Sep 072010
 
 September 7, 2010  Featured News, Surveillance

David Brin writes:

We are in for a time of major decision-making as the Moore’s Law of Cameras (sometimes called “Brin’s Corollary to Moore’s Law”) takes hold and elites of all kinds are tempted to utilize surveillance in Orwellian/controlling ways, often with rationalized good intentions.

Alas, many “champions of privacy and freedom” push the nebulous notion that dark outcomes can be prevented by passing laws against this or that elite looking at this or that kind of information. In other words, by restricting information flows.

For a decade, I have challenged such folks to name a time, in the history of humanity, when that general approach has ever worked for long at keeping elites blind, let alone in a world where cameras and databases proliferate like crocuses after a rainstorm. No one has ever come up with a single major example, of any kind, ever. Yet, they would bet our future freedom on that nebulous approach.

As Papa Heinlein said: “The chief thing accomplished by Privacy Laws is to make the [spy] bugs smaller.”

The alternative concept — to look back at them and watch the watchers via sousveillance or counter-transparency — is a hard sell, because it is counter-intuitive and easy for elites to propagandize against. And yet, it is the essence of what the Western Enlightenment has used as its tool set for achieving the miracles of the last 300 years. (I explain this concept in The Transparent Society and illustrate it in Earth.)

Read more of David’s commentary on the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies.

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