View Full Version : Free Will: Hacking, Phreaking, and Anarchy

05-25-2008, 12:23 PM

05-25-2008, 12:33 PM
It should have been Ezra K interviewing Aaron, Wunderkind v. Wunderkind.

05-25-2008, 01:49 PM
Weakness of (w)Will

05-25-2008, 03:42 PM
Fascinating diavlog. We definitely should have a follow-up.

I've read AaronSW.com before, but I had no idea Aaron had done so much and in such a short time. Very humbling.

There was a particularly interesting issue raised around the 35 min mark: Like Will, I don't care that my grocery store keeps track of what I buy, I can't be bothered to encrypt my emails (particularly when thinking of the non-geeks who receive them), I have never investigated surfing anonymously through an onion router set-up, say, and so on. Add to that the generations younger than mine, who have even less compunction about revealing everything about themselves, as on social networking sites.

I wonder from time to time: are we being conditioned to accept loss of privacy in increments to the degree that we'll never think to say at some point, okay, stop right here? And even if we do say this, will it by then be too late?

I don't mean this as any sort of conspiracy. It's not necessary to hypothesize a shadowy network of government agencies and big businesses having a master plan. The whole thing is easily explained as a self-sustaining phenomenon. You get inducements to give up privacy, like savings from swiping your card at the grocery store. You find it convenient not to mask your identity; e.g., web sites work better if you accept cookies, pages load faster if they're not routed through an anonymizer, email is easier to manage if there's no encryption/decryption steps, and on and on and on.

Maybe, if we all have fewer secrets, that won't be such a bad thing. I think, though, only for most. As Will and Aaron both noted, there remains the potential for an enemy of yours to wreak considerable havoc. It's not so much that we're all going to be caught up in a giant 1984-style surveillance net. It's more that if a spear fisher decides to pick you specifically, you're in a very small barrel.

We pause now for kidneystones, et al, to remind us how this is the grand strategy of the Obama campaign. We attempt to forestall such ravings by pointing out that they're far from the only group using these tools. We recognize the futility of this attempt.

On the other hand, worrying about the long odds coming up in the loss of privacy scenario may just be the latest version of worrying about being struck by lightning, crushed by an asteroid, or stalked by a serial killer: Could happen, almost certainly won't. And to show our internal realization of the unlikelihood, we can reflect on what steps we could be taking, but don't.

05-25-2008, 03:43 PM
At around the 42 minute mark, Aaron mentioned a short story by Cory Doctorow, in which CD explores the thought, What if google were evil?. I've read it before. It's quite entertaining, and possibly thought-provoking.

Here's a link to it: Scroogled (http://www.radaronline.com/from-the-magazine/2007/09/google_fiction_evil_dangerous_surveillance_control _1.php).

05-25-2008, 03:54 PM
Will at one point asserted that Wikipedia has a liberal bias, a thought I've heard before, but only from those waaaay to the right. The erstwhile forum participant known as garbagecowboy and I once had a short debate (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2008/04/conservatives-playing-victim-card.html) about this (that quickly went off on a tangent), if you're interested.

I remain convinced that Wikipedia has a liberal bias only in accordance with Prof. Colbert's dictum: reality has a well-known liberal bias. Sure, you can pull out individual pages that even I would agree are tilted, but I don't think there's an overall slant, unless you define "liberal" to mean "anything that is not ultra-conservative." I was surprised that Will let loose with this chestnut. Maybe he's just too far gone into libertarian utopia in this regard.


05-25-2008, 04:11 PM

I'm no expert on Wikipedia, but I suspect strongly that its political slant is in the eye of the beholder.

I, of course, have always noticed its pronounced right-wing bias :)

05-25-2008, 04:12 PM
[QUOTE=bjkeefe; The erstwhile forum participant known as garbagecowboy and I once had a short debate about this (that quickly went off on a tangent), if you're interested.

Thanks, that was an interesting debate. It also points to the inescapable nature of the left/right divide. But it does make me nostalgic for those Garbagecowboy/Wolfgangus/bjkeefe back and forths. If only our friend who is glued to all Conn all the time threads would take a lesson from Adam. Now there would be a role model his momma would be proud of.

05-25-2008, 04:19 PM

... nostalgic for those Garbagecowboy/Wolfgangus/bjkeefe back and forths.

Yeah. Me, too. I was sad to see both of them depart.

I don't know where to find Wolf, but you can read GC's latest thoughts, my rebuttals to some of them, and of course join in on the fun, at Litterblog (http://litterblog.blogspot.com/). Same high-quality conservative thought as he displayed during his time here, mixed in with reflections on baseball and music. It's worth reading.

