Re: poly: Why so much anonymous virtual reality?

From: david friedman <>
Date: Thu Feb 26 1998 - 11:19:21 PST

Robin raises some interesting issues. Some responses:

1. It isn't clear that you need lots of personae. If all you want is
privacy, freedom from regulation by government, etc., you only need
two--one online and one in realspace. And if you are a good person, there
is much to be said for linking your online personae, on the theory that the
good reputation of each will help all the others. That is one of the
reasons my web page has all four of my worlds on it, instead of my setting
up separate pages not linked to each other.

2. This also answers Robin's point about people being suspicious of
anonymous dealings. I'm not anonymous online--I'm just not linked (in the
hypothetical future) to a realspace body. The decision to keep that link
cut only clearly signals dishonesty if one believes that government law
enforcement is the only good way of enforcing contracts and that there are
no strong, common reasons to want government unable to observe your

3. The more of your life occurs in cyberspace, the harder it is for the
sort of time matching that Robin describes to work. After all, some of your
time in cyberspace involves no persona at all, since you are just reading
information, not sending it. And you can set up some unattended sessions
when you aren't in the room--as long as no serious interaction is involved.

A further point is that the snoops don't get to observe all, or nearly all,
of your interactions. Most of them, after all, are encrypted conversations
with particular people who don't work for the bad guys. The only
interactions they can use to figure out who you are are the ones they are
party to--entrapment, "public lectures," and the like.

4. Robin's point about personal style is an interesting one. It sounds as
though we have an arms race. On the one side are the ID programs, trying to
pick one person out of a few billion on the basis of voice rhythms, walking
patterns, etc. On the othe side are the cloaking programs--deliberately
modifying those things, presumably using observations of other people's
voice rhythms etc., so as to keep content but randomly vary form. The limit
seems to be pure personality, whatever that means--the things that make me
me. My suspicion, perhaps mistaken, is that IDing by that is a hard enough
problem so that by the time it shows up it is going to be a very different
world--complete with uploads and intelligent AI's.

David Friedman
Received on Thu Feb 26 20:16:54 1998

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