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[infowar.de] Frank Rieger: We lost the War--Welcome to the World of Tomorrow
Hier der Text vom CCC-Kongress, auf den ich vor Sylvester schon mal
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Betreff: Frank Rieger: We lost the War--Welcome to the World of Tomorrow
Datum: Sat, 07 Jan 2006 11:47:29 -0500
Von: Geert Lovink <geert -!
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Antwort an: Geert Lovink <geert -!
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(Between Xmas and New Year, Rop Grongrijp (NL) and Frank Riegel (DE)
held two impressive but surpringly depressive speeches at the 22nd
Chaos Computer Club conference in Berlin. Below you'll find Frank
contribution. Forwarded to nettime with the permission of the author.
From: frank -!
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A forum to debate this text can be found at the authors weblog at
Conference program: http://events.ccc.de/congress/2005/
We lost the war. Welcome to the world of tomorrow.
By: Frank Rieger
Losing a war is never a pretty situation. So it is no wonder that most
people do not like to acknowledge that we have lost. We had a
reasonable chance to tame the wild beast of universal surveillance
technology, approximately until september 10th, 2001. One day later, we
had lost. All the hopes we had, to keep the big corporations and
"security forces" at bay and develop interesting alternative concepts
in the virtual world, evaporated with the smoke clouds of the World
Just right before, everything looked not too bad. We had survived Y2K
with barely a scratch. The world's outlook was mildly optimistic after
all. The "New Economy" bubble gave most of us fun things to do and the
fleeting hope of plenty of cash not so far down the road. We had won
the Clipper-Chip battle, and crypto-regulation as we knew it was a
thing of the past. The waves of technology development seemed to work
in favor of freedom, most of the time. The future looked like a yellow
brick road to a nirvana of endless bandwith, the rule of ideas over
matter and dissolving nation states. The big corporations were at our
mercy because we knew what the future would look like and we had the
technology to built it. Those were the days. Remember them for your
grandchildren's bedtime stories. They will never come back again.
We are now deep inside the other kind of future, the future that we
speculated about as a worst case scenario, back then. This is the ugly
future, the one we never wanted, the one that we fought to prevent. We
failed. Probably it was not even our fault. But we are forced to live
in it now.
Democracy is already over
By its very nature the western democracies have become a playground for
lobbyists, industry interests and conspiracies that have absolutely no
interest in real democracy. The "democracy show" must go on
nonetheless. Conveniently, the show consumes the energy of those that
might otherwise become dangerous to the status quo. The show provides
the necessary excuse when things go wrong and keeps up the illusion of
participation. Also, the system provides organized and regulated
battleground rules to find out which interest groups and conspiracies
have the upper hand for a while. Most of the time it prevents open and
violent power struggles that could destabilize everything. So it is in
the best interest of most players to keep at least certain elements of
the current "democracy show" alive. Even for the more evil conspiracies
around, the system is useful as it is. Certainly, the features that
could provide unpleasant surprises like direct popular votes on key
issues are the least likely to survive in the long run.
Of course, those in power want to minimize the influence of random
chaotic outbursts of popular will as much as possible. The real
decisions in government are not made by ministers or the parliament.
The real power of government rests with the undersecretaries and other
high-level, non-elected civil servants who stay while the politicians
come and go. Especially in the bureaucracies of the intelligence
agencies, the ministry of interior, the military, and other key nodes
of power the long-term planning and decision-making is not left to the
incompetent mediocre political actors that get elected more or less at
random. Long term stability is a highly valued thing in power
relations. So even if the politicians of states suddenly start to be
hostile to each other, their intelligence agencies will often continue
to cooperate and trade telecommunication interception results as if
nothing has happened.
Let's try for a minute to look at the world from the perspective of
such an 60-year-old bureaucrat that has access to the key data, the
privilege to be paid to think ahead, and the task to prepare the policy
for the next decades. What he would see, could look like this:
First, paid manual labor will be eaten away further by technology, even
more rapidly than today. Robotics will evolve far enough to kill a
sizeable chunk of the remaining low-end manual jobs. Of course, there
will be new jobs, servicing the robots, biotech, designing stuff,
working on the nanotech developments etc. But these will be few,
compared with today, and require higher education. Globalization
continues its merciless course and will also export a lot of jobs of
the brain-labor type to India and China, as soon as education levels
there permit it.
