Brin's World

John K Clark (
Thu, 19 Dec 1996 20:57:05 -0800 (PST)


On Wed, 18 Dec 1996 Sean Hastings <> Wrote:

>The social pressure caused by the people hosting the
>"transparency meme" reinforces the meme and creates an ESS.

There is NOT a symmetrical relationship between the transparency
meme and the privacy meme. Consider the 2 extremes, Brin's world and
Anti-Brim's world, both are equally unlikely but it's useful to examine polar
opposites when discussing ESS.

In Brin's world if it is discovered that I have a secret it is assumed I
have something evil to hide and I am feared, hated, and shunned. This is
certainly a disadvantage, but there are compensations, shunned though I may
be, I still know all about your plans and you know nothing about mine,
and that is an advantage.

In Anti-Brin's world if it is discovered that I do NOT have a secret, it is
assumed I that I am a fool and have no chance of being financially successful,
I am ridiculed and held in contempt. This is certainly a disadvantage, but
the situation is made even worse because you know all about my plans and I
know nothing about yours, and this is a double disadvantage.

>A child raised in such a society would never see the
>posible benefits of hiding their actions.

Mind control is never 100% effective in a population.

>A mutant genius who does see the advantages [of privacy]
>will most likely be destroyed or rendered impotent.

It just keeps sounding better and better.

>Do you have some black magic by which you can make use of a
>secret without revealing its existence?

As a mater of fact I do. There are ways of putting information in a form so
that it is useful to me and nobody else, or if I prefer, I can make it useful
to you and me and nobody else. There are ways I can prove that I have a
certain piece of secret information without giving you the slightest clue as
to what that information is. There are ways of using DC nets so that you not
only don't know what I'm saying you don't even know who I'm talking to.
There are ways of using Steganography so you not only don't know who I'm
talking to, you don't even know I'm talking.

What about cameras, if I can see what you're typing cryptography does no good.

Well, Brin generously granted us privacy in the bedroom and bathroom (what a
swell guy) and that's all I'd need.

OK, just for that you can't have privacy even there.

Then I'd find the camera in my bedroom, splice into the video line, and play
back a recording of me reading the Bible, saluting the flag, and generally
being a good little boy. Now I can do what I want.

But cameras can be very small nowadays, how will you find it?

I'll just march down to Big Brother's Ministry Of Truth and ask.

They'll see you splice into the line.

There are far too many cameras for somebody to be watching all of them all
of the time, I'll do it when nobody is watching.

How will you know when nobody is watching?

I'll ask.

What if they make recordings?

Now that I have a little privacy I'll take my time, hack into the system and
alter the recording. This only has to be done one time by one person because
now I'm in a position to help my friends.

How will you know how to get around network security?

I'll ask.

What if there is a secret camera you don't know about?

Then I'm in trouble, but Big Brother is in worse trouble. Think of the
scandal! Big Brother, the very apostle of transparency has a secret, what
other secrets does he have? How can anybody ever trust him again?

>In the current ESS I can probably gain economic advantage
>through the use of slave labor, but no one will buy my
>products or services when they find out about my business

People all over the world buy billions of dollars worth of goods made by
slave labor in China. People make angry speeches, there is a protester or
two, but it doesn't hurt sales much. Perhaps it should but before you pass
judgment on the evil nature of humanity tell me, when you're flying at
600 mph at 40,000 feet are you more concerned with the engineering ability of
the airplane designers or their politics?

>The real question is not whether a transparent society is
>possible but whether it is "better or worse." [...] In fact,
>personally, I find the whole transparency meme pretty

I'm not sure why were arguing. Whether Brin's world is possible or not is an
objective question, whether it would be nice or not is subjective. It
nauseates me but your mileage may vary, at any rate, I worry about it about
as much as I worry that gravity will reverse direction.

But then I too am a product of current societal pressures.

Yes, but what is your point? If my childhood was different or my genes were
different I might be saying that Brin was a genius too, but they aren't
and I'm not. Not saying he's a genius that is, I'm not sure about the mutant

John K Clark

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