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On the Move (Again)

Whatever (John Scalzi) - 10 hours 54 min ago
Here’s a view I see a lot these days: The interior of Dayton’s airport, before I’m off again to elsewhere. Today it’s to Washington DC, where I’m doing an event with Sarah Gailey tonight at Loyalty Bookstore (come see us!), and then attend the ALA conference this weekend. Then I’ll be back home literally for […]

24 Years

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 09:57
Fun fact: As of today, Krissy and I have been married for 24 years. Also fun fact: Every day I get to be married to Krissy is a good one. Many of those days are great! And some of them are genuinely spectacular. I hope you have a very good John and Krissy Got Married […]

Taking a Walk for Refugees

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 09:46
I woke up this morning and checked Twitter and discovered that Neil Gaiman had told me to take a hike — or more accurately, he had tagged me as someone he challenged to walk 2,000 steps by Refugee Day (which is June 20th) as part of #StepWithRefugees, to raise awareness of the roughly one billion […]

New Books and ARCs, 6/14/19

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 06/14/2019 - 16:08
Gaze upon it, if you will: The latest stack of new books and ARCs to arrive at the Scalzi Compound. Do you see anything here that intrigues you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

On privacy and Surveillance Capitalism

Contrary Brin - Fri, 06/14/2019 - 15:28
I stored up for a bigger one, this time, in a topic wherein I actually know something! Though yes, in background we have worries about a looming U.S.-Iran war, which I've warned about since November 2017... and more recently... asking you to make sure your neighbors know terms like "Saddam's WMDs," "Tokin Gulf Incident," "Gleiwitz," and "Reichstag fire." (And see what Navy vet Jim Wright says about this recently, here.)   

Over the long haul, our way out of these messes will almost always be more light. Exposing the wicked. Which brings us to...

== Fear of exposure ==

Harvard Prof. Shoshana Zuboff’s new book - The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power - is a massive overview of the major quandary of our age. It's reviewed by Noah Smith at Bloomberg, who begins by citing a simplified view of my own Transparent Society. (In fact, a world awash in light won't end privacy. It is (I assert) the only possible way that citizens will be able to preserve some privacy.)

Zuboff's book is also reviewed in the Guardian – and yes, I’ve been asked my reaction. Here's a substantial and worthwhile extract from that review:
“Surveillance capitalism,” she writes, “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Although some of these data are applied to service improvement, the rest are declared as a proprietary behavioural surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as ‘machine intelligence’, and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later."

Zuboff thus  connects to the recent works of Yuval Harari, who foresees a future society driven and propelled by "dataism." Back to the Guardian review. 

"Finally, these prediction products are traded in a new kind of marketplace that I call behavioural futures markets. Surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, for many companies are willing to lay bets on our future behaviour.”  Reviewer John Naughton continues: 
“While the general modus operandi of Google, Facebook et al has been known and understood (at least by some people) for a while, what has been missing – and what Zuboff provides – is the insight and scholarship to situate them in a wider context. She points out that while most of us think that we are dealing merely with algorithmic inscrutability, in fact what confronts us is the latest phase in capitalism’s long evolution – from the making of products, to mass production, to managerial capitalism, to services, to financial capitalism, and now to the exploitation of behavioural predictions covertly derived from the surveillance of users. In that sense, her vast (660-page) book is a continuation of a tradition that includes Adam Smith, Max Weber, Karl Polanyi and – dare I say it – Karl Marx.” 
(An aside: on a recent flight from DC, I sat across from a teenager who was reading Das Kapital. Old Karl has been re-awakened and is flying off the shelves, worldwide. And this resurrection was achieved by the gluttonous outrages of an oligarchy that seems bent on behaving exactly as KM described.)

== Simplistic, but with cause ==

Summarized in this interview, Zuboff correlates past episodes of rapacious colonialism with the way major data corporations treat us. Good line: Once we searched Google, but now Google searches us. Once we thought of digital services as free, but now surveillance capitalists think of us as free.
“Demanding privacy from surveillance capitalists,” says Zuboff, “or lobbying for an end to commercial surveillance on the internet is like asking old Henry Ford to make each Model T by hand. It’s like asking a giraffe to shorten its neck, or a cow to give up chewing. These demands are existential threats that violate the basic mechanisms of the entity’s survival.”
"At its core, surveillance capitalism is parasitic and self-referential. It revives Karl Marx's image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labor, but with an unexpected turn. Instead of labor, surveillance capitalism feeds on every aspect of every human experience."  She examines several major organizations -- notably Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft -- that are in various stages of developing a "technologically advanced and increasingly inescapable raw-material-extraction-operation." In the end, "surveillance capitalism operates through unprecedented asymmetries in knowledge and the power that accrues to knowledge." 
== And just like Marx... this model has fatal weaknesses ==

