node created 2019/09/29
Freedom in the future will require us to have the capacity to monitor our devices and set meaningful policies for them; to examine and terminate the software processes that runs on them; and to maintain them as honest servants to our will, not as traitors and spies working for criminals, thugs, and control freaks.
Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.
To me, it feels like Google's entire strategy behind reCaptcha is to make it harder to protect your privacy. We've basically given up on the idea that there are tasks only humans can do, and to me V3 feels like Google openly saying, "You know how we can prove you're not a robot? Because we literally know exactly who you are." I don't even know if it should be called a captcha -- it feels like it's just identity verification.

I don't think this is an acceptable tradeoff. I know that when reCaptcha shows up on HN there's often a crowd that says, "but how else can we block bots?" I'm gonna draw a personal line in the sand and say that I think protecting privacy is more important than stopping bots. If your website can't stop bots without violating my privacy, then I'm starting to feel like I might be on the bots' side.
I think we've gone well past the equilibrium point between ease of use and computer literacy, to the point that we are now disempowering users rather than helping them. If someone record a video on their phone and want to share it we know it's just a file on a disk, but most users don't, to them it's just a video that appears in a list in an app. We know a file can be copied, modified, shared, etc, but all they can do is what the share button on the phone's UI allows them to do, like upload to youtube. Even if they had a youtube clone owned by themselves or a friend they wouldn't know how to upload it.

I saw it with my mother going through photos she took on her digital camera, she's a slave to the software that came with the camera and the features it provides. She doesn't access the file, she goes through a UI to view the images and manipulate them. If she wants to post them to facebook she does that through the UI. When the camera dies and is replaced she has to relearn a different software package whereas if she'd managed her files through explorer like we probably do then the knowledge would be transferable.

Unless we start teaching computer fundamentals better and expect people to apply that knowledge to do things then we are sliding head first into the world of digital serfdom.
[Computers] are useless. They only give us answers.
If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.
I think that we have to look back at history and realize that most rebels don’t succeed. We remember the ones that do, but they’re the exception. Most people who rise up and rebel against monolithic systems of power get crushed. And that doesn’t mitigate the magnificence of their lives and their resistance. That’s just a reality. You know, if you take that path, the odds are against you. And yet I think it’s the path that we have to take, because rebellion, especially when we face this monolith of corporate power we call radical evil, there is a moral imperative to stand up to that power with the realization that in all likelihood, especially in a prolonged act of resistance, that power will crush us.

[..]

Hannah Arendt, I think, grasps this when she looks back on her own resistance to the Nazis. I mean, she leaves the University of Heidelberg and she says that she had to unlearn everything she had been taught by Heidegger in the University to become a moral human being. And then she joins—she was not a Zionist, but she joins a Zionist underground movement to smuggle German Jews to Palestine. She’s eventually picked up by the Gestapo, stripped of her German citizenship, becomes stateless—she was almost killed by the Gestapo—and ends up in France as a stateless person.

But she says, number one, I look back on that time period of my life and I say, thank God that I wasn’t innocent, that to be innocent in a time of radical evil is to be complicit, number one. And number two, she says those who are most effective at resisting or not those who say, we shouldn’t do this, this oughtn’t to be done, but those who say, I can’t. And I think there’s something within the DNA—that’s why rebels are very poor—. Once power is attained, rebels very rarely are able to rule, because they have that inability to compromise. You saw it with Che Guevara. I interviewed Ronnie Kasrils in the book, who founded the armed wing of the ANC with Nelson Mandela and becomes the deputy defense minister under Mandela, and he starts criticizing the corruption, the creation of what would be called the new class among the ANC. And then they fire on the miners who are striking—the largest massacre since the Sharpeville massacre—and he denounces his own party, a party that he spent 30 years underground at the risk of his life fighting for. That’s a rebel.

And Kasrils makes an interesting point in the book. He said, I was a rebel, because he’s white, he’s Jewish, he walks out on his own, he actually literally walks into a township—you’re not, as a white person, allowed to be in a township after ten at night—and he doesn’t go back, and he never goes back. And he said, I was a rebel; Mandela was a revolutionary, in the sense that he didn’t rebel against his own. And I think that’s right.

