RE: Fw: Today's Headlines from Wednesday, July 4, 2001

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Wed Jul 04 2001 - 22:23:56 MDT

Steve Davies writes

>>> The Tampa police are using three dozen security cameras
>>> equipped with face-recognition software to search for
>>> criminal suspects among people in a downtown district.

and I asked

>>But would one feel that one's privacy were invaded by actual
>>human detectives surveying crowds with binoculars? They used
>>to, you know. I recall reading about how in England one
>>detective was so obsessed with the Great Train Robbery that
>>he spent most of his free time watching crowds for his man.

> Well yes actually. I don't know the instance you refer to
> but I'll bet he got a load of grief if he was found out.

An important issue in the whole "Transparent Society" debate
hinges around how people in truth actually feel. My guess is
that you are wrong here; I know I wouldn't have been at all
bothered to know that the detective had been frequenting the
same beach that I did. I'm eager to know if others agree with
Steve here or with me.

> Many people would object to the [some of the] hypothetical
> case[s] you describe, after all this is what despotic regimes
> have been up to for a long time and people objected to that.

I think that what people objected to was the way that the
regimes used the information, and the actions that were taken
against people. I have to concede one of your main points:
namely, that in the question as to how much governments can
be trusted, the burden of proof lies on those who say they can.

> The increased efficiency simply makes it worse since it
> makes this kind of surveillance easier and cheaper,

Yes, and so if governments tend to misuse it, I'll also
agree that this technology could easily make things worse.

> It's interesting to speculate how people would react
> if we did get a transparent society with effectively constant
> surveillance, a kind of society wide panopticon.

I liked David Brin's book "The Transparent Society" which
dealt very well with this whole issue. It's very controversial
on Extropians as well as everywhere else, however. Although
some very reputable thinkers believe that the government or
the rich will always have the upper hand---and this will just
make it worse---I was persuaded by Brin's arguments.

> Perhaps we'll all start behaving like the inhabitants of the
> Big Brother house :)

I greatly enjoyed listening to Arthur C. Clark and Stephen Baxter's
"The Light of Other Days", which picks up on an idea of Clark's
from Childhood's End: a history machine is created that allows
universal surveillance not only of the present, but of all of
history too. Maybe it would be as bad as Big Brother (as an
Orwell fan, I sure hate this usurpation of the term), but I
don't think that I would act any differently if I knew that all
of posterity would have access to my life.


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