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Ai Weiwei Is Living in Our Future (medium.com)
514 points by dirtyaura on Jan 2, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 170 comments

We'll all take the red pill someday, but I swallowed the blue one already. I found the article enlightening, reminding me of the continued complacency and abject indifference in favor of convenience and other affordances of mindless empty rewards (yay, startups!) much like the Radiohead 1997 song, Fitter Happier https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OK_Computer

I missed the whole Ai Weiwei media storm due to disinterest and made up assumptions about yet another dissenter getting hammered down by the State; like duh? What else is new over "there"? Well on the internets, where is there or here? The article actually made me pause playing FTL to Google Ai WeiWei and watch the streamed Netflix documentary: http://aiweiweineversorry.com/ Wow, here was someone who could have kept his mouth shut and kept kowtowing to rake in the bucks, but instead choose a new "career path" out of politics and got a fat tax bill for the trouble. Gutsy move or sending a message? Let's hope the next generation gives damn.

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry is surprisingly enjoyable and it does a great job of giving some in-depth understanding of Chinese culture.

You can watch it a few minutes at a time. Ai Weiwei is a troll who has some degree of safety due to his and his father's fame.

His arrest was encouraged by a work of art whose title could be interpreted as, "fuck your mother Communist Party Central Committee" (NSFW) http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/379212-baidu-10-mythical-crea...

Less accessible, but still potentially informative and hilarious is his music video of his detention: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ACj86DKfWs

I have always been fascinated by computers and passionate about programming. I never taught I would ever feel ashamed of my passion ... that maybe I have been part of the decline of freedom and privacy, the same things I've always believed in and fought for . I've finished reading again 1984 a short time ago, and I felt sick reading this article and realizing we're making a monster.

I stopped using Facebook a few months ago and it was not so easy as I thought. Since then, whenever I people ask me I give them my views about keeping privacy and such ... they always have the same reply: Why would you want to hide something ? or We can do nothing about it, everyone does it ... it makes me even sicker when it comes from Tech friends who understand the consequences but just don't care about it.

I agree that privacy is important, but whenever I hear people talk about how hard it is to abandon Facebook or similar services, it seems to me that there's a missing middle ground.

Posting to Facebook, even messaging, is publishing. People just need to remember that. There's nothing wrong with publishing. It's something that people used to work hard to achieve and only a few could afford. Now anyone can publish. This is great progress. Publishing has never been private and doesn't need to be. There's a place in society for public tools and a place for private ones as well. The problem occurs when people try to use publishing platforms as private communication. Of course that causes problems. It's a matter of using the wrong tool for the job. I think what we need is to continue to develop private communication technologies side-by-side with the public ones.

I am fine with living with tools like Facebook outside my control when they serve a purpose. We control what information we give them. There's a big problem with relying on them for all of our communication.

There's a distinct (I'd say moral or intentional) difference between publishing/performing in public and sharing with friends/family. Even Friendster or Diaspora* conflate the two. What I would like to see is the P2P equivalent of something like Snapchat, completely decentralized and fully under control of the person sharing a datum (text, picture, video, like, etc.) Unfortunately, that's not something easily engineered (likely impossible given our experience with software-only DRM systems), let alone sold or monetized.

This is the expectation I think people need to get over. If you are sending your data to a third party unencrypted, even if that third party is Facebook, you have just published your data, no matter what expectation they might have set. Even encrypted data will likely become public at some point if it is stored indefinitely as computing power increases and quantum computing and further advances become common. As long as we use the Internet with the expectation that everything we send is only temporarily private at best, we will be fine. The idea that we can share privately with a select group on a public network is really something like a delusion, even if you are the NSA!

We still can and should develop private and secure communication protocols like DIME, but nobody should ever expect a hosted communication service out of their control to be private.

You just effected a fundamental change in my perspective without even telling me anything I didn't know already. Thank you!

Messaging between friends is not publishing and it's normal to want and expect conversations between friends to be private. With Facebook, there's always a middle man, listening in on and recording the conversation.

You feel awful now, but what you've written is very encouraging. You're doing the right thing.

Coding can be put to good use too. Perhaps there's an open-source project you can contribute to that has a positive benefit to offer society? What social injustices are you most passionate about?

I also intend to leave Facebook (again) very soon. The only reason I haven't in the past is that I didn't want to lose contact with some people, but I figure if I share my email address as I leave anyone that wants to contact me can do. We don't have to employ a scorched earth policy every time we want to change, losing everything we got from something, we often have better alternatives.

I should move away from Gmail for similar reasons, does anyone have suggestions of a secure email service with webmail and Android app access?

You're right, we should use our skills in open source projects. I think decentralized technologies are the way to fix the problems with Internet.

Speaking of Gmail, I also want to stop using Google services. I went back the good old times, just setup a mail server on a linux dedicated box and started sharing my new email address. It's going to be painful but there's no way around it. You can then setup POP or IMAP on Android like we always did before.

I remember a discussion with a friend of mine about the source of these problems, we came up to the conclusion that Internet was an amazing technology when poeple could speak up their minds freely, this is how Internet itself was built and the same for good Open Source projects like Linux. But now we let the greedy guys run businesses with internet and they are trying to replicate the physical world. We are basically transforming what was a door to creativity and freedom to a mirror of our daily lives. And the common factor to all these problems is "identity". Most internet technologies and new startups are obsessed with identity. We are linking authentication to more social networks. Linking our phones to online services and always giving our identity in the process. I wonder what would be the Internet if there was no way to have "identity" at all supported in the protocol level. Maybe it's too late.

I can reassure you it's not too late. If you wish to get involved in the decentralised web as a coder, could always participate in the technologies surrounding the Darknet Plan... http://www.reddit.com/r/darknetplan/

Personally I believe the Darknet Plan is doomed to fail on a large scale unless they tackle the downsides of decentralisation, but that's just my personal opinion. There's plenty of work to do, I'm sure you could find some tasks that interested you.

With email, you're right that POP/IMAP on a dedicated box is preferable from a security standpoint. Food for thought, thank you.

> With email, you're right that POP/IMAP on a dedicated box is preferable from a security standpoint.

This depends on your threat model, and I'd argue that this statement is untrue for the vast majority of people, even people who have the technical know-how required to run their own email server. Running an email server, keeping it up to date with the latest security patches, managing SSL certificates, blocking spam, blocking malware, and blocking phishing attempts are all things that Google is better at than you. Part of the reason for this is their access to incredible volumes of data, which lets them analyze trends and emerging threats across an relatively large subset of the email-using population.

The average user's threat model is much more along the lines of phishing, malware, or spam-related fraud. Google is incredibly good at protecting people from these threats (as is obvious when I compare the volume of spam, which often contains malware or phishing links, that I receive on my Gmail account against my other, non-Gmail accounts).

Of course, if your threat model is that you require protection from law enforcement or government surveillance, then Google may be a poor choice as they are legally obligated to turn over information about you that is requested by such entities. If that is your adversary, however, than you should have a lot more work to do to protect yourself than just quitting Gmail and setting up your own mail server.

I use runbox for email [1], they are very privacy focused.

[1] https://runbox.com/

Thanks justincormack, that looks promising.

I famously left Facebook over 4 years ago. Yes, a bunch of friends from high school thought I 'unfriended' them, but they all eventually figured it out. I got involved with Digital Detox and try to unplug regularly. Like meditation, almost.

