Re: Nano-boy News

Charlie Stross (
Thu, 16 Dec 1999 16:39:09 +0000

On Wed, Dec 15, 1999 at 09:54:47PM -0800, Spike Jones wrote:
> Judging by this and some of the responses I got offlist, I will plop my
> bony middle-aged ass down and reply: you missed the point! Its not
> just that there are a jillion ways to fool big brother, and furthermore,
> they would be *fun* to do! Nor is it just that it gives us a new
> opportunity to play gags on the authorites, like we used to in college.

It's not fun when they decide it's an indicator of criminal intentions and raid your home at four in the morning.

Would you walk into a bank wearing a stocking mask because you don't like being taped by the security cameras? No. Why not? Because it's a good way to get yourself a ticket to the nearest hospital mortuary. Wearing a stocking mask in a bank is _not_ a criminal offense, but it's crimeassociated behaviour. Likewise, trying to fool biometric monitors in public may well come to be seen as storngly crime-associated behaviour.

> No, the real point is that at some point we (and the British) must just say
> no to the government.

I don't like to play Cassandra, but ...

The British government is in place because it largely has the support of a majority of the population. The Labour government in Westminster has the largest parliamentary majority this century, if I'm not mistaken. (That didn't happen by accident; their predecessors were the most corrupt bunch of trough-guzzlers since 1832, if not earlier. Not that I'm a fan of Tony Blair, either, but _any_ political party that can produce forty or more financial and sexual scandals in just five years, and have one or more ministers subsequently jailed for perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice, seems to be trying for a very special record.)

What most worries me about the current bunch is their self-righteous attitude to the machineries of oppression. Yes, _their_ souls might be pure -- and it's even possible (snort!) that in some abstract sense everything they do is for the best -- but the machinery they're installing is a secret policeman's wet-dream, and sooner or later they will yield their place in government to other people who may not be quite so pure.

What worries me _next_ is the fact that despite all this, they're popular. But then, I'm enough of a black sheep to be on this list. (I am not a libertarian; I'm a member of the Liberal party -- not to be confused with the Liberal Democrats.) Most of the ideas current among extropians are _not_ current in the mainstream; in fact, they'd tend to alarm many ordinary people if they were exposed to the full gamut of transhumanist thought suddenly.

> The colonists did it, in the form of tea in the
> harbor. I know I am a strange one to be pointing this out, being as
> I was an early advocate of universal surveillance, however, I have
> come pi radians on this issue, and now realize that universal surveillance
> should apply *only to the willing*, those who will gladly give up all privacy
> in exchange for something else. For those whose privacy is being taken
> against their will, I wish to use my inventivess to defeat those mechanisms
> which take away privacy.

Agreed, broadly -- but the whole thrust of politics today is inimical to that kind of freedom. (As politicians lose the power to affect economic destiny in any meaningful way, they seem to be grasping for the levers of social power. My theory is they're doing this because they need to be seen to be Doing Something to justify the salary, and it's easier to make a lot of sound and fury about trivia than to really change the way things are.)