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Chelsea Manning: The Dystopia We Signed Up For (nytimes.com)
231 points by frandroid on Sept 13, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 143 comments

One point seems to be about trust. She's noting how society depends upon digital, not analog, trust.

She thinks of that as dystopian because of the foreignness and inconvenience.

We, as technologists, can improve upon this by talking empathetically more with our users about how they interact with our technology, to help steer the product towards incorporating more human-focused designs. This could help avoid this Stranger in a Strange Land phenomenon becoming more prevalent, and avoid the negative psychological behaviors which disconnected individuals typically exhibit.

We, as technologists, can improve upon this by...

We can do some of it but most of the 'do no evil' goes away in favor of what the money wants to do. Even well intentioned designers, developers/engineers, entrepreneurs, etc get pushed/pulled in directions of the money and usually understandably. The money machine always gets what it wants.

A big problem with our society today is, the people with all the power (lever on the money) are the same ones selling us out to dystopian lack of control of privacy, rights etc. We are a system setup where the only good that can really come is if wealth, or someone wealthy, wants to see it happen. We are basing all our opportunities, hopes, rights on very few people that are actively getting paid to cut them down.

Inequality does us in more than we realize because it is easy to throw the people under the bus for the money, once you are in the money you aren't in the people by design. We live in a 'free' country, but combine that with the feudal/sharecropper setup at our dictator-like controlled companies we work for where corporate rights overpower individual rights on the regular, and well you end up with a recipe for dystopia.

Fully agreed.

The grandparent comment expresses a beautiful sentiment -- and one that I and many other colleagues share -- but I've almost never seen it implemented in practice; and on the 2-3 occasions over a 15 years of career when I seen it, it was on a smaller scale and with business owners who had a close relationship with all technologists in the "company" (I use quotes here because an organization with 10 programmers, 1 sysadmin, 1 HR, 3 sales people and 1 CEO can hardly be called a "company").

Truth is, many businessmen don't think of people like people; they remind me a lot of the young military boys controlling drones that do the remote killing -- they think of people like "assets", "targets" and such. This de-humanization helps them make decisions that many of us would find extremely hard to justify in front of our moral values system.

talking empathetically more with our users about how they interact with our technology

I've been hearing this a lot lately but I don't really know what it means.

I think most (all?) developers/designers try to imagine the experience of an average or "canonical" user while developing features. This is a natural way to try creating a product with decent usability. You can take this a step further with UX studies, focus groups, etc.

However, since "UX design" has existed in one form or another since before PC's were a thing, I take it that's not what's meant by "having more empathy for our users".

I suspect this means somehow tailoring/adapting our products to the wide variety of cultural, geographic, socio-economic backgrounds of users, or even their states-of-mind/existential experience. In that case, I think a UX designer would face a combinatorial explosion of constraints and/or features requests, which is not practical.

However, we do have a free'ish market, which seems well positioned to address this wide variety of needs. Moreover, the long tail of users is getting fatter as our population scales, so it is increasingly rewarding to target niche groups.

Do we really have a strong ability to modify affordances based on user constraints (whether implicit or self defined)? I'm a teacher at the high school level and would love to see tools that integrate with, and enhance, my planning>classroom performance>efficacy assessment workflow, but... really, we aren't even trying to do something like that. I had a paper grade book; I have an electronic one now. I had a blackboard; I have an electronic one now. These are fine tools, but they don't move the needle in a way that really matters.

But what if there isn't any big incentive to do that? It's profitable to take away people's privacy and there's not that much money in letting them keep it.

Their really isn't any big incentive to do that. Software is still eating the world. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111903480904576512...

I'm kinda OK with software eating the world. That doesn't automatically mean concentrating power.

Then you work to change the incentives.

> ... and avoid the negative psychological behaviors which disconnected individuals typically exhibit.

Please explain what you mean by "disconnected individuals" and what are the behaviours. Genuinely interested.

It sounds like you just want to talk until they accept the data collection, as opposed to listen to them on why they might think it is a bad thing and be given an opportunity to opt-out of it.

Don't worry about, it's not a problem for technologists, but ultimately for legislatures. It will take a lot of time, but it will happen as with telephones. Europe will keep throwing up roadblocks, and eventually the US will hopefully follow suit in assigning ownership of things like privacy to the individual.

This limbo lets you make a mint, but it will end.

What she describes doesn't sound like a dystopia at all. Some systems that she interacted with weren't able to handle her name change. Ok... having some trouble handling edge cases is not dystopian, that's just poorly designed software.

It's not like she was permanantly shut out of society. She was temporarily inconvenienced.

A world where poorly designed software denies you access to your property because you are an "edge case," and humans who could help just shrug and defer to the computer? I don't know, it sounds to me like a dystopia that somebody might have written about a few decades ago.

Also, I don't think that's the full extent of her point here. She's just offering an example of how our pervasive reliance on computers (which often have poorly designed software) has caused trouble for her personally.

In reality if you are one of those edge cases, you'll still get what you need, you'll just be inconvenienced by having to wade through bureaucratic morass. Temporary inconvenience is not dystopian.