Hehehe, I eventually heard through the grapevine that it had been "impossible" to invite me to a high school reunion, because I wasn't on FB.

I should email some people about that for this year!

I've moved completely away from Google. DuckDuckGo for search, here.com for maps, fastmail.com for mail (using my domain, so I'm not locked in), Firefox as browser.

It was not as hard as I expected.

I guess the email was the hardest one do to. I needed to change quite a few addresses for different accounts. I've also put a permanent vacation responder stating that I use new email. It was definitely worth it. And the best: even from usability perspective, I like fastmail.com better than Google.

I thought about moving away from gmail too but to be honest, gmail has all my emails. 99% of my friends use gmail.

Even symbolic gestures by enough people can facilitate change.

Private with a decent mobile site (apps to come in "early 2015" according to their blog): https://protonmail.ch/

you can go with yandex, but it's all very much a case of pick your poison.

Thank you for the suggestion throwawayaway, but I don't think Yandex is quite what I'm looking for. They might state that they don't share data with the NSA, but I wouldn't trust any company that relies on data mining for their profits with my email.

I don't mind paying a small monthly fee for a secure email service. Does that expand my options?

That's because Yandex is a Russian company - they share their info with the FSB. Ditto for QQ mentioned in the sibling comment and the Chinese MSS. Like throwawayaway said, pick your poison.

Yes, I know, that's why I don't have to 'pick my poison' I know that better options exist.

Ive always maintained to have servers in countries that do not get along with my government (USA).

I also have servers in locations that abide by privacy laws (EU), although I know many of them serve as puppets for the US.

qq also have a mail service, another flavour of poison!

I don't know enough about mail providers to recommend a commercial one.

Okay. Thanks anyway.

We just don't have all the answers yet. We are at a strange era in human history. We have had privacy for eons, and now we may not. We can't even answer the question "do we need privacy?"

If you were raised with no privacy, you wouldn't know the difference. Imagine living your whole life with cameras on you. You know if something bad happens, you have video evidence. Now imagine all those cameras are taken away. You would probably feel very scared to the point of mania.

We don't have the answers yet. We are lucky the internet is still open, so we can try out all these new things and share ideas.

If you were raised with no privacy, you may not be aware that it could get better, but you would still suffer from the power dynamic that the total lack of privacy creates. Information is power, and even if that power is distributed evenly (which it isn't now, and likely will never be), it changes things.

Privacy, as it exists today, is entirely a modern invention. For most of human history people lived in small groups where everyone knew everyone else very well. It was not until industrialisation that we had mega cities where no one knows anyone.

You are selecting facts that are convenient for you.

You are correct that small groups were often tightly knit. But you are ignoring the persistence of modern surveillance: Your neighbor or clan-mate never followed you everywhere. Since the invention of shelter you always had privacy in your home with your family. You could always have a confidential conversation with a friend.

All of those things are more difficult now than they were ten years ago, or hundreds of years ago, or thousands of years ago.

Furthermore, you never had a statistical profile built on your behavior, where members of your society could predict your movements and desires.

> For most of human history people lived in small groups where everyone knew everyone else very well.

Someone already mentioned issues with your statement, but I will add on another issue. Even when living in small, tight-knit communities, if you screwed up your social standing (for whatever reason), you had the option to leave the group, possibly to another group, without your entire life-history following you.

But this 'surveillance' was: 1) voluntary 2) symmetrical 3) done by humans with understanding and compassion

I don't think everyone knew everyone else very well in ancient cities like Rome, Athens and many others. Certainly more people historically lived in villages, but cities have been around for millenia and even in villages people were more intimate with their family than everyone else.

>the decline of freedom and privacy ...1984

I'm not sure privacy in the sense of computers knowing what you're up to and freedom correlate positively. The societies with a lot of tech, eg the US, UK, EU etc are fairly free, the societies where you get killed for saying the wrong thing or having the wrong belief such as N Korea or the Islamic state are pretty low tech. I'm optimistic that computer tech will work against 1984 like systems of which I guess N Korea would be closest to in the real world.

Join us in #scuttlebutt on freenode. We're a pro-privacy group that came together through the oakland communities. We're developing a device-hosted replicated database capable of end-to-end encryption and distributed authority. Privacy is solveable, join us there.

> Privacy is solvable

You speak truth.

This is a fairly naive and negative statement no offensive, the context of history is important, the planet is in a much better place to communicate ideas and consensus, and it gets better every year.

The fact you're even reading about Ai Weiwei is a case in point. Sure it's not perfect , there are growing pains with anything new, but I'm tired of the one sided stories about privacy when the definition if what that means is hazy at best and often misses the point.

Fellow facebook deserter here...

"they always have the same reply: Why would you want to hide something ? "

Privacy to me is about giving a stranger admission into my private life and personal details. Its not about hiding.

Why does it make you sick that some people are OK with certain parts of their life (that they select, no less) being known?

the old microphone/webcam in the bedroom retort usually illustrates to people that they have got something to hide, then in their own time they will discover they have more they don't want to share.

make stuff that doesn't leak privacy, then you should feel no shame.

This is easily the most important article currently on the front page. At times its poignancy reminded me of some of the talks by Maciej Ceglowski, aka the guy who runs Pinboard, but this talk is a bit more direct and a bit less funny.

The world of coveillance or sousveillance sounds attractive, but I think that a quick look at the state of computing for the average person, and their ability to organize photos, run their own email server, or any number of tasks that would be somewhat analogous to the ability for citizens to have some form of meaningful technological power against large corporations and the government, should dispel this notion pretty quickly.

The frog is being slowly boiled right now, and I honestly don't have any answers about what to do. All I can think is just to do what I can to use free software, support organizations like the EFF and Mozilla, and work to make sure that my life isn't completely captured by giant companies like Google and Apple, as I also try to remain politically engaged at home.

Maybe that's all any of us can do.

I would like to design my next side-project to be decentralised and federated, giving people the option to run it on their own hardware. It's a small step in the right direction, I think, and it makes me feel slightly happier about the direction we are heading in. (With the frog definitely in the pot, but not boiling yet.)

Even if his criticisms of coveillance are correct, I still think the world is headed that way.

Simply put, you can't put the genie back in the bottle. We passed a similar threshold with industrialization, and the consequent removal of autonomy for workers on several levels (is the 1800's factory of exacting time cards and constant repetitive movements that far behind the warehouse the author describes?). It was a tumultuous transition (strikes, revolution, communism, etc.) but we made it through. The transformation in state and corporate power that tools like surveillance bring will be similar, but just like in the industrial revolution we can't turn back the clock and have to instead ride out whatever happens.

> "Simply put, you can't put the genie back in the bottle."

I dislike quoting films to make a point, but "the future is not set".

Instead of thinking about reversing change, think about creating an alternate path, a 'fork' in version control terms. Think about what we'd want to inherit in this fork, and what we'd like to replace.

The easier you make the choice to switch to something better, the more people will do it. There are certain parts of our current society that we do not want to live without, any compelling alternative will need to provide them.

I see the greatest hope for a viable alternative in the world of self-sufficiency, but it has to be a more complete form of self-sufficiency than we currently have access to. Healthcare is a great example, what tools would we need to have in our homes to ensure we could treat illnesses without relying on the current healthcare industry? These are the sorts of questions to ask.

