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We Can Avoid a Surveillance State Dystopia 267

Posted by Soulskill
from the with-only-the-power-of-love-and-maybe-some-napalm dept.
An anonymous reader writes "After the past year's revelations about NSA spying, it's hard to read any commentary about society without dire warnings of the coming (or already present) surveillance state. Sci-fi author Ramez Naam makes the point that while government surveillance needs to be fought, it's actually not as bad as what we were promised in decades past. 'Aldous Huxley published Brave New World in 1932. And while Brave New World is remembered more for predicting government-controlled biological engineering of the masses, it also features government surveillance, media manipulation, and thought control. This is an old idea. Yet somehow, today, in most of the world, governments have dramatically less control over their people than they did when Huxley and Orwell wrote those words. Indeed, the average person on Earth is more free today, in 2014, than he or she would have been in the actual year 1984. The arc of history has bent towards more freedom.' Naam also explains that the technological advances allowing the bulk collection of personal data also provide us with cheap and easy means to fight government overreach."
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We Can Avoid a Surveillance State Dystopia

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  • Wait what (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2014 @07:17PM (#46307413)

    So the government doesn't control the media and control us through fear of terrorism? Because it seems to me that they kind of do

  • umm no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dlt074 (548126) on Friday February 21, 2014 @07:18PM (#46307421)

    we are not more free. we are over regulated, over ruled, over interfered with. period.

    you can double-speak it anyway you like. spin spin spin. we are less free then ever here in the US of A.

  • The Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nwaack (3482871) on Friday February 21, 2014 @07:18PM (#46307423)
    The problem is that most 'normal' people aren't going to use things like Tor in order to not not be spied on by their own county, nor should they have to.
  • by medv4380 (1604309) on Friday February 21, 2014 @07:29PM (#46307517)
    We're ether in a surveillance state run by the State, a surveillance state run by Corporations, or a mixture of both. Avoiding one means getting the other at this point. I don't see a third option without destroying the tech that makes it possible, and I'll be keeping my my computers until the Amish Technology Police State take them from my cold dead hands.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2014 @07:37PM (#46307581)

    we are not more free. we are over regulated, over ruled, over interfered with. period.

    I think spying on Americans is shitty. Regulating discharge from mining companies or oil drilling companies is completely acceptable.

    That's my opinion.

    You may disagree.

    But where does freedom begin and end.

    As for me, business is always wrong because profit makes people eventually do evil. Capitalism makes people spiral to the bottom because of its nature. The excuse of "our bottom line" creates a mentality to destroy the commons and poison people. I have never seen an exception. Please, tell me when the profit motive has helped people over the long term. I would really like to know.

    Yes, I am implying that Socialism is better over the long term. Although, it's still not good enough.

    Economics is the most backwards 'science" ever - it's more of a religion, isn't it.

  • Re:umm no (Score:1, Insightful)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Friday February 21, 2014 @07:45PM (#46307649)

    we are less free then ever here in the US of A.

    People in the US are freer today in some ways, and less free in others. There is almost always pressure for the government to do something about this or that. The result is more regulation, and more laws. Economic freedom in the US has been falling, and making economic recovery more difficult. The result has been devastating to many people whether they are new graduates or the unemployed that can't find a job. Various other questions are being settled in the courts, such as the legality of recording the police, 2nd Amendment rights, and various questions of employment law.

    The effects of Obamacare, the Dodd-Frank bill, and various others are starting to really kick in. There are other dangers posed, such as the DHS's license plate tracking proposal (scuttled, for now), and many others.

    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

  • Re:umm no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2014 @07:59PM (#46307721)

    Utterly predictable as well as off-topic.

    Are you sure you're not a bot?