Not being able to find a place to live (rent, in this case) is merely an inconvenience? Or, if you do manage to find a place to live but can't get access to your money to pay for it? If you can't obtain housing or (your own) money, I'd imagine that most other aspects of your life aren't going to be very pleasant either.

Personally, I would consider having to forego food and/or shelter for an unknown length of time -- while a bureaucratic morass is being sorted out, because "the computer said no" -- to be much, much more than just a "temporary inconvenience".

You are misunderstanding. The computer only helps everyone it works for. It doesn't hurt the people it doesn't work for.

The worst case is that you get handled by people because the computer didn't work, which is the same as if there were no computers.

We might not be optimized for human intervention into these processes, but that's because at the scale we operate at (hundreds of millions of users) it is physically impossible to provide human to human service for everyone.

> The worst case is that you get handled by people because the computer didn't work, which is the same as if there were no computers.

You are for some reason assuming the article described a failed computer-aided transaction gracefully degrading to a successful human-aided transaction. But that is clearly not what it describes:

> Even then, human clerks and bank tellers would sometimes see the discrepancy, shrug and say “the computer says no” while denying me access to my accounts.

In other words, this was an unsuccessful computer-aided transaction that a service representative did not have permission to override.

If there had been no computers, the service representative would have successfully completed the transaction since there would have been no discrepancy.

So in this example, computer discrepancy + powerless human representative is worse than a representative in a world with no computers.

Edit: wording

> If there had been no computers, the service representative would have successfully completed the transaction since there would have been no discrepancy.

If you replace a computer with a piece of paper with a different name on the account, it doesn't make it any easier for a service representative to override.

This isn't a computer problem. It has always been inconvenient to change your name.

> If you replace a computer with a piece of paper with a different name on the account, it doesn't make it any easier for a service representative to override.

It certainly does: * Before computers, most of the roles of the computer were not fulfilled by pieces of paper. It was the teller-of-the-past who was the human front-end and identity verifier/calculator/UI/running policykit instance/etc.

* teller-of-the-past was necessarily trusted to use their discretion to a greater degree than teller-of-the-present

* teller-of-the-past could cache the results of an identity verification on Tuesday to use as the identity verification on Wednesday

* supervisor could bless teller-of-the-past to teach teller-of-the-past2 how to do an end-run around policy foo for edge case bar, where edge case bar involves a specific human or category of humans. (As an aside, the supervisor could do this more quickly than a team of third-party software developers can code, test, and deploy an interface for the same human or small category of humans)

* piece of paper could not lock teller-of-the-past out of completing a transaction with the customer

* even if teller-of-the-past decided not to fulfill the transaction, the equivalent of the computer's identity verification algorithm was probably someone else standing in the same physical bank location who could be asked to help complete the task

> This isn't a computer problem. It has always been inconvenient to change your name.

I think what the author is trying to describe is a problem of lack of human discretion, which is something that wouldn't exist at the scale that it currently does without over-reliance on computers. Gmail and plenty of other services don't degrade to humans at all, so I don't think this is subtle stuff.

You're right, it has been. It doesn't always have to be, though; computers (technology) are supposed to make our lives better, not worse.

A "service representative" (i.e., a real human directly in front of you) could have taken a look at that legal paperwork -- signed by a judge, mind you, and likely imprinted with an official stamp from the clerk -- that Manning was carrying and came to the correct conclusion rather quickly.

At the worse, the rep. might have had to get up, walk 20 feet, and have his/her supervisor also review and approve it. At that point, it would have just taken a few moments to update the information in the computer and the problem would have been resolved permanently.

> You're right, it has been. It doesn't always have to be, though; computers (technology) are supposed to make our lives better, not worse.

At least in the cases the author describes, I'm not sure why this would be true. Especially once you consider that, over time, less skilled tellers get hired to fill the position of essentially trusting the computer to do most of the heavy lifting.

Why, for example, would a manager keep granting the same power to the teller to use their own discretion, especially in cases where their discretion contradicts the recommendations of the computer system? The potential to gracefully handle edge cases comes at the much greater risk of the unskilled teller screwing up and costing the bank money.

> You are misunderstanding. The computer only helps everyone it works for. It doesn't hurt the people it doesn't work for.

Tell that to my friend who is presently without health insurance for his whole family because there isn't a human to help him sign up. His employers put too much faith in the computers and that faith is only going to increase until a critical threshold of people (and the right kind of people, that is not peons like me and him) are inconvenienced.

He's also sans a paycheck and delayed on configuring his retirement contributions, costing him thousands in the long run.

A system where everyone has to wade through a bureaucratic mess occasionally is certainly not dystopian.

A system where only a handful of people have to wade through a bureaucratic mess with alarming regularity can get very dystopian very fast for those few.

Serious question, which is better though?

Where possible, distributed is almost always better. Comfort and convenience, like all forms of currency, have diminishing marginal utility. Therefore, distributing the costs minimizes the net human suffering.

There are always edge cases. That's why they are called edge cases.

What's the alternative?

