What If Not Sports

First of all, let me be clear: I don’t have anything against sports themselves or spectating sports or betting on sports or video games.

But I had a thought today.  What if all the energy we put into these teams and stadiums and talk and thoughts, we instead put into lifting Africa and India (etc.) up out of their chaos and suffering?

I don’t know how we’d do that.  Certainly nothing straightforward, like sending ’em a bunch of money.  Oh wouldn’t that be slick n’ easy.

But I’m sure if we were to start filling the sta

A stadium filled with people absolutely pumped to be making the world a better place.

A stadium filled with people absolutely pumped to be actively making the world a better place.

diums of the world with a different purpose in mind and put our heads together and kept summarizing it at every level we could find, we’d come up with something everyone’s consciences could accept.

Even just a couple times a year, as a national or international event, this would likely have a titanic effect.  Stadiums represent a tremendous concentration of human focus.  There are problems crying for this in the world.

The IT Party

I propose a new American political party: The IT Party.

The platform would be centered around Refactoring and Innovation and Security, not (just) of the computer systems that government uses, but of the processes and institutions of government itself.

Also present, presumably, would be that emerging “worldwide” ethic (whatever that really is) that often seems lacking in our politicians.

Many of us may have seen IT transform the organizations we are a part of and can attest to the power of a fresh set of problem solving oriented eyes.

Imagine if the attitude in congress was to fix things, really and truly, not just go through the motions in a self-sustaining way.  In that case, the divide(s) that either prevent any action or dilute nearly all action to counterproductivity would be directly and vehemently engaged.

The brokenness of American politics is the biggest problem in America.  Solving it would catalyze the solution to (probably) every other problem as self-created impediments would be actively refactored in helpful systems of control and opportunity.

This brokenness is rooted in and blooms through two halves: politicians and citizens.  Citizens are uninformed and depend on questionable sources and do not range out in their sources.  Citizens, because of lack of practice, do not have a good sense for objectivity in reporting.  Consequently, their choices are less informed, even self-limiting.

Many politicians play to citizens’ weaknesses as backdoors to be exploited and are execrable for that reason alone.  Politicians as a whole are too caught up in their own careers and have too large a role in promoting them.  Imagine if businesses were run this way, with employees parading around and handing out flyers and spewing confetti.  Politicians should be “big” managers who are more invested in the growth of those who hired them to manage things than they are in their own growth.

As citizens, we should be able to identify these kinds of people.  We should be able to consistently communicate to these sorts of people across the country that we will vote for you if you run for office.

This country needs to be solid on every layer.  That is an IT philosophy.  The pieces and parts of our democracy need to be secure if our democracy is to be secure.  That means our citizens, our politicians, our computers, our law making processes, our law reforming processes, etc.

I also think we’re lacking unity/energy/attitude/America.  We need a project, like we had in the 60’s.  A moonshot.  But as you may have guessed, I don’t think that’s mars or anything so exotic (quite yet).  First, we’ve gotta fix the problems at home.

We need process oriented changes and we need to get a handle on the situation from the perspective of tackling the problem head on while throwing enough resources and top-tier talent at it to enter into a real problem-solving dialog with it.

We need a project and we’ve got a big problem that underlies lots of other big problems, so it would seem pretty straightforward.

We’ve just each gotta give our little bit of push.

If they’re gonna do it they oughta do it

It’s too bad we have all this domestic and international wiretapping.  But, we have it.  It’s there.  So, in that case, it’s too bad it’s being wasted.  What I mean is that we sift and sieve it for the dirty stuff or maybe the lucrative stuff in a narrow sense.  I get the dirty stuff, that’s why it was created (think immune system).  But, being there, it’s now being wasted.  If they’re going to build it, in my opinion, illegally and in breach of trust, then damn, I want them to use it to its full capacity.

