Monday, November 16, 2015

Fear - Uncertainty - Doubt: Threat to Liberty: Role of P2P technologies

As mentioned in my recent article, there is an increase in the number of abnormal events that citizens and their governments are having to deal with. And I believe that due to technology change as well as climate change, this number will rise and the proportion of man-made events will rise further. Governments use such events to cause shift-of-power to them, to take resources from their alternative uses and get them assigned to complex means of preventing/managing such events, setup policy structures. Essentially governments use the fear-uncertainty and doubt caused by such events to raise questions after such events about the ability of citizens to take care of themselves and its ability to provide security based on the then existing distribution of power. They then use these question to crystallise a deal with citizens to exchange liberty for security. Sometimes citizens later during relatively normal events trigger repealing of relevant laws to recover their power. Sometimes supreme court's prevent executive arms of governments from acquiring too much power. Different countries therefore are in different situations, but this dynamic has played out multiple times before. But something has changed.

P2P technologies with unprecedented capabilities are spreading and pose a challenge to the ability of governments to acquire too much power over the rest of us. I am yet to see a cogent recognition of the changed reality in ongoing debates related to this in UK. The noises about making ISP's do this and do that sound silly to me, assuming my understanding of what these new technologies are capable of, is correct. Is the proposed legislation to give governments control over all encryption within the country enforceable? I am not an expert, but I am not sure based on what I read on the Internet about P2P technologies. I would much appreciate pointers to discussion whether such legislation is enforceable technically in face of the growing capabilities of P2P technologies.

Given such technologies could easily be used by the dark forces to plan and carry out abnormal events, how should the good forces (assuming the governments are good) protect us given the growing capabilities of P2P technologies. I just do not understand the inability of powers-that-be to understand that the technology tiger they are riding has already bolted and is running quickly into a deep, dark jungle. Why do they carry on applying yesterday thinking to today's problems? After all 1900 MI-5/6 people, increased funding are hardly enough to solving the technical challenge that needs solving. IMHO we are now in a new dynamic, since non-legislated dark hardware+software leveraging publicly available algorithms may not be too easy to legislate. I hope and pray I am wrong.
Pratap Tambay

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Structures and processes of humanity: Implications for events like Paris and Mumbai

Note: These are my personal views and not those of my employers, Tata Consultancy Services.

The structures of processes of humanity are designed to help humanity to act/react in face of normal and abnormal events. Different multi-human units are designed for different combination of normal and abnormal events. What is abnormal for some human and multi-human units is normal for other humans and multi-human units. Multi-human units organize their structures and processes to handle normal events differently and have pre-planned reorganisations to handle abnormal events.

In the past, the main cause of abnormal events were acts-of-god. But I contend that this is changing. Due to technological evolution, the number of abnormal events due to acts-of-man is increasing.

I have written about this before. But my current thoughts are prompted by the events in Paris, which were quite similar to the events in Mumbai in the past. The pressure on public services to cut costs results in reduction of the capability of public services to handle abnormal events. The preparedness to handle one/few abnormal event at one time may not be enough anymore, as technology enables some people to coordinate better across time and space to disrupt the lives of the rest of us at multiple points of time and space. But this is not visible till the abnormal events happen and it is difficult to comprehend what one does not starkly see. So most humans will remain substantially unaware of this as they continue in their day-to-day reverie.

I am not educated in the dynamics of public choice. But it is my firm conviction that we have a complex problem facing us. If democracies authorise the expenditure to deal with abnormal events, the transparency of what is achieved using these expenditures will be low creating the risk that these might be used by the wrong sort of people in power to build  structures to control the rest of us far too much than we might be ok with. And if democracies do not authorise such expenditures, then the random idiots will continue to create the Mumbai and Paris type of events. Also there is a question of public finance. How much should be spent reasonably on handling abnormal events and how much should spent on normal events? As technology changes the risk landscape, how should this proportion change? So in essence there is a genuine public governance issue. I believe these to be urgent and important issues. Sadly I do not think that as usual, reactions to Paris will not go beyond actions which are constrained by the continuing inability of those that matter and those advising them to see beyond the tip of the nose.


Pratap Tambay

Monday, November 09, 2015

Caste and Development

Low castes voting by caste are voting for development with social justice because voting BJP/Cong sacrifices social justice at the altar of development. The upper caste BJP/Cong aim for growth and believe in trickle down development of the lower caste's.