrorism trumps any other danger and that
sacrificing our freedom to avoid it is justified.  It isn't.  The loss
of freedom is many orders of magnitude the greater danger.    This is
also a general problem I have with many Lifeboat entries.  There is
little quantification of the actual magnitude of the risk that very
expensive and sometimes quite dangerous countermeasures are recommended
for.   More risk-benefit analysis is needed.

> For the resons that you well point out (namely, that we really
> /want/ to have the freedom to record our lives, everything that we see
> and hear, to begin with, or it's going to turn into even more of a
> logistical nightmare; etc.), I have advocated for transparency for a
> quite a while now.
Transparency alone is (a)very unlikely in that those in power
(government) claim more rights to monitor everything about us than they
allow us regarding their own actions and (b) just transparency will not
stop massive persecution of victimless crimes and other abuses and (c)
full transparency with no safeguards would be the end of any discretion
and most competition.

> I have also advocated for mutual accountability, and sousveillance. We
> may still have a window of opportunity to push for reform of our legal
> systems to allow for such--but we'd better start soon, because it's
> not going to be easy to convince bureaucrats and lawmakers, and people
> in positions of high power in general, who are still living in the
> past (and, somewhat, the present) that this is what needs to be done.
> Top-down surveillance, such a police surveillance and surveillance by
> intelligence agencies, may stop some crime, and some terrorism... so
> it cannot be avoided, nor regarded as totally a bad thing.
The current set of capabilities really is a bad thing.  The notion that
everything you say or do even privately is to be open to government
means that that by design very unequal power relationship is not much
more dangerous to you.  Compared to the real threat of terrorism or
actual crime it is a very bad thing indeed that people, all people, are
presumed possibly guilty.  

> But we all know that, depending on the particular agent or agency
> doing the surveillance (within the system), the particular state doing
> it (and its values and goals), and even down to the particular
> individual doing it (or using the information to give orders), and so
> on, it can breed oppression of the worst kind--and it often has, in
> the past. The power and resources of a state, and a multitude of
> cameras and mics spread over a city or country (or beyond), against an
> individual.
With modern surveillance it would be much much more oppressive if or
rather when it goes bad than anything in the past.  Imagine a Stalin
with say, a surveillance system an order of magnitude more intrusive
than in some parts of Britain today.    As it is the US, that supposed
bastion of freedom, locks up more of its population than any other
nation, ever, and mostly (roughly 60%)  for using or trafficking in an
unapproved weed.

> Given our unusual and changing circumstances, and given the level of
> /threats/ that we are starting to encounter in the world (and they are
> only going to get worse with more advanced technologies with potential
> for genocide), sousveillance, if set up correctly, can be a good
> thing. Some good things about it that immediately come to mind:

I am much, much less worried about some madman with some supposedly uber
tech of tomorrow than I am about destruction directly or indirectly by
growing global police states and hyper-government.   The first is only
hypothetical while the latter is historically all too real a danger. 

> - 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),
What?  What is a "terrorist mindset/activity"?  It is whatever the
authorities claim it is, no?  The US after 911 had a very hard time
coming up with a definition of terrorism that didn't make even those
they did not want to call terrorist, especially the government itself, a
terrorist.  According to current executive orders the government can
call anyone a terrorist they please and do pretty much whatever they
want with them without a lot of due process in the way.  If we are going
to enforce anti-terrorism or anything else we best at least be very very
clear on what is and is not punishable.   The last thing I want is a
global TIPS of everyone being a spy for the current regime.   Especially
on poorly defined terms.   The DHS in the US has advised several
agencies and law enforcement to watch out for those "potential
terrorists" that talk about the Constitution, for instance.  DANGER.

> active criminals (of the kind that hurt or plan to hurt /others/ or
> their property, women, children...),
Criminals defined as people that actually initiate force, yes. 

> nasty polluting corporations, and so on.
Pollution and what is and is not allowed is another that could use a
great deal of clarification.

> 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),
Sure, but wait a second.  We hyper H+ folks are a radical minority. 
Most of the democratic voters are very very opposed to much we are for
or at least some of us are for.  In such a world, without changes to
what powers the majority have over minorities, wouldn't our own dreams
and agendas more likely be crushed?   Where is the ability to act by
one's own lights regardless of approval or disapproval in such a world? 
Do we get into democratic lockstep of public opinion?
> 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.

Or simply bulding and AGI others may find scary to contemplate under any
circumstances.  Or insisting on the right to live by one's own
understanding with other similarly thinking people.   If the mass of
people can see everything the state does but the state has a monopoly on
initiation of force and much much more powerful weapons in any case,
then how is simple sousveillance a sufficient check on the state?

> - Preventing police abuse.
See above.   Police states want people to know how badly people "get it"
if they step out of line re the state's wishes.

