So What's Wrong With Transparency Again?

from the trying-to-understand dept

I have to admit that I've now read Larry Lessig's article in The New Republic, Against Transparency, three times, and I still can't figure out what he's trying to say. He seems to be arguing against the concept of transparency because (1) it doesn't solve everything and (2) some bad stuff can happen from transparency as well. Finally, his argument seems to rest on the idea that if transparency doesn't solve everything, then people are going to push back against it. I don't find this argument particularly compelling. The thing is, it feels like a strawman. I haven't seen anyone who suggests transparency by itself is the end goal. Pretty much everyone seems to recognize that transparency is the first step in a process. Once you have the transparency, that enables others to build on that transparency -- whether it's analysis or tools for analysis. Lessig's piece seems to suppose that the point of transparency is that everyone will dig into the raw data -- which is an obviously silly notion. But if that data is exposed, then more people can actually provide those valuable tools and insights on top of it. And I don't see how that's a bad thing.


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    vivaelamor (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 4:44pm

    Irony.

    Maybe he is attempting a parody of the entertainment industries' arguments about why free is not a business model? Lessig argues that people will misuse transparency in much the same way as industry argues people will misuse free and no one will get paid. I think his argument holds out about as well under scrutiny as theirs.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 5:19pm

    "Pretty much everyone seems to recognize that transparency is the first step in a process."

    Well, in psychology the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 5:38pm

    As far as I can tell

    He seems to be saying, in a really un-Lessig-like roundabout way, that transparency won't solve corruption.

    Which, y'know, nobody who thought it through expected. At least not on its own.

    But that's not the only reason to expect benefits from transparency. So, whatever Larry.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 5:45pm

    This person is clearly an advocate of a top down information broadcasting structure.

    "Despite the best efforts of the most powerful, the control--so long as there is "an Internet"--is lost."

    http://www.tnr.com/print/article/books-and-arts/against-transparency

    Implying that the MOST POWERFUL should be in charge of the information that people get (the rich and the powerful).

    and notice his focus on optimizing the profitability of special interest groups and how profitability of those groups is such a concern.

    "Until quite recently, newspapers were among the most profitable local businesses. As one commentator calculated, average operating revenues even as late as 2000–2007 were 27.3 percent."

    These people still can't hide, even in their own language, that their true motives have very little to do with what's good for society and they have everything to do with what's best for the rich and the powerful.

    Another example

    "But, once the story of JAMA’s effort to silence a critic had been made public, that "gag rule" was of course doomed."

    This person seems to be for this gag rule, he seem to assert that people should be silenced even though the whistle blower sat on the complaint for FIVE MONTHS to no avail. The complaint was probably completely ignored, there was probably zero investigation going on, so alerting the public is the correct action. The public ought to be alerted from the get go, without even waiting five months.

    "A system of publicly funded elections would make it impossible to suggest that the reason some member of Congress voted the way he voted was because of money."

    Yeah right. There is the possibility of bribery. Or the possibility that the government only funds those that corporations lobby for them to fund. Without transparency we can't know, transparency is essential for this type of knowledge to be exposed.

    "Until the late 1990s, the record industry had a happy fate. Every couple of years a new format would best an earlier leader--eight-track beating the LP; cassettes beating the eight-track; CDs beating cassettes. Consumers would then eagerly migrate to the new thing. With that migration, new content would have to be bought. Old content had to be replicated. Music was like old library books that you would have to check out again and again and again--except that this lending was not for free.

    Along comes digital technology, and this model of profit was significantly threatened."

    Yeah, so. The model is a model of ripping off the public due to a lack of competition thanks to the government (ie: the FCC) controlling the airwaves and television in a way that makes it difficult for independent artists and musicians to get their work known to the public.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 5:48pm

    Re:

    "projects that are intended to reveal potentially improper influence, or outright corruption. Projects such as the one that the health care bill would launch--building a massive database of doctors who got money from private interests; or projects such as the ones (these are the really sexy innovations for the movement) to make it trivially easy to track every possible source of influence on a member of Congress, mapped against every single vote that the member has made."

    and what's wrong with that. I want this kind of transparency and everyone else should have this kind of transparency. This person acts like this is a bad thing. Removing this kind of transparency makes corruption MUCH easier, is that the real reason you want to remove such transparency?

     

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    Doctor Strange, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 5:52pm

    The end of the article is much clearer than the beginning. The article isn't even about transparency at all, per se. It's about the recent uptick in very digital, very disruptive techologies and trends. Transparency is just one example.

    The message, it seems to me, is that disruptive technologies tend to disrupt without particular, predictable ends in mind. That is their nature. And while many of the consequences may end up being good, some will end up being bad too: both for some, and for many.

    As such, we should not be unabashedly enthusiastic about these trends: we need to see if there are things we might do to mitigate the negative consequences without undermining the good consequences. Simply ignoring the negative consequences because there will be more good ones may not be a good idea.