If some random person walks into my bank and says they're me, but they've changed their name (and had surgery to change their appearance) I would want that person to be inconvenienced and go through hoops to prove it. I wouldn't want it to be easy for them to assume my identity.

The dystopian aspect is ceding to computers rather than humans the fundamental decision making in our lives. Just because it hasn't gone full Brazil doesn't mean we're not hurtling towards it.

Perhaps there are degrees of dystopian-ness (not a real word?), and some people might consider our current degree more acceptable than others.

IMO the only thing that matters at the end is whether people _care_ that something like this is wrong and want to fix it, or if they treat it as as "outliers gonna outlie" so they choose not to care.

Without that level of concern, people who don't easily fit in to the mainstream find their lives increasingly considered less and less important.

Is that really so different from them just sending you into an infinite bureaucracy loop where they refer you to each other in a wide circle until you give up.

No, but it is still dystopian.

In a perfect world there are no exceptions, but we don't live in one and exceptions cost time and money, lots of it when dealing with volume.

This is also the world institutional humanity has lived in for several centuries.

If you're in a society that does a generally good job of protecting property rights at all then it's not dystopia.

Name changes aren't an edge case. What's dystopian to me is the unwillingness of people to actually work out and solve issues for their clients, customers, and citizens. "Computer Says No" is used to avoid having to work and avoid having to escalate.

It's not just a name change. She was in prison for several years.

When she got out, she tries to fix up her accounts.

If someone walks up to a bank years after no activity and wants a name change (and maybe a gender change) on an account should the bank just do it? Probably not without 3rd party verification that the customer has to initiate by filling out some forms and providing evidence.

I'm just speculating but it could have been reasonable for the bank to have declined the request up front.

Sure, but the response shouldn't be "sorry", it should be "here's our process. Thank you for the letter from a judge changing your name, we'll confirm that with the courthouse and should be good to go."

I am not trying to excuse rudeness. Only trying to point out that this was an extraordinary case.

I bet if it was a woman that got married and changed her last name, it would be super simple.

Having worked at a helpdesk: "computer says no" is effectively the same as "my company/boss says no". Most of those systems are intentionally set up so that you can't override them for an edge case. It's not a smart way to do things, but it's the way things are done.

How's that different from bad customer service in an earlier era? "I don't know what form you need and my manager is at lunch."

    having some trouble handling edge cases is not dystopian
Uh.. Okay. What do you think a dystopia is?

In most literature it's a society that has a myopic view of people (ie, not dealing with edge cases) resulting in an oppressive society. One where fairness and free agency have been greatly curtailed by a stubborn insistence on a very simplistic view of the world.

Two observations:

1) The "edge cases" typically change slowly over time. If you are an edge case, it's not your turn this year and someone else's turn next year. Your circumstances define you, and are potentially reinforced by your "edge case" status. It's your turn every year, and your entire life becomes a living hell.

2) It takes only a small proportion of edge cases to get a lot of disenfranchised people. For example, 1% of people being edge cases would draw in over 3 million people in the US alone.

I guess whether it's dystopian or not depends on if you are one of the edge cases or not.

What parts of any dystopia are well designed?

that is actually the key question here. I'd argue that it is pretty much a definition of dystopia when things are extremely/ultimately/perfectly well designed for the other side of the counter, ie. the side of the counter opposite to the customer/user/citizen's side. Presumption of innocence, citizens' freedoms and rights, etc. are basically inconveniences for that other side, and those inconveniences are designed away in dystopia. It is naturally feels like a bad design for the customers/users/citizens.

the murder parts

I dunno fella bombing the shit out of people on the basis of their data trails seems pretty dystopian to me

I beg of you to not assume, because you are not suffering, that the suffering of others is not real.

I agree. I'm fairly sure I was put through the same if not more of a challenge than hers when I moved from one province to another.

Dystopias do not depend on banishment, I don't even know where you get that. Logan's Run?

I don't think that you will call it a "temporary inconvenience" if it were you been in jail for some time.

I experienced this recently in the scariest of circumstances -- a hospital.

I have hemophilia, a bleeding disorder. Normally, its a nuisance that just requires I take medication on semi-daily basis. If I don't take the medication, I'll usually be fine, except if I have an active bleed, which will just continue to bleed, causing damage to my body, and can be life threatening depending on the location of the bleed.

I was recently traveling back home and I ran out of my medication. It's a specialty medication that you can't find in pharmacies. It normally has to be shipped to me. I had ordered some but it wouldn't arrive for another day.

I was having an active bleed in my torso, of all places, which is an odd place and distressing because its close to so many important body systems (the spine, major arteries). The thing about my condition is that normally bleeds are innocuous, but you never know. I always be on the safe side, because when I haven't its often meant months-long recovery.

Anyway, I figured no problem, I'll just go to the hospital ER and get some medication, which is what I'm supposed to do and I've done before -- but not in a long time. Most all major metro hospitals carry my medication.

