Re: Snooping costs
Au Contraire monsieur AC, you are spot on.
The cost of this surveillance insanity and its knockdown effects on technological progress, job creation and human prosperity are its very worst consequences. These exciting new snoop-snoop policies and poorly understood "counter-measures" so beloved of our "democratic" political masters are a major drain on national finances and human capital. With zero to little return, I might add, unless you are a cyber crook or TLA with an unlimited budget.
To draw a historic parallel, when the West (mostly the US) was spending 4% of its GDP on military defence last millenium, the USSR was spending 25 % of its own just to keep up. This is the main reason the USSR "lost" the Cold War. On the upside, lots of engineers, aerospace companies and other revenue spinners were gainfully employed. Innovative new technologies like the Internet and GPS were also developed during this period. Not always the best use of capital perhaps, but still "sustainable".
But Star Wars, nuclear arsenals and other MAD programs became "unsustainable" economic activities for the Soviets, so they had to drop out of the race.
For some reason, I think today's MIC believes it will also spend its way to victory on the cyber battlefield.
Unfortunately, this reasoning is fraught with problems.
1) Firstly, you don't need a massive industrial capacity to make cyber weapons, you need brains, knowledge, patience and time. No one country has a monopoly on these. In fact, the West is starting to run low on many of them. And people with brains, knowledge, patience and time are not always interested in world domination and MAD policies. Many would rather write computer games or build the next trillion dollar internet company.
2) You can see and target missile silos, subs and other offensive capability with expensive, publicly visible counter-measures. To counter (or use) cyber weapons, see above.
3) During the 60s, many people cursed the arms race, but fear of instant mutual annihilation by Uncle Sam and the Motherland helped keep the party going. Cyber weapons or even terrorism don't instill quite the same level of existential fear in people even if they can also threaten economic livelihoods and their way of life. (See above for counter measures).
4) Since the only conceivable way to make a "fail-safe" deterrent to cyber-weapons would be to control everyone's knowledge, access and use of the internet and its associated technologies, the MIC and powers now seem hell-bent on doing just this. This is why we have things like TIA, airport body scanners, comms metadata capture by phone and internet companies and massive data warehouses in Utah. Should work again right? Once we have impoverished those FOSS using terriers and furriners will have won the war!
5) The threat of terrorism is pretty large in people's minds, thanks to the media and concerted gov't actions to keep the flames burning, actively or passively, even if statistics don't bear out the actual risks. Scared people will still vote for big military budgets and hawkish policies.
The saddest part of this reasoning is that the fear-based military spend of post WWII had a net positive effect on economic growth and prosperity. But today's fear-based military spending against invisible or hard to see enemies appears to be having the opposite effect.
More importantly, people without hope, free will and room to maneuver can never move forward. I'd say that in this particular cold war, the Russians and Chinese truly have the upper hand. Given the increasingly lucrative nature of cyber crime and the increasingly dimmer initiatives coming out of Western capitals to counter it, I am not very optimistic about our prospects. We will more likely be the ones queuing up for bread (after our bank accounts have been ransacked and the government has spent every last tax dollar electronically fingerprinting everyone and everything) unless a lot changes and fast.
Meanwhile, the Muscovite techie pwning wide boys will be driving all the fast cars and riding all the fast women (using your credit card numbers).
Depressing ramble I know, but it has been a very long day and an even longer 15 years. I just keep hoping these idiotic people will go away. Maybe they can be employed as meter maids or something.