Re: Surveilance was: Transhuman fascists?

From: Dan Fabulich (
Date: Thu Mar 30 2000 - 00:58:02 MST

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

> >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.

You fixated on that one tiny point and ignored the scope of the argument.
Here's my argument again, with "the murder" replaced with "something
relevant to you and your concerns." Try to read with charity in mind.

> >You're DEEPLY missing the point here.  Sure, if you know when and where to
> >look, you can see what was going on there.  But how did you know that you
> >needed to look at *my* video to find something relevant to you and
> >your concerns? 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 something relevant
> >to you and your concerns.

> >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 > good.

Do you even remember why I was arguing for this point? I was arguing that it would require a lot of computing power to show that those who had the computing power to use would find the system useful, whereas those who did not have the computing power would not. You're right, the fact that something's hard doesn't mean that one shouldn't do it. But the fact that it's hard/expensive means that it's easier for the powerful to do it than it is for the weak to do it.

> 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.

You can't search Napster for song lyrics, can you? No, you can only search for what people have ALREADY TYPED IN. The difference is significant.

If it was in the gov't's interests to do so, it could outlaw computers which search the cameras, and use its own searching computers to search for people who break the law and arrest/shoot them on the spot. So the fact that it requires a lot of computing power and the fact that the gov't could easily take that power away from you shows that the powerful have more use of it than the weak.

> >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.

China finds it economically useful to have everyone using the Internet. China would not find it economically useful to provide servers so people could find out which Chinese officials were doing something relevant (though, if we assume Brin is right, they could not prevent the cameras from being used on them in the first place). Instead, the Chinese gov't would hoard such processing power for themselves, and outlaw it for the people. They'd use that power to ensure that the law was enforced. No revolution would be possible under these circumstances. The fact that everyone could see it happening would not matter at all.

> >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 > >them. > > 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*.

They *COULD* if they had access to the servers and total surveilance was in place. That's the whole *point*, you use the cameras and the servers to find out when and where something relevant to you is happening, like, for example, somebody scanning cameras to find relevant information.

> 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.

The only argument you've provided that suggests why secrecy is useful for totalitarians is because they have a "secret" police force. I asked you why "secret" police, as such, were useful. You did not respond. I ask again: why SECRET police? Why not openly well-armed thugs?

My answer is because the despotism works better under the MORAL theory of totalitarianism, which argues that people SHOULD be subservient to a supreme authority. Various arguments can be raised to endorse this argument, but the existence and necessity of secret police provides a plausible counterargument to totalitarianism. Keeping them secret keeps that argument under wraps.

But why's it so important to keep that argument under wraps? It USED to be fear of revolt, but in a transparent society where the gov't controls the servers (and they can!) there's no fear of that. Totalitarian socities would need only up-until-recently-called-"secret" police who could lord openly over their domain. After all, how would a revolt even be possible when the state is practically omniscient?

> >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.

They CAN be linked, but they require a thinker to do so, so in that case you need a big server to do the linking.

-unless you love someone- -nothing else makes any sense- e.e. cummings

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