Re: Surveilance was: Transhuman fascists?

From: Zero Powers (
Date: Wed Mar 29 2000 - 11:07:06 MST

>From: Dan Fabulich <>

>'What is your name?' 'Zero Powers.' 'Do you deny having written the

Wrong, wrong!! I deny it, it wasn't me!! It was, um...
Oh! It was Mike Lorrey, yeah that's it!

> > Not really. In fact this sort of power-proportional transparency is
> > in effect in some ways. Right now we can know much more about President
> > Clinton than he could ever know about you. I know where and when he
> > abroad. I know why he has gone there and whom he talked to and what
> > talked about. If I wanted to I could, in a matter of minutes, find out
> > his agenda is for next week, where he'll be and what he'll be doing. In
> > fact its probably fair to say that Clinton is the *most* surveilled
> > on the planet, as it should be. And he has been kept alive by his
> > detail for a little more than 5 minutes.
>Yes, but there's a hell of a lot you DON'T know about Clinton, especially
>wrt his top military generals, the FBI, and the CIA. For comparison, I
>bet you don't know a damn thing about what the men at the head of these
>organizations are talking about on a day-to-day basis.
>This is certainly as it should be, as it's hard to imagine these
>organizations doing their jobs effectively without this sort of secrecy.

Believe it or not I'm not stupid enough to believe that power proportional
transparency is now in place to any significant extent. I was merely
replying to Mike Lorrey who suggested that a system which allowed the little
guy to know more about the leaders than the leaders knew about the little
guy would lead to the leaders being assasinated forthwith. I was just
pointing out that that is not necessarily the case.

> > >Once, and if, national sovereignty ends or wanes, there will still be
> > >other forms of corporate organizations (a government is actually
> > >but a corporation with a monopoly on setting the rules of the market
> > >use of overwhelming force) that will gain pre-eminence. Private
> > >corporate structures, which owe no allegiance to national governments,
> > >bills of human rights, or philosophical principles other than making
> > >money and the golden rule (he who has the gold makes the rules). If you
> > >are going to end government corporations, you must also end the
> > >formation of other corporate structures as well...
> >
> > Again, not really. Microsoft would be a likely candidate for your big
> > corporation scenario. But what can Microsoft do to abridge my human
> > It cannot legally amass an army. The worst it could do is obtain an
> > insurmountable monopoly in the marketplace such that my choice as a
> > would be restrained. And as we see in the news everyday, even that
> > is significanly curtailed by antitrust legislation.
>You seem to have missed the antecedent "if national sovreignity ends or
>wanes..." Nobody would claim that this is the case today. National
>sovreignity is alive and well, for better or worse.

Perhaps you came in late in the thread, but Mike Lorrey was replying to my
proposal that once a democratic "Global" government was in place there would
be no need for such things as "national" security. I never proposed that
*all* government disappear. I don't want to (nor expect that I ever will)
live in a global anarchy. I presume that there will *always* be rules and a
means by which to ensure that they are complied with. A global government
would be no less a government than a national government. And as long as
there is government, and as long as antitrust rules are deemed beneficial to
society, there will be antitrust rules and the means by which to enforce

> > >Gun control like you advocate has always led to total confiscation,
> > >sooner or later, in every country, state, and city in which it has been
> > >allowed to become law.
> >
> > Examples, please. Even if that is the case, that is not what *I*
> > (at least not yet).
>This is a problem of entailment of consequences. You find it in policy
>debate more than anywhere else, IMO.
>Alice: We should not abide by your proposal that X, because Y will follow
>from it. (where Y is something nasty)
>Bob: But I'm not proposing that Y. I'm proposing that X.
>Clearly, Bob's making a kind of mistake here. Assuming that X does
>*indeed* lead to Y, you CAN'T just propose X without proposing that X & Y.

Well here's how it would really go:
Michael: We should not abide by your proposal for reasonable gun control,
because universal disarmament will follow from it.
Zero: But I'm not proposing universal disarmament. I'm proposing
reasonable gun control. Because (a) I don't believe that one necessarily
follows the other and (b) although universal disarmament may be a bad thing
now, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be bad in the future.

