Brin on Privacy

Lyle Burkhead (
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 14:46:46 -0500 (EST)

Personally, I have no use for encryption. I sometimes write cryptic
messages ("riddles"), but I have never encrypted a message. I don't
even know how to use PGP. I have little interest in such things.
(I have no interest in Ayn Rand, either.) Encrypting messages is like
painting your windows black: it just attracts attention. Encrypting
messages and talking about tax evasion at the same time is idiotic.

Nevertheless, I don't think David Brin's "transparent society" makes
much sense, either.

He keeps asking if anyone can give an example from history in which
giving masks to the little guys prevented the big guys with swords
from taking over. The short answer is No: there is no such example.
But so what?

David, let me ask you back:

1. Can you give an example from history in which *anything*
prevented big guys with swords from taking over?

2. How is this relevant to our situation? We aren't trying to prevent a

On December 10, he wrote:

> You [Hal Finney] perceive the best defense as giving all the po' folks
> armor plate and masks to walk around in, saying this will keep the
> mighty from harming us'ns.
> I say, give the masses light sabers and make the kings and priests and
> rich men walk around in their skivvies like the rest of us.

You can't "make" the kings and priests and rich men do anything.
You have only two choices; either join them, or create a culture
in which they don't want to be tyrants.

The latter choice is not impossible. Such cultures have existed before.
For example, after the American Revolution, George Washington
could have been King, but he refused. He lived in a culture, and indeed
helped to create a culture, in which people despised kings. He wasn't
about to become one himself.

But the first choice is more interesting to me, and I don't see why it
hasn't been considered. The assumption throughout this discussion, on
both sides, seems to be that "we" are the po' folks. We are the masses.
Well, I'm not. In the words of one of my favorite songs,

> What's your name?
> Who's your daddy?
> Is he rich...
> Is he rich like me?

<evil g>