[ExI] privacy again, was: RE: Critiquing democracy

spike spike66 at att.net
Thu Mar 5 15:54:25 UTC 2015



From: extropy-chat [mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of Anders Sandberg
Subject: Re: [ExI] Critiquing democracy


Michael Anissimov <michaelanissimov at gmail.com> , 5/3/2015 8:12 AM:

>>…We're programmed to think that anything other than democracy is tyranny, but that's not historically accurate. 


>…I think Brin put it best in "The Transparent Society" where he outlined why *open societies* are the important thing. We want and need open-ended, self-correcting societies where citizens can have their own life projects. 


>…Democracy is one way to approach this, but it is a formal/administrative solution, not a guarantee - there are plenty of closed democracies that have all the formal routines of democracy but do not allow citizens to actually point out what is wrong, hold officeholders accountable, and get rid of them or non-functional institutions if needed…Anders Sandberg…



There is a fascinating drama playing out in the US government now with respect to something we have discussed here going back at least 17 years.  We have the heir-apparent to the presidency who conducted official business on her own email server, which is now illegal but was not specifically illegal at the time (3 to 5 years ago.)  Reasoning: a government employee’s official communications are subject to Freedom of Information Act, which means if any tax payer requests those communications, the government is obligated to review the material for classified information, then release it to the taxpayer if it contains nothing specifically classified or sensitive.  This heir-apparent can still have her email server subjected to subpoena, but she can erase any of it, arrange for a computer crash, accidently degauss the disk, have the laptop stolen, or other unfortunate accident and then what?  Nothing.


We had a vocal ExI-chat participant who argued that without privacy, we have no freedom of speech.  I argued to the contrary at the time, but now it turns out he was right.  Americans have the right to speech free from threat of criminal prosecution, but it does not carry the guarantee of freedom from IRS audit.  So if we cannot write stuff on the internet without privacy, we risk prosecution by an organization without burden of proof.  It has been done.  There were no consequences for the perpetrators.


Many of us have long advocated open government.  There are those who argue that government is impossible without privacy, that completely overt government is a fantasy.  I am getting an uneasy feeling that power will now concentrate in the hands of those who figure out how to most-effectively communicate privately.



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