While describing valid complaits about info-greed by capitalists, Zuboff misses the key point that all elite accumulations of power will do this, trying to arrange for information to flow upwards, as it did into the manors, castles and cathedrals of old. This is monkey behavior; you see it in chimps. Hence, when she reflexively shouts "They're looking at you!" she and almost every other privacy paladin ignores the only possible conclusion from this tome:  that being seen is inevitable

Seriously, what is it she aims to accomplish with her book, with all its alarums, if failure of all constraints and freedom is unavoidable?

Time to step back. Maybe take a whiff of how our ancestors were treated when past elites similarly knew everything of any importance about those toiling below them in the villages and fields, when the aim of collecting "data" about the peasants (via priests and local gossips and by torture) was not about "selling them stuff." It was about life and death. About eviction from your hovel, or being levied into a hopeless war. It was about starvation.

Sure, elites always had imbalanced advantages when it came to surveillance  and it's worrisome, as it always was! But it's what they can do to you that matters. And right now what they can do - the plaint of Zuboff and most privacy paladins - is intrusively try to sell you stuff. 

Now, there are reasons why that business model is doomed, but that's beside the point. The way to limit what the mighty can do to you with your information is not to limit what elites know. There is not a scintilla of a chance that can happen and no example across the history of our species when it ever actually occurre.
The solution is not to (impossibly) blind elites, but to strip them naked, so that - no matter what they know about you, they hare severely hampered at using it against you.

That remedy has actually been used effectively, across the last 200 years. I give example after example, in The Transparent Society. 
== The reflex is addictive ==

Alas, Our earnest and sincere paladins of progress and freedom keep issuing hysterical screams "They're LOOKING at you!" without ever offering even a glimpse at the only remedy that can possibly work.
“This power to shape behaviour for others’ profit or power is entirely self-authorising. It has no foundation in democratic or moral legitimacy, as it usurps decision rights and erodes the processes of individual autonomy that are essential to the function of a democratic society. The message here is simple: Once I was mine. Now I am theirs.”
Yet the author displays stunning contempt for the masses:There can be no exit from processes that are intentionally designed to bypass individual awareness and produce ignorance, especially when these are the very same processes upon which we must depend for effective daily life. So our participation is best explained in terms of necessity, dependency, the foreclosure of alternatives, and enforced ignorance.”
Mind you, I agree with the overall call to action: “Our societies have tamed the dangerous excesses of raw capitalism before, and we must do it again….  We need new paradigms born of a close understanding of surveillance capitalism’s economic imperatives and foundational mechanisms.” 

Um sure. But doesn’t that imply that the solution is either state paternalism or else leveling the playing field?
Alas, the inevitable tilt is toward the former:  “GDPR [a recent EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the EU] is a good start, and time will tell if we can build on that sufficiently to help found and enforce a new paradigm of information capitalism.”
Except… does she point to a single paternalistic privacy protection or restriction that has ever effectively limited the data-aggrandizement processes that she decries?
In spurning other suggestions, Prof. Zuboff commands that the tide go out: “For example, the idea of “data ownership” is often championed as a solution. But what is the point of owning data that should not exist in the first place?” 
“So what is to be done? In any confrontation with the unprecedented, the first work begins with naming. Speaking for myself, this is why I’ve devoted the past seven years to this work… to move forward the project of naming as the first necessary step toward taming. My hope is that careful naming will give us all a better understanding of the true nature of this rogue mutation of capitalism and contribute to a sea change in public opinion, most of all among the young.”
Vague, vague, vague arm-wavings after a 900 page, well-documented call for resignation and despair, avoiding any look at the one thing that ever worked. The only thing that can.