I went to the hospital and told them about my condition and what I needed. They wanted me to take a CT scan, which I declined (I already knew what I was dealing with and just needed my medication). Then, they wanted to test me for hemophilia (I've had the condition since birth), a very expensive and lengthy test that takes hours.

After finally speaking with a doctor, he declined to give me my medication until I both consented to the CT scan and the test for hemophilia (despite me having official medical identification that explains my condition). I didn't want the CT scan because its ungodly expensive and exposes your body to a lot of radiation (100x an x-ray). You could clearly tell it was a bleed due to swelling, bruising, heat, and my prior medical history. And I've lived with the condition for awhile so I am very attuned to these problems.

I experienced what I can only describe as a similar type of hostility as someone coming in seeking drugs to get high (my medication neither makes you high nor is dangerous, except when I don't get it).

Curious as to why I was being treated this way, I pressed further. The doctor came back with a print-out from some medical "AI" software. It had not only determined what the proper course of action was to be (the tests before my medication), I was also informed that if the staff deviated from the "process" at all, they would risk being fired.

There you have it. All decision-making ability had been revoked from even the doctors. They were prepared to let me bleed for hours, while waiting on a test to confirm a condition I've had since birth rather than risk deviating from some computer-generated "AI" policy. Even more sinister, since it was a screenshot (done with print screen) of the windows-based software, I spotted something else: something called a "risk score". It was a gauge-like visualization that had rated me in the "riskier" category. No doubt this was also the case with patients who are drug seeking, and I hypothesize this was the reason for the apathy and apprehension I detected.

It kind of reminds me of the Critical Care episode of Star Trek: Voyager, where patients have been reduced to a "TC" -- treatment coefficient that determines who gets good care and who doesn't and is based on the person's accomplishments and value to society. Honestly, we're not far off from that.

What would happen if I came into the ER with a serious problem that required immediate treatment? Would they defer to this software and watch me die while waiting on tests? I know my condition is rare, I'm used to educating doctors about it, but the fact that the doctors seemed unwilling to even compromise and do the right thing was alarming to me, and also sad. Its like they have become customer service representatives of a large corporation and they know it, and so they have divorced themselves of any care or humanity at all.

I decided to leave and take my chances on waiting the day, rather than sit there for hours. At that point, I was in extreme pain and I honestly didn't know if the bleed would resolve itself or not. Worse case, I could always come back to the hospital. I guess.

The bleed ended up resolving itself, and I eventually got my medication and was able to treat myself. Ironically, a nurse called later the next day to "check up on me". My tests had finally come back over a day later and confirmed my condition, and also that my factor level was low. After I told her the story I've just shared with you, all she could offer was to "make a note in your chart". That no-one will be looking at, and likely not influence the medical software at all. I looked on the hospital web site for contact information to try and lodge a complaint -- there was none. I also tried calling the hospital's 800 number, which was entirely automated and offered no ability to talk to anyone. In case anyone is wondering, the name of the hospital is Riverside in Columbus, Ohio (part of Ohio Health). It's a huge hospital.

Anyway, this is my story about AI. Something to think about because as engineers we are the ones making these kinds of software and have an ethical and moral responsibility. We need to be aware of how people are going to use technology and actively work to prevent abuses, and hopefully build this into the software itself.

What kind of science fiction novel are we living in?

Sorry for your experience but a great story about why we should never hand over all authority to an AI.

I wonder why (a) they couldn't just call your regular MD to verify your info, or (b) your MD could not phone in a prescription to the hospital's pharmacy?

They verified my condition with my doctor and medic alert, which has a copy of my prescription.

The problem is my medication needs to be reconstituted (fancy word for "mixed") and is given via an IV (a shot).

I can and do both of these things, but with these kinds of medications they simply can't just give them to you -- they have to be "administered". That's a topic for another post, but it explains why they just can't give me the box of medication and supplies. Probably some kind of liability issue.

Industrial Society and Its Future.

The miniseries on the Unabomber that just ended this week could not be more timely, even after 20 years.

So, I am reading an article written by Chelsea Manning about trust and confidentiality. Am I reading this right? Is this where we are at now!?

Please post more substantively than this—we're here to learn.


Unless Chelsea Manning is trying to convince us to trust her with our private data, I don't see where the irony is.

It's similar to a reformed/retired safe cracker is telling us which safes are hard to crack. The safe cracker would be in a position to know about how difficult it would be to crack safes.

The major difference being that the safe cracker possibly stands to benefit from lying to us in an effort to make their job easier (convince us to get safes that are in reality easy to crack). In the situation with Chelsea Manning, I'm not sure where you think that she stands to benefit from us following any advice that she's giving.

Regardless of the article that analogy with safe cracker lead nowhere. Almost every good expert in computer security was at some point black hat and you never know what they actually are now.

I think that's a stretch (police state definitions of "black hat" non-withstanding)

Even so person capable of keeping software secure can as well tell you how secure it is while selling bugs in said software to 3 letter agency, some authoritarian state or basically anyone who have enough cash. Oh, I forgot that we don't call it black hat and this is totally legit business.

That safe cracker from example above would be ashamed, he couldn't even dream of something like that.