For what it's worth, I've already started making steps towards the foundations of a new society. I know it can be done. So that you can understand these ideas better, can you describe to me what holds humans back from making better choices?

Serious question: where do we start when we want to fight this? We made it through the industrial revolution because people stood up for their rights. I'm at a total loss for where to start. (Edit: grammar)

Like with many other causes, you start with yourself -- and that might be enough.

These days, not participating in the latest electronics and social sites and whatnot is enough to make people ask you questions. If you think carefully enough about why you're making the choices you make, then you can give pretty reasonable answers.

I don't own a smart phone, or have a Facebook or LinkedIn account. I still buy paper books. I don't blog (much). And I don't really evangelize these choices; I don't do any of this for attention or to try to change other people's minds. But, when someone notices their tech guy is carrying an old-school flip phone, they ask questions.

Usually the first thing I say is, "they're really convenient, really good tools," immediately followed by, "but, I've noticed that people seem to have a lot of trouble ignoring them, and I don't need another distraction in my life. I don't really want an internet connection to follow me everywhere."

As far as I know, I haven't made anyone else give up their smart phone or Facebook account or whatever. But a surprising number of people take a moment to think about that. They often kinda look at their phone and go, "...huh, I wonder what that would be like..."

And, y'know, just the fact that I get by and live pretty well without these things I think speaks more about how valuable they really are than any sermon I could think of.

Eh, by that reasoning, you could equally live without electricity or running water.

Technology is leveraged, not because it's strictly necessary, but because it's useful. After all, the very website we're having this conversation on isn't necessary. You could get by just fine without it.

But it's useful, isn't it?

Frankly, I don't think quietly opting out solves anything. Would it have helped if some folks opted out of the industrial revolution, content to sit on their farms eking out a living? No. It was those folks participating in the system, but determined to change it, who ultimately lead the charge and catalyzed change.

This technology is here, and it's enormously powerful and useful. But that necessarily means it's also enormously dangerous. The solution isn't to attempt to convince people to abandon that technology and somehow roll back the clock. The solution is for folks to understand the good and the evil these technologies can enable so that we can have intelligent conversations about their use and abuse; conversations that can ultimately inform a new generation of law makers, business owners, and citizens, so that we can realize the advantages of these technologies while minimizing the downsides.

Fortunately, things like the NSA leaks may be just the thing necessary to start those conversations.

I disagree that living with a flip phone instead of a smart phone is in any way equivalent to living without electricity or running water.

You're more than welcome to fight the good fight -- good luck to you -- but I'm not convinced that I'm so right that it should be my mission to change others' minds, and regardless the advice I gave is a good first step for anyone that is interested in changing others' minds.

I don't think the parent comment wants you to get people to downgrade. I think the intent is to get people to demand better protections from abuses of technology.

Maybe I'm not imaginative enough, but I can't figure how that would happen.

Who could be trusted to safeguard privacy? The government? The services that depend on advertising revenue, which these days is most of them?

Downgrading and opting-out has been the only option that has made sense to me. (But I'm probably weird.)

I think it's a poor comparison. You need water to stay alive and to not stink. Electricity is easier to avoid, but why do that? Electricity and running water don't disturb me with notifications, are not as addictive as social networks, don't make me waste time, don't track me (as much as a smartphone).

I find that having no TV, no smart phone and no facebook reduces the noise. I don't miss them.

There are always trade offs. Sure, you can live without electricity or running water and I'm certain some people argue that this has many benefits. For the average person however, the downsides outweigh the benefits by a huge margin.

Not owning a smart phone also has downsides and benefits. Many people however aren't really aware that downsides exist, so the benefits, however small they may be seem like a justification to buy one. I think it makes sense to be critical of the things you use and spend some time thinking about whether you really think that they benefits are worth the costs.

personally i like the amish approach, before you make decisions on some technology, watch how others use it and take time to understand it before adopting it yourself.

I was asking because that's exactly what I did last year on January 1st. I quit Facebook (500+ "friends"), Twitter (3Ksomething followers) & all social networks cold-turkey. Deleted my accounts, no recovery possible. My motivation was personal & not political/ideological (social media burnout) ... All it did for me was:

* give me more time for side-projects & a clearer frame of mind (good) * actually made me think & write MORE. not everything you think should be thrown on social media immediately. I appreciate having learned to shut up when you don't have anything to say (good) * made a bunch of people angry at first (good I guess if you want to provoke a mind-change) ... but that seemed to last only until the next cute cat picture came along. * I'm sure I made no one reconsider. Zero effect. So that's why I was asking.

"Changing the world by beginning with yourself" is not a valid strategy here. So what do we do instead?

A flip phone doesn't really stop surveillance. They still track where you are, who you call. Sure, maybe no app data, but since you don't use Facebook and such that data wouldn't be there anyway.

A faraday bag probably helps to reduce the tracking: http://killyourphone.com/

Thats an art project about raising awareness. Just turn the phone off.

Just turn the phone off hasn't been enough for 10+ years.


  By September 2004, a new NSA technique enabled the agency to find cellphones even
  when they were turned off. JSOC troops called this “The Find,”

... by removing the battery.

Some paranoid peoples claim there are batteries inside SOICs that still can provide data.

While I am doing some of these things, the Luddites didn't have much of an influence over the industrial revolution, they were discarded in the dustbin of history along with anyone who stood in the way of increased profits and globalization.

What I often see is that most individuals see that the benefits outweigh the negatives (all the people that say "I have nothing to hide." over and over) of safety over privacy, and specters can be brought up to increase this fear of the unknown until you are going to have to fight against your friends and neighbors instead of the government to get any change in place.

I find people that say "I have nothing to hide" often haven't thought it through. Easiest example is porn habits, it's not necessarily something people keep private, but many people want to, yet it can skip their mind when they say "I have nothing to hide". IIRC the Snowden leaks included stories of political dissidents being kept in their place by threatening to expose their porn habits (not necessarily anything illegal, just potentially embarrassing).

When someone says they have nothing to hide, I've found there's usually an implied "from the specific person or group that I'm thinking about right now." It's not that I have nothing, but the set information that'd I don't want the cops to know about is different from the set that I don't want my spouse to know about, which is further different from the set I don't want Google or Facebook to know about.

The cops won't care about my porn browsing, but I might not want my spouse to know about all of it. I wouldn't want the cops knowing if I was buying drugs, but I trust that my spouse wouldn't go walking down to the station to turn me in. Similarly, I trust that Facebook wouldn't hand over my info to the feds without a court order, but I don't trust them to hand all of my info over to marketing firm without my permission for a small fee.

As a side note, the leak you're referring to stated that several jihadis' devotion to their cause would be called into question and their authority undermined if it was shown that their public and private lives were inconsistent, with several examples[1]. There were no indications that any threats were made, and, in fact, Greenwald later stated in an interview[2] that he had no evidence that there was any intention to threaten them. I like to point out whenever that article comes up that one of the sources for that article later complained that Greenwald selectively quoted him so as not to undermine the article's core argument[3] and that Greenwald had himself written a book back in 2008 which tried to discredit Republicans by publishing information about their private lives[4]. Sorry, I just can't stand Greenwald...