== A fictional perspective ==  Someone report back on this new novel - Golden State, by Ben H. Winters, author of the alternate history, Underground Airlines. As reviewed on NPR: The world as we know it has been destroyed, and though we never find out exactly how, it appears it had something to do with a pandemic of lies. In the Golden State, lies are against the law, and the main enforcers of the truth are known as Speculators. If it's against the law to lie, it must also be against the law "to hypothesize, to imagine versions of what might have happened. But when you are trying to solve, for example, a suspicious death, sometimes it is necessary to hypothesize so we can try to follow the leads and crack this case. So to do that there are individuals within the Golden State, a special sort of law enforcement officer who has license to speculate."
It doesn’t sound remotely human or plausible – like those absurd films and tales abut dystopias that ban emotion – but perhaps an interesting thought experiment about a type of transparency.
And finally...
The object of the videogame DietDash is to travel through the aisles of a supermarket and avoid sugary foods. While it’s not an exciting game, overweight people who play it win in real life by losing up to 3.1 percent of their bodyweight after 8 weeks. The game was developed at Drexel University and researchers there are seeking recruits for a newer, highly gamified version of the shopping simulation.  Huh.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Sunset, 6/13/19

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 06/13/2019 - 21:14
It was gray and rainy all day, so the fact there’s a sunset to see at all is a minor miracle. And it was a good one.

Men, Women, House Cleaning

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 06/13/2019 - 13:46
An essay in the Guardian, entitled “Want to be a male ally? Start by cleaning the house” and the discussion of the essay over on Metafilter has prompted me to have some thoughts about house cleaning and relationships. These are in no particular order: 1. Essays like this feel purpose-driven to make dudes establish their […]

The Big Idea: David Walton

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 06/13/2019 - 09:48
In his Big Idea for Three Laws Lethal, author David Walton introduces you to those who hold your life in their (figurative) hands — whether you like it or not. DAVID WALTON: Don’t look now, but intelligent robots are about to decide if you live or die. Somehow, while we weren’t paying attention, we slipped […]

Today’s Collection of Flower Photos That Are Also Secretly Covers to Goth Albums

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 06/12/2019 - 15:54
Threw you a curveball on that last one, didn’t I. Hey, goths can have color from time to time, they just have to be morose about it.

Today in “Things I’m Doing That I’ve Never Done Before”

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 06/11/2019 - 15:45
I agreed to do a 5k run with my friend later this year. I made clear to them that I couldn’t promise I wouldn’t vomit at, like, mile three, but they were undeterred. It’s a few months away so I have time to prepare, at least. Honestly who am I and what have I done […]

The Big Idea: Richard Kadrey

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 06/11/2019 - 09:40
In his new novel The Grand Opera, author Richard Kadrey takes a bit of swerve — and creates a world both like and unlike our own, in a particular time, and in a particular place. RICHARD KADREY: I’ve been thinking about The Grand Dark for a long time. Years, in fact. But I couldn’t figure […]

Love Death + Robots Renewed for Season Two

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 06/10/2019 - 14:04
And Oscar-nominated animation director Jennifer Yuh Nelson is coming on board as Supervising Director. All the details (that has been announced anyway) are in this Hollywood Reporter article. Before you ask, I don’t have any other information that I can share about anything, so any question you ask beyond what’s in the article linked to […]

Announcing A Very Scalzi Christmas, From Subterranean Press

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 06/10/2019 - 08:33
Surprise! I have a short book of (mostly) Christmas stories coming out this year, each featuring art from Natalie Metzger. It’ll be out in November, and available in a signed, limited hardcover edition (perfect for holiday giving!), and also in eBook. And it features three new stories never before published anywhere. Here’s the write-up from […]

Space news! NASA. NIAC. Lunar landers and tourism.

Contrary Brin - Sun, 06/09/2019 - 19:39
I was in DC for a week, first to give a colloquium at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, then for three days of meetings with the staff and Phase One fellows of NASA’s Innovative and Advance Concepts NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, as a member of NIAC’s External Council.

(See the range of bold research endeavors, and pencil in September 24-27 to tune in to the NIAC Symposium, in Huntsville. I'll announce when/where.)  I also spoke at The International Space Development Conference and at a couple of future-concerned agencies.
In related news, NASA announced that it was hiring Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond to carry its first modern set of science experiments and technology demonstrations to the moon. Astrobotic was stimulated in part by past NIAC grants and all three are pondering using NIAC-fostered technologies. Read about some of the target sites for the first wave of landers.
Grabbing some well-timed spotlight just before this announcement: Jeff Bezos revealed his own planned, much larger -- and likely human-rated lunar lander -- 'Blue Moon'... (Let's set aside the unfortunate vibe of the eponymous song -- no matter.) 

