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Re: [Ducks] Re: <nettime> Frank Rieger: We lost the War--Welcome to the
Paul Wouters on Mon, 9 Jan 2006 23:21:53 +0100 (CET)

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Re: [Ducks] Re: <nettime> Frank Rieger: We lost the War--Welcome to the World of Tomorrow

On Sun, 8 Jan 2006, Karin Spaink wrote:

> > people do not like to acknowledge that we have lost. We had a reasonable
> > chance to tame the wild beast of universal surveillance technology,
> > approximately until september 10th, 2001. One day later, we had lost.
> I'm not sure about that. I was already pretty depressed at the way things were
> developing regaring surveillance on Sept 10, 2001. Big Brother and his nasty
> little sisters certainly got a big push forward that day, but the clear-cut
> break that Frank and Rop pose is a falsity, I believe. There was no big break.
> There was only acceleration.

In some cases not even that. The Netherlands did not accelerate any proposals
after 9-11 as far i know. The collective Europe was already pushing, with
The Netherlands leading the BigBrother game and issuing standards before
they became ETSI drafts. 9-11 did not make a difference.

> The future looked mildly optimistic in 2001? You're kidding.

Yeah, it did not look good at all.

> > We are now deep inside the other kind of future, the future that we
> > speculated about as a worst case scenario, back then. This is the ugly
> > future, the one we never wanted, the one that we fought to prevent. We
> > failed. Probably it was not even our fault. But we are forced to live
> > in it now.
> I don't think it's our fault either. And I agree that we are by now rapidly
> moving towards a worst case scenario; it's just that I don't agree with your
> analysis. And that matters, perhaps not only to me. Because with the wrong
> analysis, you can't figure the right solution.

We never had a change and we knew it. We all knew that for every advance
we made, somewhere someday a bomb would go off to cancel out our efforts.
For years we knew that we couldn't win. The only difference is that by now,
politics has advanced faster then technology has been able to fight back.
Well, it is still not too late. History has shown that without support
of the majority, rule will fall. Slaves has always broken free. The same
will happen again. Remember that all Revolutions were "illegal".

> > Democracy is already over

> I agree with that, too. Alas. But that is one point where I see an internal
> conflict or contradiction. Rop took the floor again during the closing
> ceremony of the CCC to respond to some of the comments that you and he
> received on your collaborate speech, and ended by saying that we should stand
> for democracy and cherish it. Why, if I may ask? Or. more difficult and to the
> point: _how_? Only days before you had declared democracy to be dead, in which
> case any call to stand up for it is moot and evidence of a bad case of
> nostalgia.

I agree with Karin. I was not at the CCC this year, but Ito had a great talk
the previous CCC about redesigning democracy. We are not the only people who
see these problems, and great minds are thinking about solutions. Just hang
in there!

> What else can we - I, you, us - do? I dunno. Nobody believes in armed
> revolution, so that's off, fortunately. What's left sounds rather lame.
> Propose alternatives. Keep addressing people. Show them the fallibility of the
> main-stream argument. Show them the risks _for them_ of what is going on. We
> have either not been very apt at that or we have underestimated the
> opposition. That, or people are not as smart as we thought.

And give the internet and technology some more time to truly impact
society.  Things like Abu Graib will happen again. Cameras with embedded
WiFI or GSM will cause a lot of media censorship to be in vain. We are
only starting to integrate new technology into the mainstream, while
geeks believe this has happened 10 years ago.

> Work and globalization:
> > First, paid manual labor will be eaten away further by technology, even
> > more rapidly than today. Robotics will evolve far enough to kill a
> > sizeable chunk of the remaining low-end manual jobs. [..] Globalization
> > continues its merciless course and will also export a lot of jobs of
> > the brain-labor type [..] So the western societies will end up with a
> > large percentage of population, at least a third, but possibly half of
> > those in working age, having no real paid work. [..]

The "end of work" is unavoidable and a good thing. The important question is
how to transform from one economy into the other.


