Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘big brother

A modest proposal

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Earlier today, I received a most disturbing communication from my good friend Jonatan Schnell. He has got his hands on a number of secret documents from various government agencies, and has asked me to publish the following excerpt:

This noble organization has been entrusted with two central tasks:

  1. Ensuring sufficient surveillance that unwanted transgressions of any kind are detected in a timely manner, ideally including the expression and formation of unsound opinions.
  2. Ensuring swift, accurate, and unavoidable corrective measures for such transgressions.

The last decades have seen many technological advancements and developments that raised our hopes of finally reaching success. Unfortunately, despite many partial successes, they have all eventually proved insufficient. I hardly need reminding you of how physical inspection of hard-drives has proved to be very fruitful, yet has far too often failed in the more important cases, through the use of high-grade encryption, often in conjuncture with the transgressor’s claim of “having forgotten” the passwords. Encryption in general, of course, has been a major obstacle, including not only hard-drives but also email communications and alternate networks like i2p and tor. Even HTTPS, although easy to circumvent, has caused considerable over-head, delays, and missed opportunities. Or take the unfortunate case of the aforementioned alternate networks: Left alone they risk nullifying our communication surveillance and de-anonymizing of Internet communication. (I stress again how important it is to continue our infiltration campaigns.)

The reason for failure is almost always that we are too far away from the immediate interaction, either in time or geographically. The best, but invariably most and often impracticability expensive, results are reached when we can apply direct surveillance, e.g. through camera and microphone monitoring or the installation of software directly on the computer of the transgressor. It is to be feared that even the most promising in-roads available, including the intended use of service providers such as Google, Facebook, and CloudFlare, will never suffice to meat our requirements, especially with the more surveillance-hostile elements.

The logical conclusion is to take this one step further, in a manner that ensures that all potential transgressors can be surveilled at a moments notice at no additional cost (after, admittedly, a high initial investment):

The enhancement of our citizens through physical implants to monitor their audio-visual input, including, indirectly, what they do, say, write, etc. In addition a GPS module might be added, allowing us to pin-point the location of any and all citizens at any given moment, as well as allowing us to track their movements and physical meetings over time. (Of course, some of the same benefits can be reached through tracking cell-phones. These have the weakness that they can be left at home, run out of batteries, or be temporarily shielded.) Long term additional surveillance of brain patterns, heart beat, and other biological signs can prove a valuable addition. For instance, if someone reacts negatively to a government message, we would immediately know that there is need for more dedicated surveillance; if someone reacts with arousal to another party of the wrong gender or below the age of eighteen, this can be registered and the corresponding warnings be issued to neighboring residents; and so on. The addition of the possibility to produce auditory or visual stimuli is particularly interesting. For instance, when a transgression is detected in flagrante the transgressor can be given immediate notification and instructions from law officers to stand down and await arrest.

To avoid removal or more temporary manipulations, these enhancements would regularly and automatically be in communication with a central controller (e.g. by radio or the cell-phone network). Any time an enhancement misses a check-in, this if filed as a violation and an APB is put out. After the transgressor has been apprehended, the enhancements are checked and/or replaced (at the transgressors cost) and corrective action is taken when appropriate. It would of course be made illegal to provide or use any structure or equipment that blocks the needed signals.

In the long term, the enhancements can be provided with the ability to directly incite an algesic response when the check-ins fail, as well as during any detected attempt at removal. This can be extended to a greater range of transgressions, like trying to enter or leave the country without using the official border crossings. Additional possibilities for aversion therapy are open: The wrong reactions to certain stimuli, the expression of unsound opinions, and other correctable transgressions of a similar nature can be swiftly and automatically handled by the enhancements themselves, causing the transgressors to associate such deviations with the algesic response.

Following this trail to its end (but here I fear that the political climate is not yet sufficiently matured) enhancements can be used for more conclusive corrective actions. Consider replacing the lengthy and costly procedures around e.g. a lethal injection by reaching the same result with a minor trauma in a suitable brain region. Or permanently incapacitating a hostage taker remotely, with the push of a button, through the same mechanism. Or removing a threat from a greater group (e.g. the Irish) of potential transgressors in one single action, including cases where large-scale incarceration or deportation would be the alternative.

A few practical details: Normally the enhancements would be added shortly after birth, ensuring that everyone is included from an early age (and as a positive side-effect reaps the benefits from the appropriate feedback to reactions and behavior even during childhood). Unfortunately, it would take several decades to reach a reasonable coverage in the adult population in this manner; while a single mass-enhancement in the entire adult population would be entirely impractical. A reasonable middle road is a two-pronged approach where high risk groups, notably convicts and those potentially engaged in subversive activities (including critics of our operations), are targeted with a mass-enhancement and the remainder of the population is enhanced at certain occasions where the necessary equipment can always be reliably made available, e.g. a driver’s license renewal or when first entering the country. This has the added advantage that enforcement can be kept high and voluntary through making the enhancement a mandatory condition for the government granting a driver’s license, letting someone into the country, and so on. Ideally, we will even be able to pass on the cost of the enhancement to the respective citizen.

