Re: Surveilance was: Transhuman fascists?

From: Dan Fabulich (
Date: Thu Mar 30 2000 - 13:22:54 MST

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

> >Look, my whole argument is that you can't guarantee yourself access to the
> >server, even if you can assure yourself access to the cameras. Remember,
> >these servers are government owned and government run. The government can
> >take away the servers, and THEN where would you be?
> Now you are assuming that the servers would be government owned and run. I
> never suggested this. I don't even know that the sytem would need to depend
> on any central "servers." Even if some sort of central server were
> required, it would seem to make much more sense to me if the servers were
> distributed, robust and redundant without any one hierarchical controlling
> body. Think Usenet.

I am. Part of the trouble here is that Usenet distributes information,
without much processing after people type it in. This is comparatively
easy and cheap. In addition, Usenet is a system where the more people who
are using it, the more useful it becomes.

The servers you're describing are quite the reverse. Relevance servers
run best when it's only serving up the information relevant to me,
(because it's searching the same data only once, for only one list of
"relevant" things) works about half as well when it's serving up
information relevant to both of us, etc. With Usenet, I get some benefit
from sharing it with you. With the Relevance servers, I get much more
benefit from keeping it away from you.

> And even if it was necessary to have some sort of central oversight
> committee (which I doubt) there is no reason why it would have to consist
> solely of government employees.

You're right. Some private citizens could own a few Relevance servers as
well. But since they'd be a scarce resource and more useful the fewer get
to use it, you can bet that they'd be expensive. So, once again, only the
powerful (this time the rich) get access to the Relevance servers. But
that still means that the gov't could shut them down if they wanted to;
or, barring that, simply that the poor get monitored with no access to
Relevance whereas the rich and gov't officials get monitored with lots of
access to Relevance.

> And, further, assuming that (1) it is necessary to have a centralized
> server

I don't need it to be singular; I just need there to be a small number of
centers, which is likely, because, unlike the Internet, this resource is
less useful as it is shared.

> system and (2) it is necessary to have a single hierarchical controlling
> body

That needn't be the case. So long as there are only a few centers, the
gov't could seize control of them if it wanted to.

> again as long as the body and its personnel and its decisions and its
> actions were sufficiently transparent, it would not matter.

You keep insisting on that. But even if you doubt my claim that a
despotism could arise, you must admit that if it DID arise, transparency
wouldn't matter.

> Have you ever *heard* of the US? Have you ever been there? I don't know
> what you have read about democracy, but you obviously have never seen ours
> in action.

Yes, I have.

> >The most vivid example we have of a
> >despot rising to power where there was once a democracy was Hitler. If
> >you wanted to be a despot in America, you'd do it the way he did it.
> Well much as that might make for an interesting thought experiment, I'm not
> going to pursue it further. I don't see any despot rising to power in the
> US or in *any* similarly constitutional democracy. Keep singing that same
> song if you want, fact of the matter is it ain't gonna happen.

Look at it this way. If you're right about our country, then it's not a
fact about transparency that makes you right. It's a fact about the way
the citizens of the United States are. In a different place, or at some
other time, you'd be wrong about what the people were like, and under
those circumstances, a despotism *could* happen. So I could even concede
to you that, right now, a despotism in America is unthinkable, even with
ubiquitous surveilance.

However, American culture need not always be like that. It could one day
be more like China, or Soviet Russia, or France, or India, or Germany or
Tibet, or who knows what. So insisting that despotism will NEVER happen
in this country seems much too strong a principle for anyone to support.
(I actually DO think that America is prone to despotism today, but I think
that's too strong a cultural claim to support here; besides, I don't need
that argument to justify my point, so it's not relevant.)

Finally, I've argued time and time again that the powerful get more use
out of this system than the weak. I'll now weaken my claim to the
following: in the sort of state where despotism is possible, a system
which empowers the powerful and weakens the weak makes despotism easier
and more likely.

But if you bought my line of argument above, despotism is *possible*
everywhere, though it may be fifty or even 100 years down the road. So
the fact that this system would make despotism easier when (not if) the
time is ripe for it implies to me that this system should, to whatever
extent possible, be avoided.

> >Not if the despot manages to get a mandate from the people first. Hitler,
> >you'll recall, had the popular vote. How would a transparent society have
> >prevented Hitler from rising to power?
> A constitutional democracy like that in the US (transparent or not) would
> have prevented Hitler from rising to power. Because it is simply
> unconstitutional to become a despot in the US. The only way to do it is to
> (1) *drastically* amend, or throw out the constitution or (2) militarily
> take over. One *last* time, that is *NOT* going to happen.

Even if I agreed with you here: do you think the Constitution will last
forever? What happens when the US federal gov't as such is replaced?
What will become of this country?

Take the long view on this one.


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

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