05-25-2008, 04:21 PM

05-25-2008, 06:16 PM
I like how danah boyd summarizes why privacy is important (http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2004/04/14/why_privacy_issues_matter_to_me.html):
1) Does XYZ make any person or group of persons feel icky? Who? Why?
2) Are there any rational scenarios of how XZY can be abused by the creators, potential hackers, or ill-advised governments/coups?

The first one is just important as the second one, but harder to talk about. And I think it can only be effectively addressed once you agree to the premise that humans inherently prefer a certain level of privacy. So "we'll all adjust to things once nothing is private anymore" would be thrown out on account of being fundamentally at odds with the human condition.

Also, I love that this episode has an ID number ending in 1337.

05-25-2008, 06:46 PM

So "we'll all adjust to things once nothing is private anymore" would be thrown out on account of being fundamentally at odds with the human condition.

I agree with this to a degree, but I think it is also true that we also adjust to less privacy, and change our definitions of what should be private over time. Think, for example, of what's considered appropriate amounts of clothing -- used to be that women couldn't show their legs at all, and that men had to wear tops while swimming. Try to imagine public coed gyms a few decades ago, for another. Consider that prime time TV shows used to show twin beds for married couples, back in the days of "I Love Lucy" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

Granted, there are still a few bluenoses around who point to just these examples to show why society has gone to hell. But I disagree, and I think most other people do, too.

There are other aspects, too. Think about the popularity of confessional TV shows like Oprah and tell-all memoirs and blogging and reality TV. Not only do many of us like to be the voyeurs here, many of us also like to be the exhibitionists.

I won't go on with examples, as I think you get my point. All that said, though, let me reiterate my partial agreement: there probably will always be a line in people's minds, the crossing of which feels like intrusion. That the line may move from generation to generation does not mean it doesn't exist, nor that it won't always be around.

Also, I love that this episode has an ID number ending in 1337.

Brilliant observation! Damn, I wish I'd picked up on that.

05-25-2008, 08:26 PM
E-Verify (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-Verify)

E-Verify (formerly known as the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Verification Program) is an Internet based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA) that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees.

E-Verify is free and voluntary and is the best means available for determining employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security Numbers.

What's New
New Enhancements to the E-Verify System

Photo Tool

E-Verify's new Photo Screening Tool is the beginning of biometric verification within the E-Verify system. This additional feature will be the first step in giving employers the tools they need to detect identity theft in the employment eligibility process.

The Photo Screening Tool feature allows an employer to check the photo on his or her new hire's Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or Permanent Resident Card ("Green Card") against the 14.8 million images stored in DHS immigration databases.

05-25-2008, 09:34 PM
Change you can believe in Inc. raises millions of dollars for Obama Inc. ...

Cookies record web-site visits, time spent on-line at different sites, which ads are clicked on, web-based email activities and probably a whole lot of other monitoring activities.

Frightening stuff ...

As predicted (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=78658#post78658) (paragraph 7 -- the one in italics).

05-26-2008, 01:18 AM

I was looking at some of the things you wrote just a few months ago, and I still cannot get over the change in your personality. It's pretty sad.

I mean, seriously. It's one thing to be a strident partisan, and even to go overboard every now and then, but you've gone way beyond that. In between the paranoia, the hostility, and the compulsive repetition of the same few themes, I can't read your recent posts as anything but a cry for help. Add to that your frequent habit of dramatic "never again" departures, only to return a few days later to start the cycle again, ... well, you know what they say about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I hope you will consider talking to a mental health professional. Please, for your own sake, call somebody.

05-26-2008, 06:31 AM
Thankfully, Wilkinson and Swartz avoided The Life of Brian mistake, and gave us a choice between anarcho-isms.

I thought, too, about Orwell, and how he was a Leftie, and which 'head he would support here?

In my own experience, I have a transportation card to replace cash on buses and subways. There's talk in ROK of making that service available through cellphones, and where the bill would come through the telephone company. The card, from the government ministry dealing with public transportation is acceptable, but I just don't want the telephone company handling my bills.

Yet, and this goes to Wilkinson's point about custom, many South Koreans want convenience, and to use cellphones for everything. Most South Koreans, it seems, treat their cellphones like family members. So, on two levels, I'm worried about leaving local custom to decide the matter. South Koreans rarely ever consider privacy, and the private-public relationship is much different in ROK than the US. The public debate is no where near the level of sophistication needed to handle these issues. "All pols are jackasses" works well to a certain level, but globalization will make mincemeat of that one-size-fits-all approach. I think there needs to be some universal standard, like the international postal union, so that late-comers can benefit from a certain safe, uniform level of privacy, not just trusting in custom. Custom is vulnerable to elite manipulation.

