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September 21, 2018

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Truly dystopian stuff, and unlike most repressive systems, this one might well ‘work’.

I think the battle over privacy is essentially lost to the accelerating march of technology. The real contest will,be over what rights individuals possess, and how they are coded into the system.

Another take on it, which though I think it rather misses the point, does provide a different perspective from which to consider the rights and wrongs of the system
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611814/chinas-use-of-big-data-might-actually-make-it-less-big-brother-ish/

"Big Brother is watching you!"

Government by equifax

The article cites different cultural expectations about privacy as a factor in the acceptance of this stuff.

I would add different understandings about the value and role of dissent, and of liberty in the sense of equal treatment and status under law.

What stands out to me is that we are more than willing to accept similar treatment from private actors, in exchange for material convenience.

Those are all fair points, russell.
The example of South Korea demonstrates that individuals will put up with a great deal for the good of the whole - Park Chung-hee is still regarded pretty positively for rebuilding the country, despite being a pretty repressive dictator.
It also shows, however, that they won't put up with if forever.

What stands out to me is that we are more than willing to accept similar treatment from private actors, in exchange for material convenience.

For your corporate nightmares. I think it may be a bit overawed, but it will confirm some of your biases against corporations. :)

For example, if you use Facebook, you've probably seen the reminders to vote in upcoming elections. Millions of people see them. What if Facebook only showed them to people they think will vote Democratic? Or Republican.

"On this episode of "YOUR WELCOME" Michael Malice is joined by documentary filmmaker Matt Taylor and psychologist, professor and author Dr. Robert Epstein to talk about the documentary "The Creepy Line" which delves into how online powerhouses like Google and Facebook's practices pose a serious threat to society."
Podcast: On The Internet - Matt Taylor and Dr. Robert Epstein (Audio) (Video)

The Creepy Line (Trailer)


"I haven’t received a targeted ad on my computer or mobile phone for more than two years now. If you care about your privacy — or even if you’re just sick of being bombarded by ads for diet pills seconds after you send an email to a friend complaining that your pants are too tight — here are seven simple steps you can take to make your online presence more private:"
Seven Simple Steps Toward Online Privacy

lj, I have seen a lot about of fictional representations about Japanese attitudes toward privacy, in the sense of "not hearing something even though it was perfectly clear through the paper walls" historical stuff. Is that sort of thing still the social norm? Does it have any effect on how the government there will approach surveillance through technology?

"AFFIRMATIVE:
Big Corporations Want Your Data. Don't Give It to Them.

NEGATIVE:
Corporate Collection of Big Data Makes Your Life Better"

Debate: Corporate Data Collection Poses a Threat to Personal Freedom: There are lots of reasons to be concerned about government snooping, but how should we feel when private companies do it?

I do two things on a regular basis to screw with algorithms:

1. Never ever ever ever ever have location on
2. Periodically do searches for stuff I have no interest in

Lederhosen, beach umbrella, wilderness water filtration kit, puppy chow, saxophone reeds, medical gurney, support socks, basketball hoop net, cue ball, rice steamer, fountain pen nib.

One of those things is something I've actually bought.

Gosh, I've bought two of those -- one multiple times. But since it was back in the '80s, i.e. pre Google, I suppose it doesn't count.

wj, I did not see medieval broadsword in that list!

:)

But one uses (broad tip) fountain pen nibs for calligraphy! (Not just a fighter jock ;-)

Lederhosen, beach umbrella, wilderness water filtration kit, puppy chow, saxophone reeds, medical gurney, support socks, basketball hoop net, cue ball, rice steamer, fountain pen nib.

This list gave me a great deal of pleasure!

With regard to Japanese privacy norms, I've lived here almost 30 years and I still struggle to understand them. I've seen lots of cases of "not hearing something even though it was perfectly clear through the paper walls", but if that person is or becomes a social pariah, that stuff gets thrown out the window.

Right now, universities in particular are gripped with a concern with privacy that is all form and very little function. I can give you lots of unbelievable examples where privacy is invoked as a conservative value in order to stop something or prevent some sort of change taking place, often almost immediately followed by a violation of that privacy that shows that it is not privacy that is the concern but imitating overseas universities to show that Japanese are also concerned about privacy.