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/nsa-porn-muslims_n_...

[2] http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?story...

[3] http://volokh.com/2013/11/27/understanding-enemy/

[4] http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0307408663/thevolocon...

We start by decentralizing power.

Web instead of cable channels Git instead of subversion Bitcoin decentralizes money Social networking will be next to decentralize Energy production - decentralized Cellphone mesh networks Open source government programs to run cities Etc

By decoupling function from identity. Fake faces, portable faraday cages, blockchained trust, onion routed transport, free hardware and software.

Identity is pretty easy to reconstruct though.

The big question one has to ask is what do you do in a world where you are more and more living in a zoo with robots making sure you do the right thing to more and more exacting standards?

I think the answer is that expectations will get so high that robots will do everything. And humans will be free to do anything, as long as they don't involve anyone else.

Want to ask a question to your dad? Why bother, google will answer better and your dad won't be pissed at you for asking while he's glued to his facebook

> We made it through the industrial revolution because people stood up for their rights.

I wouldn't say we made it through. We are living it now. We are just getting automated away from it gradually over last hundred years despite all the kicking and screaming and few revolutions (the other, bloody kind). What we sort of succeeded at is getting decent share of the profits.

> Serious question: where do we start when we want to fight this?

I think you can't fight the process. You can just demand your share.

You need to fight for your right to information. Right to surveil others. Privacy will die, you just need to ensure everybody gets a piece of its corpse and all that grows on it.

Demand right to acquire and publicize surveillance footage no matter who acquired it. No matter who was surveiled. Demand transparency from your government to the point mandatory of livefeeding of all public officers.

Don't just accept that some things should be secret. Make all the people, who claim that, prove why. Enforce transparency as default and secrecy an incredibly well argued exception.

I don't think we should want to fight this. The way I see it, things increasingly tend to look like "privacy or the progress of mankind, pick one". There are tons and tons of potential benefits to society stemming from all that data being available for constant real-time processing, and I haven't seen any kind of analysis that would properly weight the costs and benefits. What we get is constant surveillence state fear mongering.

This is a good, but probably unpopular, point. Even Stallman's info leaks everywhere. If his great lengths aren't enough where does that leave typical people? The article states satellites can recognize your face. At some point you throw up your hands and say I give up. On Star Trek no one seems to care that the Federation always knows where they are because they trust that their rights are respected uniformly. Attacking the problem from the standpoint of hiding all info about your doings is a castle made of sand.

Yes. I won't pretend I'm not scared of the bad consequences of the tech we have, be it oppressive governments or evil private companies. Though to be honest, it's something we had to deal with since the dawn of mankind, I don't think surveillance tech is anywhere close to the root of the problem.

Since you mentioned it, I grew up watching Star Trek and I guess it might have formed some of my views on society and technology. The technology present in that universe can - and sometimes is - abused, but like you said, they generally trust each other a lot, both on personal and on societal level. It's a way of life I try to follow and a future I hope we'll one day reach.

Pretty much everything again hinges not on the technology itself, but on how it can be used. There's a lot of good we can leverage even current level of "antiprivacy" technologies - optimizing agriculture, traffic and public health, learning more about ourselves and how societies evolve, improving the general well-being of everyone.

The last two or three generations seem to have grown up with irrational hate of centralized systems. Yes, distributed and democratized is great, but those systems also have their failure modes - many of which we see every day not only in technology, but in economy, politics. There are some things that are better done centralized, like any kind of optimizations. With the levels of computing power we have nowdays, I think we should embrace centralization some more.

Another thing - that I do need to check up with history books, but I feel that the current notion of "privacy" is an artificial construct, an artefact of growing urbanization. I can't imagine villages having any level of privacy similar to what people in cities nowdays consider a minimum standard.

Sure you can "put the genie back in the bottle." There are plenty of social norms that inhibit possible but obnoxious behavior. Some even have laws that reënforce the social norms.

Pretty alarmist writing. "I therefore can’t resist showing a new piece of Google technology: the military robot ‘WildCat’ made by Boston Dynamics which was bought by Google in December 2013". And goes on to show a video of something that was funded by DARPA well before Google purchased Boston Dynamics. Google has already said multiple times that it won't be pursuing any military contracts.

Rather disjointed, too. Even if Google were developing robots for the military, as the author implies, it's a bit of a stretch to jump from discussing Snowden, to Boston Dynamics, and then back to the NSA within the span of a paragraph. I felt a bit of whiplash there.

(Incidentally, Google declined to pursue future military contracts after acquiring Boston Dynamics, along with a host of other robotics companies, so presenting that pre-acquisition video after accusing Google of being ”part of the military industrial complex” is bit of a non-sequitor.)

> Google has already said multiple times that it won't be pursuing any military contracts.

And you so quickly trust one of the biggest corporations in the world to "keep its promise" over following whatever its biggest interest will be in the future?

Google also said it won't deal at all with the military before they bought the robots, and a few months later it was selling them Google Glass...so yeah.

And Google Glass is something anyone barely wants. Imagine Google's robots were so great that it would cause a "revolution" in what we can do with robots. Do you really believe that if Pentagon came knocking at Google's door saying "Here, we want 1 million of these robots for $100,000 a piece". Google would say "Um, no thanks buddy, we already said in public 10 years ago (under a different CEO) that we wouldn't sell to you...but you could pay that $100 billion to Microsoft's robot division if you like. Our shareholders won't mind".

Is that how you imagine it going down? That said, I'm already pissed off because Oculus/Facebook have decided to sell Oculus Rifts to the military to make drone assassinations that much more convenient.

That's not exactly the same thing though. Google glass wasn't made for the military, but of course Google isn't going to refuse to sell them a product that they have made publicly available.

Perhaps the military will want to buy more of Google's tech, but it sounds like Google isn't (currently) planning on building robots for the military.

Google also said they wouldn't be evil.

And goes on to show a piece of technology owned by Google.

Who funded it and when is irrelevant to whether it belongs to google.

Really? Google owns a fighter jet. What kind of conclusions am I supposed to draw from that?

Google owns a fighter jet.

The jet you're talking about is owned by a private company, H211 LLC, that's owned by Page, Brin, Schmidt et al. It's not a subsidiary of Google, nor does it have any relationship with Google[0].

[0] http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/23/a-new-fighter-jet-f...

You must have a pretty sad definition of the word "relationship" to exclude two companies that share executives.

Probably not much since they do not own the company that designed and built that fighter jet (at least that I am aware of).

I don't understand your point.

I was arguing "the Boston dynamics robot is not Google technology because darpa funded it" with "it is fair to describe it as Google technology because Google own the technology".

You can draw whatever conclusions you like about the fighter jet for all I care. But if you start saying things like "they bought a fighter jet but they don't own it because someone else paid for the design" then I'll argue about your reasoning.

The uncomfortable truth is that many HN readers are the ones gleefully building these tools.

Do you really think said hackers are "gleefully building these tools" specifically in order to enable a surveillance state?

Of course not.

It's been said a million times before: every technology can be used for good or for ill. After all, the technology that enables you to drink the water coming out of your tap, one of the most important developments in the history of mankind, is the very same technology that makes mustard gas possible.

And of course there's that quintessential example: nuclear fission, equally capable of saving or destroying billions.