So the western societies will end up with a large percentage of
population, at least a third, but possibly half of those in working
age, having no real paid work. There are those whose talents are
cheaper to be had elsewhere, those who are more inclined to manual
labor. Not only the undereducated but all those who simply cannot find
a decent job anymore. This part of the population needs to be pacified,
either by Disney or by Dictatorship, most probably by both. The
unemployment problem severely affects the ability of states to pay for
social benefits. At some point it becomes cheaper to put money into
repressive police forces and rule by fear than put the money into
pay-outs to the unemployed population and buy the social peace.
Criminal activities look more interesting when there is no decent job
to be had. Violence is the unavoidable consequence of degrading social
standards. Universal surveillance might dampen the consequences for
those who remain with some wealth to defend.
Second, climate change increases the frequency and devastation of
natural disasters, creating large scale emergency situations. Depending
on geography, large parts of land may become uninhabitable due to
draught, flood, fires or plagues. This creates a multitude of
unpleasant effects. A large number of people need to move, crop and
animal production shrinks, industrial centers and cities may be damaged
to the point where abandoning them is the only sensible choice left.
The loss of property like non-usable (or non-insurable) real estate
will be frightening. The resulting internal migratory pressures towards
"safe areas" become a significant problem. Properly trained personal,
equipment, and supplies to respond to environmental emergencies are
needed standby all the time, eating up scarce government resources. The
conscript parts of national armed forces may be formed into disaster
relief units as they hang around anyway with no real job to do except
securing fossil energy sources abroad and helping out the border
Third, immigration pressure from neighboring regions will raise in all
western countries. It looks like the climate disaster will strike worst
at first in areas like Africa and Latin America and the economy there
is unlikely to cope any better than the western countries with
globalization and other problems ahead. So the number of people who
want to leave from there to somewhere inhabitable at all costs will
rise substantially. The western countries need a certain amount of
immigration to fill up their demographic holes but the number of people
who want to come will be far higher. Managing a controlled immigration
process according to the demographic needs is a nasty task where things
can only go wrong most of the time. The nearly unavoidable reaction
will be a Fortress Europe: serious border controls and fortifications,
frequent and omnipresent internal identity checks, fast and merciless
deportation of illegal immigrants, biometrics on every possible corner.
Technology for border control can be made quite efficient once ethical
hurdles have fallen.
Fourth, at some point in the next decades the energy crisis will strike
with full force. Oil will cost a fortune as production capacities can
no longer be extended economically to meet the rising demand. Natural
gas and coal will last a bit longer, a nuclear renaissance may dampen
the worst of the pains. But the core fact remains: a massive change in
energy infrastructure is unavoidable. Whether the transition will be
harsh, painful and society-wrecking, or just annoying and expensive
depends on how soon before peak oil the investments into new energy
systems start on a massive scale as oil becomes to expensive to burn.
Procrastination is a sure recipe for disaster. The geo-strategic and
military race for the remaining large reserves of oil has already begun
and will cost vast resources.
Fifth, we are on the verge of technology developments that may require
draconic restrictions and controls to prevent the total disruption of
society. Genetic engineering and other biotechnology as well as
nanotechnology (and potentially free energy technologies if they exist)
will put immense powers into the hands of skilled and knowledgeable
individuals. Given the general raise in paranoia, most people (and for
sure those in power) will not continue to trust that common sense will
prevent the worst. There will be a tendency of controls that keep this
kind of technology in the hands of "trustworthy" corporations or state
entities. These controls, of course, need to be enforced, surveillance
of the usual suspects must be put in place to get advanced knowledge of
potential dangers. Science may no longer be a harmless, self-regulating
thing but something that needs to be tightly controlled and regulated,
at least in the critical areas. The measures needed to contain a
potential global pandemic from the Strange Virus of the Year are just a
subset of those needed to contain a nanotech or biotech disaster.
Now what follows from this view of the world? What changes to society
are required to cope with these trends from the viewpoint of our
60-year-old power brokering bureaucrat?
Strategically it all points to massive investments into internal
Presenting the problem to the population as a mutually exclusive choice
between an uncertain dangerous freedom and an assured survival under
the securing umbrella of the trustworthy state becomes more easy the
further the various crises develop. The more wealthy parts of the
population will certainly require protection from illegal immigrants,
criminals, terrorists and implicitly also from the anger of less
affluent citizens. And since the current system values rich people more
then poor ones, the rich must get their protection. The security
industry will certainly be of happy helpful assistance, especially
where the state can no longer provide enough protection for the taste
of the lucky ones.
