Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Friday, September 06, 2013

God in chains

So all the information in the entire electronic communications system of the world is now being bugged and searched.  We have what is by orders of magnitude the largest data bank ever conceived, giving us Laplacian knowledge about our society at every point in time.  I've occasionally speculated on the kind of data cornucopia we could have if we weren't obsessed with privacy - and now we've got it.

And what are we doing with it?  If you believe the government, they're looking for terrorists; if you listen to just-proven-correct paranoiacs, they're looking for opposition; in any case, how terribly trivial.

We have a corpus that contains the answers to almost any question about human beings.  We have the oracle in front of us.  And all we can ask it is "Who is going to plant a bomb where?"
it's been pointed out that this is expensive and inefficient - it would pay us to dismantle it unless it was stopping one 9/11 a month - but not much attention has been paid to the opportunity costs.  We're not asking how many people with prescriptions for drugs A and B and C but not Q visit emergency rooms, or what proportion of users of different mobile phones have convictions for domestic violence, or which mobile phones correspond to an unusual number of burgled houses, or..... why isn't there an industry for thinking up questions? 

Privacy's dead, and we're not getting anything worthwhile out of it.

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