Brin's World

John K Clark (
Sat, 21 Dec 1996 20:51:07 -0800 (PST)


On Fri, 20 Dec 1996 Sean Hastings <> Wrote:

>I question the ability of the people of Anti-Brin to
>determine that you do NOT have a secret.

It wouldn't be hard for them to figure it out, remember I'm horribly infected
with the transparency meme so I'd have no choice but to tell them I don't
have any secrets. I think they'd believe me, in their society such an
admission would make me look very bad, a total fool, so there is no reason
I'd lie about it. If there was any doubt remaining, when they sit down to
play poker with me and I immediately tell them what all my cards are, I think
they would be convinced I was telling the truth and was a complete moron too.

>if the eventual effects of the secret are never felt by
>anyone, then the advantage to having the secret was nullified.


>If they are felt, then the secret can be inferred.

Easier said than done. Perhaps your opponent has beaten you because he has
secret information but perhaps he's smarter than you, or maybe he's just
lucky, it's very hard to tell. Let me give you the best example I can
think of.

Just before the start of World War 2, the English Mathematician Alan Turing,
certainly the most underrated genius of the 20'th century, broke the German
military secret code called "ULTRA". His decoding method was too slow to be
practical if done by hand, so he built the world's very first electronic
digital computer to do it. Turing called his 3 thousand vacuum tube monster
"Colossus" and had it finished before The Americans had even started to build
ENIAC. Incredibly, Turing's computer was so much faster than the mechanical
machine the Germans used to decode their own signals that Winston Churchill
was able to read messages from Adolph Hitler to his generals BEFORE the
German generals could.

The Allies always gave the Germans a plausible theory for how they new what
they knew. For example, if they knew from ULTRA exactly where a German
submarine wolf pack was, before they attacked it they made sure a
reconnaissance airplane got lucky and just happened to fly overhead and spot
it. The Germans never figured out that their code was broken, in fact only a
tiny select few knew anything about it or Turing's Colossus until the
information was finely released to the public in 1975. After this became
known, historians had to revise their opinion of most of the Ailed generals,
they weren't quite as smart as they had thought, because with one exception,
they knew every strategic move the Germans would make before they made it.
The one exception was at the very end of the war at the Battle of the Bulge
because the information about it was not sent over ULTRA.

Turing was never honored for his war work, it was far too secret for that,
the English Government decided to deal with him in a different way. Soon after
the war ended, when he was no longer needed, Turing was arrested for the
crime of homosexuality, a grave offense in those days. He was imprisoned and
forced to received massive injections of female hormones, quacks of that era
thought it cured homosexuality. Rather than continue with the torture, the
poor man killed himself, the world hardly noticed. It was a quarter of a
century after his death before it became widely known that he had done more
to defeat Adolph Hitler than any other human on planet Earth.

It's ironic that Turing's downfall was the same as Hitler's, the failure to
keep a secret. The difference is that Hitler tried very hard to preserve his
secrets, but Turing spent little time concealing his homosexuality. Turing
was careless and it killed him, but perhaps we shouldn't judge him too
harshly, he did after all have one or two other things on his mind at the

>Perhaps Brin's world has people accusing each other of
>holding secrets the way people were once accused of

I don't see how that could be avoided.

>I am more than a little concerned about the lack of
>accountability under Anti-Brin as well

My reputation is accountable, if I write a bunch of stupid boring posts
then you probably won't even bother to read anything more by "John Clark"
and it wouldn't matter where I lived or what my real name is. On the other
hand, If you liked a post by "John Clark" yesterday you can prove with PGP
that today's post is by the same "John Clark", so you may want to read it.

"Mark Twain" was just a pen name, but it had value because it had a good
reputation, people knew that "Mark Twain" had written good books in the past
and so they figured his next book would be good too. Nobody needed to know
anything about Samuel Langhorn Clemens, he had no reputation and wasn't
important, Mark Twain did and was.

>I just like to argue.

I can't very well fault you for that, nearly everyone on this list suffers
from that affliction, I know I do.

John K Clark

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