  • by liquid_schwartz (530085) on Friday February 21, 2014 @08:02PM (#46307751)
    My grandfather was able to do many things that I cannot. My father was able to do less than him but still more than me. I have already gotten to do things that my kids won't be able to. Need examples, try how many places you can go hunting / fishing / hiking / off roading / target shooting / camping. You can't even have campfires at developed sites in some areas. Consider what firework options you have, they have probably gone down. Granted I live in the Peoples Republic of Kalifornia, so many of you will have more options than I do. Even so, the trend that I've observed is that options (another way of looking at Freedom) are going down. I don't see an end in sight either.
  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex.project-retrograde@com> on Friday February 21, 2014 @08:06PM (#46307799)

    TFA is disinformation or ignorance, do not believe the message therein.

    You are only as free as they let you be. [youtube.com] The news is not the news. [youtube.com] You are slaves to corporations that farm you. [youtube.com] Your wars are fought to privatize economies. [youtube.com] Since secrets were allowed in government they have been actively against all activism, [wikipedia.org] because activism the only thing that affects change, your votes do not matter, [snagfilms.com] the political system is rigged. [snagfilms.com] Maintaining the social, economic, and political status quo, even against the will of the people, is what "national security" means. [theguardian.com] They don't have to fake disasters, they can craft legislation and posture politically so that when one comes along they can turn a blind eye if need be. Each disaster makes the people more powerless, increasing the wealth gap. This is disaster capitalism, and it is working great even in communist nations.

    With unemployment up, you are still spending too much time working: One can not truly fulfill their potential as humans without time to relax, enjoy life, create, and explore new opportunities. Your office jobs are pointless, replaceable either by computers or outsourcing to individuals with less cost of living, and we do so increasingly to ensure no job stability -- nearly everyone is a buggy whip maker one step of progress away from being an "unskilled" homeless person. The labor jobs largely have no unions so their working conditions suffer. In both blue and white collar cases people are given no time to seek new avenues of employ, or even manage their finances (you think bankers hours aren't such for a reason? Information disparity is the source of all evil). With inflation out-pacing pay, money in savings is diminished so that people can not safely leave employ -- The better to entrap and farm you with my dear. If you had a little more time you'd have leverage at your disposal to find better work or keep a plan B so that you can bargain for better pay and working conditions. Each disaster allows the system to ratchet your belts a bit tighter, more reliance, less time to be human. This is why banks are not held accountable, and are rather encouraged to destroy markets. How could anyone benefit from economic disaster and the mayhem it brings? Humans will do whatever it takes to survive, and the unscathed upper echelon will capitalize on this.

    What is worse than 1984 is having it worse while fools like the article writer think it's not as bad. Classic ignorance. An example of thought control at its finest. When I became an adult I looked upon your world as though an alien from a distant planet -- I managed to forget all the programming about what "the real world" is, and question everything as a scientist would. The most telling and alarming is your willful resistance to application of the scientific method to governance and worklife. It's fucking disgusting. No engineer or scientist would agree to be ruled thus.

    The answer is to modularize and decentralize your production of necessary resources, but no one wants to hear that... Moronic NIMBYs, you deserve what you get for your apathetic ignorance and inaction. The government has codified resistance to sustainable coexistence. That's why farmers can't grow excessive crops, even for personal use, [wikipedia.org] and no city can survive on its own. Hell, school kids aren't even taught basic technologies like how to start a cooking fire, swim, sew, butcher, or bake -- Not survival

  • Re:umm no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dorianny (1847922) on Friday February 21, 2014 @08:12PM (#46307841) Journal
    Lets completely ignore the fact that what the economy is recovering from is the huge blunder of the private banking sector following deregulation. Lets repeal Dood-Frank, If they screw up again than we will simply bail them out with tax-payer money like last time, but I am sure they learned their lesson the first time around and what we need is even more deregulation.
  • Not in America (Score:5, Insightful)

    by srichard25 (221590) on Friday February 21, 2014 @08:12PM (#46307843)

    "Indeed, the average person on Earth is more free today, in 2014, than he or she would have been in the actual year 1984"

    Maybe the average person on Earth is more free today, but the average American is most definitely NOT more free today than they were in 1984. Try to buy a large soda in New York. Try to smoke just about anywhere indoors. Try to board a plane with a pocket knife, or even just a soda. 20 year old adults can serve in the Marines, but can't buy a drink.

