Somebody wrote to me offlist:
> I wrote:
> ... early participants of this list were guaranteed anonymity outside the
> list membership...
> Yes, the Extropians Mailing List had such a clause in the list
> membership introduction.
> Of course, if you ask those members and they agree, then it would be OK
> to publish it. You hereby have my permission to publish anything I wrote
> on the list in those days. Perry Metzger may of course veto my permission
> if he so wishes. Feel free to give him my regards if you meet him.
Yes, I gather that there was a certain atmosphere of paranoia
in those days (perhaps not surprising, since Perry Metzger
is extremely interested in cryptography). Of course, that was well
before the Web as we know it had taken shape, and folks had
started plugging into this global consciousness booster (a far
more extropian notion, IMO, than that of a secretive mailing
list guarded against the prying eyes of government spies).
I've got a bee in my bonnet now -- I'm wondering if Metzger would
agree to the idea of attempting to wriggle out of the blackout
on the early posts by, for example, sending e-mail warnings
to the early authors, and permitting anybody who wishes to
opt out, and then incorporating the remaining authors'
posts in the new Javien archive. I think an opt-out, silence-gives-
assent scheme would be more practical than actually attempting
to get positive permission from everybody involved. In fact,
I just got a similar privacy opt-out form from my car insurance
company (which has apparently been acquired by the Citigroup financial
services conglomerate), that would allow me to prevent having my name
used for marketing purposes by other Citigroup companies. I guess
that if I **don't** send in the opt-out form, they'll assume I'm giving
Of course, I don't know if anybody, even Metzger, kept a complete
archive of the period 1991-1995; even though he was the list
founder, he might, as most people would, only have archived the messages
that struck his fancy, and thrown away the rest. Trying to actually
**reconstruct** a complete archive by merging various partial ones
would be a lot of bother, possibly more than it would be worth.
And even of the messages that somebody might have saved in those
days, to expect that they would still be around is another story --
50 megabytes was a lot of disk for a PC in 1991, and even 1995 was
before the days of cheap recordable CD (it's almost hard to remember
the times when disk space was actually a limiting factor). Still, even
a partial archive of early messages would be better than nothing
(particularly since the ones that people actually bothered to hang on to
would likely be the ones of greatest interest).
I'll have to run all this past Metzger if I ever run into him.
And I'll certainly mention that you said hello ;-> .
The same person replied offlist:
> So much for privacy. :-/
> Privacy is a serious thing... I don't remember the exact wording, but
> I believe that the list maintainers did not encourage archiving (might
> even have prohibited it) for reasons of privacy.
Yes, as a matter of fact Liz herself (the woman through whom I
will meet Perry, if that ever happens), warned me just last night:
"Danger Will Robinson! ... The people trying to fight for encryption,
including Perry, have a very strong sense of a right to privacy. Be
respectful of it or you will get flamed.
This has been a public service announcement."
It seems like an irreconcilable tension -- on the one hand
you have people who are fearful of immersing themselves in the
public datasphere, unless their real-world identies can be
**completely** concealed, which is something that government
intelligence agencies, the police, and business interests like
the RIAA, absolutely do **not** want anybody to be able to do,
and which may be a chimerical goal anyway (even if you're willing to
pay for an anonymizing service like ZeroKnowledge to surf the Web,
how do you know you're **really** safe from the FBI?). Even our
friend Max More began singing a different tune after
being anonymously slandered on the list.
And on the other hand, you have what I (in my more expansive
moods) consider the **true** extropian vision (whatever the
hell that may mean ;-> ) of people plugging into a sizzling
global mind, the sort of ratcheting-up of the density of
interconnected discourse that Robert Wright, for example,
(in his book _Nonzero_) believes is responsible for the
upward swing of cultural evolution. And archives and search
engines are an **essential** part of that -- they make it
possible to organize views into a staggering heap of data
like Google's terabyte Usenet archive that actually make
it all **useful**.