Traditional democratic values have been eroded to the point where most
people don't care anymore. So the loss of rights our ancestors fought
for not so long ago is at first happily accepted by a majority that can
easily be scared into submission. "Terrorism" is the theme of the day,
others will follow. And these "themes" can and will be used to mold the
western societies into something that has never been seen before: a
democratically legitimated police state, ruled by an unaccountable
elite with total surveillance, made efficient and largely unobtrusive
by modern technology. With the enemy (immigrants, terrorists, climate
catastrophe refugees, criminals, the poor, mad scientists, strange
diseases) at the gates, the price that needs to be paid for "security"
will look acceptable.
Cooking up the "terrorist threat" by apparently stupid foreign policy
and senseless intelligence operations provides a convenient method to
get through with the establishment of a democratically legitimized
police state. No one cares that car accidents alone kill many more
people than terrorists do. The fear of terrorism accelerates the
changes in society and provides the means to get the suppression tools
required for the coming waves of trouble.
What we call today "anti-terrorism measures" is the long-term planned
and conscious preparation of those in power for the kind of world
The Technologies of Oppression
We can imagine most of the surveillance and oppression technology
rather well. Blanket CCTV coverage is reality in some cities already.
Communication pattern analysis (who talks to whom at what times) is
frighteningly effective. Movement pattern recording from cellphones,
traffic monitoring systems, and GPS tracking is the next wave that is
just beginning. Shopping records (online, credit and rebate cards) are
another source of juicy data. The integration of all these data sources
into automated behavior pattern analysis currently happens mostly on
the dark side.
The key question for establishing an effective surveillance based
police state is to keep it low-profile enough that "the ordinary
citizen" feels rather protected than threatened, at least until all the
pieces are in place to make it permanent. First principle of 21st
century police state: All those who "have nothing to hide" should not
be bothered unnecessarily. This goal becomes even more complicated as
with the increased availability of information on even minor everyday
infringements the "moral" pressure to prosecute will rise. Intelligence
agencies have always understood that effective work with interception
results requires a thorough selection between cases where it is
necessary to do something and those (the majority) where it is best to
just be silent and enjoy.
Police forces in general (with a few exceptions) on the other hand have
the duty to act upon every crime or minor infringement they get
knowledge of. Of course, they have a certain amount of discretion
already. With access to all the information outlined above, we will end
up with a system of selective enforcement. It is impossible to live in
a complex society without violating a rule here and there from time to
time, often even without noticing it. If all these violations are
documented and available for prosecution, the whole fabric of society
changes dramatically. The old sign for totalitarian societies -
arbitrary prosecution of political enemies - becomes a reality within
the framework of democratic rule-of-law states. As long as the people
affected can be made looking like the enemy-"theme" of the day, the
system can be used to silence opposition effectively. And at some point
the switch to open automated prosecution and policing can be made as
any resistance to the system is by definition "terrorism". Development
of society comes to a standstill, the rules of the law and order
paradise can no longer be violated.
Now disentangling ourselves from the reality tunnel of said 60-year-old
bureaucrat, where is hope for freedom, creativity and fun? To be
honest, we need to assume that it will take a couple of decades before
the pendulum will swing back into the freedom direction, barring a
total breakdown of civilization as we know it. Only when the oppression
becomes to burdensome and open, there might be a chance to get back to
overall progress of mankind earlier. If the powers that be are able to
manage the system smoothly and skillfully, we cannot make any
prediction as to when the new dark ages will be over.
So what now?
Move to the mountains, become a gardener or carpenter, search for
happiness in communities of like minded people, in isolation from the
rest of the world?
The idea has lost its charm for most who ever honestly tried. It may
work if you can find eternal happiness in milking cows at five o'clock
in the morning. But for the rest of us, the only realistic option is to
try to live in, with, and from the world as bad it has become. We need
to built our own communities nonetheless, virtual or real ones.
The politics & lobby game
So where to put your energy then? Trying to play the political game,
fighting against software patents, surveillance laws, and privacy
invasions in parliament and the courts can be the job of a lifetime. It
has the advantage that you will win a battle from time to time and can
probably slow things down. You may even be able to prevent a gross
atrocity here and there. But in the end, the development of technology
and the panic level of the general population will chew a lot of your
victories for breakfast.
