Re: Uploads and betrayal

Charlie Stross (
Thu, 9 Dec 1999 17:22:40 +0000

On Wed, Dec 01, 1999 at 11:01:51AM -0800, Robert J. Bradbury wrote:
> > No, this isn't some half-witted Star Trek Borg implementation. It's
> > politics. Noam Chomsky had a point when he observed that the mechanisms of
> > political coercion in a nominally democratically accountable state must
> > be more subtle than those in a dictatorship.
> And they may be so much more "subtle" that they may be relatively
> ineffective. Look at the Police strategy last night in Seattle.

Sorry, nearly missed this -- hazards of using a threaded mail reader, I guess.

Just what did the police get up to in Seattle? It didn't get much news coverage here, and I don't follow the headline fodder much as it tends to ignore the real issues.

> The "coercion" wasn't particulary subtle and didn't particulary change
> the minds of the demonstrators, but it did effectively negate them.
> > Try and extrapolate this
> > theory to a framework where human nature is maleable and we arrive at
> > something very frightening indeed:
> Ah, but there is a distinction between someone taking action in
> a "shared" space and a "private" space.

Yup. Which is why we have such interesting crimes as, say, making any _representation_ of sexual acts involving under-aged participants. Draw a rude cartoon in your personal diary, lose it in a public place, go to prison. That's stretching things a bit, I know, but it's where this sort of legislation leads.

How long are you willing to bet it'll be before democratically elected governments consisting of decent citizens are demanding the use of profiling tools -- any profiling tools -- to identify paedophiles, perverts, and thought criminals who might think of throwing a brick at a WTO delegate, before they commit any crimes? (Clue: in England, that's _exactly_ what the Home Secretary is proposing. And he's got the parliamentary majority to ram it through.)

> Since your mind is presumably
> a private space, direct modification there would not be a good
> thing.

Your mind is only a private space until tools to access it become available.

We are a species of inveterate curtain-twitchers, always on the look-out for what our neighbours are doing. If non-destructive uploading is possible, then tools for monitoring or analysing someone's internal mental states will presumably follow -- at which point, "mental hygeine" takes on a whole new (and much more sinister) meaning.

> However spin control (or physcial control) of public
> spaces may be justified in cases where minority actions may
> harm the interests of private property owners or the majority
> as a whole.

Ah yes, the tyranny of the minority as governmental methodology. (Sorry, that was meant to be sarcastic, but I probably shouldn't indulge that urge here.)

> I'd be more worried about (a) trends in goverment allowing
> wiretaps on digital communications, (b) cryptography regulations;
> (c) the weight of law enforcement (removal of internet access
> for an individual in NY after the FBI simply visited his ISP);
> (d) legal actions in Australia making Internet a highly
> regulated carrier, etc.

Yup, agreed right down the line. Now look at the UK. Camera networks. Work on building monitors that can track people in public spaces and detect 'suspicious' behaviour (see Monitoring of the internet. (The internet, via things like Bluetooth, Oxygen, wearables, and eventually maybe a utility fog, is going to become increasingly intimate.) Laws to try and pre-empt criminal behaviour by allowing for people to be locked up _before_ they do anything. (Think I'm making that up? It's primarily directed at psychopaths with "incurable behavioural disorders" who are deemed likely to kill people ... but it's a slippery slope, isn't it?)

Look, if it's possible to modify someone's mind, then the sort of intrusive measured cited above _will_ culminate in the 'adjustment' of citizens to make them fit in better. And, realistically, that means most of us -- because almost by definition, if you're even remotely extropian you want something better than today's culture and technology.

> I've always thought one of the interesting quotes I got from my pursuit
> of enlightenment was:
> "Don't change the beliefs, transform the believer".
> Unhappiness is an irrational concept. It is based on the fiction
> that reality can be any way other than the way it exactly is.
> Comparing your reality to a "dream" of what reality could be
> and being unhappy may be a useful motivational tool built into
> us by nature, but it is has *no* basis in physical reality.
> How rational is it to "not like your way of life" when you are
> the one "thinking" you don't like it? How stupid -- given a choice,
> are you are going to *think* things that make you unhappy?
> [And you do have a choice even though you may have convinced yourself
> otherwise...]

... or unless some local political commissar has been all over your cerebral cortex with a debugger and installed some extra hardware that'll give you a nice warm glow whenever you think how lucky you are to live in Big Brotherland.

It closes off choice. This is, IMO, Bad.

It seems like you think I'm not willing to change. That's not what I'm getting at at all. What I'm getting at is the potential of all this wonderful technology to facilitate a police state that would make Nazi Germany look like an anarchist's convention.