Thursday, March 20, 2014

I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream

In a strange way, I sometimes envy Soviet citizens of the mid 1950s through the late 1970s. It was pretty evident, especially after Krushchev's revelations that central planning was doomed in the Soviet Union. So long as everything was misrepresented, so long as there were no accurate and reliable feedback mechanisms, central planning simply could not work. (It is one of the reasons the free market system is so robust under graft, deceit, and corruption: the misrepresentation is distributed, and for the most part, the suckers eat the losses).

Soviet citizens, therefore, knew they were being lied to constantly, and as a result developed an amazing talent for reading between the lines. Gleaning even a glimmer of the truth from misrepresentation and distractions, in a way that even the most cynical and suspicious Americans cannot not hope to equal, is an admirable quality, one that served them well when dealing with deceptions from the United States government. (That and having an espionage system second to none in the world kind of explains, well, the hysteresis of the crumbling empire).

So, the lesson is, if you were asking for one, is that when information is withheld or constrained, misinformation rushes in to fill the space. You end up, not with a void empty of information, but a great deal of bullshit.
The Pew Research Center quizzed some folks about what they thought digital life would be like in 2025. They got the usual bullshit about how people will be better connected, better informed, more empathetic and helpful, more empowered and egalitarian, and all that pollyanna-ish rainbow-brite unicorn sweetness and light, but, I don't know. I kind of doubt it.

Last year, it was reported that robots constitute 61.5% of internet traffic, and 69% of that bot traffic was malicious. I don't see that trend going down. Criminals, parasites, scammers, spoofers, identity thieves, bitcoin robbers, have only just now started to take advantage of the internet. Couple the coming internet of things with the increase of malware onto any and all available platforms and I don't see how anyone would really want to venture online.

But that's just me. I'm not sure what systemic measure could be used to fight all this malevolence, but my suspicion is anonymity will have to go.

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