Friday, February 10, 2006

On the Value of (My) Opinions

In reply to Reader's 10:20:45 comment about this post:

My comments have no merit because they are opinions, and all opinions are worthless. Considered judgement has merit, but opinions are meaningless. I don't have the background to make considered judgements about these topics. And the journalists sure as hell don't know their asses from a wire-tap. And my (worthless) opinion of our elected representatives is well known here, I think.

The lawyers, who might be expected to at least make passing reference to the law, are instead either referencing esoteric legal doctrine or stating flatly that Bush has committed crimes the likes of which haven't been seen since Stalin. There has been very little actual LEGAL analysis that I've seen.

Further, everyone is ignoring the fact that the laws in question may as well been written in the 19th century, as communication and computing technology have blown the concept of borders into little tiny pieces. Data flows in silent disregard to imaginary lines on the landscape. But no one really wants to talk about high density data transfers, international communications grids, etc., etc. That would actually be hard, and what's the fun in that when we can impeach a president instead?

I will note that the same people that are complaining that Bush hasn't been competent enough and isn't using technology to full advantage are the same ones complaining when he does try to use technology to full advantage. Hirsh's article was a fine example of that kind of despicable bullshit.

The biggest white elephant in the room is the whole notion of privacy. Privacy no longer exists, and the sooner people accept that the sooner we can decide how we're going to re-order our society to accomodate this new mode of being.

You think that what goes on behind drawn curtains and closed doors is private? Not if your neighbor is using high-powered infrared imaging equipment and decent imaging software. He'll catch what you're saying using some cheap laser spybeam tech to pick up the vibrations on your windows, with some more of that magical software to process it into intelligible speech. Of course, the whole time he'll be leaching off your wireless network and tracking your online data transactions - everything from electronic bill-pay to your latest blog post. Oh, and don't forget those laser beams. New programs are being developed that can decipher what you're typing by the rhythm of your key stokes.

I haven't mentioned the new scanning tech that will allow for cheap and easy brainscans that will easily detect when people are lying. Of course, there's an easy dodge here: alway tell lies.

All of this stuff already exists to greater and lesser degrees of sophistication. The refinement of all of this stuff is happening rapidly, and cannot be stopped short of a collapse of our civilization.

And it will be cheap. Big Brother is the least of our worries, now that three hundred million Little Brothers will also be watching. The big financial institutions will probably manage to stay ahead of the curve and keep financial transactions relatively secure, but everyone's personal lives will be fair game.

But instead of acknowledging this, the mice have voted to bell the cat. Endless talk about the right to privacy, and how much privacy we should give up for security, and on and on about privacy. We can vote for a law to demand the repeal of gravity, but we'll all still feel that old 32 ft/sec/sec tomorrow, and the Moon and Earth will still waltz their way around the Sun, which will obliviously continue to circle the galactic hub. All the while hearings will be held on Capitol Hill to determine who is responsible for failing to enforce the Gravitational Repeal Act of 2006. No doubt the Senators' hair plugs and pancake will be flawless. And my opinions will still be worth squat.


bill said...

Icepick, I started to leave this comment at RIA, but while I was composing it the comments on that post disappeared. As I think what I'm saying partially agrees with your post, I hope you don't mind my adding it here.


Wow. I feel like I showed up late for a party, everybody is gone, the furniture is overturned, and the dog is eating onion dip off the carpet.

hey, it's all public information:

When I first read it, I thought it was interesting, but wrong. Lately, I've been thinking, maybe there's something to it: Transparent Society.

There's nothing in the CS Monitor article that hasn't been true for least 10-15 years. Marketeers and companies have always collected massive amounts of information. Now, it's just easier, computing is faster for quicker searches and data matches, and publicly available information is easier and cheaper to come by. Of course government agencies have had access to the same data mining possibilities as Wal-mart. There is no privacy and hasn't been for a very long time. About 20 years ago, I did some back office work with a market research firm. We had reverse phonebooks, phonebooks with unlisted numbers, all the demographic information you could think of. Companies existed that paid people to sit in records offices and collect all the public record information that was available, bind it into books, and sell it for thousands of dollars. Now your City Hall makes that same information available for free on the internet.

Years ago I thought about using nothing but encrypted email, but decided not to. Here's how I looked at it: assuming all data transmissions are monitored, an encrypted package will throw up more red flags than one that isn't. Nonencrypted email has a better chance of getting lost in the noise.

In some ways, the discussed incompetency to evaluate all this information might be all that provides us with a modicum of privacy.

Icepick said...

Bill, if you're agreeing with me, you're probably in the wrong place!

But you didn't miss much of a party. The guests (me) showed up early, and looking for a fight. About twenty nasty comments flew around before I went back and deleted all of mine and ceded the battlefield to others. RIA then nuked the field, apparently. BOOM!

The amount fo data that is freely available is astounding. Check out pretty much any county appraiser's website and you can get gobs of data on local property: who owns it, how much they paid for it, how much neaarby property has sold for recently, etc.

Personally, I don't think Big Brother's incompetence is what keeps him from watching us so much as it is that most of us don't grab his attention. And the sme goes for the legions of Little Brothers. The only protection is to not catch someone's interest.