The Ethics of Encryption

For I wish to argue that privacy is an illusion and to set forth the laws with which one ought to address the ethics of computation, namely its principles concerning freedom and transparency, virtue and vice, and the limits of theoretical calculation as pragmatic for surveillance, insight and exploitation. I shall endeavor to discover the nature of privacy itself, its distinct potentiality for injustice, and the err of the individual whose mindless will for protection remains a hindrance to the progress of all. I shall seek to understand ethics in the form of computational conduct, and set forth a new construct regarding the nature of data and it’s exponential increase, revealing the futility of even the most exciting technological advance and aid. I shall address the surveilled state and the nature of our current capacity to observe, with a general conclusion regarding the indifference of individuals as a requisite for psychological relief. I shall conclude with a short dispensation on the nature of knowledge, namely its manifestation as the free and transparent distribution of information, articulating a brief explanation on future technological progress and rules for the information state.

Privacy As An Illusion

For the belief that privacy as a construct can exist in the modern age troubles me deeply both philosophically and by nature of experience. For the advent of communication and the capacity to share ideas, makes true privacy nothing but an illusory concern. For everything can be known, and what one does in private is not so much “private,” but necessarily unknown, being that if it can be known, it is not altogether possible to be private. Since every construct of experience is one that is communicable and accessible by language, there is no such act that can remain totally and universally private for all. For the mere capacity of understanding that the individual accepts by the adoption of language makes it impossible to live with complete secrecy in the physical realm. Due to our nature as social animals in a societal bond, we have thus surrendered our perceived right to privacy in the benefit of collaboration and cohabitation with one another. The only thing that may remain universally and uniquely private is the nature of our ideas, unless communicated verbally, physically, or creatively through action. But even more generally, I do not believe privacy in its proper form truly exists. For one must always possess a means by which to understand one’s actions and ideas. Whether through individual language, thought or emotion, the construct of internal transparency, if not external communicability thus remains. For one cannot possibly keep ideas private from one’s self, unless principally through one’s subconscious and so even from an abstract metaphysical critique, it remains difficult to comprehend. Absolute privacy, in a word, seems superfluous and synonymous with the doctrines on pure nothingness, or infinity and the like. For what cannot be known, or even possibly communicated, and thus truly private for all, certainly does not exist.

Concerning the already infinite capacity of the surveilled state, nothing done computationally is ever free from observation. The futile err with which we hold secrecy in utmost concern, is one with which I intend to destroy. Technology is an extension of our actions, and among the developed world, an essential instrument for the communication of our ideas. All acts of creation have required the communication of such ideas by means of technology thus rendering them transparent and accessible to all. The greatest virtues of existence are not matters held within the privacy of the mind, but the communication of concepts through one’s action, as the manifestation of thought from the metaphysical into the physical realm. Society works better when we work together, and the baseless claim that privacy seems to enrich and improve one’s life I see dubious err. For privacy allows an inclination toward injustice, and the possibility for vice in a protected state. For what one does not know, cannot hurt him, but this is principally and unequivocally false. For when man retires to his quarters after the labors of public affair, the ability to assume a wholly new identity, one laden with lust, greed or indifference becomes a detriment to civic peace. For the duality of public and private manifestations of the self creates a duality of ethics, one where man may choose to appear good in public and ill in private. This protection of one’s’ “privacy” allows the subtle inclination toward that which is ill in the most lawless and deleterious form. For we are unafraid to sin when no one is looking, which bears consequence for both the individual conscience and the collective state. What we endeavor to withhold impairs our capacity concerning our true potential, knowing that communication, and community is key.

I shall now delve deeper into the detriments of injustice and how transparency both ethically and computationally shall lead to our advance. If one maintains that politics is ethics writ large, one cannot contest that one’s individual actions are the manifestation of their existence. In a word, what one is or does in life is one’s life without exception. Even if the muddled communication through our physical form cannot but fail to represent the complexity and subtlety of our mind, it is at least an approximation of our attention and attributive power to reify our ideas. So if the will is protected by an illusory concern for security, one naturally acts in a varied dimension, claiming a confidential disposition in which to veil one’s identity. The tragic rudiment of our will to withhold becomes the most egregious err for conduct and communication. So many men are trapped by their innermost convictions, unable, or even afraid to appear as anything but their environmentally accepted form. Their incapacity to understand ethics as the application of reason through conduct, fails to allow transparency in the individual domain. The troubling disposition one may encounter with having failed to reify one’s true character remains oppressive psychologically more than all. If transparency of conduct cultivates virtue, for the understanding that one can and will know all, necessarily leads man away from vice to pursue his finest hour. To uphold and adhere to the improvement of oneself for the progress of society as well as the virtues of community and communication is fundamentally at stake. For one principally derives one’s value from the communication and collaboration of ideas, not merely the security of such thoughts held in secrecy to vanish beyond the grave.