About trust and confidentiality... of citizens' private data. By contrast, she leaked military/diplomatic documents and footage. Not exactly a 1-to-1 parallel.


Aren't you just committing an appeal to authority fallacy?

Read her article and judge the merits there. It's the NYTimes, it's not like the article is going to break philosophical ground, it's more of a summary of what has happened. The way that our faces, location and information is collected has potential for dystopia, and that's an easy argument to make.

//edit: For context, the comment I was replying to read: > Ok. Then, what are his/her credentials on the topic?

Did that user just delete their comments or is this a new antispam/censorship feature of the forum software?

The comment has been flagged to death by members, which will make it only visible to those with "showdead" enabled (toggle in your profile).

"her" is reasonably what a person who's undergone a gender change to female prefers being addressed as.

Maybe their preference should be taken into account, but I don't like my speech being dictated.

On this site comments need to be within the guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

Could you clarify which part of the guidelines you're referencing? I looked through and I couldn't see anything obvious that I violated in that comment.

It's not your speech being dictated, per se; it's about being polite. Like, there's nothing stopping me from hurling fanciful insults at everybody I meet, but I also wouldn't blame other people for considering me wrong to do so.

I also find it better to say the author when commenting on articles. In cases like this it's a famous person so not so important, but generally I haven't taken the time to find out who the author is.


Huh, could you link to the law?

Likely they're referring to https://openparliament.ca/bills/42-1/C-16/

I'm providing this to be helpful. Discussions on this on HN have historically devolved incredibly quickly into flamewars. Anyone choosing to discuss this I ask that you reflect on why you want to do so: are you looking to truly understand what others think on this? Are you truly open to having your opinion changed? Are you hoping to convince others of your position? Shout down those you disagree with? If you're looking for something other than truly productive, respectful, thoughtful, charitable discussion, please refrain from commenting here.

For anyone who thinks this is a legitimate concern, just click through and read the full text of the bill. It's like one page long and has zero mentions of pronouns. All it does is extend the same protections to gender identity that already exist for things like race, age, religion and disability.

They're referring to C-16, but the idea that it criminalizes speech is bogus. The law only steps in if it's happening in the context of employment, public accomodations, etc.


Here's one that is being written into South African law currently.


Full text of the bill:


And I'm pretty sure that choosing the wrong pronoun purposefully when referring to a person, in front of them, would then fall under the category of "hate speech" through this bill.

I am not familiar with how these sorts of things are commonly interpreted in South Africa, but the it doesn't sound like that from a reading of the text. Why do you think it would extend to referring to a person with the wrong pronoun? It seems to define "hate speech" as speech that threatens or incites further harmful action, not merely offensive speech, and acknowledges constitutional protection for speech that does not "constitute incitement to cause harm."

It's a bit buried, the important part is in section 4, this one:

Any person who intentionally, by means of any communication whatsoever, communicates to one or more persons in a manner that [...] is threatening, abusive or insulting towards any other person or group of persons.

Further down:

[...] which demonstrates a clear intention [...] to [...] bring into contempt or ridicule, any person or group of persons, based on race, gender, sex, which includes intersex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, religion, belief, culture, language, birth, disability, HIV status, nationality, gender identity [...] is guilty of the offence of hate speech.

So the definition of hate-speech, which carries a criminal penalty of up-to 3-10 years, now includes communication that is "abusive or insulting". Which is a very vague concept, and I don't think there is any clear expansion on it in the bill itself.

Hopefully the wording changes before it gets passed. Otherwise I'm going to have to take my family out of this country for fear of political persecution. What else do you call it when insult and ridicule against groups becomes hate-speech.

Edit. Fixed penalty years, up to.

Did you even try? From the article:

> Chelsea Manning is an advocate of government transparency, a transgender rights activist and a former United States Army intelligence analyst.

Based on the commenter's first comment in this thread, I'm assuming that they already know who Chelsea Manning is. Unfortunately the content of all of their comments seems aimed to inflame/offend rather than discuss.

I don't understand the subcontext of your rhetorical question. Could you explain why this would be a problem?

She was placed in a position of trust to watch over classified data, and massively breached that trust. And was imprisoned for it, and in fact would still be in prison had the sentence not been commuted. Agree or disagree with her actions, it is extremely ironic.

Is it really that difficult to understand the subtext here?

Imagine your an accountant for a firm, you realize they are committing unethical accounting practices, some which may be 'legal', some which may be 'not legal'. You feel like they are pretty heinous and they breached the 'trust of the public' by doing so.

In this dilemma which trust has the higher priority? In your opinion it should be the US military, in Manning's case, it was not.

Is the answer ever to release all of the firms data about all clients to the public, including ones who have completely legal and legitimate business with the firm? Because that's what Manning did.

How would you know my opinion on it?

Because you stated it was ironic for someone who breached the trust of the military to be talking about trust, which implies that you valued the militaries trust over the trust of people in the military.

It's ironic regardless. Whether I value the military's trust or not doesn't enter into it.

