[ExI] Privacy vs the future

samantha sjatkins at mac.com
Tue Sep 7 10:09:59 UTC 2010

 On 8/28/10 10:09 AM, 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. 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.
I used to be very optimistic.  Then I considered more closely the actual
possibilities of massively transforming the human psyche in a mere
generation or two so as to achieve and most enjoy my incredibly
optimistic utopian vision.   Optimism fled rather quickly.  Still we
cannot keep status quo.  We move forward or fall back, most likely
catastrophically.  So we can only project what is very very likely, such
as massively better, cheaper, smaller surveillance tech, and what
[little or not] we can do to prepare or deal with these things. 

> 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).
Perfection is not required (if it is required then let us get
intoxicated in whatever way we most enjoy and stop dreaming of the
future).  So far we are doing well enough to have opportunity for so
much more. 

> 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 
> art).
> [...]
>> - 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.
Yep.  My reaction too.  I don't remotely want to go there.  If that was
the way of it without powerful safeguards on freedom then I would be
reading up on directed EMP weapons.

> 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.
All the more righteous since, if in government, they have a monopoly on
the initiation of force, make the laws, and decide whom to enforce them
on.  That buys an awful lot of white wash of one's nature. 
- 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.
Yep.  Knowing something is happening and being able to resist or stop it
are not at all the same.
>> - 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.
Yes.  Promise them bread, circuses and security if only they promptly
report anyone and anything that may in any stretch be a threat to your
own much beloved power to hand out goodies and withhold heavy punishments.

> 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).
I fear several of these because they are the instruments of government
which claims to represent the majority's interest (although it is a Big
>> - 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.
Yep.  Harder to come up with something truly innovative and actually get
traction realizing it in products if everyone knows or can know what you
are doing.   
> 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.
Most likely the more dangerous and capable work in some three letter
government organization with a substantial black budget.  The same tech
that makes massive surveillance easy also makes it easy to fake
"transparency" reports if you have enough tech and budget.

> 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.

What business is it of yours or the governments what anyone decides to
put into their bodies? 
> - 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.
Naw.  I am sure an AGI worth its salt could quite easily find a way to
kill all humans if it considered such necessary.  A determined enemy
that thinks at least six orders of magnitude faster than human beings
and in much greater depth?  Kiss your somewhat evolved chimp posterior
goodbye.   I doubt you will have time for much more than that.  
Fortunately, it is very doubtful such an AGI would see humanity as any
real threat.   If it was not inclined to directly help us I think the
most likely alternative would be tremendous indifference.  If it sees
that the greatest opportunities are away from this somewhat depleted
gravity well such indifference may not be catastrophic for us.

> 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.
Wasn't their some Russian short SF tale about what happened after a well
meaning Russkie programmed the global nanobot swarm?  Everyone could
have pretty much anything the bots were capable of conjuring up.  But if
they tried to initiated force against anyone there brains would freeze a
few minutes.   I could think of much worse outcomes. 

- samantha

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