calin on Thu, 6 Dec 2001 01:06:41 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Viridian Note 00283: Geeks and Spooks

Seemingly carried away by his (as usual) entertaining rhetorics, Bruce
Sterling makes a few irresponsible statements which - if they wouldn't be
extending on several paragraphs - could be seen as figments of his
paradoxical imagination.  But this is not random, since he seems really
infatuated with 3 convergent ideas that look to me - shall I say it - very
>Texan<. (A concept shaped by two strong media instruments: a. the old and
still powerfully suggestive >Dallas< soap: b. the consistent pro-activism
in the muddy matter of death-penalty.

And those ideas are:
1. GW Bush is a good guy (maybe he is - does not look so on TV).
2. BS belongs - unlike many others - to a civilized part of the world that 
should protect itself from the uncivilized via some smart devices.
3. Governments should enforce and support with hitech hardware the 
preternatural lust of humans to snitch on each other and to turn in potential 
suspects on basis of assumptions.

It seems that old imperial arrogance (the comatose Roman Empire was also
very proud of its civilization while the barbarians were checking the
gates)and the always young and fresh utopia of the police state (where
every one spies on everybody - one can pick examples form recent history
at will) are recurrent stuffs in moments of distress.  Pretty weird though
when somebody wants to support in that manner a free and open political
system and refers to Europe as a place where democracy (in the shape of
www and Linux) can still make some sense.

Calin Dan

Quoting Bruce Sterling <>:

> When I predict that spooks are not to be trusted and
> will end up doing themselves big, ugly, scandalous harm,
> it's not that I don't trust the President.  On the
> contrary;  I come from Texas, I've been living under a
> Bush regime for years now.  He strolled off with the
> elections in Texas, nobody ever accused him of stealing
> them.  If he was some kind of malignant power-crazed
> lunatic, we'd know  all that by now.  I had a pretty good
> time in the years when George W. Bush was my Governor.
> Laura Bush is a librarian.  We novelists have very warm,
> affirmative feelings towards librarians.

> So maybe Europeans can think this issue through and
> take some useful and constructive steps, while the rest of
> us are busy killing evildoers.  Really, at this point, in
> all humility, we should seek the aid and counsel of our
> allies.  World Wide Web, that was Swiss, and Linux, that
> was Finnish; so if they think really hard and they make
> sure to pay no attention whatsoever to the British, maybe
> the Europeans could bring some fresh perspective to
> surveillance and cryptography.


> Well, my first suggestion would be crypto in
> passports.  Because passports suck.  It's time we dumped
> these ludicrously insecure and easily forgeable paper
> passports, and went for something a lot chippier.
> You know what I want?  I don't want a National ID
> Card.  I want a Global Coalition Visa.
> But what about all us bright, shiny, world-trading
> jet setters, huh?  There are thirty percent fewer Yankees
> in Europe this Christmas, and that is bad.  Let me pose
> the problem this way.   If I am going into a Japanese
> restaurant in Japan, I would rather like to be able to
> haul out some gizmo and flash it at my fellow civilians,
> and have these kindly people understand with a high degree
> of likelihood that I am not a mass murderer.  On the
> contrary, I am quite civilized, and I should be brought a
> beer immediately.
> A platinum VISA card and a five-hundred-dollar suit
> will almost do that, but those are too easy to forge and
> steal, plus they are not very democratic.   The UN should
> get together on this. We should have a high level summit
> about digital hardware support for  the crippled tourist
> economy.   Fear and ill treatment shut down tourism faster
> than anything short of open warfare.  That is bad for all
> of us.  Killing off tourism harms our civilization and
> impoverishes our cultures.   People in civilized states
> shouldn't routinely treat one another as criminal
> suspects.   I don't want to get done-over for three hours
> every time I get off a plane in London.   When I go to
> London, I go with empty suitcases.  I don't plan to stay,
> but I am better news for the London economy than a lot of
> the people who live there.
> They should know all that that *before* I get off the
> plane.  My arrival is excellent news for Britain, so I
> should be treated that way.   If this is a new kind of
> war, I don't want to be the evil guy hunkered down in the
> bunker; I want to fly with the boys from Air Assault.  I
> want one of those handy crypto-style Friend-or-Foe IDs.

> This suggests the invention of the weaponized and
> ruggedized GI cellphone.  You could think of it as the
> "wingless angel," as they liked to call them after
> September 11; and as a kind of personal black-box recorder
> for the endangered citizen.   This cellphone would be
> federally manufactured, and distributed en masse as a
> general-issue security device.   The point of this device
> would be to arm the population in surveilling and
> recording acts of unconventional warfare.  You don't shoot
> anybody with it; but if you see anything weird, suspicious
> and asymmetric going on, you formally act as a mediated
> witness: you  hold this device up, and you start looking
> and talking.  And all this safety data is instantly
> streamed off and stored in Fort Knox and Fort Meade.
> Now, if you turn the entire population into
> anonymous snoops and peeping Toms, it's a nation of
> snitches, which is very destabilizing.  I'm not suggesting
> that. I am suggesting secure, accountable devices with
> digital signatures built in.  They're cryptographically
> time-stamped, their voice signals and photographs are
> cryptographically overwritten, proving their source.
> They are tamperproofed, and very sternly verifiable, and
> usable as proven evidence in courts of law.  They're not
> civilian toys, they are genuine weapons of information
> warfare, in much the same way that an unarmed Predator
> surveillance aircraft is a weapon.  They are people's
> media weapons.   Their proper use requires some training
> and discretion; it's like a citizen's audiovisual arrest.
> This is the civilian militia Minuteman version of
> surveillance.   The omnipresense of this kind of civilian-
> owned and civilian-deployed surveillance would not make
> anyone's society kinder and happier.  But it certainly
> would make that society a very dangerous place for urban
> guerrillas.  And it would not centralize the great power
> of surveillance in the unstable hands of unelected
> functionaries.
> That's my futuristic suggestion; maybe it's somewhat
> far-fetched and impractical, but this seems like the kind
> of audience with whom one ought to broach the subject.

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