This is not to discount the work and dedication of those of us who
fight on this front. But you need to have a lawyers mindset and a very
strong frustration tolerance to gain satisfaction from it, and that is
not given to everyone. We need the lawyers nonetheless.
Talent and Ethics
Some of us sold their soul, maybe to pay the rent when the bubble
bursted and the cool and morally easy jobs became scarce. They sold
their head to corporations or the government to built the kind of
things we knew perfectly well how to built, that we sometimes discussed
as a intellectual game, never intending to make them a reality. Like
surveillance infrastructure. Like software to analyze camera images in
realtime for movement patterns, faces, license plates. Like data mining
to combine vast amounts of information into graphs of relations and
behavior. Like interception systems to record and analyze every single
phone call, e-mail, click in the web. Means to track every single move
of people and things.
Thinking about what can be done with the results of one's work is one
thing. Refusing to do the job because it could be to the worse of
mankind is something completely different. Especially when there is no
other good option to earn a living in a mentally stimulating way
around. Most projects by itself were justifiable, of course. It was
"not that bad" or "no real risk". Often the excuse was "it is not
technical feasible today anyway, it's too much data to store or make
sense from". Ten years later it is feasible. For sure.
While it certainly would be better when the surveillance industry would
die from lack of talent, the more realistic approach is to keep talking
to those of us who sold their head. We need to generate a culture that
might be compared with the sale of indulgences in the last dark ages:
you may be working on the wrong side of the barricade but we would be
willing to trade you private moral absolution in exchange for
knowledge. Tell us what is happening there, what the capabilities are,
what the plans are, which gross scandals have been hidden. To be
honest, there is very little what we know about the capabilities of
todays dark-side interception systems after the meanwhile slightly
antiquated Echelon system had been discovered. All the new stuff that
monitors the internet, the current and future use of database
profiling, automated CCTV analysis, behavior pattern discovery and so
on is only known in very few cases and vague outlines.
We also need to know how the intelligence agencies work today. It is of
highest priority to learn how the "we rather use backdoors than waste
time cracking your keys"-methods work in practice on a large scale and
what backdoors have been intentionally built into or left inside our
systems. Building clean systems will be rather difficult, given the
multitude of options to produce a backdoor - ranging from operating
system and application software to hardware and CPUs that are to
complex to fully audit. Open Source does only help in theory, who has
the time to really audit all the source anyway...
Of course, the risk of publishing this kind of knowledge is high,
especially for those on the dark side. So we need to build structures
that can lessen the risk. We need anonymous submission systems for
documents, methods to clean out eventual document fingerprinting (both
on paper and electronic). And, of course, we need to develop means to
identify the inevitable disinformation that will also be fed through
these channels to confuse us.
Building technology to preserve the options for change
We are facing a unprecedented onslaught of surveillance technology. The
debate whether this may or may not reduce crime or terrorism is not
relevant anymore. The de-facto impact on society can already be felt
with the content mafia (aka. RIAA) demanding access to all data to
preserve their dead business model. We will need to build technology to
preserve the freedom of speech, the freedom of thought, the freedom of
communication, there is no other long-term solution. Political barriers
to total surveillance have a very limited half-life period.
The universal acceptance of electronic communication systems has been a
tremendous help for political movements. It has become a bit more
difficult and costly to maintain secrets for those in power.
Unfortunately, the same problem applies to everybody else. So one thing
that we can do to help societies progress along is to provide tools,
knowledge and training for secure communications to every political and
social movement that shares at least some of our ideals. We should not
be too narrow here in choosing our friends, everyone who opposes
centralistic power structures and is not geared towards totalitarism
should be welcome. Maintaining the political breathing spaces becomes
more important than what this space is used for.
Anonymity will become the most precious thing. Encrypting
communications is nice and necessary but helps little as long as the
communication partners are known. Traffic analysis is the most valuable
intelligence tool around. Only by automatically looking at
communications and movement patterns, the interesting individuals can
be filtered out, those who justify the cost of detailed surveillance.
Widespread implementation of anonymity technologies becomes seriously
urgent, given the data retention laws that have been passed in the EU.
