Re: Surveilance was: Transhuman fascists?

From: Zero Powers (
Date: Wed Mar 29 2000 - 17:44:40 MST

>From: Dan Fabulich <>
> > 2. It doesn't take much computational ability to "detect wrongdoing."
> > look at my screen - I see you slit a child's throat - I compute: "Hey
> > looks like wrongdoing." And I call the cops.
>*How do you know which screen to look at?* There are hundreds of
>thousands, if not millions of cameras you could be monitoring, any of
>which may have a picture of somebody slitting a child's throat. The only
>way to tell which one is to LOOK at all of them, requiring a gargantuan
>amount of processing power/time. That's where the computation comes in,
>and a hell of a lot of it.

*Which screen* you look at depends on *what* you're looking for. If I want
to find out what *you* did today, I command "play Fabulich video 03-29-2000,
6:00 to 18:00 PST" and your boring day plays out on my monitor for 9 hours,
or until I get bored and press "stop."

>Allow me to fill in a few blanks. I'm making some assumptions here which
>you may not be aware of. Your argument is a lot like an argument raised
>by David Brin. You've probably at least heard of him if you've looked
>around for information on "transparent socity."

I'm almost finished with his book now.

>His argument requires
>that at some point or other, hidden cameras get very cheap and very easy
>to move around. This, he argues, will usher in a transparent society, in
>which it's impossible avoid being monitored whenever somebody feels like
>it. He then provides some argument as to why this would be a good thing.
>Now, I'll assume for the sake of argument that Brin is right that hidden
>cameras will get extremely cheap and extremely easy to move around. (He
>isn't; it's much harder to transmit and receive information like that than
>he realizes.)

That remains to be seen. You have to keep in mind that this sort of
transparency will probably not be possible until there are significant
advances in computation, AI and/or nanotech. Once that happens all bets are
off as to what is hard and what isn't.

>So no one, not even a despot, could prevent you from
>observing his every move. One would *still* need to analyze the data, to
>figure out which screen to look at.

Again, which "screen" you look *at* depends on what you are looking *for*.
Think of the web as a huge database (which in effect it is). Right now
there are millions and millions of pages on the web. But you don't need to
do any big time "data analysis" to use the web. Why? You go to your
handy-dandy search engine, type in what you are looking for and viola! a
nice neat little list of choices pops up for you to choose from. I can't
believe this is such a hard concept to grasp.

>Now, you propose that there should be some servers, probably running a
>"strong AI" which do that analysis, which look at all the screens at once
>and detect wrongdoing. People will not be doing this for themselves, we'd
>imagine, but would have some server do it. Obviously, individuals would
>not own their own servers, (otherwise, they'd be doing it themselves,)
>so the government would have to provide some public servers to tell the
>public when and where they need to watch.
>Perhaps you already see where this is going. If the government owns those
>servers, then the government could just as easily switch them off, or,
>more likely, deny anyone who isn't a member of the elite access to them.
>The people can't prevent this, because they don't own the servers, and
>because they were depending on those servers to know where to look to be
>able to call the cops. Without access to the servers, they have all the
>information they need buried until terabytes of information they don't.
>And we're back in the position I'd argued we'd be in the first place: a
>significant divide in terms of the amount of processing power available,
>and therefore a vastly increased utility for those with power relative to
>those who don't.

Go back to the web analogy. The government doesn't control the search
engines now. There is no reason that the "government" would have to control
the transparency servers I talk about. Sure there could be government
servers, but those would not be the *only* ones. Given the importance of
the integrity of the data in such a society, redundancy would be the word of
the day. Probably the best solution would call for an oversight body
containing both government officials and civilians, like police review
boards. Reliable checks and balances systems are not all that difficult to
implement. After all here in the US we've been doing them for over 200
years now.

But, once again, regardless of who was in control of the servers, as long as
the system was sufficiently transparent it would not matter. All that is
needed is that the transparency of the process can be assured (and

>In summary. This system is very useless without a lot of data-crunching,
>because otherwise, you don't know where to look. The more data-crunching
>I can do, the more useful your system is to me. The more powerful
>I am, the more data-crunching I can do. So the more powerful I am, the
>more useful your system is to me. So this system helps the powerful more
>than it helps the weak.

Keep the Internet analogy in mind. *Tons* of data, almost no data
crunching. What you want is what you get, when you want it. Why would you
think our ability to sort, organize, store and retrieve data will get
*worse* in the future than it is now?


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

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