Re: Surveilance was: Transhuman fascists?

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Tue Apr 04 2000 - 02:42:43 MDT

On Mon, Apr 03, 2000 at 05:25:31PM -0400, Michael S. Lorrey wrote:
> >
> > Ahem. Taxation in the UK is roughly on a par with the USA -- it's the
> > lowest tax zone in Europe, and one of the lowest tax regimes in the
> > developed world. Welfare bureaucracy is minimal, too. This is the country
> > where an allegedly left-wing government is privatising the air traffic
> > control system and the post office, and has privatised most of the
> > infrastructure items that are handled by local government in the USA.
> I was referring to the US on those, but is health care privatized yet? What is the
> ratio of police to civilians?

Healthcare: if you want private treatment, you can pay for it. There aren't
any restrictions on private healthcare. (What there _is_ is a big supplier,
funded via the tax system, that has 98% of the market.)

Police: not sure, but I think it's under 0.1% of the population. Certainly
we hear more complaints about there not being enough police than about there
being too many.

> I've heard that the violent crime rates are up some 28% or so over there...

In 12 months, yes. Note that there's a statistically significant correlation
between violent crime and economic performance in the UK. The economy isn't
booming by US standards, but it's doing better than at any time in the past
thirty years. (Postulated cause: economy doing well == more young men with
money to spend on alcohol. Second postulated cause: those people who _aren't_
doing well see more affluence around them and are more inclined to go in for
crime as a way of augmenting their standard of living.)

What _is_ noticeable is a displacement of crime from surveillance areas to
those places that aren't covered.

>So you are
> saying that rural villages are as tightly packed as the larger towns and cities?

Nah, just that they're so insignificant (as a proportion of population) that
the government and big businesses ignore them -- c.f. the current anti-hunting
bill (wildly unpopular in the country, popular with the urban animal-rights
people, so guess who gets to win) and Barclays bank (one of the largest
acquirers in the UK) shutting all their rural branches because they'd rather
put the resources into internet/telephone banking.

> > 1. Make BBZ's illegal, of course.
> "What's this? Oh, its a camping microwave, oh, not that, no, thats a fleadle-o-meter.
> What does it do? Well, it would be a little hard for a layman like yourself to
> understand, being a highly technical piece of equipment, but its VERY SENSITIVE
> equiment, expensive too. You wouldn't want to damage it at all, inspector. I'm here to
> demonstrate it to various parties in the defence industry. Who? Well I'm not at
> liberty to say...."
Try that on your average copper over here and you will rapidly learn how to
say "I just have a habit of falling down stairs in police stations" to the
local magistrate. _If_ you don't want to make things worse for yourself.

(Again, note: I'm not in favour of this shit, I'm just describing the way
things work in the real world. The public image of the polite and unarmed
British bobby is just that, these days -- public image spin.)

> > 3. Fibre optics.
> Which need to be resolved into digital form somewhere, or else processed in optical
> circuits. Using a laser system would work wonders to fry such optical circuits.
Sure. I was thinking of cameras a few metres from the optical head,
and some sort of attenuator or fuse to stop that sort of attack. Which,
incidentally, is going to get you nailed _fast_. One of the obvious
things for the law'n'order brigate to do with cameras is to vigorously
prosecute people caught vandalizing them. Another obvious thing is to
arrest anyone seen approaching a camera that goes blank. And one thing
they _already_ do is put up cameras with overlapping fields of view, so
that if you take out one, you'll be on tape via the other.

> > 4. Neural network detection of suspicious behaviour -- lurking with intent
> > to zap a camera _will_ get you highlighted and questioned by the
> > police. (This latter is currently in active development by, for
> > example, London Underground, who want to be able to spot trouble on tube
> > train platforms -- like disturbances, bombs, pick-pockets, or potential
> > suicide risks.)
> So I have a HUD on the inside of my sunglasses, and the BBZ fry-o-lator is disguised
> as my breifcase. I use cortical scanning to identify targets, the AI of my fryolator
> focuses the beam on the cameras as I spot new targets, and I simply walk on by....
Here you're pitting future-tech against present-day tech. I sympathise, but
it won't work. By the time you get your HUD and cortical scanning widget
and AI, the control freaks will have something better.

Remember, they outnumber you, and they've got more money.

-- Charlie

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