> > Once again, not really. It doesn't take much computing power at all to
> > browse an efficiently designed and frequently updated database. Each
> > citizen would not have to bear the onerous burden of creating and
> > maintaining their own database. The database would be publicly
> > (of course under the glare of a great deal of transparency). When I
> > the info, I'd just cruise on over to the database, log in and have a
> > around. Not much different than what happens now when you go to
> > I would not have much advantage using a 1ghz Pentium III over somebody
> > using a 66mhz 486 in browsing such a database.
>I think your picture of this surveilance is naive in an important way.
>Suppose that all of the people who have the potential to do me some wrong
>are fully under surveilance, accessible to me. (The converse need not be
>true for this example to work.) In front of me now is a large sampling
>of, presumedly, video and audio data.
>Now, assumedly, not EVERYONE is doing wrongs or planning to do so right
>now. Indeed, by and large, MOST of these people aren't doing anything
>nasty at all. Yet it would be *really* naive to think that NONE of them
>are. So I need to find them. I don't know where they live, I don't know
>their names, I don't even have a very clear picture as to what wrongdoing
>would look like, (murder? theft? conspiracy? money laundering? these all
>look very different from the eye of a camera,) but, be that as it may, if
>this surveilance equipment is to do me any good, I need to find out who's
>doing wrong or planning to do so, ideally as it happens. (If you don't
>like my use of the word "wrong" throughout, you may replace it with "harm
>to me" without much loss of meaning.)
>Now, you might not think of this problem as a computational project
>straightaway, unless you take into account the general heuristic that
>anything a human can identify, a sufficiently complicated computer program
>can also identify. Just as computers can be taught to read books and
>analyze pieces of music, computers can also be taught to identify
>wrongdoing in as nuanced a manner as a human can. We are a long way off
>from this point, obviously, but the principle seems sound.
>Alternately, if that strong principle didn't appeal to you, then allow me
>to assume that your brain, for my purposes, is a computer. If you don't
>like me using that word wrt your brain, then let the claim be
>metaphorical. Clearly, YOUR BRAIN could identify all the wrongdoing being
>done out there right now, simply by looking at the raw footage coming off
>the cameras and through the microphones, if it was very fast.
>Alternately, a whole vast army of brain-computers could do the same job.
>The various data go in, you think about it, and the results (the
>identification of wrongdoing as it happens) come out. Even if your brain
>isn't (just?) a computer, it's sufficiently computer-like that this
>analogy seems to be capturing some relevant similarity.
>If you bought either of my two lines of argument, you'll see that turning
>the raw data into a report of where wrongdoing is taking place is a
>massive computational project. It would either require a massively
>powerful computer or a whole lot of thinkers with time on their hands to
>do it. As you can probably see, a 486 will be nowhere near the task, nor
>even would a 1 TERAHERTZ (one thousand gigahertz) processor be up to the
>task of analyzing all of this footage. Not to mention the fact that it's
>rather dull work most of the time.
>Here, if I know your type, you'll interject "Ah ha! I just happen to have
>exactly that, a vast army of people, all keeping their eyes on the
>cameras! It's us, the entire human race, *watching ourselves*." But
>notice: How many hours per day, on average, do you suppose people will be
>watching those cameras? 3 hours a day? 4? 5? Let's make it 6 just to
>be generous. This is almost as much as the average person watches TV,
>only these cameras are much MUCH less exciting. On account of this, at
>maximum, a quarter of the data is getting analyzed for wrongdoing daily.
>To compound this problem, there's no reason to think that all of these
>people will be keeping their eyes on different cameras, so much of this
>data (especially the celebrities) will be analyzed twice. So at MOST a
>quarter of the data will be analyzed, but if it turns out to be even half
>that, I'd be surprised.
>Not looking quite as much like total surveilance anymore, is it? Of
>course, I could fix this, at least wrt myself, by buying "computing"
>power/time, either by building and using the right sort of computer or by
>hiring others to look at the cameras that I pay them to look at and to
>report wrongdoings to me. So right away we see significant differences in
>YOUR capacity to identify wrongdoing relative to MY capacity to identify
>wrongdoing. I'm getting much, much more use out of the system than you
>are, because I'm more powerful.
>There's a reductio at the end of this tunnel.
>Now suppose that surveilance is ubiquitous, but a select group of people
>know where all of the 'wrongdoing' directed towards them is, thanks to the
>fact that they have more powerful computers. Suppose as well that
>everyone knows this. Suppose as well that this select group of people is
>very powerful.
>You're a little guy compared to them. They come to you and make some
>outrageous demands, adding that it is pointless to try to resist them,
>either alone or in a group, because they'll know if you do, and, they
>being very powerful, will squash you like a bug if you try. You know that
>they are right, because you have surveilance equipment pointed at them.
>How has total surveilance helped you in this case?
>You might be inclined to argue that while ubiquitous surveilance might
>help keep a despot in power, it will also help prevent a despot from
>rising to power in the first place. But this isn't the case either,
>thanks to the fact that differences in computing power will ALWAYS make
>ubiquitous surveilance equipment more useful to someone with more
>computing power than it is to someone with less. So ubiquitous
>surveilance equipment benefits the powerful more than it benefits the
>weak. It might help somewhat in the mythical state of nature, in which
>all people are supposed to be equally powerful relative to everybody else.
>In this state, we imagine, only a tyranny of the majority could form. But
>even this mythical state wouldn't last, since to whatever extent someone
>became more powerful than someone else, this power relative to others
>would be magnified by the ubiquitous surveilance equipment.
>So ubiquitous surveilance promotes despotism; since despotism is nasty, to
>the extent that we can prevent ubiquitous surveilance, we should.

Again, you must have come into the thread late. You seem to completely
misunderstand (a) what I am proposing and (b) why I think it would be a good
idea. I am not necessarily proposing omniscience for the masses. I
advocate "transparency." There is a difference. In particular I advocate
power proportional transparency which means that the more power you have to
effect the lives of others the more exposed you must be. Such that if you
are the designated leader of the free world, you will live under a virtual
microscope with nearly everything about you being recorded and available for
perusal by those whose lives you have the power to effect.

I also propose that the transparency be mutual and two-way, such that
anytime I access any information about you, you can automatically be
notified of (a) what information I got about you, (b) when I got it, (c) how
I got it, (d) who I am, and (e) whatever information I got about you, you
could be given about me. For instance say I looked up Dan Fabulich's home
address and telephone number. You would be notified that I did that and you
would, if you wanted, be notified of my home address and telephone number.
You could also be notified of where, when and how I make use of your

None of this would necessitate you searching a huge database, or having a
very powerful computer. It would be the equivolent of receiving an e-mail
or an automated telephone call. Now if for whatever reason you were the
sort that got his jollies by compiling huge amounts of data on a large
portion of the population and conducting all sorts of analysis on it, then
perhaps you would need a fairly fast computer. However, given the fact that
the technology needed to fully implement my proposals is probably *decades*
down the road, by the time you needed to do that sort of research I'm fairly
certain you'll be able to afford all the computing power you need to do it.

Although keeping in mind that for everytime you *get* information about
someone else you also have to *give* that same information about yourself, I
don't know how anxious you would be to be doing research on 90% of the
population. That could very well make you a *very* popular guy :)


"I like dreams of the future better than the history of the past"
--Thomas Jefferson

Get Your Private, Free Email at

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:06:43 MDT