We need opportunistic anonymity the same way we needed opportunistic
encryption. Currently, every anonymization technology that has been
deployed is instantly overwhelmed with file sharing content. We need
solutions for that, preferably with systems that can stand the load, as
anonymity loves company and more traffic means less probability of
de-anonymization by all kinds of attack.
Closed user groups have already gained momentum in communities that
have a heightened awareness and demand for privacy. The darker parts of
the hacker community and a lot of the warez trading circles have gone
?black? already. Others will follow. The technology to build real-world
working closed user groups is not yet there. We have only improvised
setups that work under very specific circumstances. Generic, easy to
use technology to create fully encrypted closed user groups for all
kinds of content with comfortable degrees of anonymity is desperately
Decentralized infrastructure is the needed. The peer-to-peer networks
are a good example to see what works and what not. As long as there are
centralized elements they can be taken down under one pretext or
another. Only true peer-to-peer systems that need as little centralized
elements as possible can survive. Interestingly, tactical military
networks have the same requirements. We need to borrow from them, the
same way they borrow from commercial and open source technology.
Design stuff with surveillance abuse in mind is the next logical step.
A lot of us are involved into designing and implementing systems that
can be abused for surveillance purposes. Be it webshop systems,
databases, RFID systems, communication systems, or ordinary Blog
servers, we need to design things as safe as possible against later
abuse of collected data or interception. Often there is considerable
freedom to design within the limits of our day jobs. We need to use
this freedom to build systems in a way that they collect as little data
as possible, use encryption and provide anonymity as much as possible.
We need to create a culture around that. A system design needs to be
viewed by our peers only as ?good? if it adheres to these criteria. Of
course, it may be hard to sacrifice the personal power that comes with
access to juicy data. But keep in mind, you will not have this job
forever and whoever takes over the system is most likely not as
privacy-minded as you are. Limiting the amount of data gathered on
people doing everyday transactions and communication is an absolute
must if you are a serious hacker. There are many good things that can
be done with RFID. For instance making recycling of goods easier and
more effective by storing the material composition and hints about the
manufacturing process in tags attached to electronic gadgets. But to be
able to harness the good potential of technologies like this, the
system needs to limit or prevent the downside as much as possible, by
design, not as an afterthought.
Do not compromise your friends with stupidity or ignorance will be even
more essential. We are all used to the minor fuckups of encrypted mail
being forwarded unencrypted, being careless about other peoples data
traces or bragging with knowledge obtained in confidence. This is no
longer possible. We are facing an enemy that is euphemistically called
?Global Observer? in research papers. This is meant literally. You can
no longer rely on information or communication being ?overlooked? or
?hidden in the noise?. Everything is on file. Forever. And it can and
will be used against you. And your ?innocent? slip-up five years back
might compromise someone you like.
Keep silent and enjoy or publish immediately may become the new mantra
for security researchers. Submitting security problems to the
manufacturers provides the intelligence agencies with a long period in
which they can and will use the problem to attack systems and implant
backdoors. It is well known that backdoors are the way around
encryption and that all big manufacturers have an agreement with the
respective intelligence agencies of their countries to hand over
valuable ?0 day? exploit data as soon as they get them. During the
months or even years it takes them to issue a fix, the agencies can use
the 0 day and do not risk exposure. If an intrusion gets detected by
accident, no one will suspect foul play, as the problem will be fixed
later by the manufacturer. So if you discover problems, publish at
least enough information to enable people to detect an intrusion before
submitting to the manufacturer.
Most important: have fun! The eavesdropping people must be laughed
about as their job is silly, boring, and ethically the worst thing to
earn money with, sort of blackmail and robbing grandmas on the street.
We need to develop a ?lets have fun confusing their systems?-culture
that plays with the inherent imperfections, loopholes, systematic
problems, and interpretation errors that are inevitable with large
scale surveillance. Artists are the right company for this kind of
approach. We need a subculture of ?In your face, peeping tom?. Exposing
surveillance in the most humiliating and degrading manner, giving
people something to laugh about must be the goal. Also, this prevents
us from becoming frustrated and tired. If there is no fun in beating
the system, we will get tired of it and they will win. So let's be
flexible, creative and funny, not angry, ideologic and stiff-necked.
This text was first printed in Die Datenschleuder #89, http://ds.ccc.de
in december 2005. It is published under the Creative Commons
Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.5/). Die Datenschleuder,
the Scientific Journal for Data Travelers, is published quarterly by
the Chaos Computer Club, Germany since 1984.
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