Most of you know that I'm not a big fan of near-term manned lunar expeditions down to that dusty-poison plain by the U.S. (see below). Oh, for sure HUMANITY will go back to that gritty-useless desert soon (and that’s fine!), because whole bunches of Apollo wannabes are anxious to have their rites of big-boy adulthood there... a "bar moonzvah" so to speak. And yes, some exploring will get done. I even hope they'll prove me wrong about Luna being a barren wasteland. 

(So far, it seems that except for a little ice at sunless depths (hence no solar power) down at the poles, there's simply no real (beyond arm-waving) evidence that anything of any immediate value is accessible down there, near term. Except tourism!  And as Andy Weir shows in ARTEMIS, that could have real value. The Chinese, Indians, Russians, and billionaires will spend for that.

Hence, I raise a glass and cheer for Jeff's new lander, a terrific money-maker that will get those Apollo Wannabes to pay development costs. Design, build and sell it, Jeff. Better yet, lease it to em!  Yankee industry. Sell it and free up NASA to do other things.

What other things? While continuing to keep our lunar hand in, with robots, NASA should join the Japanese and the smarter zillionaires heading off to do stuff that no one else can do.  And yes, Jeff has now completely undermined his favorite person, Donald Trump. Love it. 


== More space! More space! ==

An amazing find! Two galaxies that appear not to have any appreciable amounts of Dark Matter.  No, we’re not “seeing” the DM. But we can see that in nearly all galaxies, stars orbit the galactic center quickly, revealing the galactic mass is much bigger than the sum total of stars, planets and dust/gas. There are also measurable gravitational lensing effects. These galaxies show markedly different orbital speeds.  The implications are huge.
Offering a glimpse of Earth’s distant future, astronomers found a massive chunk of debris orbiting a white dwarf that could be a 125-mile round fragment of an Earth-like planetary core, leftover from the death of its original star. Periodic changes in the star’s spectra—repeating every 123 minutes—seemed to bear out a fairly substantially sized object, rather than dust.
In 1946 British engineers proposed a highly plausible sub-orbital, manned rocket that would have advanced spaceflight by a decade. Megaroc. SO? Have a glimpse of what might have been in my colleague Mary Robinette Kowal's recent Nebula Award winning novella The Calculating Stars, in which we urgently push ahead to achieve... by 1958... something incredible, led by a clade of women who are even more-incredible still.
As if from the pages of EXISTENCE...  A meteor from another solar system may have hit Earth, and the implications are fascinating. 
Um, and speaking of alien objects. In 2017, the Pentagon first confirmed the existence of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), a government operation launched in 2007 to collect and analyze info on “anomalous aerospace threats” from “advanced aircraft fielded by traditional U.S. adversaries to commercial drones to possible alien encounters.” … In some cases, pilots — many of whom are engineers and academy graduates — claimed to observe small spherical objects flying in formation. Others say they’ve seen white, Tic Tac-shaped vehicles. Aside from drones, all engines rely on burning fuel to generate power, but these 'vehicles' had no air intake, no wind and no exhaust.
To consider in context: It's been 25+ years since any new techs were announced from the various Defense Department Skunk Works. Used to be, we’d get some kind of revelation, e.g. stealth bombers, at least once per decade, showing something for our tax dollars. I do know things are at least marginally farther along than we are told, when it comes to hypersonics, lasers, and ABM abilities, though by how much? 
Another piece to the puzzle. Some years ago the National Reconnaissance Office gave NASA two Hubbles. Yes, two Hubble Space Telescopes. Well, not quite. They were the optics-guts of obsolete Earth observing spy satellites, and we thus discovered that the Hubble had been a “beard” for the spysat program, all along.  The gift put NASA in a bind – getting two billion-dollar spacecraft for free is nice, unless you don’t have the quarter of a billion it would take to repurpose them for real science.  One of them has been repurposed now and will launch soon as a great new mission -- WFIRST -- but it took a while. (I visited the WFIRST lab-correlate while at NASA Goddard, last week.)
But the lesson is clear. Stuff goes on, behind the scenes. Some “wasted” funding may have only been diverted (see my old novella “Senses, Three and Six” from my collection The River of Time). Some civilian events or endeavors may be (partly) “beards.” And yes, I have a theory about these "sightings" that you've likely not seen anywhere ;-)

Above all, we need to pray and hope that members of our defender caste really are (as I believe) nearly all devoted public servants and not how Fox-and-ilk portray them – as Deep State enemies of the people.