    Lessig does not argue that transparency is bad. He does not argue that it is something we need to avoid. He argues that it is complicated. Good things can be expected from it. But he imagines some negative outcomes too. His thesis is not a solution, but a question: what should we do about this? What might we be able to preserve--somehow--that might be lost?

    His closing thought summarizes the lion's share of the issues I have with Techdirt and its perennial attitude of "Internet triumphalism:"

    "Reformers"--this is all you guys who are about to call me a Luddite and a shill--"rarely feel responsible for the bad that their fantastic new reform effects. Their focus is always on the good. The bad is someone else's problem...But as we see the consequences of changes that many of us view as good, we might wonder whether more good might have been done had more responsibility been in the mix."

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 6:09pm

    Re:

    "The end of the article is much clearer than the beginning"

    Yeah, skip the first nine pages and it'll make (a little) more sense.

    That said, I'm still thinking Larry was hung over or something when he wrote this.

     

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    herodotus, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 6:12pm

    I don't agree with this article, but I think that it is an attempt to be intellectually honest.

    In other words, he is acknowledging the downside of the kind of creative disruption that he usually embraces.

    It's like the way he sometimes writes of Jack Valenti almost admiringly, despite the fact that they disagreed about almost everything. So too does he recognize the possible problems with the some kinds of transparency, despite the fact that he is involved with things like the Sunlight Foundation.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 6:14pm

    Lawrence Lessig needs to have a plastic surgeon "remix" his chin.

     

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    Peter (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 6:17pm

    Makes sense to me

    What he's saying makes a lot of sense to me. First, transparency is not an end in itself. So when we're screaming for transparency, let's be clear on what we're seeking and why. Transparency attained without forethought to its purposes has 2 very bad effects: (1) it discloses stuff we really don't want disclosed. I myself, for example, am very torn about making public court files freely accessible online. They are public documents, and anyone can walk into a courthouse to see them. But availability online is a whole different matter. It makes available instantly to everyone all this nasty and stupid stuff that gets said and written in lawsuits and is understood by lawyers and judges in context as just so much b.s. Needless to say, the internets haven't shown themselves to be the best filters of nastiness. I think the example he gave about Peter Lewis and his daughter was a good one. Are we ready to have all the surveillance cameras in the country available to everyone online? Welcome to 1984, but instead of Big Brother watching it will be whatever nasty jerk wants to be digging up what seems like dirt to you.

    (2) The flood of information released pursuant to calls for transparency obscures as much as it reveals. Maybe it takes a litigator to understand this. How do big corporations beat little guys? Not by hiding stuff (that could get them in real trouble) -- no, instead they release it along with hundreds of other documents so you can never find it.

    In short, let's not just have transparency for its own sake (to the extent we can avoid it). Does that mean some arrangements for "top-down" filtering? Geez, maybe sometimes I'd rather some small group appointed to make the judgment decide which stupid little fact of my life gets released to the general public rather than, say, . . . (choose the nasty blogger of your choice).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 6:17pm

    "Any effort to protect the accused against unjustified criticism was abandoned."

    So is that to say that if a criticism disagrees with your opinion it is unjustified? Not all criticism is "justified" but that's the nature of free speech. People should be allowed to criticize regardless of whether or not you think a criticism is justified. Otherwise all criticisms that disagree with you will be censored.

    "Indeed, the mere charge of failing to disclose is enough to stain a reputation."

    and this is one of the main flaws in your argument. You assume that mere accusations are enough to convince the public at large that those accusations are true because the public is stupid with respect to evaluating the validity of those accusations and so a top down broadcasting structure should be in place whereby these accusations can be censored from the public and specific people get to decide what accusations are true and which ones are false.

    "The most obvious examples of this new responsibility for disclosure are data about the legislative process: the demand, now backed by the White House, that bills be posted to the Internet at least twenty-four hours before they are voted upon, or that video of legislative hearings and floor debate be freed from the proprietary control of one (easily disciplined) entity such as C-SPAN."

    First of all when it comes to legislative hearings they should ABSOLUTELY NOT be proprietary. This is a public issue and so the public should have free access to these videos and they should be allowed to freely distribute and discuss them.

    Secondly, if those videos are made public and non proprietary why is there a need to discipline anyone? Discipline me for what, watching the videos? For sharing them? If C - Span does something wrong like sue people for intellectual property infringement then yes, they should be disciplined. Or if they censor a specific video or if they cherry pick bits and pieces of a video while censoring other bits and pieces in order to promote their agenda. But why is there a need to discipline anyone if an entire video is made public? That makes no sense.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 6:20pm

    Re:

    "we might wonder whether more good might have been done had more responsibility been in the mix."