Her original intention, which has gotten somewhat lost in all this controversy, was to protect atheist groups in Middle Eastern countries who were being labeled as "anti-government radicals" and persecuted, in concert with US intelligence forces. I certainly agree with her frustrations there. But not her tactics.

She broke her employment contract and the rules of her security clearance, then bragged about it to the wrong person and paid an appropriate price.

Then I guess it depends on if you view the military doing things that most of the people who they are supposed to protect disagree with, as a violation of trust or not.

I personally don't believe that saying one side followed all the rules when they have the power to make the rules has any weight as a moral argument

Would you see the same irony in any other whistle-blower writing this article? I don't think most people see whistle-blowing as equivalent to breaching individuals' privacy. One is defending the public from wrongs done by powerful organizations, while the other is harming the public by threatening their privacy. You have to erase a lot of details to draw an equivalence there.

And the US military was trusted with not murdering civilians and journalists and breached that trust.

Chelsea Manning made us aware of it by leaking documents I deem to be in the public interest.

Between the US military and Chelsea Manning, guess who I trust more?

Yeah, because it's pretty clear you didn't read the article. It has nothing to do with trust.

You probably meant to direct that to the original poster, not the person you responded to. That person was clarifying the subtext.

The entire article is about society putting too much trust in computer systems. So yes, it is about trust.

Beyond that, I was answering a question about subtext, not discussing the article directly.

The article is about the alarming amount of information we've granted to private companies, Chelsea was imprisoned for releasing classified documents. How are the two related?

Your argument would still "apply" if Chelsea had cheated on a lover; "hey, she betrayed someone's trust so how can she talk about trust?" Basically, nothing's she's done invalidates or even weakens her points.

She's basically proving her own point. It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Don't let anyone get your private data or it'll be leaked or mishandled -- trust me I know all about mishandling privileged data."

Again, you seem to not have read the article, because it's not about having your private data leaked. Her article is about how we've voluntarily given private companies our private data with no control of how it is used, and that this information is used to power algorithms that affect our lives in ways we can't predict.

>Her article is about how we've voluntarily given private companies our private data with no control of how it is used, and that this information is used to power algorithms that affect our lives in ways we can't predict.

Which is "mishandled."

No, it's not mishandling. It's not a mistake, it's not malicious, you just don't know how they're going to use it. "Mishandling" implies some sort of breach of trust or contract, but in this case you didn't realize what you were agreeing to when you handed over your data. They're handling the data as they've always intended.

She saw something wrong going on and blew a whistle; she was sentenced and it was commuted in the name of transparency and respect for the government's obligations to its citizens and transparency.

So basically, she saw the government's breach of trust and called it out, and is doing so again now.

It seems like either you don't understand what Chelsea did in the first place, or your argument is simply with Chelsea herself for any number of possible reasons.

Yes, this is where we are now. Fucking good.

It's a little more complex than that. Chelsea did what she thought was right (and I generally agree in principle) but the actual dump was just... everything.

It wasn't a well curated dump, much of the data wasn't whistleblowing.

If you compare how Chelsea handled it vs Snowden they are worlds apart. Chelsea wanted to be a whistleblower but IMO behaved like a leaker/dumper.

Of course intent does matter but, even though I'm very pro-Chelsea, lets not pretend Chelsea behaved admirably in how she handled the leaks.



> Always amazed at the sympathy people have for criminals who needlessly endangered dozens of lives.

People who receive downvotes can sometimes believe that anyone who is downvoting is doing so because they must support the opposite of what the poster believes. This, in my experience on HN, isn't necessarily (or even often) the case.

Yes, there may be those who sympathize with Manning. However, there are plenty of other reasons one might find a comment worthy of a downvote: Is it substantive? Civil? Productive? Factually correct? On-topic? Charitable? Thoughtful? More likely to promote good, quality discussion rather than adversarial arguments? You may feel strongly about your position and feel that the subject of your comment is not worthy of charitable discourse (and it may very well not be), but the HN community is worthy of charitable discourse, or at least that's goal. Please help make it so, which includes following the guidelines.

>People who receive downvotes can sometimes believe that anyone who is downvoting is doing so because they must support the opposite of what the poster believes. This, in my experience on HN, isn't necessarily (or even often) the case.

Bingo. The majority of the time when I downvote anyone, it's because they are trying to seem more intelligent by overusing linked academic articles or by overusing vocabulary that doesn't really fit. Anytime I see someone using something as an excuse to "talk" when they really have nothing to say, they get downvoted. Yes I realize that's subjective and not perhaps what the downvote is for, but that's also my choice.

Contrarion types on the other hand (and I don't mean the intelligent rhetorical folks who provoke good discussion) get a downvote immediately. I have no time for anyone who wants to disagree just to disagree so that they can make themselves look more philosophical or "deep".

I know this makes me an asshole, but at least I'm not treating the downvote as an "I disagree button"

Exactly. It's a personal attack that doesn't engage with the substance of the article, and the subsequent whining about downvotes makes it clear the comment is from someone who hates Manning irrespective of the topic at hand.