Transparency alone has the capacity for true justice, the most marvelous effect in the individual and social realm. If we as a society were to abandon the notion of privacy, for which I already believe to be an illusory concern, we would be impelled to act virtuously for the true cohesion and collaboration of the social bond. Imagine a world where transparency cultivated open communication, where collaboration and conversation lived fruitfully in the public sphere; Where all men could participate in that grand dialectic in which to improve and advance his fellow citizen in order to bring about the truly just state. For transparency breeds such communication, communion and truth for the very notion of the dialectic to advance our ideas. This so-called shroud of secrecy to withhold one’s belief has led to many unprecedented and unpredictable disasters as of late. Whether it is the prejudice of race, the denial of poverty, the mischief of the polity or the gross unaccountability of markets, elections and wars. Most notably it has led to the first inclinations of a failing democracy, one where an altogether unprecedented and equally unknown intellectual divide emerged from the overlooked separation of class. Decisions such as Britain’s vote to decamp or America’s deep seeded surreptitious ideological and political divide only assist in my argument to divulge the danger of such disregard. Secrecy is an ailment to society, for nothing seems worse than to have destroyed the Platonic dialogue and deceived all mankind. Transparency begets virtue, as one is only less likely to dissent upon understanding the possibility for it’s public effect. Not only does this affect the community but equally the individual who will also be enhanced by the absolved conscience concerning one’s ill or unimaginable affairs. To mitigate erroneous opinion and to educate the populous in dialogue and debate is the purpose of communication for all. For we are one state, one people, with one will, to survive. The deeply held belief that one can not speak one’s mind seems a violation of The First Amendment, but the notion in which ethics, politics and education must combat this err is in the utilization of unlawful abuse. One cannot wish to damage, degrade, or destroy another individual upon any other notion than one’s ideas. Not for color of skin, sexual preference, income, education, or otherwise. All men must be held accountable for their ignorance in the information state.

For despite one’s will to remain individual, one must comprehend that we are correlated as a collective and that’s one’s actions impact both the singular as well as the whole. For the idea that during our infinitesimal moment of existence, one should even wish to deceive, degrade, and destroy that which necessitates society is absurd. For without the state, man can not be, as it is only through the communication and collaboration of ideas for which we can improve. No man is self-sufficient whether through the immediacy of one’s own experience or through the history of evolution, we must always rely upon our neighbor or our ancestors being to thrive. If our neighbor were to know or have public access to our affairs, civic life would be altogether different. The very notion that I am responsible for my actions as a thinking, breathing, rational being allows one to take greater ownership over their ontology and deeds. Our society would develop with the utmost care for civility and unity within the state. For it is impossible not to seek virtue once vice is revealed as the correction of our errs will improve both the individual as well as the whole.

This applies equally to the conduct of computation, as our digital identity has identical potential to impact all mankind. And if we renounce privacy, all would seem to improve. Computational conduct as is with physical conduct should be treated in relatively equivalent terms. For what we think, write, share, and search, is in part, who we are. It should be an attribute to society to share in the collective domains of knowledge, as well as action and affairs. The trial and error of even the greatest of men will reveal a common cognizance and humanity for which we all remain. Would it not be useful to know the interests and establishment of our bookkeepers, school teachers and politicians? For if one knows the nature of things, one can finally understand by which all men actually derive their actions and ideas. It no longer becomes the why but the what. For if we know what it is, we no longer must question why it is, for we know what it is that has led us to this very thing! It would be wonderful to ascertain how a certain individual views life in such a way by looking closer into the activity of their past. For transparency gives a more accurate picture, to both celebrate and defend our views. To know that one’s ideas of love are born from that of Abelard and Heloise and not of reality, or to understand one’s politics as a manifestation of the experiences and books he has read. To see where Marx and Machiavelli have left their mark. To understand the method by which the schoolmaster instructs or the politician acts or the artist creates would be available to all. The profundity and monotony of our actions would reveal the most simple and beautiful of corporeal truths. Moreover, this dictum illuminates even the most insignificant appearances present in our experience. For it is difficult to ascertain why someone is perturbed, or what bothers and unreasoned mind, but only by way of examination into the activities and actions of that individual can one know the truth. To empathize with the woman who has just lost her mother or the child who hasn’t a single friend. To know with absolute certainty the cause of our conduct and ideas would be of the most tremendous and advantageous value to all.