I don't know how to reconcile this dilemma, except that I do
know that when I'm feeling most alive and optimistic, I swing
toward the latter view.
Also, it seems to me that **fostering** paranoia can also
be used by big bad governments and other authorities to
further repressive goals, on the old divide-and-conquer
theory. Employers have been notorious for this in the past --
no posting on the company bulletin board without permission,
and certainly no soliciting for union membership! And remember the
days when to reveal your salary to a co-worker was considered
at many companies a firing offense? And certainly, companies
didn't want their employees talking to customers or the
press, unless they were explictly authorized to do so.
But all the big bad authorities (except for the RIAA)
seem to have given up (for the time being, at least)
on serious attempts to rein in all the electronic yakking
going on. Have you seen the book _The Cluetrain Manifesto_
( http://www.cluetrain.com/ )?
But, at any rate, it's becoming clear to me that **I'm** probably
not the person to pursue this idea with respect to the early
Extropians' list. I just had a burst of adrenaline engendered
by the juxtaposition of three events -- Google's Usenet
archive coming back on-line, the new Javien archive making
the existing Extropians' archive actually useful, and the truly
weird business of finding out that I barely missed being in
the farcical situation of sitting at the same dinner table
with Perry Metzger, discussing the Extropians' mailing
list, without knowing that the person I was talking to
**started** the damned thing (and I wouldn't have believed
him -- I would have assumed that he and Liz had cooked up
a little leg-pulling skit for my benefit, a little snipe-hunting
exercise for dim Jim. I don't expect Perry Metzger to be particularly
impressed with me anyway, but at least I have escaped making
a first impression as an utterly clueless foof! Not that I care
that much; after all, I **am** an utterly clueless foof! ;-> ).
If the annexation of the early conversation to the archive
were a soluble problem, it seems likely that it would already
have been solved by now. Still, maybe now that I've been
forewarned and prepared to treat the issue more gingerly
and respectfully, I'll **still** run it past Perry (very,
very carefully, as they say on alt.sex.hedgehog.ouch.ouch.ouch
My interlocutor replied again offlist:
> The privacy people wish to decide themselves what information to
> publish. Who died and made agents Smith, Jones, and Brown the
> omniscient and omnipotent kings of the world, after all?
> Information equals power. Power over the individual by governments.
> The secret police has always had the control over that power.
> One should avoid dissipating information unnecessarily.
> > archives and search engines... make it possible to organize
> > views into a staggering heap of data like Google's terabyte
> > Usenet archive that actually make it all **useful**.
> Yes, but Google does not contain information that No Such Agency
> and other MIBs do not want people to know. Encryption has been one
> such area for at least a century. This imbalance in information
> allows the three-letter-acronyms (TLAs) to know things about
> everybody, while staying in the shadows themselves.
> > [O]n the one hand you have people who are fearful of immersing
> > themselves in the public datasphere, unless their real-world identies
> > can be **completely** concealed... [O]n the other hand, you have
> > what I (in my more expansive moods) consider the **true** extropian
> > vision... of people plugging into a sizzling global mind...
> The latter view works when there exists a balanced access to
> information. As long as there exists secret agencies who spy
> on everybody else, they will have the control over information.
> > Also, it seems to me that **fostering** paranoia can also
> > be used by big bad governments and other authorities to
> > further repressive goals, on the old divide-and-conquer
> > theory. Employers have been notorious for this in the past...
> Interesting insights in U.S. corporational culture.
> Other parts of this planet have government oppression to consider.
> Here, for example, we have central registers on all citizens.
> Everybody has a personal number which appears on all IDs, driver's
> licenses, government forms, bank accounts, etc. You cannot hide if
> you leave traces of yourself in the data sphere around here. So the
> solutions is to not do that.
It seems that feeling about the 1991-1995 privacy agreement
still runs strong. I wonder if early posts could be cleared
by **content** -- e.g., excluding discussions of cryptography
and other sensitive (potentially incriminating) topics?
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 10:00:04 MDT