They should be mining everything for intelligence.  They should be applying their broad access to the overall opinions (even as they shift in real time and how those shifts happen and why and patterns)  as well as specific peculiar opinions to the very act of solving America’s problems (it’s too much to ask to drop nationalism, let’s not stretch things beyond credulity, we’re far from being a Bodhisattva nation [hey, maybe that’s one of America’s problems?]…).  “They”, no, hell, WE, ought to set “Watson” or his ilk to the task of mining creative solutions from the totality of our communication, sort of short-circuiting the probably WOEFULLY inefficient social computer that amplifies some ideas and not others (human social psychology makes most sense when society is a lot smaller than at present).  I’d like to read Watson’s blog.

Take this idea for example.

Otherwise, it would be like man became conscious ONLY to defend against saber tooth tigers.

Spy General Alexander

I read a good article at the Washington Post about General Alexander, head of NSA, titled, “For NSA chief, terrorist threat drives passion to ‘collect it all’ observers say”.  A good quote:

“He is the only man in the land that can promote a problem by virtue of his intelligence hat and then promote a solution by virtue of his military hat,” said one former Pentagon official, voicing a concern that the lines governing the two authorities are not clearly demarcated and that Alexander can evade effective public oversight as a result.

A dangerous position to create.  Let’s hope no one exploits it.

Another one:

“Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’ ” said one former senior U.S. intelligence official who tracked the plan’s implementation. “Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”

Aka, Total Information Awareness.

Another one:

In January, he was on a cybersecurity panel in Munich when someone brought up Twitter’s announcement that 250,000 of its accounts had been hacked. “I didn’t do it,” Alexander said. “I was here. I have an alibi.” Then, turning to a fellow panelist, an official from the Chinese tech company Huawei, he quipped: “Do you?”

There’s a lot going on in that one, seems to me.

Another one [emphasis added]:

At a private meeting with financial industry officials a few years ago, Alexander spoke about the proliferation of computer malware aimed at siphoning data from networks, including those of banks…

His proposed solution: Private companies should give the government access to their networks so it could screen out the harmful software. The NSA chief was offering to serve as an all-knowing virus-protection service, but at the cost, industry officials felt, of an unprecedented intrusion into the financial institutions’ databases.

As I said over in NSA Snowden and other Codewords, I don’t disagree, necessarily.  Network awareness is a very important element in prevention of active (malware) attacks.  What people may not want to understand is that distributed networks on the scale of the internet or organizations that shrink the globe into a single system of systems may require realities for the maintenance of it and its nodes’ health that do not jive with all angles of some fundamental individual rights.  For instance, I said in that previously linked article that the problem with the NSA’s actions is that they are unconstitutional in the spirit that most people think of the constitution.  And even if secret courts make secret rulings, it will remain unconstitutional in spirit to the majority (apparently) of americans.  But sometimes I wonder, how can radical privacy work in a world with escalating technological skyhooks, WMDs and human psychology?  It could only even possibly work with a far more mature population than exists today.  America’s in its late 70’s, still innovating at some boundaries but stiff as hell, within.

It would be easier if the fourth amendment simply used the word privacy.  But it doesn’t, really.  The word “effects”, I believe, is typically assumed to mean physical objects.  I understand the word to be more energetic in nature.  My effects radiate outward and I wish to be secure in them.  But not all my effects can be secure.  I can’t both wish to be seen and be secure in all my effects.

Then there’s that unreasonable word “unreasonable”.  Who’s going to define that?  Apparently everyone understood it.  But actually, I bet they didn’t think of it in a way that it needs to be thought of these days.  Maybe they believed foreign spies and ne’er-do-wells (terrorists) should be secure in their effects as well?  I don’t know.  More could have been scribed on the subject.

I can see “reasonable” covering a national cyber defense umbrella.

Do I agree?

Dunno.

Since the nation does truly depend on a national infrastructure that is itself susceptible to attack, then really those in charge could easily believe that they have the mandate, the responsibility, the duty, the job description to guard the pasture invasively, sheep baaing be damned.

It either has happened or will.  Snowdendocs may say as much.  I’m sure the companies (will) know on some level.

