Re: Surveilance was: Transhuman fascists?

From: Zero Powers (
Date: Wed Mar 29 2000 - 21:47:26 MST

>From: Dan Fabulich <>

> > >*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
> > >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
> > >and a hell of a lot of it.
> >
> > *Which screen* you look at depends on *what* you're looking for. If I
> > to find out what *you* did today, I command "play Fabulich video
> > 6:00 to 18:00 PST" and your boring day plays out on my monitor for 9
> > or until I get bored and press "stop."
>You're DEEPLY missing the point here. Sure, if you know when and where to
>look, you can see what was going on there. How did you know that you
>needed to look at *my* video to find the murder?

I'm not looking to solve any random murders. Where in the world did that
come from? Let me try to explain it again. I would be able to use the
system to obtain (1) specific data that is relevant to me and my concerns or
(2) random bits of the data stream that would have no relevance to me
whatsever, other than some prurient thrill I might derive from watching
random strangers going about the boring days.

This whole "crime solving" bit came up when you said it would take extreme
amounts of computing power to determine when a crime had been committed. My
reply was: no, if I'm watching you and I happen to see you slit a child's
throat, it would not take a forensic expert nor a supercomputer to figure
out that a crime has probably been committed. But *my* purpose in using the
system would not be to solve every random crime that was ever committed. To
the extent that I would be interested in using it for crime-solving purposes
it would be primarily to solve crimes that are of *relevance* to me. For
instance, if my wife disappeared, I would be able to search her records and
document that she had been abducted, when, where and by whom.

It seems that you are bootstrapping your way into your argument by first
hypothesizing that the system would need to be used for things way beyond
what I am suggesting and then knocking down that strawman by saying that
only the government would have the computing power to do that. I
*personally* don't need or want to track every single human on the planet,
or to solve every crime in the world. And that is *not* what I have ever
suggested in this thread.

>How did you know when to
>look? How does the computer know where I was? All of this requires a
>thinker/computer to stare at the screen and do some processing. Without
>it, you can't even make the above simple request for "Fabulich." On the
>other hand, you COULD request "Yale University, undergraduate room 472B,
>03-29-2000, 6 to 18 EST", but it's not at all obvious how you figured out
>to look THERE knowing only that you wanted to find a murder.

I'm *not* looking to find a murder. Again, in order for you to have any
relevance to me I would have to know you to some degree. In that case I
would know (or be able to find out) your URL, whatever it might be (ID#,
SSN, whatever). Once I know your URL, finding data on you should be as easy
as finding

> > Again, which "screen" you look *at* depends on what you are looking
> > 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
> > 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
> > believe this is such a hard concept to grasp.
>A very large amount of preprocessing has gone into the Internet:
>everything you can search for there has been painstakingly typed in by a
>human in a form that is easily searchable. It's already stored as
>information which the computer knows to be text.
>You may not be aware of this, but it's very difficult to get a computer to
>correctly recognize that a picture of a given page of text is text at all,
>say nothing of figuring out which text.

<lots of programming stuff snipped>

>This IS a VERY hard problem. It's a problem which we cannot solve today.
>"OK," you might say. "The AI of tomorrow will solve it. It'll be very
>powerful. It'll use all the latest buzzwords." Fine. But that's a lot
>of processing power you're talking about. Whoever controls all that
>processing power gets to keep the results.

Listen, I never said it would be easy or simple. All I ever said is that it
would be good, and as far as I can tell at some point it will be possible.
Just because something is difficult doesn't mean that it should not be done.
  It was difficult founding the US government, and going to the moon. They
both involved a great deal of soul searching, debate, planning and detailed
preparation. But they were possible, there were accomplished and they were

You also keep going back to whoever "controls" the processing power. And I
keep trying to steer you back to the web/database searching analogy. Since
it would deal with video and voice it might be harder than searching for
text. But there *already* are video and photo search engines, crude though
they may be. I don't imagine that it will be prohibitively difficult to
engineer. A database is a database, no matter what it contains. Text, tags
or other identifiers could be appended to any type of data or file. Have
you ever searched for a song using Napster? Same thing.

> > 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
> > the transparency servers I talk about. Sure there could be government
> > servers, but those would not be the *only* ones. Given the importance
> > 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
> > implement. After all here in the US we've been doing them for over 200
> > years now.
>Could happen. Nobody (except maybe Lorrey) will argue that if the system
>you describe is implemented, it's guaranteed to result in a totalitarian
>state. But every technology which benefits the powerful more than it
>benefits the weak makes this MORE likely. Again, my argument is that
>since this system makes despotism easier, more likely, etc. we should, to
>whatever extent possible, avoid it.

I don't think transparency will benefit the state more than the people. In
fact the system could almost certainly be designed to prevent that. Think
of China and the Internet. Sure the Chinese government has bigger and
stronger computers than anybody else in China. Does that mean that the
government will benefit more from the huge database that is the Internet
than the populace will? My bet is that the Internet will help to bring down
totalitarianism in China like it did in Russia. I see no reason why this
same dynamic should not apply (and even more so) to a distributed, robust
and redundant power proportional mutual transparency network.

>The gov't doesn't control the web servers today, but it has no reason to
>do so. It WOULD have a reason to try to seize control of servers of the
>kind you're describing. And it would know if you ever tried to resist

You don't think the Chinese government would like to control the web
servers? Problem is the network is distributed, robust, and redundant, so
they *can't*.

>Checks and balances can work, but if the price was right, a despot would
>throw them out the window.

That's why we need to do away with *despotism*, not transparency.

> > 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
> > needed is that the transparency of the process can be assured (and
> > verified).
>Look, allow me to provide a theoretical account from first principles. In
>order to stop wrongdoing, you need all of the following:
>1) You need to have the information that wrongdoing is going on. 2) You
>need to recognize that wrongdoing is going on, and determine relevant
>information about it (where it's happening, who's doing it, what you'd
>need to do to stop it, given the power to do so, etc.). 3) You must have
>the physical force to stop the wrongdoing, or you must be believed to
>have the force to stop the wrongdoing.
>In the Very Extreme Case, consider the situation where I've got guns and
>shields and 1 and 2, whereas you only have 1. You MUST agree that in
>*this* case, despite the fact that the scenario is perfectly transparent
>("look ma! it's transparent BOTH WAYS") there isn't jack shit you can do
>about it.
>Now, you know that YOU'RE opposed to despotism, but do you know that
>others are also opposed? Probably not. Why? Because the gov't in this
>scenario has 1 and 2; it knows when you're trying to find subversives; it
>knows what that looks like and can identify them instantly. You know that
>it knows this. You don't know whether your neighbor is willing to revolt
>or whether he's too scared to do so. You also know that the last time
>somebody asked somebody else whether they were willing to revolt, the
>government had them shot. Nobody found out until it was too late, because
>they had 1, but not 2, which would have allowed them to find out in time.
>The point here is that having 2 when everyone else doesn't is a huge
>advantage. Having 2 and 3 when everyone else doesn't gives you the power
>to be a despot.

Look, the fact of the matter is that despotism never has, and never will
exist in the US. When/if there is a global government, chances are it will
be modeled on the US (or the UN) and despotism will be nearly impossible to
impose and certainly impossible to maintain. I've said it over and over,
but apparently it needs saying some more: despotism and totalitarianism
thrive on secrecy. Ubiquitous two-way power proportional transparency does
*away* with secrecy and, at the same time, with despotism.

> > 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?
>It won't. Video data is much harder to process than text. That's what
>will make it harder.

Harder is not impossible. Besides, you keep overlooking the fact that text
based tags and identifiers that can be appended and/or linked to *any* type
of file.


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

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