Furthermore our transparency would leave ample room for warranted celebration, as to enjoy and introspect into the accomplishments of man. It is beautiful to know the importance of literature upon one’s mind or the poetry and art that has defined one’s prose. To know of the trials, and triumphs which make each man his own are without question the distinct delights of our existence. For the whole of life is but a single blur, yet the moments of experience always add up to something more. With transparency made possible, and likely inevitable by our ever more connected state, we can finally and deliberately commemorate the individual who finds justice in history and truth in reality. We can put an end to the mischief of the polity and the deceit of the public by allowing every individual the capacity to observe. We can discredit the fraudulent orator and denounce all mischievous claims by comprehending one’s primary and perfunctory source. We can empathize with the opposition only by understanding the nature of one’s ideas. We can know the texts which one has read and understand how to identify with their position. We can reinvigorate the dialectic for all, not to degrade or to destroy, but to improve and to understand. To seek justice and to have mercy for those whose appearances do not reveal the truth.

The power of such ideas and the open transparency of communication and collaboration are necessary to our advance. Think of the technological improvement simply from the general transparency of one’s computational activity thus communicated by information. For new advances in computer intelligence, automation and augmentation, insights and revelation, shall free man to a higher class.

It thus remains absurd to think one possesses any notion of privacy in society today. The surveilled state is in essence infinite, and all information, distributed digitally, is at least in theory accessible and exploitable by all. With the powers that be, it is important to progress this argument and establish new laws concerning observation and surveillance of the state as to expose once and for all their futile aim.

The State of Surveillance

Take for instance any inculcation of the rising of the surveilled state, for whistleblowers, activists and bad actors alike, have exposed the profundity of our capacity to observe. No action or even intention is free from such exploitation in the known conundrum that all digital activity is collected and surveilled. Our capacity to observe is infinite. Every iPhone, iPad, iMac, pc, android and Samsung can be compromised. To note, for historical purposes, it is important to know that mass surveillance itself began sometime during the late 1940’s when AT&T sold crucial information to the US government concerning privacy backdoors in order to wiretap every landline in the U.S. Today, our knowledge has broadened with every telecommunications company, ISP, search provider, electronics manufacturer, credit and debit service, social and personal media platform, all collecting and distributing such information to the government, advertisers, private intelligence firms and more. The wars of modernity are not so much physical but digital with every major country from Russia to China, US, and Europe participating in the quest for unparalleled access to intelligence. Everything is surveilled; nothing is private.

Yet even with this unimaginable power for information collection, the killings, bombings and terror continue. Take for instance the incident in San Bernardino, the shootings in Orlando and the brutal truck attack on civilians in France just in the past two years alone. With every travesty, a new global horror arises never to be stopped by the powers of the state that be. Before I apologetically and unwillingly upset or frighten my reader into ceasing his commitment to my treatise, I shall now turn to a postulate for the nature and resolution of this err. For it seems so obvious as not to dispel that the information surveilled is generally useless concerning our war on peace. A proposition I should like to advance entitled Campbell’s Law should articulate that the amount of data generated by the human race shall continue to double exponentially just as the silicon, which preceded its production, has done so before. The infinite creation and addition of new data renders futile even the loftiest of computational analysis and advancement concerning our technological needs. No computer will ever be able to systematically analyze the whole of the computational universe of data to produce actionable insights in real time relevant to our safety or justice in concern.

IBM “Big Data: This is just the beginning”

According to research by IBM the world produced more that 1000 x 10¹⁸ or 1 trillion, billion bytes of data in 2016 alone.

This number comprises more than 90% of the world’s information created in the history of humanity within a single year. Through Campbell’s Law, I predict that this number shall continue to increase exponentially with the progressive adoption of The Internet of Things along with all other connected devices. No classical computer or even theoretical calculation device yet invented, such as a quantum computer, can synthesize that amount of information in real time to provide actionable insights capable of keeping the world safe.

Furthermore, physics has let us in on interesting truth. The world, according to Heisenberg, is governed by a fundamental uncertainty for which surveillance and suggestion cannot predict. This, in its most simple inculcation, should be insight enough for us to abandon all but the activities, which may aid in the protection and preservation of basic human rights. I deem that we need not abandon surveillance in its entirety but drastically reduce the methods and collection, as only to protect what is good.

The activities undertaken by the US and global governments in turn transcend the very nature of the constitution along with the social contract of man. Only insofar as these actions are taken out of avarice, including one’s desire to know, steal, and control can these decisions be understood. With this precept defined, and all that has come before, it is logical to postulate that society should become transparent, but not observed.

The paradox continues with our war on encryption, which necessitates the logical conclusion of inverse operandi stating that if there remains a passcode there must also be a password as a lock to which there is always a key. You cannot have the science of encryption without the science of decryption making whatever heretofore imagined artificially intelligent, quantum computational algorithm yet invented, the greatest misuse of our time. If you imagine a system that is protected by code there must also be, by its very nature, ways to infiltrate said system and extract its principal good. This childish cat and mouse chase between privacy and transparency, encryption and decryption will continue ad-infinitum, never to be resolved unless entirely abandoned.