  • by SpankiMonki (3493987) on Friday February 21, 2014 @08:14PM (#46307855)

    No one complains about those.

    That's because in those days there weren't laws like the Patriot Act subverting the 4th Amendment.

    There are irrational paranoid fears of a 1984 style future or a Soviet Union future...

    It hasn't been that long since someone would be labelled "paranoid" and "irrational" for suggesting that the US government was surveilling *all* phone calls and electronic communications of US citizens. Yet here we are.

  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday February 21, 2014 @08:18PM (#46307889) Journal
    Great idea for a movie, Jim Carey would be excellent in the lead role.

    Seriously, I was born in 1959, in my lifetime blacks freed themselves from the company store and won the right to vote, women unchained themselves from the kitchen sink and took control of their reproduction, young men are no longer conscripted to kill other young men, homosexuals can hold hands in public without risking jail and/or chemical castration, teenage mothers are no longer forced to give up their children at birth, men and women can cohabitate without the approval of the local preacher.

    Those are just a few of the ways individual freedom has increased in the last half century. We may have taken a small step backward with overzealous mass surveillance but it has done little to reverse the great strides forward that occurred in the 60's and 70's.
  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Friday February 21, 2014 @08:46PM (#46308061)
    The simple problem is that information is power. The typical psychopath who runs for political office or backstabs their way into top civil servant positions know this in their very cores. They want this power and they don't want us to have this power. This is why freedom of information requests can be the end of governments and many civil servants jobs and this is why they do their damnedest to fight them or exempt data from them.

    A great example of this would be when the receipts for UK ministers got leaked that it instantly resulted in political career loss, criminal charges, and probably helped with a change in government. Obviously this was powerful data that when leaked resulted in a massive positive for society. Yet the government claims that this data is dangerous to have public; yet they can't show any damage that came from the one time it was made public. Plus the only claim with any real basis (account numbers and potentially credit card info) is nonsense as those could be blacked out with little loss to the public. But there has been no move to make this data public and an investigation into who leaked the data. If they did catch the person I suspect that they would end up facing penalties greater than those who were caught stealing from the government.

    My personal view is that nothing that government does should be kept secret with the single exception of personal medical records. That basically if you work for or interact with the government that it should be 100% open. Some records could be sealed for a year or so such as undercover operations but that should require a special judge to approve and even then should have a time limit.

    I see this as no different than if I owned a company and one of my employees told me that I couldn't see a contract they were negotiating for my company. If any employee said no to any information request I made then I would say, "No problem sorry to bother you." And then with security I would have them thrown out of the office while IT changed every password they might know and a forensic investigator would be pouring over their records before the day was over. Plus I would criminally charge them with the slightest wrong doing found. Whereas if an employee came to me saying they screwed up I would be quite forgiving and work with them through the problem.

    Keeping things in the light is always the best policy. But too many government officials seem to think that we can't handle the truth. The reality is that the violent reaction they get when leaks do happen is that we are usually more annoyed with the coverup than the actual events. Benghazi would be perfect: it was layers of lying that brought about those events, events in a violent country where violence should be expected, and then the cover-up after. Few people would have been surprised that strange things happened in Libya, so covering them up was just stupid.