I don't know how this works in China, but I'm sure that it is different from both the West and Japan. I feel like the sheer demographic numbers alters the relationship between what people think about privacy but I'm not really sure how it does.

"Privacy in China, is it a thing? Whether it is internet privacy, or privacy in the home, Chinese people are not used to having their own space. Chinese people will willingly give up private information for discounts on apps, and let their family visit their home whenever they please. People will walk up to my camera and just stare into it, with little care for my own personal space. If you're concerned about personal privacy and you're coming to China, you had better watch this..."
Lack of Privacy in China (YouTube)

Can any of the UK readers compare the ubiquity of CC cameras in China vs. the UK?

My understanding is the cameras are everywhere in the UK, but most of that understanding is based on BBC crime dramas....

Gosh, I've bought two of those -- one multiple times.

How many medical gurneys can a guy need ?

Depends where you are, russell.

Central London probably approximates best to your BBC impression, and of course motorway cameras. Otherwise, I think coverage is pretty patchy, and monitoring considerably less than hitherto thanks to police and local authority budget cuts.
We probably had more CCTV earlier than most places, but a lot of that is now obsolete.
(Of course that doesn’t take into account private CCTV - but clearly that isn’t part of some state surveillance apparatus.)

Camera tech, image and data processing are advancing so quickly, though, that I think over the next decade or so the only limit on surveillance will be legal/regulatory rather than resource or technical constraints.

Those are only impressions - I’m no expert.

I feel like the sheer demographic numbers alters the relationship between what people think about privacy but I'm not really sure how it does.

It really sounds like invoking the other to "explain" something that is different and otherwise incomprehensible.

After all, is any given square block of Tokyo or Beijing any more densely populated that a block of Manhattan? Sure the countries as a whole have larger populations, and even population densities. But we don't live in "the country as a whole", we live in our immediate neighborhood. There's a cultural difference, but lots of people in close proximity doesn't seem like a viable cause.

How many medical gurneys can a guy need ?

How can you run a decent race with only one?

Fair point, but all those rice steamers ?

"We probably had more CCTV earlier than most places, but a lot of that is now obsolete."

Tech marches onward, inexorably.

Fun if you have a old house with gaslights, knob-and-tube, BX, romex, thickwire ethernet, thinwire ethernet, twisted pair ethernet and fiber.

Oh wait, I forgot pneumatic tubes. That is worth keeping.

Let's face it, pneumatic tubes are just way cool.

After all, is any given square block of Tokyo or Beijing any more densely populated that a block of Manhattan?

It's not the density of Tokyo or Manhattan, it's the demographic numbers of China proper. Even if you can get 1% of the population to buy into something, you already have the equivalent of the population of London.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/01/trolling-by-distraction/514589/

I certainly cop to believing Asian notions of privacy being different or otherwise incomprehensible to me, but trying to explain the difference between Japanese and Chinese notions of privacy, I can't rely on invoking Asian culture as the difference. This isn't to say that I think Chinese and Japanese culture are identical or even, in particular cases, the same. But I do think that demographics influences things in ways that we, as westerners, don't like to admit, because it does harm to our notions of individuality and free will.

A link and quote I should have posted with that last one
https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/19/meet-the-chinese-internet-trolls-pumping-488-million-posts-harvard-stanford-ucsd-research/

The notion that a massive, paid army of truculent pro-government netizens is largely to blame for China’s impoverished public dialogue is Orwellian, yet strangely comforting. If most of the pro-government invective calling reformists traitors to the motherland is driven by government dictat, that makes it possible a less illiberal regime could turn off the spigot of venom, allowing more recognizably Western views to thrive. But this report implies that those espousing nationalist nastiness aren’t paid shills after all. They mean precisely what they say.

But I do think that demographics influences things in ways that we, as westerners, don't like to admit, because it does harm to our notions of individuality and free will.