    You mean more government control to destroy the good for the people and create good for rich and powerful corporations at public expense under the pretext that it's being done to mitigate the bad.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 6:23pm

    Re:

    In other words, the potential need to discipline is created by giving C-Span proprietary control over the videos. Take away that control and the need to discipline anyone is almost eliminated so everyone is better off.

     

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    peter (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 6:34pm

    Makes sense to me

    er, that was "hundreds of thousands" of documents (not merely "hundreds") . . .

     

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    peter (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 6:42pm

    anonymity

    Coward - in a transparent world, we'd all easily be able to find out who you are and why you hang out here every moment of your life.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 7:28pm

    Re:

    "we might wonder whether more good might have been done had more responsibility been in the mix"

    I bet similar pretexts were used to allow the government/FCC to control the airwaves and cable television (ie: rights of way) to the benefit of corporations at the expense of society and look where that lead us. The airwaves were once similar to how the Internet is now where they were used as a means of communication but now it's turned into the nonsense that it is whereby important news that disagrees with big corporations gets censored. Cable television is no different thanks to government intervention but all of this was done under good pretexts of course.

     

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    Bob, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 7:33pm

    Re: anonymity

    Coward - in a transparent world, we'd all easily be able to find out who you are and why you hang out here every moment of your life.

    You're confusing transparency in government with individual privacy. They're not the same thing.

     

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    peter (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 7:42pm

    anonymity

    and you think transparency in government doesn't threaten personal privacy? think police surveillance. think court documents. think IRS files. think customs records. think voting records. think creditor liens. think e-z pass records. think red light cameras (hi, mike!). . .

    have you guys ever figured out that the government isn't the enemy? the government is us. oh, i forgot. we're all free and autonomous beings oppressed by the government (and liberated by markets!)

     

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    peter (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 7:43pm

    anonymity

    and you think transparency in government doesn't threaten personal privacy? think police surveillance. think court documents. think IRS files. think customs records. think voting records. think creditor liens. think e-z pass records. think red light cameras (hi, mike!). . .

    and if i want transparency, i want it from the corporate world! but Lessig's critique is applicable there too. It's easy: transparency isn't the issue. It's a tool that is sometimes useful, and sometimes a disaster. What you need to figure out is what you're trying to do and what tool will accomplish that purpose best.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 7:48pm

    I think Lessig wants far more radical campaign finance reform (he doesn't just want corporate campaign contributions watched, he wants them eliminated completely) and that increased "transparency" will just lull people into a false sense of thinking they can see the corruption, when really even with "transparency" it's very hard to know what the things that you're seeing really mean.

    It's like gay rights activists who are against laws permitting civil unions: they feel that although this might provide short-term solutions to important practical issues, compromising now won't completely solve the underlying problem and may make solving it for real harder in the future if people think the compromise seems reasonable.

     

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    peter (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 7:57pm

    campaign finance

    Coward: you prove one of Lessig's points about the problem with transparency. He isn't suggesting transparency is a short-term fix for campaign finance problems that would be better fixed with a more profound overhaul. He's saying: It's no fix at all! And acting like it's even a short-term fix is doing nothing but perpetuating the ongoing state of things in which the common wisdom is that everyone is bought-and-paid-for and so nothing can get done. Is everyone bought and paid for? No, but many are. What good does it that I can trace who's paying what to whom? It doesn't stop the money from flowing, and if there's influence in the money, there's influence. Should a Senator refuse money? Yeah, and they guy who gets the money will be elected. A lot of good that does.

    So the point is: transparency is not a goal! It's only a tool, good for some things and not good for others. When you start to treat it as an end in itself you aren't just being ineffective or less effective; you're actually screwing yourself.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 8:28pm

    Re: campaign finance

    but you are still building upon the strawman that anyone claimed transparency solves everything. No one claimed transparency solves everything but it's an important step towards finding a solution. The first step towards solving a problem is admitting you have one. If we don't know a problem exists then we can't really solve it and corruption will abound moreso than if transparency existed. Transparency must be followed through with action on the part of the people to vote based on who's the best candidate and to vote out corrupt politicians and to protest and stand up for our rights. If we just know everything and didn't act on anything then nothing will get solved. We have to act on that transparency as well. But with no transparency we don't know what needs to be done so we don't know what to do and so corruption will abound even if we are willing to act to reduce the corruption if we did know about the corruption.

    But perhaps your problem is that you don't want us to know about the corruption because you don't want us to act to reduce it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 8:31pm

    Re:

    "when really even with "transparency" it's very hard to know what the things that you're seeing really mean."

    Yes, because we're all stupid and we need someone to remove that transparency and, with us in the dark, dictate to us what everything really means because they're somehow less stupid than us.

     

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    Bob, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 8:32pm

    Re: anonymity

    and you think transparency in government doesn't threaten personal privacy? think police surveillance. think court documents. think IRS files. think customs records. think voting records. think creditor liens. think e-z pass records. think red light cameras (hi, mike!). . .