== Inspirational perspectives ==
I'm a fan of Isaac Arthur’s series of podcasts about the vast range of ambitious endeavors we might pursue… if we manage to get past the mewling panic of ankle-grabbing troglodytes in our own species. He’s covered a vast range of topics, including “uplifting animals to sapience.” And there are times when I find he makes unwarranted assumptions – e.g. the silly concept that the Moon has copious “resources” readily accessible with current technology. (Baloney.) Still, it’s amazing stuff, vividly delivered, sometimes inspiring and even eye-popping.  Here’s one of the most-amazing, from a science fictional perspective, on Orbital Rings.
Plywood delivery drones that cost just a few hundreds of dollars may soon be deployed for re-supply missions for the Marines.
Wanna personal flying machine? “GoFly, the $2M+, two-year global competition to create a safe, quiet, and ultra-compact personal flyer, just awarded prizes to five teams across the globe for their winning prototypes. (via Peter Diamandis.)
I’ve long touted the Age of Amateurs — the skyrocketing of hobbies and avocations that prove the very opposite of the “decadent-lazy” accusation often hurled at modern citizens. See now these citizen science expeditions.

British system pre-cools air that’s been compressed during hypersonic flight so it can safely be used in a hybrid jet-rocket engine, potentially paving the way for a single flight to orbit space plane.



== Not just another anti-loony rant, but a forecast! ==
Okay, I can’t help myself. Here is a reprint of my earlier prediction that a jingoist, flag-waving, U.S.-only-yay! Mission to repeat Apollo would very soon become international’d.
Look ahead for what's intended, downstream, by those pushing the U.S. to "race back to the moon." Some dismiss the Pence-Trump lunar-declaration as pompous jingoism without scientific or national merit, misdirecting U.S. space resources and efforts toward copycatting past glories. But I'm astonished anyone believes that potemkin farce, that isn't even proposing a tenth of the needed funding. It won't and cannot remain a "race." Here is what’ll happen, if Republicans remain in power, prioritizing a moon-race over heading out to prospect and rake-in asteroidal wealth. 

As costs mount, suddenly, at a politically opportune time, the White House will announce:"Huzzah, rejoice! We negotiated making the moon landing mission a joint-international project!! 
It will be more efficient, spreading costs!!! It will set an example of international cooperation and a spirit of pan-human accomplishment!!!! 
One giant step for humanity and peace!!!!!!"  (One accomplishment will be a ratchtting of exclamation points.)
Unspoken will be: No one in the U.S. wanted to pay a hundred billion to "win" a "race" against the Chinese and other Apollo wannabes, desperate to prove themselves on that dusty-useless plain.

Unspoken also: We will pay all right, by transferring all of U.S. technology to our new "partners."
Make no mistake, that’s the end game for the jingo-competitive "race"... as it was for "U.S. Space Station Freedom." Our money and space tech to help them get their glory moment in dust, while our chance to gain actual wealth-value out there gets tossed away.

 But I was wrong about how long it would take. Administration officials are already hinting at this, while echoes from the "moon race" announcement haven't even faded. Ah.
And a coda: Space is poised for explosive growth - let's get it right!
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

The Scalzi Theory of Strawberries

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 06/08/2019 - 16:30
In our front yard we have a very small garden in which we grow strawberries and oregano, and one of the things I really enjoy is for a few months out of the year being able just to step out of my house and have a fresh, tart strawberry whenever I want. The strawberries we […]

Two Somewhat Contrasting Views of Athena

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 06/08/2019 - 11:37
Looking very serious, and then less so. Either way, she’s pretty great. It’s nice to have her home for the summer.

New Books and ARCs, 6/7/19

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 06/07/2019 - 16:53
Another Friday, another ample stack of new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound. Lots of good stuff here — what in this stack is catching your eye? Share in the comments!

Spice and Smudge, 6/6/19

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 06/06/2019 - 21:26
Patrolling the yard, as they are wont to do. There is, after all, a lot of yard to patrol.

Hey, Wanna See the Cover for The Last Emperox?

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 06/06/2019 - 09:36
If you do, it’s over here at Tor.com. As with the other covers in the series, it’s done by Sparth, and as with the other covers in the series, I kinda love it. Also, I’m still writing it. It needs to be done soon. Sooooooooon. But I think you’ll like it.