In fact, I'd go so far as to claim that every technology mankind has ever invented to benefit itself has eventually been turned against us. After all, last I checked fire was a pretty common weapon of war.

So is it possible that folks at Google are nefariously turning us all into biological components of their computing infrastructure, and in the process deliberately and consciously empowering a government-corporate surveillance state? Yes, it's possible.

It's equally (I'd like to believe more) likely someone just thought it'd be cool if my phone tracked my location and could provide me sight-seeing suggestions when I'm in a new city.

Now, this doesn't take away from the fundamental point of the article: that technology available today is changing our lives with consequences we have yet to fully comprehend, and will likely fundamentally change the way society functions. But I think it's unnecessarily cynical to believe those inventing said technology are deliberately attempting to bring about the dystopian future the author envisions.

> It's been said a million times before: every technology can be used for good or for ill

But what is the "good" about what we're building? The most cringe-worthy justification I have ever read for giving up privacy was this post by an Ex-Googler[1]:

> Digital identity unlocks universal personalization (i.e. better ads), payments and commerce (i.e. Snapcash), environmental adaptation (i.e. an Uber that plays your Spotify music), communications (i.e. Path Talk), and access (i.e. Sosh Concierge). Today’s most exciting apps are barely scratching the surface of what will be possible when there are years of preferences data stored up on each of us, that we can leverage at a moments notice, in any context.

An Uber that plays your Spotify music and better ads! This is the "good" we are chasing. I have never felt more ashamed to sit in front of a computer.

[1] https://medium.com/@chrismessina/thoughts-on-google-8883844a...

The general idea from that is: computer systems that know a lot about you can provide personalized services for you or about you. Those services can be to your benefit or detriment, depending on who controls the data, their intentions and their priorities (e.g. quick cash grab vs sustainable customer relations). If you want better examples: Google maps knowing your location allows you to navigate in places where you don't know the surrounding area or where you are exactly; Gmail reading all your mails allows you to filter crud out of your inbox and pretty much solved the spam problem that plagued the 90s; Facebook makes a lot of your life transparent to corporations, but it also does allow you to keep up with the lives of friends in distant places that you don't meet often. Now, I am all for solutions that make your private data more opaque to the services that consume it, and the way they consume it more transparent to you. But services based on your personal information will not disappear, and the reason is not some dark evil conspiracy to monitor your every step (or, at least, not just some dark evil conspiracy to monitor your every step) but the fact that people find this services useful. Like the industrial revolution, the issue is not that we are going forward with this new uses of energy/information, but that we are doing so largely without consideration of their harmful externalities (pollution in the case of the industrial revolution, misuse of private data in the case of the information one).

one of my lecturers was gleefully doing so and knew the implications more than a decade ago, not all are wide eyed innocents as you suggest.

Even more uncomfortable: most of us are using them - even knowing all the dangers and even knowing how much we are giving control to others - because we find the tools useful.

Data collection is probably the low hanging fruit of all technological solutions, skewing where tech goes.

Just another example of the bay attitude '---- you, I got mine'



In the efforts to improve surveillance they have given us the tools to subvert it. Yes, they can watch us all, but we can also all watch each other. Yes, we have nothing to be ashamed of, and they no longer control the ability to spread ideas about what is shameful. When they are abusing one person, everyone can know.

Ai Wei Wei would not still be in communication with the world without the same technology that is permitting his surveillance.

At the same time as the surveillance state is growing, we are being told that all of the platforms that have the broadest potential reach are lame. That facebook is not cool, so any messages you send out on it will be judged by the medium, not the message. We have more than enough power already to reach other with messages that spread faster than a security state can quash them. The Chinese government's control isn't growing, its faltering. The US government's control isn't growing. They know more about us all, and can do less to us.

> Yes, we have nothing to be ashamed of

I'm going to mostly side-step the de facto response to this ("surveillance isn't about shame, it's about control, etc. etc."), because the more interesting thing here is that there's a good chance your point of view is going to become the predominant one in future generations.

Generations like mine were taught that privacy was important for freedom (e.g. 1984), and even though the lesson didn't really stick with all of us, I think that there's still some clear generational divisions when it comes to privacy.

Younger people seem to see this as old-fashioned, or are completely uninterested in privacy and happy to accept the tradeoffs for convenience.

Year by year I'm increasingly expecting that the future won't hold some kind of social agitation for more privacy and less surveillance, it will instead have nearly complete surveillance and absence of privacy, and everyone -- or almost everyone -- will be glad for it.

I disagree. Public opinion polls clearly show that the younger generation is more intolerant of the NSA mass surveillance[0][1], for example.

Sometimes the difference can be startling:

Once again, there was a significant relationship between age group and support for monitoring everyone’s online activity. Only 15% of Canadians aged 18 to 29 believed that the Canadian government should monitor online activities if officials say it might prevent future terrorist attacks compared with 34% of those aged 30 to 44 and 43% for those aged 45 to 59.[2]

That's almost a three fold difference between the 18 to 29 group and the 45 to 59 group.

[0] http://www.people-press.org/2013/06/10/majority-views-nsa-ph...

[1] http://www.people-press.org/2013/06/17/public-split-over-imp...

[2] http://abacusinsider.com/politics-public-affairs/nsa-snowden...

Thanks for the studies. That's good news.

I'd nitpick though that there's a substantial difference between "government surveillance to stop terrorism" and "volunteer my personal information everywhere because I get cool things for it". For instance, most Snapchat users are between the ages of 13 and 25 (according to http://www.businessinsider.com/a-primer-on-snapchat-and-its-...).

most Snapchat users are between the ages of 13 and 25

Isn't that an argument for the younger generation being more privacy-conscious? I.e. that they're willing to forgo the convenience of a message history in exchange for more privacy in their communications?

No. Snapchat has been under fire from several directions for a while for promising more privacy than was actually provided. They had a major account leak, there have been applications for a while that can save received photos, they got a pretty poor privacy review from the EFF...

Being privacy-conscious would have to include caring at least a little bit about privacy-related news (and not just Snowden-related).


Maybe we're struggling a bit here because privacy can mean so many different things in different contexts.

There's privacy from parents. That's something that I think young people have cared about for a long time, and that's not likely to change soon. So, Snapchat is popular.

There's privacy from the government. This situation is harder to read because there are a lot of nuances. You can be politically opposed to a government spying on its own citizens without necessarily caring about personal privacy; if you distrust your government, then politically you're resistant to giving it more powers, even if you don't see how those powers might be abused.

And then there's personal privacy: control over who owns information about you and what they can do with it, and that doesn't seem to be getting very much traction in younger markets. There certainly hasn't been a revolt against online services (http://www.forbes.com/sites/gyro/2014/01/09/forbes-where-are...), even post-Snowden, even after it's generally accepted that the business model for each of those services is to gather as much personal information about their users as possible.

I think the problem here, that will catch other online providers, is that snapchat's success is still based on the flawed presumption that it's actually private (by any of your definitions).

Hopefully the realization that these services aren't as private as advertized will have a ripple effect in the "younger markets", but I doubt it.