    First of all, I don't generally let anyone tell me what to think.

    Second, transparency in government means in the operation of the government. It doesn't mean police surveillance. I can see why you're confused if that's what you're thinking.

    have you guys ever figured out that the government isn't the enemy? the government is us. oh, i forgot. we're all free and autonomous beings oppressed by the government (and liberated by markets!)

    Heh, the prisons are full of people who didn't seem to understand the difference between themselves and the government and proceeded to live by their own rules. But hey, since they ARE the government, I suppose they can just let themselves out, right? What malarkey.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 8:32pm

    Re: Re: campaign finance

    "when really even with "transparency" it's very hard to know what the things that you're seeing really mean."

    But if we can't see anything then we're left moreso in the dark in terms of knowing what anything means.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 8:36pm

    Re: Re: anonymity

    "the prisons are full of people who didn't seem to understand the difference between themselves and the government"

    They're also full of non - violent criminals.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 8:43pm

    Lessig's basic point (which some people missed, and some people trivialised) is that there are dangers to making government transparent, because the public and institutions such as the media do not take the time to analyse information. Lessig also attempts to make clear the difference between information and knowledge - you can have all the information about the government at your fingertips, and it might not help you at all.

    Say your Congressman disclosed their financial records, and had significant donations from a telecom company after they voted for a bill that company was in favour of. Bribe? Subtle financial influence? Or legitimate donation by a private company that thinks this politician knows his stuff?

    Say that Congressman posted his daily schedule every morning, and he had a lunch meeting with one of the VPs from that company. There's a bill that will affect telecom regulation coming up. Maybe the telecom is wooing votes. Maybe that VP went to school with your Congressman, and they're catching up. If the Congressman put that up as the reason for the meeting, would you be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt?

    Lessig is saying that making information available is dangerous, unless it is analysed and presented in a responsible way. And I think it's a fair point.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 8:43pm

    It is like anything. Absolute anything (no transparancy, transparency, total copyright, no copyright, total patent, no patent) is a problem. It is almost an unrealistic state of being.

    Lessig for once has written something that appears to try to look at both sides of the subject. It's probably disappointing to the masses who are use to what is perhaps a more dogmatic approach.

     

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    peter (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:18pm

    It's not a question of incremental change vs. radical change. Sometimes transparency is useful change, and sometimes it does nothing but cause harm both by exposing stuff that has no business being exposed and by masking a need for change in the appearance of incremental change.

    All those people in prison were enemies of the government? Weren't some of them our enemies too? Like the rapists, murderers, terrorists, inside traders . . . .

    In order for government to operate, we necessarily have to entrust it with a lot of private information. Do you really want all that exposed? And, if not, who's going to draw the line between what's transparent and what's not?

    Look, sunshine just does nothing sometimes. Take a look at Louis Brandeis, who is the author of that "sunshine is the best disinfectant" truism. He thought "Scientific Management" would make business more efficient, and the efficiencies would redound to the benefit of the working man. When corporate heads realized their workers could do ten times as much work for the same pay, do you think the result was 5 times more time off for the workers? That's what Brandeis thought would happen. Hah. See http://tiny.cc/ELOCf

    Just giving everyone more information doesn't do a damn thing. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it hurts. But if you can't accept that, then you just don't get Lessig.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:21pm

    Re:

    "because the public and institutions such as the media do not take the time to analyse information."

    well then the people will take the time to analyze it. I don't need them to give me their bias opinion from on high, I can analyze it and come up with my own opinion and everyone will come up with a more accurate opinion with more transparency than with less. As any marketer will tell you, more data is better, we can always mime the data for whatever we want. We don't need people from on high, like the media, to tell us what to think with their analysis.

    "Lessig also attempts to make clear the difference between information and knowledge - you can have all the information about the government at your fingertips, and it might not help you at all."

    Having more information is better than having less.

    "Say your Congressman disclosed their financial records, and had significant donations from a telecom company after they voted for a bill that company was in favour of. Bribe? Subtle financial influence? Or legitimate donation by a private company that thinks this politician knows his stuff?"

    Disclose it to the public and let them decide. Why should you, or ANYONE, be the ultimate authority over what gets disclosed. Because you get to decide that you think the people are stupid and will misinterpret it so they shouldn't have the info? What a bunch of nonsense.

    "Lessig is saying that making information available is dangerous, unless it is analysed and presented in a responsible way."

    Just disclose it, we the people analyze it and present it on various blogs in all sorts of ways for anyone to analyze.

    "If the Congressman put that up as the reason for the meeting, would you be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt?"

    because the public is stupid and information shouldn't be disclosed to them as a result. We're all idiots.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:24pm

    Re:

    "It's probably disappointing to the masses who are use to what is perhaps a more dogmatic approach."