Disputation - and disinformation

Contrary Brin - Wed, 06/05/2019 - 17:01
Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE
I'm in DC for NASA and other meetings. So let's offer up a trove of observations about privacy, transparency and freedom....

A new debate platform - Kialo - goes some way toward the sort of “Disputation Arenas” I’ve been talking about and urging for 20 years. Kialo enables you to visualize discussions as an interactive tree of pro and con arguments. At the top is the thesis, which is supported or weakened by pro and con arguments underneath. Each one of these arguments can branch into subsequent arguments that support or attack them in turn.  (I do offer some added and important layers.)

The greatest innovation of our enlightenment experiment wasn’t democracy, or freedom, or fair-competitive markets, though these are important. One thing is enabled by those things, and makes them enabled – reciprocal accountability.

Reciprocal accountability (RA) is what lets us criticize each others’ favorite delusions and errors, the synergy that led to all our recent successes... that kings, lords, owners and priests all reflexively punished for 6000 years.  RA can come via cooperation, or by negotiation, or via fair-open competitive argument.  By applying RA, we got our five great positive sumarenas for competitive creativity… democracy for policies and law, Science for zeroing in toward better models of the world, markets for creating ever better goods and services, justice courts for adversarially and openly iterating justice, and sports – 

-- the example that makes clear how necessary regulation is, to deter the otherwise inevitable cheating that always spoiled these arenas, in eras past. The kind of cheating that threatens to spoil everything today, as cooperation, negotiation, and fair-open competitive argument are all being directly and deliberately undermined in America and the West, by powers that want a return to those 60 centuries of feudal misrule.
Can we transform the Internet from a swamp of lies into a process by which RA works, as it has in the other five arenas, till now? For a rather intense look at how "truth" is determined in science, democracy, courts and markets, see "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition," now posted on my website.
== The poisons chilling reciprocal accountability ==

At the opposite extreme… "Substitute arguing services" offered in ChinaA number of online services in China offer professional arguers who will verbally or electronically assault other people for a fixed fee. According to Radii China, “20 RMB (3 USD) gets you the standard angry phone call or WeChat message; 40 RMB (6 USD) guarantees a full day of spam calls; and 100 RMB (15 USD) blows up your target’s phone with 999 hate calls.”
Also from the  Institute for the Future (IFTF) -- social and issue-focused groups are particularly susceptible to disinformation campaigns and were targeted with computational propaganda during the 2018 mid-term elections. It also shows why the targeting of these groups will continue, and potentially worsen, in 2020. The research, The Human Consequences of Computational Propaganda, led by IFTF’s Digital Intelligence Lab, provides recommendations for fighting back.
Do these new changes at Facebook “change everything?” - or even anything? Right after the 2016 election, I spoke to some of the folks at Facebook who were looking into the fake rumors crisis and offered what I deemed unconventional but simple suggestions that would utilize competitive processes to quickly denote falsehoods... not one of which was tried. There are simple, efficient things FB could do, to start making their system more self-correcting. They are not remotely interested in achieving that outcome, alas, so it will be up to us. (If their current ameliorations fail atrociously in 2020, you can be sure Facebook will be broken up.)
Beyond FB, no one - and I mean no one, to my knowledge - seems to grasp what's missing from the Internet ecosystem.  It is the one thing that enabled markets, democracy, science, courts and sports to function. It is right there, glaringly obvious.

For a look at how "truth" is determined in science, democracy, courts and markets, see the lead article in the American Bar Association's Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University), v.15, N.3, pp 597-618, Aug. 2000, "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition."  Now posted on my website.
== Face Recognition points the way to… Big Brother? Or else… ==
In October, Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport reportedly debuted China’s first system that allowed facial recognition for automated check-in, security clearance, and boarding. And since 2016, the Department of Homeland Security has been testing facial recognition at U.S. airports. Delta has an optional biometric system in Atlanta that uses facial recognition kiosks for check-in, baggage check, TSA identification, and boarding.
And if you howl in objection, exactly how do you foresee stopping this? Even if you pass fierce, European-style restrictions, all that Privacy Laws accomplish — according to Robert Heinlein — is to “make the spy bugs smaller.”  And smaller, faster, better, cheaper and more numerous they are getting, as predicted in Brin’s Corollary to Moore’s Law.
The reflex to solve these issues by shutting down information flows is impractical and impossible, and it runs diametrically opposite to the methods we used to get the very freedom and privacy we now fear losing. The only approach that ever worked - or can possibly work - is to start by asking“which do I fear most?
What elites know about me?