But I think that rebels are absolutely vital. You know, I use that concept from Reinhold Niebuhr about sublime madness. And Niebuhr writes correctly that in moments of extremity, liberals are a dead force. They’re are too ineffectual, too little emotional, too intellectual in order to propel resistance forward, that you need people who are possessed of that sublime madness.
The frightening coincidence of the modern population explosion with the discovery of technical devices that, through automation, will make large sections of the population 'superfluous' even in terms of labor, and that, through nuclear energy, make it possible to deal with this twofold threat by the use of instruments beside which Hitler's gassing installations look like an evil child's fumbling toys, should be enough to make us tremble.
"Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil"
Take, say, the Bernie Sanders campaign. Which I think is important, impressive, he is doing good and courageous things, he is organizing a lot of people. That campaign ought to be directed to sustaining a popular movement which will use the election as kind of an incentive, but then go on. And unfortunately it's not. When the election's over, the movement's gonna die. And that's a serious error.

The only thing that's gonna ever bring about any meaningful change is ongoing, dedicated popular movements which don't pay attention to the election cycle. It's an extravaganza every four years; you have to be involved in it, so fine, we'll be involved in it. But then we go on. If that were done you could get major changes.
Hold your hat and hang on to your soul
Something's coming to eat the world whole
If we fight it we've still got a chance

But whatever they offer you
Though they're slopping the trough for you
Please whatever they offer you

Don't feed the plants
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.
As citizens, we must prevent wrongdoing because the world in which we all live, wrong-doer, wrong sufferer and spectator, is at stake.
"The Life of the Mind"
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
My carrier pigeon just arrived with some TCP/IP/pigeon protocol packets, and I see I've caused someone's head to explode on the Internet.
Those who lead the country into the abyss
Call ruling too difficult
For ordinary men.

Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice!
"To Posterity" (1939)
There was a widespread conviction that it is impossible to withstand temptation of any kind, that none of us could be trusted or even be expected to betrustworthy when the chips are down, that to be tempted and to be forced are almost the same, whereas in the words of Mary McCarthy, who first spotted this fallacy: "If somebody points a gun at you and says,'Kill your friend or I will kill you,' he is tempting you, that is all." And while a temptation where one's life is at stake may be a legal excuse for a crime, it certainly is not a moral justification.

[..]

It is fortunate and wise that no law exists for sins of omission and no human court is called up onto sit in judgment over them. But it is equally fortunate that there exists still one institution in society in which it is well-nigh impossible to evade issues of personal responsibility, where all justifications of a nonspecific, abstract nature - from the Zeitgeist down to the Oedipus complex - break down, where not systems or trends or original sin are judged, but men of flesh and blood like you and me, whose deeds are of course still human deeds but who appear before a tribunal because they have broken some law whose maintenance we regard as essential for the integrity of our common humanity. Legal and moral issues are by no means the same, but they have a certain affinity with each other because they both presuppose the power of judgment.

[..]

What mattered in our early, nontheoretical education in morality was never the conduct of the true culprit of whom even then no one in his right mind could expect other than the worst. Thus we were outraged, but not morally disturbed, by the bestial behavior of the stormtroopers in the concentration camps and the torture cellars of the secret police, and it would have been strange indeed to grow morally indignant over the speeches of the Nazi big wigs inpower, whose opinions had been common knowledge for years. [..] The moral issue arose only with the phenomenon of "coordination," that is, not with fear-inspired hypocrisy, but with this very early eagerness not to miss the train of History, with this, as it were, honest overnight change of opinion that befell a great majority of public figures in all walks of life and all ramifications of culture, accompanied, as it was, by an incredible ease with which life long friendships were broken and discarded. In brief, what disturbed us was the behavior not of our enemies but of our friends, who had done nothing to bring this situation about. They were not responsible for the Nazis, they were only impressed by the Nazi success and unable to pit their own judgment against the verdict of History, as they read it. Without taking into account the almost universal breakdown, not of personal responsibility, but of personal judgment in the early stages of the Nazi regime, it is impossible to understand what actually happened.
If I had a friend and loved him because of the benefits which this brought me and because of getting my own way, then it would not be my friend that I loved but myself. I should love my friend on account of his own goodness and virtues and account of all that he is in himself. Only if I love my friend in this way do I love him properly.
Man wants to achieve greatness overnight, and he wants to sleep well that night too.
A person in a rented apartment must be able to lean out of his window and scrape off the masonry within arm's reach. And he must be allowed to take a long brush and paint everything outside within arm's reach. So that it will be visible from afar to everyone in the street that someone lives there who is different from the imprisoned, enslaved, standardised man who lives next door.
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.