dan on Sat, 26 Mar 2016 04:10:20 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Shoshana Zuboff > The Secrets of Surveillance


You wrote a long reply that I am not fully copying into this note.

I agree that the social change equation has so many moving parts
that it is hard to summarize in a way that is simple rather than
merely simplistic.  Your

>            This is the real difficulty of social theory. The beast in 
> the cage is too damn big. You might think you were seeing the whole 
> animal, then that turns out to be just the foot and it's stomping you.

is of that timeless wisdom long embodied in the parable of the blind
men and the elephant.  In the modern language of persuasion (meaning
public relations, political advertising, the wording in quasi-legal
documents, useless factual minutiae that ignite Twitter storms,
academic papers organized to deliver the "least publishable unit",
etc.), the class of things that are true but irrelevant seems to
be getting larger.  Or perhaps I can just see them better.

>                                           The 1% is fat and scared. 
> It was ever thus. One of the big problems Roosevelt's team had during 
> the Depression was convincing the people in the cities that it was even 
> happening. The big urban centers were doing fine, if you had a job at 
> least, and many did. The famous photos of the Farm Security 
> Administration had the task of showing people what they could not 
> spontaneously see.

_Let Us Now Praise Famous Men_ by James Agee; I am two generations
off those exact pictures and consider myself blessed to have grown
up where the 19th century was still evident every day and in every
way.  I suggest _Hollowing Out the Middle_ by Kefalas & Patrick,
for an up-to-date revisit of the idea -- and note their subtitle
_The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America_.

>                                                          So I 
> would say, as long as the market in security is the big thing,
> society won't change much in the capitalistic sense.

A most interesting idea.  I'll think on that.  You are probably

> In the 1940s, the most technologically violent war ever known to 
> humankind was followed by the largest growth wave ever known to 
> capitalism. ...  Security seems to precede prosperity.

For better or worse, the saying that "necessity is the mother of
invention" works out to be a curve -- the more mortal the necessity
the more far-reaching the inventiveness.  Given the current
interconnectivity of the world, the necessity of new countermeasures
grows ever more compelling because, in a word, on the Internet every
sociopath is your next door neighbor.  The inventiveness I see in
security startups is often quite surprising but, at the same time,
many of the inventors are re-inventing things we've seen before.
That, too, is a metric of sorts -- it confirms the level of demand
for new solutions to the security problem.

> Will such a process occur again? That's the economic and sociological 
> question I was asking in this series of exchanges. Should it occur 
> again? That is the philosophical and ethical question Felix was asking. 
> Is humanity too ignorant and self-satisfied to know or even to care what 
> happens next? That's the cynical and realist question John was asking. 
> And you, Dan seem to be joining Shoshana Zuboff in asking: Isn't what's 
> already happening right now just about to get much more intense?

This sums up the situation as I see it: All cybersecurity tools are
dual use, just as are knives or gasoline.  Those who wrote "[W]henever
any Form of Government becomes destructive..., it is the Right of
the People to alter or to abolish it" also wrote "[T]he right of
the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed", and they
wrote both at a time when the weapons of the yeoman farmer were on
par with the weapons of the King's infantryman.  In the intervening
centuries, weapons of infantries so surpassed those of the yeomen
that any right of the people to abolish destructive government could
not rely on weapons kept at home, but in cyberspace, relative might
between state and non-state is today closer than it has been at any
time since 1791.  This oscillation in the balance of power may be
peaking, but never before could a dozen guys and gals in their
pajamas meaningfully annul the State's monopoly on the use of force.

As you and others correctly surmise, we are at an inflection point,
and to say so is neither a cliche nor a joke.


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