Re: ULE: covert vs overt

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Tue Apr 17 2001 - 11:59:13 MDT

Michael Wiik wrote:
> ULE = ubiquitous law enforcement
> Let's assume as a given that within a short number of years, say maybe
> 20, that the capability of a single individual to cause widespread havoc
> will will be tremendously increased from what's possible today. Henious
> crimes will be like the news snippets in a Halperin novel. In short,
> we'll have to monitor every molecule. Failure to do so could result in
> the extinction of the human race.
> Given this assumption, what is the effectiveness of covert as opposed to
> overt monitoring? Which is more prone to abuse?
> I see extropian/libertarian choices as:
> 1) Continue opposition to the whole 'Transparent Society' concept,
> forcing monitoring to be covert. Abuses and unaccountability are
> implicitly encouraged.
> 2) Embrace overt monitoring, and (to borrow a theme from Microsoft)
> extend it, by demanding LE resources be taken away from victimless vice
> crimes and applied directly to anti-terrorism efforts. This might also
> include national policy changes to avoid pissing off half the world.
> My belief is that the 2nd approach would result in maximum
> accountability and more actual liberty. However I welcome other choices
> or arguments as to why my premises are incorrect.

I don't have much intersection with this particular sphere, but to my
mind, the primary issue has always been whether "monitoring" will be the
tool of government or the open province of individuals. A society in
which every individual has the capability to monitor every other would be
very interesting, and probably superior (in both safety and society) to a
government-controlled monitoring system. Better yet would be no monitors
at all. Even *better* might be a system in which all elected officials
are subject to 24-hour total monitoring while all the citizens live out
their opaque lives. I have little emotional stake in these opinions, but
I nonetheless wish to point out that the above dualism may parse up the
problem along the wrong axis. Not covert versus overt; public versus

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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