What I’d really like to see is for people to realize that something needs to be built that cohesively spans the internet and builds a vast context with which to “understand” what is going on well enough to be able to identify what shouldn’t be.

Sort of like how the Obama campaign developed a very refined suite of software to manage the campaign, the NSA has been refining a toolkit aimed at protecting the nation, or, alternatively, foiling attempts to upset the nation, or, alternatively, preemptively disrupting disruptive networks.

Open source the beast.  No doubt someone would fork it.  Another would account for that.  A vast self-balancing ecosystem could fashion itself.

The danger with either the Alexanderian reality or my flight of fancy is how the protector is to be protected and trusted.  How do you prevent auto-immune diseases?  How can we know a bunch of ninja hjackers aren’t silently using the system for their own purposes?

How can a system keep growing into its blind spot(s?)?

That’s a good mantra from the inside out for an AI.

Information, only if information is also understood.

The ultimate way for the thing to work is by understanding the intent of the players with the ability to pierce cloaked intent, two things done underneath a single salient surface.

That is equivalent to strong AI.  On the way there, patterns will be analyzed and transformed and correlated and interrelated.

Anyway, I thought I had something to say.  What was it?

Oh yeah.

Illuminating Alexandeer in our headlights with all the incumbent reflexively over-compensatory reactions could rip wide open a hole that had been somewhat patched before it was really widely appreciated.  It could even be a strategy engineered by a foreign player to weaken the covertly built strength by exposing the secret’s unpopular angles.  Who?  I’m sure as hell not qualified to even hazard a guess.

Maybe Snowden himself, or if he was recruited, someone down that rabbit hole.  There’s absolutely no reason to believe the story we’ve been told.  It’s as likely a total fabrication as it is the simple truth.

He doesn’t seem to be doing so well in that Moscow “airport”, judging by the looks of him.  But there’s makeup even for subtle effects like those.

NSA Snowden and other Codewords

NSA Headquarters, Fort Meade Maryland

I haven’t given an opinion on domestic surveillance by the NSA because I haven’t formed one, although, essentially, I already have, I’ve just been working my way up to it.

For years I believed it was going on simply because “they” would be stupid NOT to be doing it.  And “they”‘re anything but stupid.  Oh, “they”re bogged down in bureaucracy and can often have idiots for bosses somewhere up the food chain to make their lives difficult, but “they”re not stupid.  I believed it because it just made sense.

But, of course, it is unconstitutional.  There is that.  It is clearly unconstitutional in spirit for government people to have unlimited access to the electronic communications of private citizens (that would be those effects that are mentioned in the 4th Amendment).  That is against the intention, apparently, of most or all of the founding fathers (and mothers?).  America was formed very strongly in response to its break-away from Britain.  I mean, to have in your bill of rights (itself a telling document) a provision that states that government cannot force soldiers into the homes of its citizens, especially in peace time, rings of a fresh bruise.

What is sad, on the one hand, is the way we can’t violate the bill of rights through mutual, national agreement.  Instead, we have to do it incognito.  I wonder if all the tech savvy thinkers out there who argue so vehemently for digital privacy and the 4th Amendment think that there are literally, till the end of time, no conditions that would cause one of the first 10 rights to be consensually repealed.  Just a philosophical border case to start loosening the edges.

There are many ways to approach a subject like this, depending on who I consider the audience to be.  But whatever hackers who would do me harm and analysts who would target my every bit.  I actually I don’t care about either one of you.

You could make layers of my life difficult and I would shed them like a tattered coat.

Or this garment the world is weaving around each of us could anneal into a real technicolor dreamcoat.

Either way.

In truth, I don’t have a problem with governmental “Total Information Awareness”.  Although I would rather see an AI at the head of the helm than a human.  Human’s are really the worst choice.  Put a dog up there.  Anything but humans as they’ve presented themselves.  He could bark when he senses something amiss in the flow of meaning.

Bof.

