back to article The Transparent Society revisited

A little over ten years ago, science fiction author David Brin stood up at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference and delivered the first draft of some of his 1998 book The Transparent Society. The crowd, he said Thursday, was "both helpful and actively hostile". The resulting book was, as Michael Froomkin noted, widely …

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Joke

Tautology.

Yeah, I thought about fighting for a civilisation that chills out, but I just couldn't be arsed getting up to do it.

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A Safe Bet

"Froomkin's prediction: there will be more change between now and 2018 than there was between 1998 and 2008. ®"

And that will be most probably at an exponential rate of change, such is the Speed of Information Transfer and Growth nowadays.

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I for one welcome the cameras

I side with Brin on this - for further elucidation on some of his ideas, try his novel 'Earth' or try the late Arthur C Clarke & Stephen Baxter's novel 'In the Light of Other Days' for a different perspective of similar topics.

These days a pretty simple Google search will still net you a gaggle of web-2.0-cams, and I for oen would *love* to see the inner workings of the Government (Australian, UK, US, China, Japan, Zimabawe...) exposed equally for the whole world to see.

As for the comment 'if you've got nothing to hide, why have curtains?' - well, if you time it right looking out of the train you can seen into my bedroom. Big whoop. Personal (ie. body-space) privacy is one thing - governmental and corporate transparency is another - they are completely seperate issues.

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Unwarranted reciprocity

Why does openness and transparency in government organizations require equal transparency and loss of privacy of individual citizens? This is a a fallacy based on faulty rationalization of the problems with governments.

The government serves the people (or at least it should), and thus it is accountable to them, not the other way around. It's time we get our heads around this concept.

-dZ.

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Boffin

Hats off indoors, shirts on in the bar.

What a charming notion.... - "Privacy is a matter of taste and fashion." Which might explain why few Swedish houses and flats have net curtains and nobody here seems too bothered.

It would also go some way to explaining why people argue over privacy, with respect to its importance.

Hysterical public debate will lead, as always, to a polarisation of views, I suspect, with most people either being very secretive or almost shockingly transparent. There will always be those of course, who walk on the wwwild-side 42 take the middle road of their choosing.

And in spooky nookE bedroom battles, are great secrets revealed? As this could suggest?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/19/spook_spank_stitchup/

And the icon? A blue sombrero, perhaps? The future's so bright (he's gotta wear shades).

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transparency

Cameras = control... and, no you're not the one at the top of the string.... you're the one at the bottom. Although... cell phone cameras give the people control.

Basically the one holding the camera becomes more powerful. And the powerful can afford more cameras than the less powerful. "God is everywhere" and soon your local police will be too. Every entity works for themselves, sometimes as individuals, sometimes as a group.

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An alternative approach

Brin is a very clever man but trying to stop government secrecy is like trying to get them to breathe water. Great fun but ultimately pointless. Removing power from the cretins is an approach which would bear fruit. Democracy at the moment consists of the crazy notion of electing one bunch of liars or another every half decade or so (every 6 months in Italy). If there is a referendum every week implemented using text message or e-mail with digital signatures then power is devolved to the people.

Politicians seem quite proud of the fact that they have no ideology any more, and smug that they respond to focus groups and polls quickly. I say kill the middle man and just ask the people rather than their elected representatives, or as they like to think of themselves "leaders". Personally I've never felt the need for leadership and pity those who do.

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Black Helicopters

@Bounty

Cameras are fine for distributing images until those in charge of the distribution systems block them. Take all the pictures you like but you still want to transmit the things.

How quickly we forget that t'internet is not run by well-meaning folks but by people with a commercial/political interest.

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Pointless

"Brin is a very clever man but trying to stop government secrecy is like trying to get them to breathe water. Great fun but ultimately pointless."

I completely disagree that getting them to breathe water is pointless, it's only pointless if you give up. So don't.