    What's disappointing is the fact that corporations get a disproportionally dogmatic influence over the government and our laws and the laws are entirely one sided in their favor at public expense. But to the extent that we are dogmatic, GOOD. The public has a right to be dogmatic, if a politican doesn't like it DON'T RUN FOR POLITICS. NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO. PERIOD. Others will run. You run for politics your life is subject to public scrutiny because otherwise corruption does abound. The laws in place are proof of that (just look at the insane length of intellectual property).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:32pm

    Re:

    Wow, appeals to fiction to prove your point. I guess your argument is so poor that's what you must resort to.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:33pm

    Re:

    "But if you can't accept that, then you just don't get Lessig."

    because if I don't agree with you I must misunderstand something. Excellent logic.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:40pm

    Re:

    "Lessig is saying that making information available is dangerous"

    Yes, it's dangerous to the profit margins of rich corporations who want to create corrupt negotiations with officials behind closed doors.

    "Maybe the telecom is wooing votes. Maybe that VP went to school with your Congressman, and they're catching up. If the Congressman put that up as the reason for the meeting, would you be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt?"

    Does the politician generally meet with the telecom official right before such votes? If not, well, that would at least be suspicious. Would I jump to conclusions? Would others? Who knows, but we have a right to know because this stuff affects public policy. If the politician votes in favor of the telecom corporation after the meeting people will get suspicious and they should because it's a suspicious act. We have every right to know because otherwise corruption can occur behind closed doors and politicians can simply deny it. The potential for corruption and the loss to society as a whole by making it a rule to leave people in the dark far outweigh any benefits gained to politicians by allowing them to hide such information. You don't like it don't run for politics.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:44pm

    Re:

    "Just giving everyone more information doesn't do a damn thing."

    It does more good than giving them less information.

    "we necessarily have to entrust it with a lot of private information."

    When it comes to personal privacy of individuals like social security numbers, sure. But when it comes to government transparency we should accept nothing less than full disclosure.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 10:37pm

    I bet most of those that advocate less government transparency also advocate that blogs not have safe harbors when it comes to not revealing their sources.

     

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    Coises (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 10:50pm

    The greater danger

    Consider the fundamental question regarding freedom of speech: Is it more dangerous that (with full freedom of speech) a speaker might find an audience for malignant ideas? or that (without freedom of speech) we might, perhaps even with all good intention (or, quite possibly, otherwise) suppress information that would expose our errors?

    The United States has, thankfully, thus far been nearly consistent in fearing the latter possibility more than the former. It seems to me that transparency must follow the same paradigm. Misinformation will be spread; erroneous conclusions will be drawn; but these are errors that can be rectified, and we can grow in sophistication and so learn to make them less frequently. The errors from which we can never learn, because we were never allowed to discover them, cannot be corrected.

    I can imagine that we will make mistakes with greater transparency. I’m confident they will be fewer, and shorter-lived, than the mistakes we will make without it.

     

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    Doctor Strange, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:08pm

    Re: Re:

    well then the people will take the time to analyze it.

    In general, no, they won't, for any definition of "analyze" that warrants using the word. Some small fraction of people will take the time to analyze it, and in a tremendous sea of data, various subgroups of these people will be able to draw any conclusions they want. As the amount of data grows larger, analysis becomes exponentially more complex. This presents a number of fundamental problems:

    1) It is very easy to make a mistake and draw incorrect conclusions, even if you are being conscientious.

    2) It is also easy to massage the data and the study methodology to draw conclusions that are favorable to you.

    3) It is technical and labor-intensive to check someone else's work and make sure they didn't do (1) or (2).

    4) Laypeople will be unable to understand the mechanisms by which data is analyzed, and therefore will be unable, in general, to check results independently.

    5) Good analyses are harder and take longer than bad ones. If everyone has an equal voice, then there will be many times more reports, and earlier, of bad analyses than good ones.

    6) Explanations of why one analysis of the data is better than another will also be too technical for laypeople to understand or evaluate.

    7) In the absence of the ability for the lay population to evaluate analyses on technical merit, they will instead evaluate them on other factors: the perceived authority of the person supporting the analysis, the ability of the spokesperson for a particular analysis to be articulate and engaging, because it confirms what they already believe, because the analysis has been oversimplified to the point of uselessness (but such that it's more understandable) and so on.

    How do you intend to address these issues? Or do you? Shall we just ignore them and assume that everything's going to be okay, because the Internet is Magic and more (more bloggers, more analysts, more analyses) is always better?

    You will, of course, read the above and decide that I am some kind of fascist, because the only conclusion you will be able to draw is that I am for locking up information and not disclosing it. I'm not. I fully understand that locking data up has severe negative consequences. What I do not know is whether there are ways to encourage productive and responsible use of the data and discourage counterproductive and irresponsible use.

