Re: Transparent Society

From: Zero Powers (
Date: Mon May 08 2000 - 14:21:09 MDT

>From: "John Calvin" <>
>What would the possibility of a Transparent society happening prior to the
>advent of the sane laws that would protect the innocent individual.

IMO, while certainly possible, that scenario is not very likely. In the
majority of developed nations such "sane" laws are already in place. I
could forsee such a scenario happening in, say, China. But I believe that
communiation and totalitarianism are, in the long term, mutually exclusive.
As more and more of her citizens make use of such communications media as
faxes, phones and (most importantly) the internet in communicating with the
"free world", I believe the days of totalitarianism in China are numbered.

> >you know. Also, the responsible agencies would be held accountable for
> >their actions by the public, so if they made a false arrest and you
> >made a stink about it they would have to explain their actions.
>The above ought to be the way it works now, however there do appear to be
>examples of the State running roughshod over individual rights with no
>forthcoming explanation or accountability.

Agreed. But it seems (to me at least) that the rate of such incidents is
increasingly decreasing.

> >If we
> >assume a transparent society where "innocent until proven guilty" does
> >not hold or antiterrorism laws are applied with very little factual
> >support, then there will likely be enough such cases for a very strong
> >public opinion to correct the system.
>I agree, and I believe that it might be a long and painful process getting

No matter what, the process is likely to be long (and for some, painful).
This should come as no surprise when you look at previous societal paradigm
shifts (slavery abolition, civil rights, universal sufferage, etc.)

> >Brin makes a point about the importance of the feedback from the
> >public in maintaining a democratic open society. If everything is
> >entrusted into the hands of experts and their AIs, then the society
> >will not remain democratic and open for long. Transparency has to act
> >both ways.
> >
>I agree, it seems that the question would then be, what do we do to make
>sure that the transparency does in fact go both ways.

That, I think, is simple. We simply *demand* it. The same way the
"cypherpunks" demand their right to encrypt and the same way the NRA demands
that the right to bear arms not be abridged. Of course their is no
guarantee that "we" will succeed. This, like many issues, will be tried in
the court of public opinion. Its merits may overwhelm public attitudes to
the extent that it sweeps in like an unopposable juggernaut (like civil
rights for blacks), or it may get mired down in a decades long "war" of
attrition, with public attitudes vascillating, stagnated or changing ever so
slowly (like the abortion debate).

>On this issue I am somewhat pessimistic, much of the general populace
>already allows many of their personal decisions to be made by a bias media,
>and simply claim that they do not have time to do the math and figure
>things out for themselves.

I agree with your assessment of the current state of political affairs. But
I don't think that is necessarily cause for pessimism. I think it just
shows where the most target rich environment is for the campaign (the biased

>Leaving out the personal attacks between Mike Lorrey and Zero Powers, Their
>discussion has provided a great deal of food for thought.

Alas, then *some* good has come of it.

>I agree with Mr. Powers that a Transparent society may be inevitable, and
>that being the case wonder what we can do to make sure that it is in fact a
>good thing.
>I also agree with Mr. Lorrey that given the current state of affairs we
>must be very concerned with the possibility of a transparent society and
>keep aware that it might not be a good thing at all, but rather turn us
>into a very civil but restrained and paranoid semi-hive culture.

I do not "poo-poo" this outlook. I realize that ever-present surveillance
confers a great deal of power upon the surveiller. Not being one of the
governing elite myself, I would suffer as much as the next guy from an
over-powerful surveillance state run amok. However, I am convinced that the
American people are adroit enough to make a big enough stink at the first
sign of Big Brother to ensure that he never gets a chance to raise his ugly

As it stands now the government, at times, is forced to virtual inaction for
fear of public outcry over the post-mortem analysis of its actions. Witness
the recent Elian Gonzalez matter. IMO Reno was so afraid of going through
what she went through following the Branch Davidian fiasco, that she did
everything she could to reach a mutually agreeable resolution between the
participants in the Elian affair. She coddled, and coddled and coddled some
more the Miami relatives, and extended deadline after deadline, to the point
where the Miami relatives felt that there was nothing they could do to
provoke Reno into action. They basically snubbed, taunted and dared her
every step of the way. Their shocked reaction now probably arises more from
their surprise that Reno actually did have the cojones to get up off her
butt and enforce the law, than that she did it improperly.

I realize that Reno is not the government, and that her days are numbered.
But I think the point remains. Public opinion is a powerful motivator to
those in elected office and to those who are appointed by elected officials.
  It all comes down to the court of public opinion, if government actions so
offended the passions of a great enough segment of the Americann population,
I just don't see anyway those actions could continue for long, including the
implementation of one-way surveillance.


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

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