Re: Surveilance was: Transhuman fascists?

From: Zero Powers (
Date: Thu Mar 30 2000 - 13:41:19 MST

>From: Dan Fabulich <>

> > I'm not looking to solve any random murders. Where in the world did
> > that come from? Let me try to explain it again. I would be able to
> > use the system to obtain (1) specific data that is relevant to me and
> > my concerns or (2) random bits of the data stream that would have no
> > relevance to me whatsever, other than some prurient thrill I might
> > derive from watching random strangers going about the boring days.
>You fixated on that one tiny point and ignored the scope of the argument.
>Here's my argument again, with "the murder" replaced with "something
>relevant to you and your concerns." Try to read with charity in mind.

Let me try to explain it *again*. I would be able to use the system to
obtain (1) ****SPECIFIC**** data that is relevant to me and
my concerns or (2) random bits of the data stream that would have no
relevance to me.

This means I would have to *specify* what it was I was looking for. Just as
you do when you go to You can't go to and say
"Display whatever it is that is relevant to me." I don't expect that you
will be able to do that with *any* system (at least not for a long time).

>Do you even remember why I was arguing for this point? I was arguing that
>it would require a lot of computing power to show that those who had the
>computing power to use would find the system useful, whereas those who did
>not have the computing power would not. You're right, the fact that
>something's hard doesn't mean that one shouldn't do it. But the fact that
>it's hard/expensive means that it's easier for the powerful to do it than
>it is for the weak to do it.

As I've said before, the powerful may be needed to create it. That does not
mean they will be the only beneficiaries. You know, the internet, freeway
analogy, etc., etc.

> > You also keep going back to whoever "controls" the processing power.
> > And I keep trying to steer you back to the web/database searching
> > analogy. Since it would deal with video and voice it might be harder
> > than searching for text. But there *already* are video and photo
> > search engines, crude though they may be. I don't imagine that it
> > will be prohibitively difficult to engineer. A database is a
> > database, no matter what it contains. Text, tags or other identifiers
> > could be appended to any type of data or file. Have you ever searched
> > for a song using Napster? Same thing.
>You can't search Napster for song lyrics, can you? No, you can only
>search for what people have ALREADY TYPED IN. The difference is

Napster does not *contain* lyrics. It is designed to allow for the
searching of mp3 files, and only mp3 files.

>If it was in the gov't's interests to do so, it could outlaw computers
>which search the cameras, and use its own searching computers to search
>for people who break the law and arrest/shoot them on the spot. So the
>fact that it requires a lot of computing power and the fact that the
>gov't could easily take that power away from you shows that the powerful
>have more use of it than the weak.

Sure. And the government *could* outlaw all computers and all telephones
and fax machines and mail delivery and then it would be free to use those
things exclusively. So in this sense the powerful also have more "use" of
all communications technology. So what do you suggest, going back to pen
and paper and couriers?

> > Think of China and the Internet. Sure the Chinese
> > government has bigger and stronger computers than anybody else in
> > China. Does that mean that the government will benefit more from the
> > huge database that is the Internet than the populace will? My bet is
> > that the Internet will help to bring down totalitarianism in China
> > like it did in Russia. I see no reason why this same dynamic should
> > not apply (and even more so) to a distributed, robust and redundant
> > power proportional mutual transparency network.
>China finds it economically useful to have everyone using the Internet.
>China would not find it economically useful to provide servers so people
>could find out which Chinese officials were doing something relevant
>(though, if we assume Brin is right, they could not prevent the cameras
>from being used on them in the first place). Instead, the Chinese gov't
>would hoard such processing power for themselves, and outlaw it for the
>people. They'd use that power to ensure that the law was enforced. No
>revolution would be possible under these circumstances. The fact that
>everyone could see it happening would not matter at all.

You are making a couple of wrong assumptions here. First, you are assuming
that the people of China would have to rely on the Chinese government to
provide transparency "servers." I have previously suggested that, to the
extent any centralized servers are needed at all, that they be run like
Usenet. Distributed, robust and redundant.

You are also assuming *again* that it would take a prohibitive amount of
personal processing power just to make use of the system. The system could
be designed to require almost *no* personal processing power. How much
processing power does it take to receive email or a telephone call? Have
you heard of MicroStrategy? They *already* offer this type of service. So
you *cannot* tell me that it cannot be done. If you really are a programmer
I am *amazed* that you cannot see the feasibility here.

> > You don't think the Chinese government would like to control the web
> > servers? Problem is the network is distributed, robust, and redundant,
> > they *can't*.
>They *COULD* if they had access to the servers and total surveilance was
>in place. That's the whole *point*, you use the cameras and the servers
>to find out when and where something relevant to you is happening, like,
>for example, somebody scanning cameras to find relevant information.

Sure. If they had access to *every* server on the internet, they could shut
it down. And if wishes were fishes, beggars would eat. The point is that
the internet (as you know) was designed to be impervious to attack. It is
distributed, and redundant. It is therefore robust. As a result, the
Chinese cannot shut down the net. So they are trying the next best thing,
censoring it. They will soon find that they can't do that either.

>The only argument you've provided that suggests why secrecy is useful for
>totalitarians is because they have a "secret" police force. I asked you
>why "secret" police, as such, were useful. You did not respond. I ask
>again: why SECRET police? Why not openly well-armed thugs?

Simple: if all the thugs wore a billboard that read: "I am a government
thug" the opposition would know, "OK lets not tell *him* about our plans to
topple the government." The reason secrecy is necessary for a despot is to
keep the people in ignorance and fear so that they cannot organize against
him. It is simple mathematics: By definition a despot and his cronies are
outnumbered by the oppressed masses. If the majority of the people
supported the despot, he would not be a despot, he would be a cult leader.
So if 70% of the people in the US decided that they wanted you to be their
king, the remaining 30% of us would either have to like it or lump it (or
move to Canada).

Brin goes over this pretty well in his book where he describes the secrecy
methods used by Saddam to stay in power. This is not virgin territory we're
crossing here. This is freshman poli sci.

> > >It won't. Video data is much harder to process than text. That's what
> > >will make it harder.
> >
> > Harder is not impossible. Besides, you keep overlooking the fact that
> > based tags and identifiers that can be appended and/or linked to *any*
> > of file.
>They CAN be linked, but they require a thinker to do so, so in that case
>you need a big server to do the linking.

Yeah, yeah I know, so the argument is since you need a big computer to make
sense out of the data before it goes into an easily accessible database,
only big brother can do it, so he'll never share his toys with you.

We live in a constitutional democracy. Ergo, big brother does what *we*
tell him to do. On such an important issue as this if the few members of
the government decided to ignore the wishes of the people on this question,
the government would quickly find itself out of a job.

Question. What would happen if Congress and the President woke up one day
and said "Enough with this pesky internet thing." Let's pass a law, only
government employees can use it. Then the ACLU challenges the law. But the
Congress and the President tell the Supreme Court justices that federal
judges would be allowed to use the internet too, since they are in fact
government employees. So the Supreme Court rules that this preposterous law
is constitutional. Now, you know the American press. You know American
libertarians. You know American left-wing and right-wing extremists. So I
put the question to you. What happens next?


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

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