[ExI] social control

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Thu Aug 21 09:31:00 UTC 2014

BillK <pharos at gmail.com> , 20/8/2014 11:09 AM:
The solution for government is to treat everyone as a possible terrorist. 
There are two kinds of "possible terrorist". One is the sceptical epistemic position: anybody could be a terrorist, so take precautions and investigate. That produces a nosy and somewhat paranoid government, but it is not necessarily pathological as long as it runs on "trust but verify". The other one is to actually treat everybody as a terrorist until the opposite has been proven (typically by getting a security clearance - since people will security clearances are "one of us" and will never ever betray). This produces a pathological response where the government does regard the citizenry as enemies, and tries to discipline them in a Foucaultian way to behave. 
Reality is of course a mixture model between these two views (and the rational view that terrorists are vanishingly rare and actually doesn't matter much).

Behaviour becomes more and more restricted until the 
pressure cooker blows.
That is the problem. The modern surveillance state is likely increasingly good at inhibiting the typical Hollywood resistance: a team of people performing surgical operations against a key part of the oppressive infrastructure (or just terrorism). It might not be able to *stop* them, but after the fact everybody involved (and anybody they ever talked to) can be rounded up. So in principle it would prevent organised resistance. However, this system is unable to handle blowing pressure cookers. When people stop being rational about personal risk and just explode en masse it doesn't matter if you can document it perfectly.  
Of course, smart governments try to keep people from boiling over and are researching ways of social control. The problem here might be diffusion: those techniques will also become known to opposing groups in time. The real issue how they scale: can a nucleus of some dissenters (not necessarily coordinated) subvert the stabilization program? A lot hinges on scaling properties in economics, surveillance and memetics, and it is not clear how they actually look. Worth investigating. 

Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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