I understand, I think, the lesson of Nazi Germany.  Hannah Arendt laid blame at the feet of a denial to think by the German people.  But the German’s are not uniquely subject to that particular foible.

I’ll give two reasons I’m worried about “Total Information Awareness”:

  1. The system itself could be hijacked or compromised (the system designed to protect the system considered as just another system to compromise), perhaps or even probably, silently.
  2. The system, through unpredictable or even manipulated flows of politics, could come under the power of an exaggerated minority, much like the Nazi’s were at their inception.

Nevertheless, the reality is that an immune system is going to have to develop and it is likely, frankly, going to have to be artificially intelligent.  The alternative is the equivalent of a bunch of IT nerds punching away at calculators in Defense Farms.  Perhaps IBM ought to end Watson’s playpen days and put him to real work.

Or Watson’s big brother ought to be dug up.

But the key, I think, to “Total Information Awareness”, is transparency.  And that’s the rub for everyone.  You see, people want two things: they want no one to commit crimes and yet they also want the privacy to commit crimes.

This opposition is essential, however, because as a rule the law is never caught up to the forefront of what is happening, neither technologically nor ethically.

Law is reactionary.

But it goes both ways.  The people are proving to be reactionary too.  Rather than recognize the need to modify fundamental processes, we are seemingly going to let the system crash around us.  Sadly, the consequences in an age where no one knows how to farm, are devastating.

The purpose of privacy, essentially, is to create a space for the activities to gain momentum that push law to evolve along with the governed (or the governed to evolve along with the technological environment they are morphing around them).  The problem comes up when law ossifies but the actual citizenry and their culture changes (or the mass effect of the citizens actions outgrow old boundaries).  We can see this all around us today.

I bet this sort of thing is present in the human body, as well, viz. the immune system, bacteria and virii.

Imagine requesting information from the AI, having to submit your request to be tested by its PROGRAMMED IN REQUIREMENTS that were essentially agreed to by everyone using the network.  Sounds Vannevar Bush, I know, but sorry people of the future or present I don’t know the words you’re using.

But again, even this system could be compromised, although of course it would monitor itself as well as ultimately take part in research on itself.

But now we’re talking Skynet, right?

Yeah, we are.  And Skynet is probably coming.  To a certain degree it’s already here, although in an embryonic form that could be killed off and never recognized for what it is becoming.

I’m sure there are those who’ve already thought all this through to one degree or another.  The consequences keep snowballing.  I wonder what Snowden really had access to?  Certainly there must be networks that the millions of analysts don’t have access to.

Or maybe not.  Who knows the degree secrecy has metastasized with the infrastructure.  A few.  And maybe the wound isn’t too deep.

So, where do I sit on this NSA stuff?  I sit in a place that isn’t comfortable to anyone.  I take “Total Information Awareness” at face value.  I think both the public and the government should give up their privacy to a non-human third party that manages individual access to information as well as curates information for those tasked with preventing/punishing certain types of crime.

But there’s the rub, eh?  We’re going to have to figure out how to create a Procrustean system that somehow manages to both aid in the enforcement of some laws while aid in the evasion of other laws.  We’ll have to trust the AI to know how best to evolve our species on that scale at that point.

Scared yet?

There are decisions on the horizon that we are going to have to start facing.  Making laws against cloning just means that its going to happen somewhere else first.  Ignoring the imperative of developing a non-human protector, or leaving it up to secretive branches of government is equally ill advised.

The cure to Snowden is the PUBLIC open source development of a distributed immune system that would in fact be considered a virus by many.

The purpose of the program, the potential AI, would be to protect humans from themselves as best as was possible given the constraints imposed by material reality.

But this too would become stifling.  Or could it manage to remain pliant enough to become an “integrated” adaption of at first, the human species, and soon thereafter, life on earth?

The Tao’s a difficult wave to surf.

As programmers, wouldn’t the programming of a government be a good testbed for all our expertise, not only at describing and structuring rules, but also at managing processes and projects.  It’s like we’ve been custom designed to build an operating system.

YMMV.