    I don't need them to give me their bias opinion from on high, I can analyze it and come up with my own opinion and everyone will come up with a more accurate opinion with more transparency than with less.

    Actually, unless you have fairly advanced training in statistics and oodles of time on your hands, no, you can't analyze it. Not properly anyway. I'm sorry if this offends your egalitarian, anti-intellectual sensibilities.

    Having more information is better than having less.

    This is the same dogmatic trap Lessig is urging you to avoid. The system is too complex to be wrapped up in a Twitterable nugget like this. This statement is not true. It's not false, either. It's a true statement in some cases, and not in others (I know, for example, that I love sausage, and the less I know about how it's made, the better).

    Disclose it to the public and let them decide. Why should you, or ANYONE, be the ultimate authority over what gets disclosed. Because you get to decide that you think the people are stupid and will misinterpret it so they shouldn't have the info? What a bunch of nonsense.

    And again, the trap. You assume there are only two solutions: lock up the data and give someone authority over it, or release it all and let the chips fall where they may. Is there some middle ground that can release the data and encourage responsible use of it? Should we even try to encourage responsible use?

    Just disclose it, we the people analyze it and present it on various blogs in all sorts of ways for anyone to analyze.

    This is a wonderful, Capra-esque vision for the good that could come out of disclosure. Undoubtedly, a few people, even bloggers, will have the expertise and the time to analyze data responsibly, as well as be gifted enough to articulate it to the public at large. This will be unprecedented in critical ways.

    At the same time, the floodgates will open. For every good piece of analysis, there will be hundreds or thousands of bad ones. Done half-assedly at best, or with an agenda at worst, they will be far less truthful, but also simpler. In fact, pesky things like subtlety and nuance that decorate the truth will be removed to maximize moral outrage and the fiery and absolute correctness of one side of the debate. Pundits will loudly claim that their opinions are now backed up with solid data. Alongside invective, they will have charts and graphs. Many people who now simply don't understand things like statistics and science will come to fully distrust them.

    It's not that you get one or the other. It's not "a new era of public involvement and introspection" vs. "pundit doomsday." You get many aspects of both. If we are to turn the crank of transparency, or any other game-changing force, the good will take care of itself, but we need to decide what to do with the bad. We can ignore it and hope it goes away. We can shift the blame onto entities we don't like: "The Government!" "Evil Big Corporations!" "The Media!" "Evil CEOs!" "IP Maximalists!" Anyone but us. The irony is that they are us - even though you will deny it, or at least insist that, while they may be us, they are certainly not you.

    It's been a long post, so let me reiterate: stopping transparency or limiting disclosure isn't the answer. The answer won't fit in a Twitter post. It won't be implementable overnight. It won't even solve the whole problem.

    I'm gonna look for it anyway, though.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:17pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "What I do not know is whether there are ways to encourage productive and responsible use of the data and discourage counterproductive and irresponsible use."

    You mean, whether there are ways to force people to use data in a way that agrees with you.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:20pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "In general, no, they won't, for any definition of "analyze" that warrants using the word."

    You still assume that the masses are stupid and that I, and the general population, needs you to censor information and opinions in order to enlighten us with your opinion. No thanks, I don't need your condescending attitude.

    "and in a tremendous sea of data, various subgroups of these people will be able to draw any conclusions they want."

    Because if all the evidence shows that the moon exists, with the tremendous sea of data, I can reasonably convince everyone it does not. Right.

     

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    Doctor Strange, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:28pm

    Re: Re:

    But when it comes to government transparency we should accept nothing less than full disclosure.

    And where do you draw the line? And why do you get to draw it?

    The Government is a very, very big entity. And its borders are fuzzy. Every member of the military, every civil servant, every professor at a state university, every grad student that works for that professor, every scientist with an NSF grant, every district attorney and public defender, every policeman, firefighter, and every public schoolteacher is receiving some or all of their salary from The Government. Just because your paycheck comes from a corporation doesn't necessarily exempt you: huge segments of the economy are populated by government contractors and subcontractors.

    What, then, constitutes full disclosure? Who, of the above, is subjected to "full disclosure" policies? Where do you draw the line between public and private information? How do you distinguish privileged and security-relevant information from information that should be public?

    It's tough to draw such a line. You say "fine, only elected officials." What about their staffs? Their consultants? Their administrative assistants?

    These aren't easy questions to answer, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't ask them.

    In this context, what does a Twitter soundbite like "when it comes to government transparency we should accept nothing less than full disclosure" add to the debate?

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "and in a tremendous sea of data, various subgroups of these people will be able to draw any conclusions they want."

    and let them draw the conclusions they want. So big deal. They have plenty of scientific data, they are free to draw the conclusion that the moon doesn't exist. Now convincing the rest of the world? That's a different story.

