Surviving Surveillance: My co-editor of the Chasing Shadows anthology - Stephen W. Potts - has written a “5 books” contribution to the Tor web site, taking you on a tour of (almost) half a dozen great science fictional portrayals of surveillance.
Of course our new anthology, Chasing Shadows
, takes it a step farther, with two dozen stories and essays portraying how citizens might answer elite eyes... with light of their own. See an excellent review from Locus Online
. (We'll be signing copies in San Diego on January 27, at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore
.) A rich compilation of thoughtful contributions by Robert Silverberg, Vernor Vinge, Bruce Sterling, Ramez Naam, Cat Rambo, Brenda Cooper, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and more!
== Eyes... and ears ... everywhere ==
One of you pointed out a scifi-ish implication: “That is thriller material. How about an action/suspense novel in which ISIS performs some outrageous act on video that is sure to be replayed on TV sets around the world." Embedded in the sound is an Arabic (or maybe Russian?) phrase which means "Alexa, shut down the power grid," or "Alexa, bomb Alberta." And assuming a TV is playing in the right location.”
Big banks are terrified of a Kenyan decade old experiment called M-Pesa
in which people can save money and spend it via text messages on their mobile phones. Now a study has shown it’s more than about just convenience and agility. Users of M-Pesa have a substantially greater chance of rising out of poverty.
The dichotomy of “security versus freedom” becomes stark, whenever the public feels nervous over threats like terrorism. Earnest defenders of civil liberties, like this one from the Columbia Journalism Review - How not to report on the encryption debate
- pose our choice in stark terms, portraying our Professional Protector Caste as eager to demolish our last protections against the all-seeing state. Especially the protection of encryption. For the most part, this is (so far) absolute bull.
Edward Snowden as Socrates
: this article in the Los Angeles Review of Books by Ruth Starkman, cited the Bard conference where I spoke and Snowden Skyped in..
“Thus far, Mr. Snowden, now residing with temporary asylum in an undisclosed location in Russia, has spoken via satellite to students at Harvard University, Stanford University, Princeton University, University of Iowa, Bard College, and universities abroad such as Simon Fraser and Glasgow. Next appearances in 2015–2016 will be at Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Irvine.
At the Bard College conference “Why Privacy Matters
,” hosted by the Hannah Arendt Center in 2015, students cheered wildly when Snowden’s image appeared on the screen. Snowden demurred, “I wasn’t expecting that.”
Or was he?
“Snowden, meanwhile, speaks with an affectingly earnest modesty and seems to understand his potential to influence college youth." I won't hold that against him. Still, keep it in mind.
== trying… again and again… ==
An online discussion among a dozen information age professionals finally got me throwing up my hands and trying yet again to explain the obvious:
Real privacy has never depended on hiding, rather upon our ability to deter voyeurs and meddlers. But in order to deter interference or excess nosiness by others, we must catch them at it!
That means making transparency nearly universal (say, stoping at the curtilage barrier of the home). Empowering average folks to see is more important to those seeking to protect privacy, than to those violating it. Privacy violators are going to get such powers, anyway.
What stuns me is how blatantly obvious this is, from real life. In The Transparent Society
I give the Restaurant Example
. One restaurant offers "privacy" with paper screens between each booth. The other is open plan - all clients visible to each other. Where would you have a personal-private conversation?
At the one where anyone could stand on the other side of the screen, listening? Where some eavesdropper might punch a small hole for a camera? Or at the diner where people sit in the open, where brief glances around can assure you no one is leaning in and listening? Next time you dine at a restaurant, notice that you make such checks, several times, unconsciously enforcing your privacy. Because YOU can see.
You will see earlier in the thread where I talk about how this depends on a certain type of culture and how our children are making that culture as we speak. Transparency will not protect privacy in a culture that does not value it!
But in a culture that believes in diversity, eccentricity, personal autonomy and MYOB*, then transparency is harsh on the voyeurs. Transparency can protect privacy and I know this for one reason...
...because it already has. It is the only thing that ever has.
But this is pointless. I have learned across 20 years that the most obvious things are utterly opaque when people get a firmly righteous idea in their heads. Like the notion that we can benefit by outlawing information flows. And thus, our finest, most-well-intentioned paladins for freedom and privacy all reflexively assume the solution is: "everybody hide!"
See Glenn Greenwald's No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the U.S. Surveillance State.
== Another way ==
has paid the freight for the Internet for far too long and the debilitating effects of this over-reliance have metastasized, becoming cancerous to an informed society. Professional news sources have languished while click-bait social media troll sites prosper by spreading lies or exaggerations. Even at best, secondary re-packagers of news steal income from the mainline journalists who actually go to sources and seek the stories.
The key to solving this is offering professional news media another way to make a buck
from their product - investigative reporting. Millions of folks like you and me would gladly pay a nickel or a dime for a good New York Times story that we read, start to finish. That would add up! And make great economic sense, cutting out the middle-men and letting us pay value for value. It is called Micropayments
... and it has been tried dozens of times, failing because the same mistakes are repeated, over and over again.
It happens that the mistakes are obvious
, once you focus on them. Micropayments can be made to work, at last, allowing us a simple way to get (and support) value while brushing aside the era when advertising controlled everything we see and hear.