I'm not grasping what aspect(s) of the demographics you think is having the influence. I had just somehow assumed (mea culpa!) you were talking about population density. What have I missed?

Not sure how to explain this, but it's not that we have places as crowded as in China (though I do think that Chinese can tolerate a lot more density than Westerners and see the last paragraph of this)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_J2XXMlZcs

but it is that there are so many of them. It seems (though someone can correct me) that even if you can account for the movement of individual particles or atoms or whatever, when you get huge numbers of them together, you can have effects that arise that can't be imagined from the individual components and I imagine that populations are like that.

Also, given that within the top 20 cities ranked by population density
http://www.citymayors.com/statistics/largest-cities-density-125.html

4 are Chinese and none are Western, I do think that a difference in degree becomes a difference in kind.

Certainly lots of Americans (and Australians and Canadians; Europeans to a far lesser extent) are most comfortable with an amount of elbow room (for lack of a better term) that is hard to find in most of China. But that doesn't change the fact that our densest cities are just as dense as Chinese cities. There may be more of them, and they may be bigger overall, but density is all about one's immediate environment. And there, I'm not sure there really is a difference of degree.

It may also be noteworthy that in both cases the national culture is basically the culture of those big cities. (America is having political issues over that reality. But claiming that it isn't already true, and has been for nearly a century, is delusional.) That is, the culture reflects the same kind of very dense environment.

Why does China LOVE Crowds? (YouTube)

within the top 20 cities ranked by population density
http://www.citymayors.com/statistics/largest-cities-density-125.html

4 are Chinese and none are Western,

I observe that New York City doesn't appear on the list at all -- no idea why not. But its actual density (just over 10,000 per sq km) would put it in the top 15. And Manhattan's 27,000 per sq km would have it ranked #2, above any Chinese city.

Here's the wikipedia ranking, with a bunch of places that I wouldn't imagine.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_by_population_density

Obviously the way you determine what the 'city' is is going to determine what density is.

Anecdotally, Asian cities seem a lot more densely populated to me than Western cities. Though I've never been to New York (except as a 8 year old) and I've never resided in a major city.

I don’t think it’s about population density (though that has its own effects), but rather the sheer size of China. Keeping together a state that large is difficult. A prioritisation of order over freedom is (arguably) the consequence.
Of course you can argue, not least from the counter example of India (whose culture is hard for westerners to grapple with in quite different ways) that it’s not an inevitable consequence.
The riposte to that might be that China is one of the oldest continuous unitary nations on the planet, which India certainly isn’t, thanks to a particular cultural consensus they arrived at centuries ago.

None of this, of course implies moral desirability - though one can’t argue that order, self-sacrifice, community spirit and national pride, amongst other qualities, aren’t at all seen as positives over here too.

Interesting to me was that the Chinese author of the MIT article I posted near the top of the comments argues that the new system (inadvertently) makes China a little less repressive. Which if noth8ng else indicated a very different perspective to ours.

I think they have half of a point, but what it fails to capture is just how remorseless the removal of humans from the functioning of a repressive system might render it.
And even for this on its right side, it seems rather like being permanently trapped in a very large computer game, continuously having to work on your point score.
While I enjoy such games, I tire of them long before I tire of life.

I observe that New York City doesn't appear on the list at all -- no idea why not.

Well, it appears much farther down on the density list, after other US entries Los Angeles and San Francisco/Oakland.

The "why" is that they're measuring population density across complete urban areas. NYC goes way down because its contiguous suburbs are quite low density, and that's where the majority of the people in the urban area live. LA and SF rank higher because their suburbs are much denser than NYC's.

I believe I've commented on this here before. The new urbanized area information that the Census Bureau made available starting with the 2010 census changes some conventional wisdom. Using urbanized area as the denominator, LA is the densest city; CA is the densest state (narrowly); the West is the densest region. All three of those happen because western suburbs are a lot denser than suburbs in the other Census Bureau regions. Enough so to offset the Northeast's denser urban cores.

Talking about long term survival of civilisations, there was an interesting article in the Atlantic earlier this year:
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/human-existence-will-look-more-miraculous-the-longer-we-survive/554513/

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