Re: Surveilance was: Transhuman fascists?

From: Zero Powers (
Date: Thu Mar 30 2000 - 12:07:16 MST

>From: "phil osborn" <>

>>From: "Zero Powers" <>

>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.
>Conrad's position of note, however, when I met him, was on the current
>topic. He pointed out around '79 that the only survivable high-tech
>civilization would be one with universal surveillance. Consider that the
>price for total species annihilation has been and will continue to decline
>exponentially for the forseeable future. No centralized Big Brother can
>handle this problem in the long term, as - to put it very briefly - "who
>guards the guards."
>Only a competitive system, probably run by the insurance companies looking
>for risk violations, could possibly have a reasonable chance for longterm -
>i.e., staying ahead of the risk curve for the life of the universe -
>in preventing species destruction. That, as I understood it, was Conrad's
>position in a nutshell.

*Precisely* my point. I didn't come to my conclusions regarding
transparency because I'm a nosy busy body. I came to them because I want to
see a world where humanity, in its entirety, is permitted to take advantage
of the huge freedoms and powers that will be bestowed on us by such things
as AI and nanotech. However the obvious fact is that if I had a
nano-assembly device, I could make just about anything. Therefore I would
be a *HUGE* threat to your existence.

So I started can we distribute such technology to the masses
and at the same time assure ourselves that some crank won't sterilize the
planet? I read Drexler's thoughts about active shields and restricting
access to the really dangerous information and such. But I came to the
conclusion the active shield system would have to be almost perfectly
fool-proof every step of the way. From design to contruction to
distribution to implementation. Moreover it would have to be quite
verifiable in order for anyone with any sense to put any trust in it.
Verifiablility = transparency. But how can you keep this really dangerous
information restricted and transparent at the same time?

Which brought me to the idea of trying to keep information restricted. Can
it be done? Sure, information can be restricted to certain people. Can it
be *flawlessly* done? No. There is hardly a secret that has not been told
to someone who wasn't intended to have it. And on the net, once *anybody*
has the secret, *everybody* has it. Basically, it comes down to entrusting
some human to safeguard the secret and your safety. Who on Earth is that

Which led me to believe that maybe Bill Joy is right. Maybe we shouldn't
persue such powerful tech. Because for me its an all or nothing
proposition. Either everybody gets to use it, or no one does. If you're
scared of Big Brother now, just wait till he gets nanosized cameras and
nanosized assasination bots.

But, the obvious response to Bill Joy's "Hey lets stop all progress in these
areas" is that relinquishment will not happen. If progress doesn't proceed
in the open, it will certainly proceed in secret, and then we're *really* in
trouble. No, the progress will proceed and it *must* proceed in the open.
So what to do?

The only answer I can come up with that makes sense is quid pro quo. To get
a little, you have to give a little. You want superhuman powers? Then you
have to subject your self to superhuman surveillance so we can keep an eye
on you to make sure you don't destroy the solar system.

Now, if you are Lorreyesque in your surveillance-phobia, fine. No
surveillance for you. But that also means you get no nano-assembly devices
or use of strong AI. You want to keep *everything* about yourself a secret?
  Fine. Here's what you do: You get yourself a cabin in the Montana
wilderness and fill it with lots of interesting books and *stay* there.
Because the minute you come out and interact with anyone (computer or
person) in anyway, it will be recorded.

So I said to myself: "Self, if that were the case, if you had to choose
between lonely, boring hermithood (albeit with all the privacy I could
stand) and being able to take full advantage of the benefits of
transhumanity (albeit under a microscope), which would you choose?"

As I see it, in the long run as our tech gets scarier and scarier, those are
the only two choices. If there are other choices, if there are practical
compromises between these two extremes, I'm open for them. But, as of now,
I simply don't see them.


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

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