    "1) It is very easy to make a mistake and draw incorrect conclusions, even if you are being conscientious."

    Ok, so lets just now ban scientists from doing any research. It's just going to add more data which will make it easier to make mistakes.

    "2) It is also easy to massage the data and the study methodology to draw conclusions that are favorable to you."

    Yeah, I can more easily massage the data and studies to draw the conclusion the moon doesn't exist if it's favorable to me. Good luck convincing others.

    "3) It is technical and labor-intensive to check someone else's work and make sure they didn't do (1) or (2)."

    It's impossible to check someones work if the data is not available. At least with available data it becomes POSSIBLE. Lets see, difficult vs impossible.

    Plus, blogs act like a peer review forum, I don't have to check everything. I check some facts, others check other facts, and we all share them on relevant blogs where interested people hang out. We cite our sources accordingly. They do it in science, it's called peer review. By your logic this should not exist and data should not be made available because it's too cumbersome.

    "4) Laypeople will be unable to understand the mechanisms by which data is analyzed, and therefore will be unable, in general, to check results independently."

    Yes, because people are generally stupider than you and hence only you should be able to determine what people should be exposed to as a result. How condescending.

    "5) Good analyses are harder and take longer than bad ones. If everyone has an equal voice, then there will be many times more reports, and earlier, of bad analyses than good ones."

    If everyone has an equal voice people will naturally choose the good analysis and choose the people that tend to have good analysis over the bad ones. You are assuming people are stupid and can't distinguish between good analysis and bad ones because you're the only one smart enough to do so and hence you should be given an unlevel playing field. The mainstream media, which does have an unlevel playing field thanks to our broken government, is VERY BAD at giving good analysis and they censor important information and give us bad analysis. I go to blogs exactly because they are much better at giving good analysis. What you want is to censor good analysis and turn the Internet into the broken system that our mainstream media has become.

    "6) Explanations of why one analysis of the data is better than another will also be too technical for laypeople to understand or evaluate."

    Yes, because the people are stupid and only the elists are technical enough to understand the issues.

    "7) In the absence of the ability for the lay population to evaluate analyses on technical merit, they will instead evaluate them on other factors: the perceived authority of the person supporting the analysis, the ability of the spokesperson for a particular analysis to be articulate and engaging, because it confirms what they already believe, because the analysis has been oversimplified to the point of uselessness (but such that it's more understandable) and so on."

    A: They can evaluate them on these other factors just as much with mainstream media as they could with blogs and there is no reason to believe that someone with an unlevel playing field will give any more accurate information.

    B: again, you're assuming that people are less able than you to come to a correct conclusion because of your superiority.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:32pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "And where do you draw the line?"

    Policy makers, those who make laws, those who sign or veto bills, those who pass laws, judges who make decisions that set precedent.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:41pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "but that doesn't mean we shouldn't ask them. "

    Absolutely, but what you want is to turn the Internet into the nonsense that mainstream media has become.

    "If everyone has an equal voice"

    Everyone ABSOLUTELY deserves the ability to voice their opinion on a public forum for everyone else to read all over the world. There is absolutely no reason to assume that you, or the mainstream media, or anyone is superior than anyone else voicing his/her opinion and hence they should be given a government granted unlevel playing field. Our broken mainstream media is the result of your elitist assumption and this should not be tolerated.

     

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    Doctor Strange, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You mean, whether there are ways to force people to use data in a way that agrees with you.

    No, actually, I don't.

    (As an aside, I would have thought that it would have taken a little longer for someone to call me a fascist).

    Information is a powerful tool. We are surrounded by powerful tools, all of which can be dangerous. We keep them around because, as dangerous as they may be, they are perhaps even more useful.

    Electric power. Table saws. Automobiles. Handguns. Nuclear power.

    These things are all regulated. I can't just put a big homemade generator on the power grid. Table saws come with a blade guard. I need government-approved training and an aptitude test to operate an automobile, and there are a number of constraints about how I operate it (I have to wear a seatbelt, I can't be texting or holding a phone to my ear, and I need a government-approved serial number bolted to both the front and the back). Nuclear power is tightly controlled.

    Just because there are regulations does not mean that the purpose of these regulations is "to force people to use [them] in a way that agrees with you."

    For all the above regulations, I'm sure I could find at least one person (and, thanks to the Internet, probably a whole community of people) who sees each one as an unnecessary and draconian restriction of their personal freedom - all of them government attempts to control their lives and keep them docile.

    Even the purest of powerful tools - speech itself - is lightly restricted in the United States.

    In all these cases, it is an extremely delicate balance. That we are imperfect at achieving it does not mean it is not a worthwhile goal.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:43pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "and every public schoolteacher is receiving some or all of their salary from The Government."