I have a different read on that. Control doesn't work if no one cares about social opprobrium. If the culture has changed so that whatever behavior you're engaging in is no longer considered taboo / everyone else is doing it, you cannot be controlled by others using the threat of exposure against you (this doesn't apply to behaviors that are actually made illegal, so would be protestors/dissidents get no help from this.) Now, some may say that that kind of change itself is bad (due to the newer [theorized] cultural control strategy of reverse desublimation in the west since the 1960s), but I think that ship has long sailed anyway.

For a basic example, let's take visible public inebriation. If large numbers / the majority of people do that on a regular basis - and everyone can see it - how could you use that as a threat against people? Right now it can be used against, for example, potential job seekers because of information asymmetry (job seeker has photo of being drunk on a public post / interviewer keeps their drunken photos private.) In a world where everyone can see everyone (and archives are infinite / searchable) that power goes away. As Brin discusses in The Transparent Society, people avoid eavesdropping (or at least hide it) because they know others are looking - and IS a behavior that gets social opprobrium, and so is effectively policed. An important (and perhaps obvious) caveat to all this is that social policing only applies to people with roughly symmetrical levels of power (i.e., this doesn't work for government surveillance - they can use much more powerful tools than shame / fear of exposure.)

I think another interesting thing to think about (that we have a recent data point on) is comment sections pre- and post- Facebook comments. It was often stated in the pre- area that real names attached to posts would prevent egregious public behavior due to shame / fear. What we've seen is that this is not the case. Comment sections using Facebook comments are still often filled with much of the ugliness they had before. Is it ignorance, foolishness, feelings of invulnerability, the belief that their opinions represent a silent majority? Hard to say, but I'd like to see someone take on that topic since we now have so much data on it.

> Is it ignorance, foolishness, feelings of invulnerability, the belief that their opinions represent a silent majority?

Or impermanence. Who's going to give you a hard time for a comment you wrote six months ago? Two months? Two weeks?

Thanks for posting. You described a lot of what I've been mulling over, but you did it way more articulately than I could've. (I'm saving it for later reference.)

I think impermanence would probably fall in the foolishness bucket. Those photos of doing shots out the beak of a pelican may be 5 years old; they'd still be used against someone. It's all a Google/Facebook search away now.


Edit: FB website integration comments aren't indexed by default, but FB does offer instructions on making them indexable.

> I'm going to mostly side-step the de facto response to this ("surveillance isn't about shame, it's about control, etc. etc."), because the more interesting thing here is that there's a good chance your point of view is going to become the predominant one in future generations.

It's not a generational thing, it's power dynamics. Keeping your secrets while learning the other guy's is to your advantage in everything from military operations to corporate trade secrets to loyalty cards used to engage in price discrimination.

There are new technologies that invade privacy but also new technologies that protect it. It's going to be a long fight.

What is going to become increasingly clear is that people who give up their privacy for nothing are suckers.

For me as the author of the piece, it is wonderful to find an informed and critical discussion of the themes that I tried to discuss here in the comments. I will likely try and answer some of them here in the next couple of hours and am happy to answer any questions.

Please link to your sources. You reference most of your material from other places but don't link to anything.

how about more background info on the "US Warehouse (think amazon)" that will actually fire someone "on the spot" for taking a 31 minute lunch? (think actual company / location names, backing documentation?) I find it hard to believe that's not just a bit exaggerated.

I got it from this podcast: http://www.radiolab.org/story/brown-box/

For those in the SF area, I highly recommend going to Alcatraz to experience some of Ai Weiwei's work. http://www.for-site.org/project/ai-weiwei-alcatraz/

Never Sorry is a fantastic documentary on Ai Weiwei's life. I contributed to documentary while it was Kickstarter and got to see it in a theater in DC. http://aiweiweineversorry.com/

Sorry to digress here. Just want to comment on Ai. He is like many other iconic/famous people in the country, who got awards aboard, do things that seem against the ruling party in the country and basically walk away with way less consequences almost every time. Some of them get into short-term jail like hero and after that their experiences worth much more. This is very interesting since average people would probably face fatal consequences, if they did something like that, even once.

Good point. The government in the propaganda domain at least is bound by high ideals and promises -- "We are for freedom. We represent the people. We don't stiffle expression. (Unlike those other countries out there...)". So doing anything too harsh to a public figure, known internationally, is going to create a big hassle.

At another level you can argue that he is also a token, and thus implicitly somehow part of the system. He is a representative example of how "tollerant and open" the country is. "Hey look, a harsh critic of the system is still alive and still working". So it is important to keep him around but tighten the screw periodically a bit so he stays in check, so to speak.

On the topic of the article. I think the interesting part is how Ai tried to manage the surveilance and how he responded to it. Installing cameras around and basically making his life completely public, for everyone. At some level that mocked and maybe emasculated the watchers. Monitoring, is a power play of course too. This mocking was probably rather infuriating for them. "Oh you want to monitor me, fine I'll monitor myself 10x better than you and will let everyone participate".

But also this is also possible because he is already a public figure. His public image is the only thing that shields and protects him and allows him to do this. He knows it of course.

The other example, is him approaching the undercover officers watching him. Also a great way to mock and in way difuse their power.

Extrapolating to how we (in US) are watched and monitored by Apple, Google, NSA, not sure how and what can be learned here. The difference that it is rather impersonal and mocking doesn't work in the same way. You know people insert signatures with [al-Qaeda, bomb, president, blah blah] in their emails. Not sure what that does. We might never know.

Based on my observation of those iconic people in China, I have to say that a sad truth is nearly 100% are performers in media. It took me a long time to accept this. I was looking for some really contemporary thinkers in my nation but failed. Instead, I found a "career path" for some iconic guys. I know it sounds unbelievable, given the context of life in US.

I saw the Ai Weiwei show recently and I was noting that he uses his brief imprisonment for its performance value and I was a bit critical of this. There was one room that was just all the artifacts laid out (police reports, confiscated computers). This didn't seem like much of an artwork compared to his much better and more complex ones like http://www.zodiacheads.com/about_exhibit_gold.html

But after a while I understood that this is his strategy to simply transform all oppression and government intervention into some artistic response. Both he and the government understand that this makes it into a stalemate. Whatever they do, he echos it and gets publicity out of it.

But those pieces are not his major works at all.

http://nprberlin.de/post/ai-weiweis-evidence-exhibit-opens-m... http://www.designboom.com/art/ai-weiwei-straightens-150-tons...

The interesting part is, in my experience, his famous works in Chinese media are all political ones and I see little art in them, if those can be called true art. Most of what I see are just iconic man doing visual protest in art's name. This is actually such a privilege in China, if you know the consequence average people face by doing this. This is maybe where my bias comes from. And he seems quite enjoy people in developed world see him as a fighter and some in his own country see him as one of the most famous artists. I just want to point out what I see since no one mentions this online and HN readers may be able to accept some different point of view.

I think its because that's what the media and non-art people focus on both in and out of China. Its easier to understand than zodiac heads which has lots of historical backstory and questions what is traditional.

But of course he is milking it. (after all the exhibit is called "Evidence")

aesthetically I'm much more impressed by this guy: http://www.caiguoqiang.com/projects/inopportune-stage-two-20...

but you could accuse him of being decorative and of using stereotypical Chinese imagery. I still like it.

Perhaps I'm just not into Chinese culture of the past 500 years:)

Exactly.Almost all of those figures have serious integrity problem. But there's one exception, only one: http://www.weibo.com/u/1971861621?topnav=1&wvr=5&topsug=1

Haven't used weibo for a long time.

