‘The All-Devouring Federal Government’ (2014)

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Jambo, here I am, comin’ atcha with another totally archaic and outmoded notion–

Maybe the government shouldn’t spy on us so they can micromanage our lives for us! Maybe they shouldn’t be allowed even to consider doing things like this–

The All-Devouring Federal Government

Woo-hoo, that’s old-fashioned! Imagine–limiting the power of government! How the dickens are they supposed to create utopia if we tie their hands behind them? Really, who knows better what you should be eating, day to day–you, or some faceless bureaucrat hooked up to an algorithm? Can we get modern here?


18 comments on “‘The All-Devouring Federal Government’ (2014)

    1. George Gilder in his book “Life After Google” predicts the Blockchain architecture of the new 5G is now being developed with the #1 feature of security is the future. The Bitcoin revolution is already using it successfully.

    2. Block-chaining is an advanced method of encrypting data. It’s not likely to be cracked in timescales that would affect any of us in our natural lifespans. Shoot, just AES 128 is awesome.

    3. Encryption is a great tool and block-chaining is another way to make decryption even less likely, but that’s not the entire problem.

      Meta Data: that’s the problem. The US defeated japan at Midway, because of analyzing signals. They used meta data to break a simple code name for where they intended to send the fleet and were able to have a flotilla ready for them. They had already broken the Japanese encryption, but they used a code word, for describing the area where they were sending ships; a simple substitute, not unlike calling Babe Ruth the Bambino. By creating a false report that one of the water purification plants on Midway was down, they were able to trick the Japanese into sending that info and they were able to verify which code name they used for Midway. The rest is history.

      If you were to follow someone around, you would soon find out where they do their banking. You might not know the balance in the accounts, but you would be pretty safe in assuming that there is an account, or multiple accounts at a certain bank. If that person when to the bank daily, you would likely conclude that they control a degree of wealth. If you observed that the bank president held the door for that person, you would conclude that they are a major depositor in that bank. Now, think of all you can find out, without one bit of confidential information being revealed.

      By knowing which websites someone frequents, you can know a lot about them. If they favor web sites of a particular political slant, you can surmise that they are likely of that political persuasion. If you have secondary information, you can probably nail it down a lot tighter.

      Amazon.com knows that I am a conservative and they know that I play musical instruments. They know my shoe size and my approximate age. They don’t suggest items that don’t fit my demographic profile, such as children’s toys or clothing for women, but they suggest movies, books and products which fit my interests, and do it with amazing accuracy. They know that I’m a sucker for certain things, and not at all interested in others. Last night, they sent me a $5.00 digital coupon I could use to buy a Tucker Carlson book. They probably didn’t do that for someone that they knew to be a liberal.

      We leave a lot of breadcrumbs behind us. Unless you use an intermediate proxy, your web history is an open book, and your web history says a lot about you, even without breaking the TLS which protects your sessions to secure sites. If you have a mobile phone, you leave a set of breadcrumbs from that. If you use credit cards, or even pay cash but use discount cards such as are issued by grocery stores, then there are transaction records. If you buy gas every day or two, then it’s easy to calculate how many miles you drive. If you buy spandex bike shorts, they know that you ride a bike (or have a very strange fashion sense {or both}).

      Meta data is data about data and you can learn a lot about someone based upon meta data. More disturbing is the fact that meta data can be retrieved by computers. A credit card company can find everyone that bought gas in a specific city on August1, using a certain type of credit card. If that happens to coincide with an Air Show at that time and place, they can check to see who, among these people bought food from any vendors at that air show, or any restaurants, nearby. They can compare motel room charges to determine how long someone stayed in that city and, pretty soon, determine how someone spent their weekend. They can create queries for the times and locations of other air shows and pretty soon, know exactly which customers frequent air shows.

      Such info is valuable as marketing data, but I don’t have to elaborate upon how the same techniques could be used to target persons of a certain religious or political persuasion. Anyone is trackable, to some degree and computers have made it easy to do. I’m all for good encryption, however, that is but one facet of privacy.

    4. And from here it’s only a small step to Red China’s “social credit” system…

      Highly interesting essay, bro–and you did it all in plain English! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done before.

    5. If information is collected, it’s likely to be used, and that’s the problem. A person’s words, taken out of context, can be used against that person, even if they are innocuous. Imagine what could be inferred if someone wanted to data mine your actions based upon selectively picking out pieces of information and presenting only information that supports the conclusions they wish to convey.

