Re: poly: Pondering Privacy

From: Nick Bostrom <>
Date: Mon May 18 1998 - 18:15:41 PDT

I haven't read The Transparent Society yet (I will soon!) so
maybe I'm totally off the mark, but here are a couple of comments.

What time frames are we speaking about? It might take some time
before technology will be cheap enough to have small cameras
everywhere. Even then that might not intrude very much on people's
privacy in public places. Even if everything is filmed and publicly
available, that doesn't mean that the relevant informations is
cheaply accesible. It would seem very expensive to pay a team of
people to scan through all the tapes to search for information on the
person you are interested in. Only few purposes, such as criminal
investigations and jealous millionairs would be willing to pay this
price. Today they can achieve much the same result by hiring a
private detective or by following the subject about themselves.

If we are thinking of AI to interpret the output of all these
cameras, then it will probably take at least ten, fifteen years
before that is possible on a large scale. But from there it might
just be another five or ten years until we have superintelligence and
upload ourselves, making physical interactions irrelevant for most
people. So it seems that the time window during which the society
could be made transparent though cheap cameras would not be greater
than ten years or so. (This period might of course be critical in
that the forces dominating it might come to determine what comes
after, what track developments will take.)

Nicholas Bostrom
Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
London School of Economics
Received on Tue May 19 00:29:55 1998

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