The real potential trouble makers probably don't last too long. We aren't talking house arrest either. And I'm guessing this might be true for many more countries than China.

In China's context, real potential trouble makers indicate they are backed by some high level officials(if not the top ones). The more power they have, the more difficult to pull them out. What you said is correct in a more tolerant system, however, China is closer the other end. If interested, you could get some ideas by looking at Chinese media channel control system.

That was a painful essay. No real point hammered through, jumping from one topic to another without clear logic, and again making it look like companies will be ruling the world in the future, while the surveillance capabilities of goverments far exceed what companies can hope to achieve because they cannot centralize all channels of information.

I agree, but then I noticed at the bottom it was originally a speech, and in Dutch at that, so I let them have some slack.

Hm. This was a hodgepodge. I really sympathized with many criticisms, but others lacked focus.

Specifically, I'm frustrated with the author picking on the idea of police officers wearing cameras. I'm interested in how we can decentralize and unpackage law enforcement services, so this hit home for me. I'd like to expound on (de)centralization, community and transparency for a sec, if I can be indulged.

Democracy and society today implies distributed power (citizens) mediated by necessary centralized power (law enforcement, elected representatives, judicial systems). This was a choice we made as our societies grew, as it was the only one that technology (postal service, telegraph, horse, guns, etc.) allowed at the time we were working through our options.

The small, manageable communities of our past were ones where everyone knew everyone else. There was gossip. Secrets were hard. But this was bundled up with the security we had in these communties. We're being dishonest if we become nostalgic for that security and community, and yet conveniently deny the nakedness that is implied.

Democracy has been the only way we've known stability in recent history. But it doesn't mirror these small communities of our past. We trusted centralized powers to mediate the trust relationships the we lost when we grew up. This allowed us to live in a world where we didn't need to ask transparency. So we got used to that being a norm in a society where we felt security and stability.

But if we want to build more decentralized a robust societies, we need to accept that sometimes radical transparency is needed for certain institutions to lose their corruptible centers. We need radical transparency for any institution that operates at the scale where we can't know and trust one another through the nakedness of personal relationships. We CAN build a decentralized society that has privacy, and we should demand that privacy for situations where it need not be sacrificed. But we can't always demonize all forms of radical transparency, as this is the crucial element that will allow the most corruptible of our institutions to be reimagined.

OK, sorry, this was perhaps a bit of a rant. If you're thinking in similar areas, perhaps the words above will resonate with you. Otherwise, it might sound like an abstract rambling :)

Eh... in my experience, most people simply aren't worth watching very closely.

Favorite part of the article... "he used Craigslist to hire somebody to help him improve his productivity. The idea was that the person would come sit next to him and give him a slap whenever he would not be working..."

Love the idea. I recently had a talk w/ my boss about I was thinking about leaving because I was making many times more on the side than I was with the company. But the one caveat... I needed him to keep being my boss and check on what I was doing. Make sure I was at my desk at 7:30 coding away and didn't go home until 5. He laughed quite a bit and said to think about it. I am.

I'm not in favor of massive surveillance, but sometimes knowing we are watched a little helps us at certain times....

The mentioned novels seem cool, but an even better reference is Feed. Published in 2002 before MySpace was a household name, it pretty much hits the nail on the head in terms of surveillance, marketing and connectedness.

Thanks! I'll check it out.

"Hannah Arendt’s understanding of the political domain of the classic city would agree with the equation of walls with law and order. According to Arendt, the political realm is guaranteed by two kinds of walls (or wall like laws): the wall surrounding the city, which defined the zone of the political; and the walls separating private space from the public domain, ensuring the autonomy of the domestic realm.

The almost palindromic linguistic structure of law/wall helps to further bind these two structures in an interdependency that equates built and legal fabric. The unwalling of the wall invariably becomes the undoing of the law."

"The breaching of the physical, visual and conceptual border/wall exposes new domains to political power, and thus draws the clearest physical diagram to the concept of the ‘state of exception’."

"Future military operations in urban terrain will increasingly be dedicated to the use of technologies developed for the purpose of the ‘unwalling of the wall’.

This is the architect’s response to the logic of ‘smart weapons’. The latter have paradoxically resulted in higher numbers of civilian casualties simply because the illusion of precision gives the military political complex the necessary justification to use explosives in civilian environments where they cannot be used without endangering, injuring or killing civilians.

The imagined benefits of ‘smart destruction’ and attempts to perform ‘sophisticated’ swarming thus bring more destruction over the long term than ‘traditional’ strategies ever did, because these ever more deadly methods combined with the highly manipulative and euphoric theoretical rhetoric used to promulgate them have induced decision makers to authorize their frequent use. Here another use of ‘theory’ as the ultimate ‘smart weapon’ becomes apparent. The military’s seductive use of theoretical and technological discourse seeks to portray war as remote, sterile, easy, quick, intellectual, exciting and even economic (from their own point of view). Violence can thus be projected as tolerable, and the public encouraged to support it."

Eyal Weizman

Lethal Theory


Egger's book that he mentions, The Circle, has unnerved me since I read it. I've noticed myself looking at things I do through the lens of that book, and then continuing with that action. It's like I'm on a bus that's headed for a cliff, and I've resigned myself to the fact that it's going to go over, so I might as well sit comfortably than make a fuss.

Ai Weiwei isn't living in our future, he's living in an actual totalitarian-ish nationstate.

The degree to which there's this encouraged ignorance to what the Chinese government is all about is the story which is of greater concern here: they're never not been a brutal regime, they're just a trade partner now so the narrative has shifted.

What they do, and what they can do isn't enabled by technology. It's enabled by the simple political and military will to actually kick in doors and arrest and execute people.

You want to not live in that world? Then you inform people why the no-fly list is stupid, for a start. How such a list is distributed, generated or updated is irrelevant.

Beautifully written and expressing most of the concerns that bother me in today's world.

If you liked the article, I'd also suggest [1] by moxie. I really liked how he dismantles the I-have-nothing-to-hide argument. Scary, but so true.

[1] http://www.thoughtcrime.org/blog/we-should-all-have-somethin...

Pardon me for "going meta" but it seems that power in the internet age may be less about how much information you have than on how much information you can keep out of the hands of others.

For example, just how transparent is Schmidt's or Zuckerberg's lives compared to ours?

Or why the US govt seems to be classifying greater and greater quantities of information?

And whether such asymmetries of power help or hurt our welfare.

"Your lunchtime is exactly 29 minutes. You are fired on the spot if you take a 31 minute lunch as that messes with the planning capabilities of the system."

This is meant to describe "a large shipping warehouse in the US ... (think Amazon)" logistics system. Is this actually in any meaningful way true? If so, I'm disgusted, naive and disappointed.

Abusive work practices and tax avoidance are complementary pillars of the model. What a world we live in.


See also


Thanks for the links. It's always somewhat gratifying to find my cynicism well-placed. But depressing all the same...

Is there a word for that? Something like "Schadenfreude", but including yourself in the suffering, and taking the "joy" as some form of second-rate consolation?

"According to him, we have allowed efficiency thinking to optimize our world to such an extent that we have lost the flexibility and slack that is necessary for dealing with failure. This is why we can no longer handle any form of risk."

