The World Is A Wonderful Place To Be

This evening I went to the Marketplace with the idea that I’d eat at Corner Bakery but nothing else planned. I knew there weren’t any movies there that I’d want to see, so I just ordered my standard order (combo – 1/2 chicken pomodori panina, a bowl of chili, and a raspberry bar for dessert). I went out on the patio and listened to some very nice music by the live band. I was given my order almost immediately, which was cool, and for some reason they gave me both my soup and a WHOLE chicken sandwich. So I packed up half to bring home…I was gonna tell someone they should be more careful but they were all very busy when I walked back in, and I heard someone else ordering a combo and being told that she gets half a sandwich, so I guess it was just a fluke.

Anyway, I was sitting on this patio on a nice warm night listening to a band sing Van Morrison and Stevie Ray Vaughan and I’m delicately cradling my grilled panini and popping garlicky crisps into my mouth and I feel completely and utterly contented, without feeling overly snotty. Okay, I know this makes no sense, but I was eating this food that made me feel very calm and good and content but not snobby but not common or lowly. I can’t describe it, it just felt so…so clean and correct.

Anyway, I left there after they finished the set and walked over to Barnes & Noble. I was reading David Brin’s wonderful The Transparent Society about liberties and freedom. He talks about something that a few years ago I was a big advocate of but in recent times I have forgot about — it is the reason I started this blog, the reason why I think blogs are the way of the future. It is the idea that some privacy invasion can often be tolerated when it is reciprocal.

The wearable computer, my erstwhile goal in life, now just a hobby as I’ve sadly moved on…allowing anyone to have cheap digital wear, including a camera that sees what they see and that transmits records to a secure location, using GSM phone frequencies or whatever, so that everyone is watching everyone else. It is encrypted, watermarked, timestamped, and safe, so it is true, verified, and absolutely beyond refrute, but only the recorder has access to it. The crimes of rape, of murder, theft, of muggings…anything where you comfront another person, they would all be drastically reduced. What, everyone’s going to wear a ski mask everywhere? Even when other forms of identification can be sensed, other biometric readings taken?

An open society is desiable over Ashcroft’s closed one, over the society of the Taliban and all the other terrible evils of the world, the evils that we hate but start to gradually become. And wearables would make society open.

Similarily, logging is essential to everything. If someone looks at my credit rating, I want an email telling me who, where, and when. Brin goes a step further with the wonderful assertion that, as we know, security through obscurity is no security at all, and that the ultimate solution for security is transparency of logging. If someone breaks in, as they will always do, the best thing to know is who they are, where they came from, how they broke in, and what they saw. We can’t stop break-ins all together, more firewalls will never compensate for lax passwords. Logging is our best hope.

Again, it has to be timestamped and digitally signed and verified and stored off-location. I think the most important step forward right now will be a completely independent and completely trustworthy digital identity verification system. I’m thinking someone buys an island and starts a country with the sole idea of it being a security capitol. They are accountable to no government or agency, but their operation, including all financials, all employees, everything they do, is completely open to review, voluntairily. The moment they start to throw up veils of secrecy is the day they are supplanted by another trustworthy carrier.

They need to make and distribute free powerful digital signature programs. And all the programs and protocols should be completely open, free, and verified by experts. They should establish a trust metric and a server trust system. They should give trust to local branches, and revoke trust if wrongdoing is uncovered or suspected. People should gain online reputations using real trust metrics.

We have PGP, but it hasn’t caught on. We have various document storage and delivery services, but none are standardized. We need someone to start with, say, the PGP standard, make an easy to use client for all platforms, and start providing verified timestamped authenticaed secured storage at a small cost per megabyte.

Think about it. What would it change? Well, everything that you sign, everything that you buy with credit or check or debit, every time you show your drivers license, every time you verify that something is real and authentic…any time you want to make sure there is no tampering. All of these things would be changed. And police brutality. And rape. And murder. Reduced, removed, taken out of style. Computer crime, wire fraud, breaking contracts, failure to pay, all gone. Yet we can still maintain limited and powerful privacy zones, zones similar to those, to again cite Brin, used in voting. Wherein intense verification takes place, but once you get past the checkpoints, your vote is your own and is anonymous. This would be an amazing leap, and I can see it within ten to fifteen years. Perhaps I’ll have to play a part in it.