The issue with such surveillance for all is concerned with the issue of control for man to exploit man concerning his will to participate. The gatekeepers and service providers already possess an infinite modicum of information to manipulate and marginalize all who contribute data to the systems that be. This exploitation only exacerbates the intellectual and capital divides, robbing humanity of the only precious good which should remain free and accessible to all. This good is none other than the nature of knowledge, as distributed through the property of free information transformed through the dialectic, obtainable and accessible by all. For information is the only apriori right of reason which all men can possess without capital, but by means of understanding, through education and observation of the nature of data alone. To control the distribution of information is to control the distribution of knowledge and to possess the information is to possess power over those who have vs. those who have not. The insights and understanding, as necessitated by such possession of information, incontrovertibly leads man to a higher class. To share in this prosperity and to distribute such ideas in order for society to understand, to know, and to have the access to said data will set man free.

We already contribute such information freely and willingly to these domains. For Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and others, already possess every piece of insight imaginable. Every smartphone is enabled with GPS, meaning Google and Apple have the capacity to collect every location you have ever visited and every internet query you have ever entered, along with every purchase, email, text message and photo you have ever shared. With the advent of new technology, the capacity for surveillance only improves with some smart phones capturing fingerprints and others even using retina scanning technology to create a database of users’ faces and eyes. The microphone on every laptop and every handset is potentially recording and every webcam can be infiltrated by any 5th rate blackhat with access to basic tools. XKeyScore records every keystroke and programs built by the NSA analyze every document. We tell our devices what we think, where we are, what we buy, what we share, what we write, speak and want. What more could one ask for in the cornucopia of intelligence-gathering with which to provide. Why then, should we be unwilling to instruct our neighbor, to improve our transparency among the ones most able to make an immediate difference in our lives? To release the reigns of control and give back to the very individuals who created this regime; To share our ideas in search of knowledge, camaraderie, friendship and peace.

The ever more pervasive collection and creation of data is not altogether a societal ill. For it has profound potential and with greater insight comes greater understanding into the reality and nature of things. Soon such data will be used as one’s personal physician, always aware of the contextual environment and individual biodata to diagnose disease. Our devices shall become our educators, our mentors, our friends and our assistants, with ever more precise and ubiquitous information able to provide relevant insights when in need. To use such capability to its’ utmost capacity in order to connect, communicate and engage. To allow all individuals access to the insights and information of our humanity, not for capitalistic gain, but humanistic providence. By sharing our world we may end up connecting our world with the ineffable incentivization toward progress, community and peace.

The Future is Free

I shall now turn to my final presupposition concerning laws for the newfound information state. To discuss forthcoming matters of technology among the specific phenomena which may occur through the adoption of radical transparency as a means toward universal progress. For society should become transparent, but not surveilled. All data collection heretofore must be utilized toward that which is for the greater good, through open algorithms, and transparent collaboration concerning the benefit and improvement of all mankind. Conglomerates should work together, open sourcing and collaborating in pursuit of progress beyond competition. Insights capable of effecting a billion people, such as climate change data and food scarcity information must become free and accessible within the public domain. This data should be seen as a public good, for the public sphere, to educate and engage all those who possess a rational mind. Open ingestion and radical documentation of data synthesized through quantum computation shall automate and enable many menial and physical tasks into oblivion. Education and the will toward truth must enable both the celebration and understanding of our corporeal lives. No longer will man live in fear, ignorant of the phenomena constituting our reality but be become one with it’s progression and constitution as history making beings. New technologies for automation, and accountability such as block-chain and distributed ledgers will enable both hyper transparent and hyper informative understanding of the experience of man. Our consciousness concerning such rationality, responsibility and truth shall reside in such decisions, actions and documentation of our being. Without access to such information, man cannot be but controlled by his environment, never to perceive the infinite possibility of ideas for which to pursue. More generally it shall help to order and improve the chaos and disparity that resides in such uncertainty. To formulate laws based on actions and to guide those actions toward participation and peace. To allow unprecedented abundance in the nature of comprehension and creation, the only two phenomena which differentiate our kind. To contribute toward basic research and reinvigorate the dialectic toward understanding in the pursuit of virtue. To redistribute wealth in the form of knowledge and to harness the capacity for technology to make us all individuals of the cognitive class. We must not fear such transparency, for it is the only means by which we can unite. The open collaboration and conversation of ideas is what makes us thrive.

Hi, I’m Colin! A 21-year-old philosopher, artist and aspiring entrepreneur currently studying philosophy, physics and neuroscience at NYU.

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My philosophy and interests lie within the history of ideas, the reification of philosophy through art, metaphysics, ethics, phenomenology and the nature of consciousness, governance and the social contract, post-capitalist economics, utopia, Greek, Roman and medieval literature, theoretical physics, and human potential. I am primarily concerned with the nature of education as a path toward enlightenment, the philosophy of pedagogy and perennial erudition.