05-26-2008, 07:56 AM
Willl needs to ditch the fart chair.

05-26-2008, 09:05 AM
A very interesting discussion that like a good movie flew by. I want to see these guys together again. I especially liked the discussion about human motivation. Will doesn't need to worry about his job (I'm sure he has a lot of opportunities) but I wonder how Cato feels about this modern (and somewhat experimentally documented) view of economics. Throwing the rational actor out with the bathwater and all that jazz.

05-26-2008, 10:08 AM
Mr. Paranoia:

In between telling me to STFU ...

I did no such thing.

I admit to wishing it.

05-26-2008, 10:10 AM

It seems to me that the first step towards any respectable economic philosophy is to abandon the notion that humans are (always) rational actors. If Cato is smart, they'll keep Will around if for no other reason than to keep them honest.

05-26-2008, 10:11 AM

... I just don't want the telephone company handling my bills.

I have the same instinct, but it comes less from caring about privacy than worrying about putting too many eggs in one basket.

05-26-2008, 06:02 PM
There seems to be plenty of experimental evidence regarding economics that shows that humans are not rational actors in that realm. In the last couple weeks, in addition to the diavlog on primates, there was an interesting interview with an MIT economist describing several of his experiments on NPR. The ones discussed showed both a lack of objectivity in analyzing value, and an interesting counterpoint to the fear of getting cheated on a deal as discussed on BHTV by Dr. Santos (IIRC). This fellow, whose name I don't recall, showed the other side of the coin, that people also become irrational when presented with the chance to get something for nothing, passing up alternatives that rationally leave them better off. This may be something con men have known for ages.

05-26-2008, 06:50 PM
Can you provide some links, cragger?

05-26-2008, 07:35 PM
The BH was the Science Saturday: Stupid Primates edition. A quick search makes me think that the NPR interview may be:


I didn't re-listen to it from the web so buyer beware, but a little looking shows that the guy in this one has done a number of interviews of the type. Worth a shot.

Addendum: Link is the same economist, but a different interview. Should be enough info to find more with him if desired.

05-27-2008, 01:22 PM
google "Stiglitz" for more info on non-rational actors, limits of information etc. Puts a bit of a kink in the Libertarian position.

uncle ebeneezer
05-27-2008, 05:20 PM
Cragger, I believe you're referring to Dan Ariely and his book "Predictably Irrational". I just read it and it was really great.

Will Wilkinson
05-28-2008, 12:32 PM
If you like Dan Ariely's book, you'll love the Free Will diavlog (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9058)!

05-29-2008, 07:51 PM
This (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/11337?in=19:25&out=20:00) might be a bit more insight into the deep inner workings of Will's fantasy life than I really wanted to know.

Although, I do have to ask: what role does the lovely Ms. Howley play in this exotic fantasy world you've concocted? Is she the small college librarian, meek and mild-mannered on the exterior, but with an inner minx just waiting for the dashing biblioresearcher Will to free her from the shackles of her everyday humdrum existence? Inquiring viewers want to know!

Cross-posted at Damn Lefties (http://damnlefties.wordpress.com/2008/05/29/the-sexual-life-of-a-libertarian/).

06-01-2008, 08:59 PM
I have to say that, as a teacher, I am quite familiar with Alfie Kohn's work, and have had to deal with the implications, in particular, of his 'Punished by Rewards.' The idea that extrinsic rewards eliminate intrinsic motivation is one of those truths that is undeniable and often misunderstood.

I find it fascinating that the thesis that extrinsic rewards (e.g. salary, shares, IPO, buyout, etc.) unavoidably ruin intrinsic motivation, creativity, and achievement was brought up approvingly by a bloggingheads interlocutor. This is a fundamentally anti-capitalist conclusion, and I'm surprised that Will let this pass. After all, the market's mechanisms rely exclusively on the very extrinsic rewards that Kohn derides and undercuts. The idea that one's work is most productive when we engage in creative, fulfilling, un-alienated labor is purely Marxist, and points towards libertarian socialism or anarchist conclusions. If you want a 19th century precursor to Kohn's insights, look no further than Marx's essay on alienation (also a precursor to Freud, Camus, and Sartre). Will, if you accept this premise, how can you still accept Hayek and Rand?

07-12-2008, 04:19 AM
Hey, belated thanks for the link

07-12-2008, 09:14 AM
Hey, belated thanks for the link