> Climate change:
> > Second, climate change increases the frequency and devastation of
> > natural disasters, creating large scale emergency situations. Depending
> > on geography, large parts of land may become uninhabitable due to
> > draught, flood, fires or plagues.
> Somebody - hi, John! - told me that he doesn't believe in the climate change
> theory, but when I went out into my little garden on New Year's Day, I say the
> snapdragons and a rose in full blossom, and my fuchsia's were budding brightly
> red. On a bigger scale: the US has run out of letters in the alphabet to name
> hurricanes by, and polar bears are getting cranky because their space - ice -
> is disappearing quickly.

And there is a sad but good part there as well. With a "common enemy" (climate)
perhaps we will stop bashing each others heads in. Especially since these
climate changes will hit the Western worlds too.

> Nuclear energy won't save us, either. For I while I thought that perhaps we
> were wrong in the '70s and '80s to oppose nuclear energy, but the risks are
> still great. And besides, they will only cater to our need for _electricity_
> and not for fuel. And nuclear energy breeders need oil, too: to be fabricated,
> to be run.

Why don't people trust capitalism on this issue? When oil becomes too
expensive, someone somewhere will invent something cheaper, and someone
in china or india will ignore the potential patents surrounding it.

> > Fifth, we are on the verge of technology developments that may require
> > draconic restrictions and controls to prevent the total disruption of
> > society. Genetic engineering and other biotechnology as well as
> > nanotechnology (and potentially free energy technologies if they exist)
> > will put immense powers into the hands of skilled and knowledgeable
> > individuals.

Indeed. Reminds me of the Diamond Age......

> of these problems. Common sense? Common sense hasn't even solved the
> surveillance surge, and that is where we _try_ to appeal to it. The only thing
> that might solve _some_ of these major problems is out classical erratic
> scientist who doggedly pursues what s/he believes is a valuable course,
> although others think it is quite mad. That, and a touch of survivalism of
> course :)

And that is not too unlikely either. Whitfield Diffie set out to protect us
from the surveillance disaster about to happen back in what? 1972? He set out
to give crypto to the common people, and he succeeded. And we'll see more
of those people.

> > The Technologies of Oppression
> > We can imagine most of the surveillance and oppression technology
> > rather well. Blanket CCTV coverage is reality in some cities already.
> > Communication pattern analysis (who talks to whom at what times) is
> > frighteningly effective.
> It's not.

It will be. TNO is making advances on doing statistical analyses of crowds,
and we will see people being take nfrom a crowd because the camera targetted
them as "dangerously nervous, potential terrorist"

> and Echelon duly in place, with communication analysis and what have you,
> intelligence all over the world is still a joke.

Unfortunately, that is mostly true for the Middle East, China and other
places that do not speak western languages. Things improve a lot when the
Western spies are spying on germanic language spoken/writen communication.
In other words, it is MUCH easier to spy on your own citizens then it is to
spy on foreigners.

> fraud by companies is never part of intelligence investigation.

I don't think that is true anymore. Enron and MCI/Worldcom really showed how
dangerous it can be for the economy (and thus the national security) for large
corporate fraud to be happening. Also, with the US getting more in debt to the
Chinese and Saudies every day, at some point they will start with more
aggressive confiscation of foreign money within their banks, on the claims of
terroristm. But they know it will backfire too, so I don't expect it to happen
soon. But I do expect the US to unilaterally declare their debt void before the
Third World debt is canceled by the IMF.

> part because it is in the nature of terrorists to strike where least expected.

I wouldn't call subways "least expected". It is just worth to use the obvious
crowded places.

> We should start a completely different debate. How much freedom _are_ we
> willing to give up for safety? _Who_ is willing to give up such freedoms, and

As for CCTV issues, I think the majority of even the critics would not mind it,
if we could be reasonably secure in knowing what the limits of such monitoring
will be, and if we have a truly independant verification of such data. For example,
if that data is protected by encryption and the secret keys are truly only available
through court orders, and the data is not used to pull people from crowds based on
statistics. In some sense, we need a more "open source" type approach to all the
monitoring data.

> who not? Do those who are willing to go a great length, bear in mind that by
> the time that they are disappointed, they might have given up their means to
> protest? And if _you_ are willing to give up so many freedoms, what about me
> and him and her, who are not prepared to do so? Why should I give up freedom X
> for the peace of mind of Z, who I don't even know/like/trust?