Anyway. The whole notion that you can make governments accountable is really very silly. They've got the well-organised trained killers and we don't. They might toss us a few scraps, such as the Freedom of Information Act, but changing the number of scraps tossed does not alter the relationship (they're at the table, we're on the floor).

"Froomkin's prediction: there will be more change between now and 2018 than there was between 1998 and 2008."

I predict that if I dive into a pond I will get wet. My book is available at all good bookshops.

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Pirate

Unimpressed with Brin

The late John Brunner got there first with his subtler, less didactic work "Shockwave Rider" in 1975.

Brin's rather pompous, and is brilliant only in that rather tiresome, try-hard, blow-hard, right-on fratboy way of middle-aged American liberals. Brunner used to wear a cape, like a proper Bohemian, and wrote for readers who could think, not those who needed to be told what to think.

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Heres looking at you, kid.

Current estimates put the number of cctv cameras in the UK at four million. Assume they are all active 24/7 and a simple calculation shows that the accumulated data amounts to 672 million hours per year. A very large percentage of this data is redundant 'noise' which is of no interest to anyone except voyeuristic weirdos and cheapo TV channels.

Real-time active monitoring is expensive and can only be viable where there is a genuine public interest component such as traffic management, public safety, and monitoring criminal activity. Post facto examination of recorded data by the police and security services has led to successful prosecutions in the courts.

So it's not all bad news on the cctv front, until you come to consider gray areas like the police automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system and how it can be accessed by commercial bodies seeking to make a profit. London congestion charge, anyone?

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Defeatist Bollocks

The answer is not to watch each other - that's the corrupt system we have now; the infrastructure for the totalitarian wet dream.

The answer (as I've been arguing for almost as long as Brin) is to watch ourselves.

http://www.fullmoon.nu/book/side_issues/IdentityCards.htm

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Black Helicopters

The Flip Side....

"The whole notion that you can make governments accountable is really very silly. They've got the well-organised trained killers and we don't. They might toss us a few scraps, such as the Freedom of Information Act, but changing the number of scraps tossed does not alter the relationship" .... By Spleen Posted Tuesday 27th May 2008 10:51 GMT

With everybody getting SMARTer, it is always best not to abuse well-organised forces, thinking that they are not intelligent enough to think they are abused.

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Black Helicopters

Police Everywhere???

"God is everywhere and soon your local police will be too."

Yeah, OK. Trying to find a policeman round here (they're all guarding the Carling Academy from being stolen....) is an excercise in futility matched only by phoning them and asking for help:

-If you have information about teh terrirests, press 1.

-If you have information about illegal mp3 distribution, press 2.

-If you have seen someone exceed the speed limit and have their licence plate number along with a photograph, press 3.

-If you are a MP and require a bodyguard detail to accompany you for a kebab, press 4.

-If you know a good donut shop, press 5.

-If you know how to work this new technical thingie we've just been issued, press 6.

-If you have seen someone smoking in, or near, a location where this is prohibited, or you believe smoking should be prohibited, press 7.

-If you believe someone has imbibed more than the government's new recommended weekly intake of alcohol, press 8.

-If you have seen someone appear to think for themselves, rather than staying at home and watching reality TV, press 9.

-For all other enquiries, including murder, rape, assault, burglary, arson, criminal damage etc, please hold until a badly-trained member of our civilian support staff gets back from their coffee break and disconnects you.

Black helicopters, cos I fall under at least a few of those, and THEY ARE WATCHING!!

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Black Helicopters

@Jimmy - State + Business vs People

"So it's not all bad news on the cctv front, until you come to consider gray areas ... and how it can be accessed by commercial bodies seeking to make a profit."

... And when commercially useful monitoring is legitimised in order to finance the extension of state surveillance then the interests of most ordinary folk tend to come a very poor third. Rather than 'enhanced transparency', which overall might be beneficial, there is a significant increase in asymmetry of power in the triad of state, big-business and the people.

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