Or what they can do to me?”
The former will never be constrained in any major way — name one time in the history of our species, when the mighty let themselves be blinded for long. But the latter — limiting what powerful men can DO to us — can and has been seriously accomplished during this enlightenment.
That is the difference between China’s implementation of these technologies and what we see in the West. And yes, it might end here tomorrow!  I am as frightened of Big Brother as you are. Probably more so. 

There is a narrow path out of this danger zone. And it does not start with futile howling “Don’t look at me!”
== On Data Privacy ==
Vint Cerf sent me a note saying the following passage reminded him of The Transparent Society:
“Worries about data privacy erupted in the spring of 1964 with the publication of “The Naked Society,” by Vance Packard, a journalist best known for his unsparing critique of modern advertising. “The Naked Society” made a comparable assessment of the marketing schemes of big corporations, noting their immense and profitable traffic in personal data about American consumers. But he trained most of his attention on the entity that was then the largest user of mainframe computing power: the United States government.”
My recent podcast on surveillance, transparency and the future of freedom is “The future of privacy policy: A Q&A with author David Brin,” Interviewed on the AEI site by James Pethoukis.
I began tracking this when I lived in Britain in the 1980s and they led the world introducing CCD cameras on the street. Now: “Thousands of San Diego street lights are equipped with sensors and cameras. Here's what they record.” 
== Wellsprings of freedom ==

A federal court ruled this December that secretly recording government officials, including police officers, is protected under the First Amendment, over-ruling a 50 year old Massachusetts law. And if you expect me to rejoice, well, sure, yeah. This is the most important civil liberties issue of our times. For it is on the street that citizens are most likely to encounter dangerous authority and need tools of accountability. Yet, I am willing to admit a need for some discussion re: the “secretly” part. Yes, in most cases. But there may be some room for compromise. Especially since it can happen that the bully is the one holding the camera. (A truth that was interpreted all-wrong in The Circle.) 

My other cavil is that the First Amendment is not the most crucial bulwark for this right to see-and-record. 

The real justification is the almost never mentioned Sixth… the sacred Sixth… that most concerns a citizen’s right to see, to access fair witnesses and to assertively get any evidence that might exculpate and prove innocence.  Why do none of the attorneys in these cases ever mention this vastly stronger argument?

Meanwhile. “Must Writers Be Moral? Their Contracts May Require It.” Seriously. We need to remember that extreme social justice warriors may be our current allies against a far-worse, worldwide mafia-oligarchic putsch… nevertheless the worst of these allies are just another kind of bully and no friends of the Enlightenment that gave us everything. Including social justice. We can agree about the direction - ever-increasing tolerance/diversity and accountability – while recognizing that sanctimony-driven bullies will be drawn to any height from which to thwart reason.

Crowd wisdom?  Someone out there explore this site claiming to be on internet censorship, and report back in comments?

== Not getting it… and getting it too much? ==
Anonymous browsing? This piece reveals how hidden your activity really is when using popular privacy tools. 
A reporter commissioned a 3D printed model of his own head to test the face unlocking systems on a range of phones — four Android models and an iPhone X: only the iPhone X defended against the attack. As far back as The Transparent Society(1998) I forecast that both the optimists and pessimists would be disappointed in face recognition and related technologies.
A disturbing article shows you how easy it is for companies to parse your activities, even when personal identifiers are stripped away, as promised by modern privacy policies. Your apps still report movements in a gross, non-ID way… and meta analysis can swiftly correlate to rebuild the fact that each movement was you.
Seriously, if your enraged or anxious reaction is to demand regulations to ban such correlations, who knows? You might succeed! And in your victorious smugness you will celebrate a potemkin triumph, an exercise in stunning delusion and futility.
I’ve said this since before The Transparent Society. We cannot base our security or safety or freedom on “policies” that aim — even with good intent! — to obscure our personal information.  

At risk - certainty - of repetition... there is a solution, when you recall that it matters far-less what elites *know* about you than what they can *do* to you. And there is a way to make them afraid of doing bad things. It is a proven way, demonstrated by 200 years of increasingly successful experiments, while “privacy via secrecy” has almost no track record of ever succeeding for long.
Want evidence?  Look at how hard the world’s elites, especially the rising oligarch-mafia, are striving to get information obscured behind veils and clouds. In such a world, they thrive. We don’t.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)
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