De omnibus dubitandum
1 Jul 2014
I’m a huge fan of Peter Watts, which won’t come as a secret to any regular reader of this blog.
Recently Watts got in to an argument with none other than David Brin, one of science fiction’s biggest names.
In a nutshell, this argument as I understand it is about privacy vs transparency. Brin seems to believe that a totally transparent society, where the public can look back at the government agencies that use mass surveillance, will deliver true freedom.
Watts, more sensibly, believes privacy is the answer, and that if we’re unable to prevent ourselves from being watched, at least we could maybe have the option to destroy our data rather than hand it over to the government.
Perhaps counter to expectation, in this argument between Watts and Brin it was Watts who came out on top – at least in my view – because his side of the argument seems much more sensible to me. Transparency only works insofar everyone involved plays on the same level. But the surveillance state has so much more power and so many more resources to bring to bear, that we as citizens – even if we’re allowed to look back, which right now we’re most assuredly not – have very little power over the surveillance state in return.
In the end the people who own the data have all the power. And we don’t own any of it.
Moreover, in the comment section of Watts’ latest blog post on the topic, Brin goes a bit apeshit and devolves in to hysterics, entirely bypassing the arguments Watts is making (politely, I might add) and resorting to childish name-calling.
I never really rated Brin as a writer, but to be fair I’ve only ever read one of his books (and was unimpressed). After this public spat with Watts, I see no reason to ever spend any money on Brin’s output.
Not that he’d care, anyway.