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Seeing what should be (but isn’t, alas) obvious

 

Seeing what should be (but isn’t, alas) obvious

Courtesy of David BrinContrary Brin Blog

 

[David Brin is an astrophysicist, technology consultant, and best-selling author who speaks, writes, and advises on many topics including national defense, creativity, and space exploration. He’s also one of the “World’s Best Futurists.” Be sure to visit David at his website and blog. And don't miss our interview with David last October.]


No, we will do the choosing 

Earlier, I posted a lengthy critique of an issue of the economics newsletter published by my friend, John Mauldin. In a separate newsletter, another friend (of very different political persuasion) Mark Anderson of the Strategic News Service offers an interesting comparison. Very thought-provoking, and your reaction will be very telling.

“Imagine that it is Orwell's 1984, and you live under the most repressive regime on the planet. One day the dictator, Big Brother (remember that wonderful Apple ad?), announces that all citizens will be forced to carry a device that tells the police state everything about them. No one will be spared. There are protests and uprisings, people are jailed, dissenters form rebel groups, geeks find ways to spoof the technology, proxies get on TV and talk about the benefits of sharing everything as a good citizen. A few are shot up against a wall.

“Or, alternatively, imagine you are in the freest nation on the planet. A brilliant entrepreneur (who looks just like Steve Jobs) invents a magical new gadget that does all these cool things, and you can buy one today. Good consumers spend up to $1,000 just to have one, and pretty soon just about everyone does.

“What's the difference between these two scenarios? The main difference is likely a higher take-up rate in the free country and less concern about what these devices are up to.”

I do wish I could share these newsletters with you folks! The business types among you should get company subscriptions! (And how I am tempted to start my own.)

As for Mark’s scenario – in which free citizens ironically choose the same level of self-exposure as in an Orwellian state, through social media self-indulgence — it was a clever and apt thought experiment… up to a point. Mark showed what should be blatantly obvious — that there will be no hiding information from elites.
 
To which I must answer: so

That has never been the issue. No human society ever blinded its elites. European efforts to do this – while well-intended – are delusional, in light of wildly proliferating systems like facial recognition.

Seriously, what's the prescription? Going off-grid? Given the Moore's Law of Cameras, that's utterly futile.

Fortunately, what elites know about us is not the issue.  It never was the issue.  It never, ever will be the issue. It is a distraction from the real issue.
 
The difference between Mark Anderson’s fictional Orwellian state (or real life China) and a nation of the truly free is not what elites can know about you, but what they can do to you. And that difference is night vs. day.  
 
Think about why most Americans are not paranoid about all this self-expression.  The patronizing reflex is to assume our fellow citizens are fools. (Well, there's been some evidence for that; we'll see.) But in fact, they do it because they feel safe. And only one thing is responsible for that sense of safety. A general assumption that if powers try to harm them, citizens will have recourse to both light and law.
 
The crux is this. We can limit what the mighty DO to us only if we can detect, record and deter harmful actions. That's what matters. And it happens not by futilely trying to hide, but by assertively demanding to see. It is the whole purpose for the most under-appreciated amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the wonderful Sixth, that empowers citizens with recourse to the Truth. 
 
That recourse to light and accountability is not going away! 2013 was the best year for civil liberties in the U.S. in three decades, because that year all branches of the federal government avowed a citizen’s right to record his or her interactions with police.Our wretched-dour media never gave this the attention it deserved – a critical milestone demarking the true difference between America and Oceania, or “Sesame Credit” China.
 
That is the difference. In Orwellian societies, the Telescreen only looks in one direction, not at Big Brother.  And note that every tyrant seeks, above all, to be safe from the accountability that comes with light. Signs abound, across the planet, that they are laser focused on shutting it down.
 
It's now been 20 years since The Transparent Society, and I sink into despair over how simple — yet utterly un-intuitive — this blatant fact appears to be.  Folks nod their heads and say: "yeah, I get that." Then they go back to hand-wringing about how Zuckerberg or the Deep State is "looking at me!" Never offering a plausible way to stop it, but always talking about hiding. Instead of picking up the one thing that ever made us free…
 
…the saber of light.
 
The blatancy of the Korean “problem”
 
Another area where I impudently declare that I see something others don’t… something that should be “obvious,” is the dilemma of North Korea. 
 
Okay, here I am on shakier ground, and it’s not a matter of certainty as being willing to take odds in a wager.  Example: I’ll take 3:1 on an imminent and utterly contrived “Tonkin Gulf Incident” leading to a trumped-up U.S. war vs. Iran – a Potemkin/fake “war” with only one conceivable-foremost winner… but all the world’s tyrants doing great.
 
I’ve spoken less about Pyongyang and the Kim regime. And in what follows, I think it's important to consider thoughts that are outside the standard narrative. (My specialty! But it also means my successful predictions (there are many) are laced with some real howler errors!)
 
Let’s launch from this quotation I found in the Global Post:  "Whether this imaginative approach — rooted in Korea’s historic strategy of fending off its dominant neighboring powers of China and Japan by aligning with distant powers — is any more realistic than the U.S. expectation of denuclearization"
 
Okay, let’s dive in:
 
1. Much is made of Kim's nukes as a deterrence against attempted regime change. But he had that already, with 10,000 artillery tubes aimed at Seoul. The city could be flattened in one hour. No, the biggest reason he needs nukes is because – after the first few -- they are cheap!  
 
With a dozen safely deployable nuclear weapons, he can justify slashing his ginormously expensive army and possibly save his economy.
 
Hence, I will take wagers on this: Trump will get a "terrific deal" that grandfathers ten or twenty North Korean nukes in exchange for massive troop cuts on both sides of the DMZ, proclaiming this as a "concession".  When in fact it will be a win-win-win for Kim.
 
2.  I cannot begin to imagine why every pundit simply accepts at face value the notion that the Kim regime is independent of foreign control. In 1955 there were a million Chinese troops in North Korea.  The 1956 Hungarian revolt rocked both Moscow and Beijing, who doubled down on multi-layered controls over their satrapies, while creating potemkin "local governments" that they utterly regulated.
 
I am not proclaiming utter belief that Kim is a puppet of his big neighbor. But I am appalled that the very possibility goes unremarked and never even seems to occur to anyone!  When it is the simplest hypothesis under Occam's Razor.
 
All we have to the contrary are stories and shows.  Dig it: all the brattiness and uncle-killing etc has nothing to do with real power. Ponder how rapidly the Kim regime acquired both nukes (and H Bombs) and ICBMs. Something isn't fishy? Beijing's "complaints" have always been toothless.
 
Why would Beijing want this?  

Ponder. The North Korean regime would offer a way to bloody the west — e.g. via an EMP strike — while retaining deniability and hence protection from retaliation.  This is exactly what's done by China commercially, via supposedly independent zaibatsu companies.

I don't expect to convince you of this theory… I am not convinced of it, myself!  But the tunnel vision of our punditry — its inability to even consider the logical possibility — is something disturbingly common in modern group-think nowadays. Even among very smart people. Alas.
 
Well… I try…

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