    So no, this whole government getting more information is a terrible terrible thing. These people have long proven themselves to be 100% untrustworthy and quite hostile to our wellbeing. What has kept them from doing their worst was a combination of their having bad information combined with leaks that gave us great information. But now they can look at any "dissident" who by definition will be anyone questioning their behavior including normal political opposition, and not only figure out their entire network of supporters but as any mathematician will tell you with a network is that there are a few key nodes. Thus they will be able to effectively destroy any opposition not through routing out every little dissident but by highly selective targeting of very few people causing the network to disintegrate. To use the American revolution as an example I suspect that the British would have loved to find the few financially key supporters and throw them into the Boston harbor. If they had the lists of supporters that we now know as founding fathers the revolution could have been ended with one afternoon of hangings. And I am talking pre-teaparty; by reading their correspondence they could have seen trouble brewing, and with a few trumped up charges kept the ink off the declaration of independence.
  • Re:Wait what (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maliqua (1316471) on Friday February 21, 2014 @08:51PM (#46308093)

    its not even remotely possible that the terrorist attacks are inspired by the actions of your military are they?

  • by Kjella (173770) on Friday February 21, 2014 @09:11PM (#46308199) Homepage

    As for me, business is always wrong because profit makes people eventually do evil. Capitalism makes people spiral to the bottom because of its nature. The excuse of "our bottom line" creates a mentality to destroy the commons and poison people. I have never seen an exception. Please, tell me when the profit motive has helped people over the long term. I would really like to know.

    Money is what keeps me showing up at work five days a week. Now I'd like to think I'm doing something useful there, granted I'm not curing cancer or anything like that but still. Throw me in a "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" communist hellhole I'll do my best to be useless and needy. Or better yet, one of the people in power who decide if other people are useful or have needs. Give me the Star Trek utopia and I'll be the bloody useless guy who spends all his time on the holodeck. Which is why I think all the basic income people are on crack, because there's frankly jobs you wouldn't do if you could live well without doing them.

    Money isn't really the cause of anything, it's just the objectification of "What's in it for me?" and honestly, I don't ever see most of my money. They just exist as numbers in a bank somewhere, I can't even wipe my ass with them. They're just easier to use as intermediaries and to gain interest on than buying lifestock and breeding them, forests that produce lumber or whatever else produces "interest". If we weren't using currency we'd still have economics, for example people would look for arbitrage in swapping cows for goats for corn for cows if the exchange rates were off. People would look at the ROI for giving you grain now in return for pork next summer. Maybe they weren't so formal about it, but it still happened long before we started using coins and notes.

  • Re:Wait what (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Immerman (2627577) on Friday February 21, 2014 @09:39PM (#46308393)

    No, I think you've got that mostly backwards - the terrorist attacks were mostly because our military and black-ops teams have been continuously fucking with the region for the better part of a century at least. I think we can all agree that Saddam was a terrible, *terrible* leader - wouldn't you be pissed at the people who put him in power and continued to prop up his regime? (not that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, but his is the name everybody knows)

  • by Kjella (173770) on Friday February 21, 2014 @09:54PM (#46308491) Homepage

    Those are just a few of the ways individual freedom has increased in the last half century. We may have taken a small step backward with overzealous mass surveillance but it has done little to reverse the great strides forward that occurred in the 60's and 70's.

    I'm not sure surveillance and tolerance belongs on the same axis. We've moved from a fairly low-tolerance, low-surveillance state where many people did "unapproved" things in private to a high tolerance, high surveillance state where the government knows but it doesn't care. Graciously supported by "if you got nothing to fear, you got nothing to hide", "think of the children" and "either you're with us or the terrorists win" crowd, panopticon believers and other useful idiots privacy is rapidly shredded.

    It doesn't get bad until the government gets repressive and you realize that the curtains you've opened can't be pulled shut again without going on all sorts of watch lists and shitlists for covert activity. Look at the countries that don't exactly have a stellar record for freedom, is it getting better there? Not really, through more surveillance the people in power have gained even more control. Crushing any form of resistance is often about catching it in its infancy, making people believe it's hopeless to gather enough to make a change. It's a lopsided fight leaning more and more heavily against the incumbent.