I downvoted this one because of his sour grapes around downvoting ... community moderation means that there are lots of reasons for up/down voting - when I get downvoted I simply accept it, even if I don't agree, it's something that raises the signal to noise around here which is a good thing

> It's impossible for me to believe she wrote this article on her own based on her public Twitter timeline

It's quite easy for me to believe it based on her Guardian columns (she's started as a contributing writer for Guardian US in 2015, and wrote some op-eds before that.) I'm not sure why you'd expect to be able to judge someone's newspaper column writing style from their Twitter style; while some writers might show similar styles between the two, I'd expect most would radically differ.

I know this may be a shock, but the writing style people practice on a highly constrained platform like Twitter may have ever so slight differences from the one they use in forums that actually allow for more than one and a half complete sentences.

It's a stretch to argue that someone with an unprofessional personal Twitter is incapable of writing professionally, especially as this isn't the first thing she's written professionally.

Why is that a stretch? Isn't that indeed the typical expectation?

Whether it is a typical expectation or not, I believe the point is it is incorrect.

Your comment edit reveals your bias.

"... for criminals who needlessly endangered dozens of lives"

Me too, just I'm pretty sure we don't think about the same group of people...

> Ahhhh yes. Thanks for the downvotes. Always amazed at the sympathy people have for criminals who needlessly endangered dozens of lives. Great job HN.

It's not sympathy: it's just that most people only have the mental space for a couple bits per issue, so they need to immediately sort everyone into black and white sides. If you don't like some of the sleazier things the govt does, then you consider the leaks a good thing, and saying anything even slightly negative about someone on the "side" of the leaks _must_ be wrong.

For my part, I think the issue is complex enough and I'm not well informed enough on it that I don't really know what to make of Manning personally.

the government admitted that her leaks endangered no one


What a great opportunity for a lesson in fake news. Let's get to the meat of the claim in the article you link to (https://www.buzzfeed.com/jasonleopold/secret-government-repo...):

Regarding the hundreds of thousands of Iraq-related military documents and State Department cables provided by the Army private Chelsea Manning, the report assessed “with high confidence that disclosure of the Iraq data set will have no direct personal impact on current and former U.S. leadership in Iraq.”

How strange! The article is trying to give the impression that Manning's leaks IN GENERAL harmed no one, but when they get to the heart of the matter, they only reference the situation in Iraq. Manning's leaks included information about our diplomacy around the world. Iraq-related material were only part of it.

Further, it is widely believed that Manning's leaks contributed greatly to, if not sparked the flames of, the Arab "Spring", which has most certainly been a disaster for America (and the people in the region too).

> Arab "Spring", which has most certainly been a disaster for America (and the people in the region too)

Wait, how so? Asking out of ignorance - I thought the Arab Spring was a good thing for the region.

In Egypt, Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected to power and tried to turn Egypt into an Islamist dictatorship. The military stepped back in and saved the day. So they're right back where they started, a military dictatorship that is at least not an Islamist dictatorship, PLUS years of senseless death, destruction, and economic calamity.

Syria is a complete hell hole now. Since the Arab Spring started, they've suffered total societal collapse, occupation of large swaths of the country by ISIS and al-Qaeda, and a mass exodus of young men to Europe. Years later, they are still engulfed in a bloody civil war.

Libya is also at civil war and is mostly ruled by roving gangs. Islamist violence is on the rise.

Tunisia is the only place things have gone anywhere near well. It is also a very small country.

The military stepped back in and saved the day.

OMG that's hilarious. The only problem USA media had with Morsi was that he wouldn't inspire as much "military aid". Also the economic calamity is entirely the creation of the previous military dictator who was so popular among the war pigs. If Mubarak hadn't taken farm land from small family farmers and given it to his cronies, Egypt would still be able to feed itself as it has for millennia. (Interesting fact: agriculture flourished in Egypt thousands of years before it did so in many other parts of the world!) The main reason Arab Spring found such fertile ground in Egypt was they were already starving under Mubarak. Still the episode was entertaining: "We really care about democracy in the Middle East! Except when we don't!"

Your explanation of Syria is similarly without rational basis. ISIS was not created by the Arab Spring. It was directly created by catastrophically stupid military actions taken by USA next door in Iraq. Even after USA created them, ISIS wouldn't have menaced Syria to nearly the extent they did, if USA hadn't continually given them weapons. Also, news flash: now that the new administration has decided "Syria is boring, let's go play with DPRK!" that war is swiftly wrapping up. Assad won, USA oil shenanigans be damned. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth may be heard in the halls of power.

Actually, if we're being honest, can we blame Libya's awful state on the Arab Spring either? Did the problems start when some people read a diplomatic cable, or was it rather when we jammed a bayonet up the ass of the dude who had ruled there in frequent isolated barbarity but overall relative peace? When Libyans are polled now, there is a marked nostalgia for old Muammar. In five years, does anyone really imagine life will be better in any of the nations we destroyed by killing their political class, than in Syria where we failed to do so even though we really wanted to?

> Your explanation of Syria is similarly without rational basis. ISIS was not created by the Arab Spring. It was directly created by catastrophically stupid military actions taken by USA next door in Iraq.