While the costs of this might seem prohibitive in a first impression, there are considerable reason to believe that we can leverage these enhancements to not only cover the costs of the project but to allow additional financing of related projects, once a sufficient critical mass has been built. Our preliminary research indicates a great industry interest in access to selective gathered data for purposes such as targeted advertising and market research. Or consider allowing advertisers to send information directly to the ears and eyes of the subject, without having to use conventional devices that can be turned off or the advertising otherwise circumvented. The possibilities are endless.

Postscript: For those who have missed the allusions, the above is entirely fictional, specifically making a play on Jonathan Swift’s work by the same name, in which he suggests using Irish children as a food source. However, apart from the most extreme parts, the above is well in line with current developments with regards to e.g. governments cracking computers or smart-phones, engaging in unethical and often unlawful surveillance, etc. If the suggestions were viable today, at least some of them would be on the table with at least some politicians, law enforcers, and the like. This just looking at the modern West—in North Korea they would conceivably go all out.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 21, 2016 at 12:04 am

The disappointing Angela Merkel

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Recently, Angela Merkel was named “Person of the Year” by the British news paper “The Times”:

For her central role in preserving European stability at a time of resurgent Russian aggression in eastern Europe, Angela Merkel is named today as The Times Person of the Year.

The German chancellor, who must decide by 2016 whether to stand for a fourth term in office, was chosen principally for taking control of the west’s fraught negotiations with President Putin of Russia after his annexation of Crimea.

Mrs Merkel has shown herself to be an indispensable power broker in a year when east-west relations have been tested to breaking point in the most dangerous geopolitical crisis since the Cold


Now, I used to be a fan of Merkel’s, seeing her as one of the few politicians who actually bring some degree of competence to the table, as well as one of the least populist, and a positive counter-example to the many Swedish female politicians who have been promoted upwards just for being women (and have been correspondingly incompetent—consider Mona Sahlin, e.g.). As is, I consider this almost as a travesty, seeing that Merkel has spent 2014 ruining my impression of her—and has just broken the camel’s back by abusing the Charlie Hebdo situation to urge for an increase in “Big Brother”-/GDR-style telecommunications data retentionw of highly disputed effectiveness (according to a reliable German news sourcee).

Problems include:

  1. A far too weak reaction, almost a non-reaction, to the Snowden scandals. A chancellor after my taste would have taken a very clear stand against this intrusion on the citizens.

    I must conclude that she is in favour of such idiocies, is too weak to take the stand, or prioritizes international relations above the good of her citizens.

    (While the first revelations and Merkel’s lack of reactions date to 2013, there were plenty of opportunity for new reactions in 2014—none of which were taken.)

  2. An extremely populist take on last year’s general election, with many promises made without a word about the costs.

    I must conclude that she commits the politician’s deadly sin of prioritizing (re-)election over faithfulness to the ideals of the party and common sense—or, less likely, that she actually has more leftist views than she has hitherto let on.

  3. In the wake of said election (her party, CDU, and its Bavarian sister, CSU, where hailed as winners, but lost the supporting party FDP and with it the absolute majority), she for the second time entered a disputable alliance with the Social-Democrats, accepting many of their populist election promises and then passively letting them dominate the first few months—despite their being the junior partner in terms of members of parliament.

    I must conclude in repetition of the previous item, possibly and again, in combination with her being too weak.

  4. As a result of various election promises, we are now heading for (among other things) several ill-advised pension reforms, a too high minimum wage, and true abomination—-a 30% quota for female board members. This quota ignores that equal opportunity leads to unequal outcomes (for reasons including different interests and family/career priorities) and will therefore give women an artificial and unethical leg up at the cost of men, in particular with an eye on the age structure; it will lead to more incompetence in the board rooms (a problem that is large enough as it is); and it can be disputed on ethical grounds for the intrusion on the companies themselves.

    (Conclusions as above.)

The motivation given together with the award, on the other hand, fails in at least two regards: Firstly, it does not give a holistic view of her year. Secondly, if Merkel has been meritorious in this regard, it is not public knowledge. She has not gone “above and beyond duty” for a chancellor in her geographic position, she has not had any obvious positive impact beyond what was to be expected from a randomly picked chancellor from Germany history, and she has failed in as far as the Crimean is still in the hands of the Russians, Ukraine is still in a state of civil war, and the Russians are still highly aggressive.

At the end of the day, I cannot shake the suspicion that the award was more in line of a statement anti-Putin than a statement pro-Merkel, with Merkel simply being the candidate best-suited for being the excuse. Similarly, I am convinced that the absurd Nobel Peace Prize award to Obama was thinly veiled anti-Bush prize (with some suspicions for a few earlier prizes, including to the IPC/Al Gore)—as discussed in a previous article.

As an aside, the repeated “great coalitions” in Germany and recent odd agreements between the leading Swedish parties (in effect that the opposition will not oppose the budget suggestions of the ruling party/parties, even when the ruling faction does not have a majority) are leaving me with a fear that politicians are deliberately trying to get rid of their main irritant, those pesky voters, by making their own arrangements, irrespective of election outcomes. The conclusion is premature bordering on the paranoid at this stage; however, the last time I suspected that I was paranoid, well, according to Snowden I was naively optimistic…

Written by michaeleriksson

January 14, 2015 at 8:30 pm