Welcome to democracy :) We know it sucks, but we don't have anything better at
this point. And we all seem to agree democracy has been used to its full
potential and we need something new and better.

> > The key question for establishing an effective surveillance based
> > police state is to keep it low-profile enough that "the ordinary
> > citizen" feels rather protected than threatened, at least until all the
> > pieces are in place to make it permanent.
> That makes it sound like a master plan, a giant conspiracy. I don't think that
> either Frank or Rop believes in one, but there are traits of it in both this
> essay and in your co-speech. The problem with conspiracy theories, of course,
> is not only that the maintainer will not allow to be disproved, but mostly
> that they are massive and totalitarian. Thus, they enhance despair and this
> feeling of being helpless in the face of major problems.

I couldn't have phrased it better.

> > .. where is hope for freedom, creativity and fun? To be
> > honest, we need to assume that it will take a couple of decades before
> > the pendulum will swing back into the freedom direction, barring a
> > total breakdown of civilization as we know it. Only when the oppression
> > becomes to burdensome and open, there might be a chance to get back to
> > overall progress of mankind earlier.
> The trouble is that as per your own words, we don't have a few decades. The
> breakdown of democracy, peak oil, climate change, pandemia all seem
> unstoppable.

but this is the doomsday scenario you previously rejected, so you cannot
use it here either to create fatalistic thinking. Besides, I believe that
such a huge disaster will actually result in a much more positive position
of humanity towards a common (non human) enemy. Sometimes, I almost wish we
could detect that asteroid that is coming to destroy us in 25 years from now.
At least we'd stop pointing nukes at each other.....

Yes, we need to see abuse before things get better. We will need our own
version of Tiananmen Square. And lets face it, the way things are now,
it is still way "too good" to be desperate enough to stand in front of
the tank.

> And they will co-occur. In which case surveillance will be the
> least of our problems, inasfar as when there is a fuel crisis, all those nice
> methods of gathering information - based on electricity and technology - will
> go crumbling. Besides, monitoring your population is a bit useless when
> they're just sick and dying, or being flooded.

We started burning oil when we were running out of wood, and we'll start using
some other energy source before the oil runs out. The only thing keeping us
so focussed on oil is the oil monopoly and their relationship to those in
power as a result of oil-wealth. Once that comes to an end, we will see
alternatives. (and no, not nuclear, as we are already mostly using former
nuclear weapons as fuel source because finding the very scarce uraniam is even
more costly then extracting oil in 10 years)

> Rop made another point during the closing ceremony which did strike home. In
> the 80s and 90s we have warned eloquently that if measure-so-and-so would be
> implemented, as a society we'd give rise to a police state; and that by now,
> we must face the fact that we _have_ handed our respective state precisely
> those means. We should re-assess, most definitely. In that respect I was most
> happy with your co-speech and your effort to make us re-think our position and
> efforts, and I hope that the analysis that you offered can be tuned.

I think for a long time, people have seen that a move towards a police state
is an inevitable step to overcoming it. Didn't our good friend Zenon not
point out that one should at least once in your life actually fight for your
freedom, instead of taking it for granted. Our fighting so far has been
a pretty luxurious fight, in between our consumption of oil =based, surveillance
protected safe heavens of the First World. We'll get our chance later on.

> > So where to put your energy then? Trying to play the political game,
> > fighting against software patents, surveillance laws, and privacy
> > invasions in parliament and the courts can be the job of a lifetime. It
> > has the advantage that you will win a battle from time to time and can
> > probably slow things down. You may even be able to prevent a gross
> > atrocity here and there. But in the end, the development of technology
> > and the panic level of the general population will chew a lot of your
> > victories for breakfast.

People should do 1) what they are good at, and 2) what they are willing to do.
If some people want to try lobbying, that's great. If others think that is
futile, and they want to do something else, like create cryptographic hardware
or software, that's great too. Surely we all do not want to bet on one horse?

Wow. It seems I'm more optimistic then most. that's uhm... scary :)


"Happiness is never grand"

	--- Mustapha Mond, World Controller (Brave New World)

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