> - Preventing abuse by employers and corporations of their workers.
How about the other way around?  You won't slack off much if you want to
keep your job I imagine. 
> - Documentation of human rights and animal rights violations at home
> and abroad, for use by the appropriate policing organizations
It very much depends on what are and are not legitimate enforceable rights.
> (ideally, imo, international organizations such as those encharged of
> human and animal rights issues today,
The average of all government on a world basis is even more problematic
than what I have to deal with today and would make it impossible to
"vote with one's feet".

> but with much more enforcement powers than they have today... merely
> giving recommendations and fines, way after the fact, to the nations
> committing such or allowing such to happen within their borders, is
> definitely not enough to stop the crimes).
Again the huge issue to address is to minimize as much as possible the
list of what is a crime and make sure what remains is wrong on clear and
unambiguous principles.     All else must be prohibited to be punished
as a crime.  Else total surveillance is hideously evil and dangerous.

> - Focused sousveillance of those in positions of power, and
> particularly those in positions of high power.
And this would do what?  Remember that 95% or so of all modern
democratic governments is not subject to election. 

> 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.
Considering the normal distribution of IQ and the complexities of the
modern world I am not sure that having power spread out evenly to
everyone would be preferable except for the great deal of this "power"
is illegitimate power over the freedom of others.   

> 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.
Counter argument I don't necessarily hold:   Suppose only the few
understand a problem well enough to see a possible solution.  Further
suppose that the majority of the people can't or won't understand the
problem or will be so opposed to its only real solution that you can't
tell them the truth or they would deny it.  Then, if you have no secrecy
at all, can you move at all to resolve the issue? 

2nd counter:  You wish to exploit near earth asteroids for materials,
volatiles, buliding out space infrastructure and so on along with a
group of well-financed individuals.  The governments of the world are
opposed.    Is there any way you can conspire to do it or anything else
that you may see as an utterly good and necessary thing against their
will while under total surveillance?

> Their decisions can mean the life, imprisonment, or death of some (or
> sometimes many, sometimes many many) other human beings.
Yes.  And perhaps, if you could really force it, which you cannot, total
transparency of their activities would get a lot of them rather
summarily (and perhaps violently) removed from their positions.   But,
they would see you coming and would have both fabulous intelligence and
much more power than you.   It is not likely to end well.

> - 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.
What for?  Paid snitches?  Paid by whom?   And the surveillance gear
would be automated and much more dependable than people running the gear
by hand. 

> 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.

I don't think I would want to live in such a world.

> - 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.
So if I work hard and succeed in some field and employ many others then
I should be scrutinized more on some suspicion of guilt?   Who else
should be scrutinized?

> - 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.
Pockets of privacy may well be the only hope that unpopular minorities,
not just those actually initiating force, have.   Humanity at large is
NOT OUR FRIEND.   Careful what you wish for.

> - 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.
Again, terrorism is not the main threat by many orders of magnitude.

> 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).
Not just them.  Everyone who some level of privacy or anonymity offers
some additional place for freedom.  Everyone who has any information
they want to control regarding who sees it under what circumstances. 
This includes almost all businesses as we know them today.  Everyone
that practices what their neighbors or employers will think is too kinky
a style of sex or frequents dives they would rather their employer or
some of their friends not know about.  I leave the rest to your
imagination.  It is not at all true that "if you have nothing to hide
you have nothing to fear".

> 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.

There are good reasons even the relatively powerless should think twice
about advocating or going along with any such thing.  Of course, as I
say, the tech is coming anyway.   So what is really needed is sound
limitation of how such information may be used and what is and is not a
crime.   I don't see us being very good at either or having much of the
basis for becoming good at it.

> - 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 worst criminals and terrorists work for governments, generally
speaking and specifically speaking of the number of actual deaths and
amount of damage they do.

> - 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 time that countless
> sousveillance agents around the world may invest in monitoring
> activities).
It will almost all be automated anyway.  I don't have much faith that a
great AGI will come along and take care of it for us.  I believe that
one could come along, in a decade or three, that *could do the job*.  I
rather doubt it would be terribly interested in such employment though.
> However, my opinion is that it would be worthy to push for such a
> social movement and to spark intense political action encouraging
> lifelogging, transparency and sousveillance--if only because the risks
> of "privacy" and unaccountability in the world are starting to get out
> of hand.
Actually the singular lack of privacy of the individual from the state
is getting extremely out of hand.  The risk of loss of even more privacy
are not small.  So I don't think it is time to trump the benefits of
sousveillance just yet.
> Such has been also looked at and analyzed in more detail by authors
> such as David Brin, with his book The Transparent Society
> <http://www.amazon.com/Transparent-Society-Technology-Between-Freedom/dp/0738201448/sr=8-1/qid=1157357368/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books>,
> and I'm sure Gordon Bell and other proponents of intense lifelogging.
Lifeblogging and being under the scrutiny of others 24/7 are not at all
the same thing.

- samantha

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