    6. That’s the hell of it, Lee. When information is collected, it’s no surprise that it ends up being used. Thirty-five years ago, tracing a phone call was all but impossible. The technology existed and was easily attainable, but the legal protections of privacy made it all but impossible to accomplish. Nowadays, tracing phone calls is within the grasp of anyone with Caller ID on their phone. Actually, it’s a necessity in this time of robo-calls.

      But this serves to illustrate how much data is floating around, free for the taking. When you call someone, you are now giving that person your phone number. Fine for calling a friend, but not so fine if you happen to call a business that collects data and sells lists of phone numbers. Hmmmm? If this person called about storm windows, maybe they would be interested in aluminum siding; that sort of thing.

      It goes back to what I said at the beginning of this post; if information is collected, it’s no surprise that it is going to be used. The erosion of our freedoms is directly linked to the tech explosion. The tech explosion created the means of harvesting data and there are always wannabe despots, ready and willing to exploit that data.

    7. Long ago, John D. MacDonald predicted that techno-tyranny would collapse under the sheer weight of useless information it collected, and he advocated volunteering to give more, more, more until the whole thing came crashing down.

      Too bad he was wrong.

    8. There’s something to what he says. Let’s use traffic laws as an example. We NEED traffic laws, absolutely, and to a certainty. However, if someone drives for an hour, they will violate a number of traffic laws. It’s a simple matter of ever changing situations and human flexibility (and the absolute need for flexibility) against the rigidity of regulations. So a person that drives in any complex traffic situation may technically violate some traffic laws, but in fact, be very effective in driving safely and in such a way as to promote the safety of others.

      So the situation is one of information versus information. The information of traffic regulations cannot adapt in real time to the constantly changing information of traffic situations. It might be safer to exceed the speed limit and get around an erratic driver than to stay under the speed limit and remain in proximity with a driver that is an accident waiting to happen.

      Now, let’s take this back to data mining. Every person, as they go through their life, generates a lot of information. Back in the days when Abraham Lincoln’s father decided to move because he could see the smoke from his neighbor’s chimney, most information perished instantly. There is no record of the time I spent as a small child, playing in my parent’s yard, which was an isolated setting. What I was doing on most days in 1958 or 1959 exists only in the memories of a few observers, but most of what happened was mundane and not memorable.

      As technology records ever more information, the flood of information will deepen. In the sensible world, most of this information would be forgettable and forgotten. However, computers can selectively search through information and pick out that which is of interest to the subject of the search. That’s the source of the danger. However, as the volume of information increases, the longer it takes to search it. Also, as more and more data is collected, the burden of storing this data increases. This is a very real problem.

      Data begets data. Once you make a backup copy of a data set, what are the ramifications of deleting that copy? There are data retention regulations and there are procedures for legally and effectively destroying data. This is causing a glut of data and, at some point, it will become to sustain this storage and certainly will be impossible to keep data organized.

      One important part of our legal structure is the statute of limitations. Based on law, as it was given to Moses, the statute of limitations is an institutionalization of forgetting. Without this provision, the legal system and all of society will become hopelessly mired in matters which have had their day. If someone shoplifted something 25 years ago without being charged with the crime, the significance of this has faded to near zero. It’s entirely possible that someone can make a serious error in judgment and then go on to live an honest, effective life without falling back into the errors of the past. A society that refuses to let the past die will become hopelessly mired.

      Social media is about one thing and one thing only, and that is the generation of data. These are perceived as social instruments, but the social element of social media is the tip of the iceberg and what lies beneath is a system for collecting, harvesting, collating and selling data. The problem is, it never forgets. If someone posted something rash in a heated moment, it is preserved for the ages, even if that post was later deleted. As Zuckerberg has stated, the Internet writes in ink. He should have shuddered when he said that.

      So, in my humble opinion, I believe that we will see data proliferation continue, but I suspect that there will come a point where it will become unmanageable. One other factor is that it’s exceptionally easy to tamper with data and manipulate it to false ends. Ultimately, such data will lose its power as people become flooded with so much information that they are unable to process it.

      We see it already. Major news stories have a shelf life that grows shorter and shorter. I think that, eventually, people will quit reacting to whatever momentary scandal comes along and government use of data-mined information will soon become an albatross of incredible proportion which will come to nothing.

    9. I’m impressed! (a crepuscularity)
      You really do have a gift for explaining technological issues in plain English which we can all understand. I’m glad you’ve been able to use this blog as a forum.

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