  • by Urza9814 (883915) on Friday February 21, 2014 @11:18PM (#46308907)

    Money is what keeps me showing up at work five days a week. Now I'd like to think I'm doing something useful there, granted I'm not curing cancer or anything like that but still. Throw me in a "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" communist hellhole I'll do my best to be useless and needy. Or better yet, one of the people in power who decide if other people are useful or have needs. Give me the Star Trek utopia and I'll be the bloody useless guy who spends all his time on the holodeck. Which is why I think all the basic income people are on crack, because there's frankly jobs you wouldn't do if you could live well without doing them.

    Personally, I've always found that work is the thing that *prevents* me from doing things I consider useful. Gimme three or more free days in a row, and suddenly I start writing code and building things and getting stuff done. Stick me in a cubicle for eight hours, I try to do as little as possible for those eight hours, then go home and stare at the TV until it's time to sleep. The more "free time" I have, the busier I become.

    Of course, that's a different kind of work. At work I'm writing scripts for performance testing software. At home I'm building a web-based home theater system with a control console that pops up out of my coffee table. Although I do also volunteer for some community groups, and that goes WAY up when I don't have to work a 40 hour week -- from hours per month or year to hours per day. In the past, when I didn't *have* to work, I'd spend *more* than 40 hours a week volunteering for various groups.

    As for the drugs and holodeck:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R... [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Wait what (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Friday February 21, 2014 @11:35PM (#46308991)

    That's a "long string of terrorist attacks"?

    Gee, growing up in, say, Ireland or Israel would've probably shaken your precious soul...

  • Re:Wait what (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Immerman (2627577) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @12:00AM (#46309085)

    Not my fault our government makes it so easy. :(

    Though I would like to assert that anti-US-government != anti-American. We lost control of the government a long time ago, if we ever really had it.

  • Re:Wait what (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 22, 2014 @01:57AM (#46309385)

    Every terrorist group or totalitarian leader on the planet is always given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the atrocities they commit.

    As has the United States government & Military.

    One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

  • Re:Wait what (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 22, 2014 @04:36AM (#46309807)

    "Terrorist" attacks happen for a reason; they do not occur in a vacuum. If you want to know why Islamic extremists target occidental assets and people, simply examine US and Soviet foreign policy since 1945. While "we" were conducting a Cold War using client States, and stoking regional, ethnic and religious conflict for our own ends, we were p*ssing a lot of people off.

    This is not a justification, nor an excuse, for the attacks "we" have endured; it is an attempt to understand the processes at work. If you don't understand why events occur, if you don't heed the warnings from history, you are condemned to repeat them.

  • Re:Wait what (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @09:11AM (#46310447)

    As long as people continue to give the terrorists a free pass on their violence by blaming the victims it will never stop. Every terrorist group or totalitarian leader on the planet is always given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the atrocities they commit.

    When the Allies deposed Hitler, they did so with violence. Were they terrorists? No, they were military forces waging one of the most justifiable campaigns in human history. What about French Resistance, who posed as civilians and tried to oust a foreign conqueror from their homeland? Probably not. What about the commando who sank a passenger ferry [wikipedia.org] carrying heavy water for German atomic bomb program in Norway? Sure, civilians died, but denying Nazis the atomic bomb was kinda important. So how about Iraqi insurgents, who posed as civilians and tried to oust a foreign conqueror from their homeland? Or Obama and the drone assasinations? Or the people rioting in Ukraine

    It doesn't help that "terrorist" is used as the boogeyman nowadays, so you can't know if it refers to someone committing atrocities or someone airing your dear leaders dirty laundry.

  • Re:Wait what (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <(mojo) (at) (world3.net)> on Saturday February 22, 2014 @12:04PM (#46311147) Homepage

    Ireland is a good example of what we need to do. It was a disaster all the time the UK government was taking a hard line against the terrorists, refusing to negotiate or compromise. Then in 1997 a Labour government got in and started a peace process with both sides around a table, and soon after the violence mostly ended to be replaced with a power sharing democratic government. Men who said they would never co-operate with the enemy and never accept anything other than total and unconditional victory, divided by their religions and hundreds of years of history, managed to work together.

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