Surveilance was: Transhuman fascists?

From: Dan Fabulich (
Date: Wed Mar 29 2000 - 14:54:08 MST

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

> 2. It doesn't take much computational ability to "detect wrongdoing." I
> look at my screen - I see you slit a child's throat - I compute: "Hey that
> 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.

> 3. You are assuming that computational power will make a big difference. I
> don't see why it should. The database will be searched by the server. My
> machine (the client) will merely display the results. If the goal is
> two-way power proportional transparency the rule should be that the "despot"
> would have to search the same servers as the lumpen masses.

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." 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.) 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.

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.

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.


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

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