This rings true to me in many ways, particularly in the way we treat our children. I may have to read Anti-fragile.

Please do. Not an easy read, but totally worth it.

Do - it's a great book.

I wish I had read this before Christmas as I was stuck for gifts for younger people.

This documentary looks fantastic. I'm looking forward to watching this and Citizen Four.

A note to anyone who might be reading this before the article, don't read it all as it contains spoilers from the documentary.

I wrote quite extensively about this. For example:


The Pavlok is really disturbing but cool at the same time. It's such a perfect example of technology that could be used for good or evil.

That's a fantastic trailer. I need to see this.

That picture of him in a cell with two guards looks like something out of a wax museum.

I actually is a piece of art he made about his experience in the cell.[1] It is titled S.A.C.R.E.D.

[1] http://www.wired.com/2013/06/ai-weiweis-self-referential-wor...

We don't need to throw the baby out with the bath water. We just need to make sure government doesn't get too much power. This doesn't have anything to do with Google or Apple (they can't put you in jail).

I guess I'm confused. Aren't Google and Apple under the government's power? Couldn't congress make a law mandating big technology companies give the government access to user data?

Arguably they don't even need to pass such a law, since national security letters already enables the same thing.

I don't really buy the privacy paranoia anymore these days. It was the internet that first grew the distance between people so that we could pretend-anonymous say things about anything without repercussion an it will be the internet that shrinks that distance down to where you better be talking about what matters to you and putting your money where your mouth is.

In ten years I'll be sharing and leaking at least 10x as much information out of all kinds of devices. 90% of my engagement will happen inside programs will be automatically syncing data across cloud services. Security is inevitably a growing target in the networked world, and privacy requires security. Increasingly for the sake of productivity and collaboration, everything I use will be sharing and syncing more and more. The desire of most people to be connected and productive, not some autocratic slide in the worlds governments will be the death of privacy.

One of the features of Facebook I liked in the early days was just the slight exclusiveness that made it basically okay to talk about having a giant hangover without fear of looking like an alcoholic to an interviewer scratching up dirt (I think zero interviews I care about do this). When Facebook started making the defaults public etc without notifications, there was understandably some uproar about being unknowingly thrust out into the public. Eroding privacy causing blunders is not the same thing as not having privacy. For the most part anxiety about not being able to control your privacy or security really need to be analyzed in the context of just how hidden you really need to make your words (in the case of anti-dissent government) or actions (in the case of socially conservative laws) to be able to practice or advocate what it is you care about. To an almost absolute degree, very little of things you want to see in the world that don't exist yet are going to require going to war for the cause of security or privacy before your end goals can be pursued, so it's just not really worth it.

EFF does great work to defend people against stupid laws and to promote better laws with regard to IP etc. They protect anonymity for regular people that happen to cosplay and have very odd taste in character appropriateness. However, the area where the EFF pulled really hard to ensure that the future of the internet would be egalitarian in the United States was about Title II common carrier law, not about privacy. The 1st amendment protects what you say, not some mythical right to say it without consequences; you only get that when nobody cares about your opinion. Even in the case of socially conservative laws, stand up for respect for individual beliefs before you stand up for privacy as an extra-social cure.

Privacy is not close to as fundamentally important as the security that is required to achieve it, and privacy advocacy is to an extent like whining about how someone took your tree-house and you can't have any secret clubs anymore. Most privacy is not used to do productive things, and few productive things outside of already entrenched, authoritarian governments require privacy to pursue.

One thing which requires privacy is being an actual thinking human being and not a fearful automaton.

If you believe what you think, you can be vocal unless you're a coward. Someone will likely be shot today because they wouldn't renounce some belief. Privacy advocates are not winning my sympathy in claiming that being watched all the time as opposed to being shot is bending what they are willing to say.

Didn't go through this TLDR writing, but just briefly scrolling the page.

I was so amazed the author can connect Ai Weiwei with the WildCat robot, an image of Obama's calling from a camp, and a kid in a car using Disney product.

How this can connect together?!

If you want to talk about surveillance or privacy, won't NSA's Snowden be a more famous and impacting example?

Read the damn article. The author goes through many examples of things that are eroding privacy.

Ai Weiwei lives under total surveillance. Google is producing technology for the military. Obama has to use a tent in his hotel room to block surveillance. The disney wristband tracks your movements and spending.

Surprisingly the NSA is barely mentioned at all. The author is primarily concerned with how technology is enabling surveillance, not the organizations currently using it.

What technology is google producing for the military?

Boston Dynamics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Google, produced the WildCat robot for DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program[0].

[0] http://www.darpa.mil/our_work/dso/programs/maximum_mobility_...

Most of that work was done before Google bought the company, and Google is not renewing those contracts.

Google is not a defense contractor. As frequently beaten as a dead horse on HN, Google sells ads, not weapons.

DARPA funds lots of projects that eventually get inherited by the private sector. SIRI funding at SRI was provided by DARPA, does that make Apple a defense contractor?

Guilt by association usually produces bad analysis.

That's somewhat misleading. Boston Dynamics made those robots for DARPA before Google acquired them. After Google acquired them, they announced that they would not seek further military contracts in the future.

I would guess that many HN readers tripped over the Boston Dynamics example because it doesn't seem to fit with this talk's overall theme of surveillance. Of course we all recognize Google is doing a tremendous amount of mining and predicting, but they aren't sending out cat-bots to collect the data, which makes it a bit of a non-sequitur.


>One of the technologies the NSA uses for this feat is made by Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition (‘PittPatt’), now owned by Google. We underestimate how much a company like Google is already part of the military industrial complex. I therefore can’t resist showing a new piece of Google technology: the military robot ‘WildCat’ made by Boston Dynamics which was bought by Google in December 2013.

> Didn't go through this TLDR writing, but just briefly scrolling the page.

> How this can connect together?!

The connection is lack of privacy.

No, he's not.

> The young boys that had to guard Ai Weiwei in his cell had to stand completely still, weren’t allowed to talk and couldn’t even blink their eyes.

This is complete nonsense. You can't order someone to not blink.

Yes you can - at least my experience of seeing some Chinese guards (e.g. outside an embassy) is that they don't blink.

This article claims 1 hour shifts of not blinking for a guard: https://www.recruiter.com/i/blinking-on-the-job-not-allowed-...

You can order people to do all manner of things, but i think you'd be much harder pressed to enforce such a stricture.

You're not going to shut down someone's corneal reflex obviously: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corneal_reflex but that requires poking a guard in the eye or shining a bright light at them.

OP probably meant "blink their eyes in response to a question."

"One of the best artists in the world." Since when do people rank artists. For me, this ruins the whole article. Maybe successful artist or artist with a high media profile. But best? Seriously?

The article is a translation of a transcript of a speech originally given in Dutch.

Shift "best" to "renowned" if it helps you read it.

You are right. So I changed it.

Ai Weiwei is not living our future. I'm a big fan of Weiwei but being the best known opposition figure against the worlds largest dictatorship is something that's unlikely to happen to most of us. Also his "Fuck your mother, the party central committee" themed photos are obviously trying to wind them up. Here in London we have CCTV everywhere and the secret services no doubt have the ability to bug me and read my mail but it effects me and most people not at all - no one is interested especially. I'd be honoured to be Weiwei.

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