Your rationale is as ignorant as the person you are replying to. The Arab Spring, which resulted in the rise of Syrian & Libyan revolutionaries, was absolutely a major factor in the rise of ISIS.

To suggest that it was exclusively one or the other is ridiculous.

Without guns, "revolutionaries" are just political opponents. Which certainly existed in Syria prior to Arab Spring. USA provided the guns that made these into "freedom fighters" (an ambiguous phrase if ever there were), apparently under an "it worked so well in Afghanistan in the 1980s" rationale.

I agree. The writing style is just completely textbook NYT commentator style. Either she spent her 7 years in jail studying and practicing NYT writing style, or she wrote the bones of this article which was heavily edited by a NYT editor, or she didn't write this at all and just put her name on it.

It's largely irrelevant though, because this article has nothing to do with the reason behind her popularity. This article could have just as easily been written by Joe Blow from Minnetonka without materially changing the article(cf. Edward Snowden articles, where he writes specifically about the system which he became famous for defying)

> The writing style is just completely textbook NYT commentator style.

She's been writing op-eds for the Guardian US since 2014 (as an official “contributing writer” since 2015.)

That she is, in 2017, able to write an op-ed like a practiced writer of major media op-eds is unsurprising, since, you know, she is exactly that.

Is there any evidence that Manning was able to express herself at such a high level before becoming a public figure? I can't help but suspect that someone is just using her name for their own political ends.

> Is there any evidence that Manning was able to express herself at such a high level before becoming a public figure?

Maybe not before becoming a public figure, but she's done a lot of public writing since, including the last couple of years as an official contributing writer for Guardian US, having written a couple op-eds for them before that.

Prison does often give one time for studying, reading, and writing if one chooses to use it for that purpose.

I've no idea, to be honest, but as I was reading the article I was thinking that this could potentially be a nice way to provide for herself financially: writing articles for the media, making appearances/speeches at events/conferences, etc.

With a criminal record and fresh out of prison, she's not going to have many (decent) opportunities available to her so perhaps this is one way to make the most of her situation and/or experiences. I'm sure there are plenty of organizations that would pay for this.

> With a criminal record and fresh out of prison, she's not going to have many (decent) opportunities available to her...

She was named as a visiting fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics, literally today.


I'm two days late in responding but apparently they have since rescinded her fellowship.

She was an intelligence analyst. Communication skills were part of her job.


Murdering civilians and journalists was not part of the US military's job, but they went ahead and did anyway. Had a good old laugh about it too. We call that a war crime.

Traitors, every one of them, and every one who defends them.

Manning revealed this information to us. Truly a public servant.

She did good, they did bad.

Fuck 'em. They do not get to be above scrutiny and law.

When did the US military murder journalists? Or are we talking about that blatantly wrong wikileaks video

This episode[1] of the fantastic Intercepted podcast includes recordings of Manning's testimony during her trial and discussion with someone who was in extensive contact with her throughout.

I was frankly floored by Manning's calm thoughtfulness.

[1] https://theintercept.com/2017/05/10/intercepted-podcast-jame...

We need to blast off into space sooner than later to escape this tyranny. We must declare independence.

What makes you think we won't just establish similar tyranny on another planet?

It's a chance for a fresh start, whether it ends up tyrannical or not is yet to be decided. Whereas, staying here, we're by-default picking tyranny by the majority. There is absolutely no-where to go on this planet to escape statism or to join with like-minded individuals in creating a new society.

Heck, government is even trying to stake claim to outer space:


Funny enough most space sci-fi worlds include some form of tyranny or kingdoms at best - at demonic levels.

It worked well enough for the US, at least for a while.

And that's the rub: it does work for a while, but humans inevitably organize into power structures, and those structures always end up making decisions at the expense of the minority.

I'd argue it's a very good thing we're not an inter-planetary or even inter-solar-system civilization yet. Imagine carrying all of the injustice that is done on this planet out there and making it even more widespread.

Even worse, imagine if we stumbled upon something like a galactic council of sorts. They'd nuke us to oblivion for being the savages we are. (Actually, if they are more civilized and technologically advanced than us, it's more likely for them to only forbid us from expanding any further, but you get the general idea.)

This is not a realistic proposal. Space will not save us, it's just a different setting for the same animal except the environment is unimaginably hostile in every aspect, it would only magnify our worst tendencies.

We have had thought crime and precrime punitive actions and enforcement already through the invention of hate crimes. we already have guilt by association, including both involuntary and voluntary association. how that is going to be any different in a computerized world is beyond me, other than it might become less influenced by people which removes power from those exploiting it.

It's not less influenced by people it's just inflexible now. People are still writing the software. You get preconceived notions baked into something that no longer even has the option to compensate. For example cameras with facial recognition that thinks east Asians are blinking all the time[1]. This wasn't malicious, it wasn't even intentional, but no one can go "Oh the system is making a mistake" and fix it. Yes software can be updated, but how often do small minorities get software updated for them unless they are paying more than everyone else?


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