[Politech] Secrecy vs. openness: Three counter-arguments to Kurzweil and Joy [fs]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Mon Oct 17 2005 - 22:42:29 PDT

Previous Politech message:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Ray Kurzweil and Bill Joy: Publishing 1918 flu 
virus code is "weapon of mass destruction" [fs]
Date: Mon, 17 Oct 2005 16:37:05 -0700
From: Jon Dugan <jonathan.dugan@private>
Reply-To: Jon Dugan <jonathan.dugan@private>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@private>
References: <43541422.9040809@private>

Dear Declan,

Bill and Ray have been very good at laying out the threats for some
time. I disagree with their conclusion in the NY Times.

Frankly, rules only work when people agree to them.  Not everyone
agrees that some people should hold information, especially
information that is valuable or powerful.  Despite our best efforts to
maintain control of the information on how to build nuclear bombs, the
information is available.  Lots of countries and people have bombs.

It is not possible to stop the health care juggernaut rolling forward
to understand biology and medicine.  The goal of human health is too
important to stop people from doing research and publishing results.
As Bill has so correctly pointed out many times - you never know what
information will be connected that can create large problems for the
broader society.  If not this, other data will.

I would argue there are no "wrong hands" for information to get into.
We are collectively responsible for situations that create the anger
and misguided behavior that lead to mass destruction.  My conclusion
is that we (all humans) must recognize that technological instability
requires us to make everyone (yes, everyone) a "right hand" for the
preservation of the race.  This conclusion will be forced on us
whether people agree or not because of the power available through
replicating destructive technologies.

Getting everyone to play together and hide information will only work
when all involved agrees to hide it.  One person can spill the beans.
Similarly, in a world where 1 person with 80kb of data, a biochem
cookbook and 3 feet of lab space can create a tool that kills tens of
millions -- we should all be working toward a world where *no one*
wants to do that.  We won't be able to stop individuals who can.

After these major disasters happen, those that are left will have to
realize we are not here to compete against each other, but for us all
to survive (preferably well).  Hopefully it won't be too painful for
humanity to change our story.


Jonathan M. Dugan, Ph.D.

Stanford University
Clark Center, 318 Campus Drive, Room S135
Stanford, CA 94305-5446

Tel:  (650) 725-1523
Cell: (650) 799-5369
Fax:  (650) 725-0400

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:  RE: [Politech] Ray Kurzweil and Bill Joy: Publishing 1918 flu 
virus code is "weapon of mass destruction" [fs]
Date: Mon, 17 Oct 2005 17:43:40 -0400
From: Peter Swire <pswire@private>
Reply-To: <peter@private>
To: 'Declan McCullagh' <declan@private>

Hi Declan:

	I've been working on "security through obscurity" for the past few
years, and I think Bill Joy is wrong.  Disclosure is better than secrecy

	The benefits of publishing the information about the flu: "good guy"
researchers all over the world can work on vaccines and many other
biological topics that might help.  For instance, there may be ways to make
highly virulent strains less virulent.  There may be ways to detect problems
much earlier than we would earlier.  And so on.

	The risks of publishing the information are potentially significant.
"Bad guy" researchers might seize on the research and get incremental
abilities to spread killer diseases.

	How many good guy researchers are there in the world, who can do how
many good things to face this threat?  I think far more than there are the
bad guy researchers who want to let loose the dangerous pathogen.

	Put simply, the existence of some risk does not mean that the thing
should stay secret.  There are many advantages to disclosure here.

	The paper on openness, secrecy, and security is at
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=531782.  A follow-on
paper will be up on the Net later this fall.


Prof. Peter P. Swire
John Glenn Scholar of Public Policy Research
Moritz College of Law of
    the Ohio State University
(240) 994-4142, www.peterswire.net

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Ray Kurzweil and Bill Joy: Publishing 1918 flu 
virus code is "weapon of mass destruction" [fs]
Date: Mon, 17 Oct 2005 14:47:17 -0700
From: Thomas Leavitt <thomas@private>
Organization: Godmoma's Forge, LLC
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@private>
References: <43541422.9040809@private>


I wonder how many of your subscribers have read Neal Stephenson's "The
Diamond Age". The active defense systems used by groups and individuals
to protect against nanotech "virii", modeled on the human "immune
system", are likely very similar to what we as a society are going to
have to develop in order to be able to combat threats of this sort (not
just biological, but nanotechnological and computing based).

We need to develop broad spectrum immunization systems that evolve in
reaction to the threats and inputs presented, the old model of
developing a single vaccine to target a single disease is fundamentally
incapable of dealing with the threats likely to be presented to human
health over the next century.

The current plague of spam, computer virii, spyware and malware may
actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise, by providing us with the
basic techniques and technologies necessary to implement similiar
systems in the "real world". Already we see huge increases in the level
of sophistication and dynamicism of these systems.

The idea that outbreaks and attacks of this sort can be prevented by
suppressing information is futile - in the age of the super-empowered
individual, the only practical response is containment and systemic
defense. We are going to have to accept that death from attacks of this
sort is a fact of life - our level of success will be judged not by
whether we prevent them from happening at all, but how well we limit the
scale of these outbreaks when they occur... if we can keep the number of
casualties per incident in the low thousands, and the damage in the low
billions (overall) on an annual basis, I would just that a success.
Failures (and there are likely to be a few of those) have the potential
to kill millions, and knock quite a few points off the worldwide GDP
(the economic impact of SARS prevention efforts far outweighed that of
the damage done directly by the disease itself).

Thomas Leavitt
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