    Yes, and teachers are subject to scrutiny as well. See ratemyprofessor.com . Guess what, the world didn't come to an end.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:46pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "huge segments of the economy are populated by government contractors and subcontractors."

    People should know exactly how much government money each contractor receives and who receives what government money. It's taxpayer money, taxpayers have a right to know.

    "In this context, what does a Twitter soundbite like "when it comes to government transparency we should accept nothing less than full disclosure" add to the debate?"

    It adds to the debate that when things likely affect public policy the public has a right to know.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Information is a powerful tool."

    and why should mainstream media or corporations or the government be the only ones who have that power? Why should the government pick and choose who has that power?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I need government-approved training"

    When it comes to criticizing the government or lawmakers I shouldn't need government approved anything to do so.

     

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    Doctor Strange, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 11:56pm

    and why should mainstream media or corporations or the government be the only ones who have that power? Why should the government pick and choose who has that power?

    You're making a long string of posts that all seem to be going in the same, erroneous, direction. Specifically, you are caricaturing me in a way that's a little bit insulting.

    I proffered no solution to the problems I outlined. None.

    On the other hand, you are taking every problem I state and seemingly deciding that there is only one solution to the problem: usually the most obvious and naive one, usually, such as banning speech or research or providing government privilege for some group or other. You then decide that, perhaps since you can conceive no other solution to the problem, that I must be an advocate for this solution, and then you are lambasting me for holding that position.

    Stop.

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 12:06am

    Re:

    "I proffered no solution to the problems I outlined. None."

    You are making a problem where there is little to no problems. You are exaggerating the alleged problems with your assumption that people are generally stupid and certain hence people should be given an unlevel playing field. You demonstrate this with the word, "If everyone has an equal voice, then there will be many times more reports, and earlier, of bad analyses than good ones."

    You are saying that if everyone has an equal voice then we allegedly have these (exaggerated) problems suggesting you don't want everyone to have an equal voice. You are exaggerating the problems, I am merely showing you that you are making an issue where there is none. Now why would you do that? Perhaps because the issue really is that you want to turn the Internet into the nonsense that mainstream media has become.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 12:07am

    Re:

    "you are caricaturing me in a way that's a little bit insulting."

    HAH.

    "4) Laypeople will be unable to understand the mechanisms by which data is analyzed, and therefore will be unable, in general, to check results independently."

    This is insulting. This is insulting the masses. People are "laypeople" and don't know anything. Again, you are making an issue out of nothing by assuming people are generally stupid.

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 12:19am

    Re: Re:

    sp/...with your assumption that people are generally stupid and certain hence people should be given.../with your assumption that people are generally stupid and hence certain people should be given...
    ______________________

    ""well then the people will take the time to analyze it.

    In general, no, they won't, for any definition of "analyze" that warrants using the word.""
    ___________________________________

    More examples of your insults. and when you use terms like, "Laypeople" and "If everyone has an equal voice" you are suggesting that only people YOU deem non - laypeople should be given an unlevel playing field and everyone else should be silenced.

    Sure, to some extent more data may add more confusion, but it adds a LOT more clarity.

    Assume people didn't have enough data to know that the earth went around the sun and people thought the sun went around the earth. Adding more data will help clarify the matter. Sure it may add confusion on new issues, like all the issues we have now (ie: how does gravity work, etc...) but later those issues get resolved with that new data. Then more confusion comes alone (ie: relativity) and then later that gets resolved. Now we have more confusion (quantum physics) with more data. So what? More things are clarified and our understanding advances with more data. Adding more data clarifies our existing understanding and allows us to move on to a greater understanding regarding new, more sophisticated topics that require more data to understand. But without that data nothing can be clarified. Yes, there is less confusion, people still think the sun goes around the earth and it is the consensus without any confusion, but our beliefs are then very primitive and inaccurate despite the lack of confusion.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 12:27am

    Re: Re: Re:

    More data doesn't give us a less accurate view of the world, it gives us a more accurate view of the world with more completeness. The view of the world with less data means that we don't understand relativity or quantum physics which means our view of the world does not include that and if it exists and we don't think it's there our view is then inaccurate (because quantum physics, relativity, etc... exist independently of our awareness). Along comes more data and our view expands to include these existences and hence our view of the world becomes more accurate and complete. Sure, more data may yield more questions as well (ie: well, now we solved relativity but what about quantum physics) but as our understanding of physics at this level increases due to the availability of more data, our view of the world becomes more accurate and complete

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 12:44am

    Re:

    "I proffered no solution to the problems I outlined. None."

    But we already have solutions, its' called blogs and discussion forums and places where people can peer review others and present their ideas and your ideas must compete in the free marketplace of ideas. If it can't compete then it's your failure to come up with ideas that are convincing to the masses. Just like with science. You're too late in terms of coming up with solutions, it's been done.

    Regarding the layperson, the layperson is likely to be uninterested in the subject altogether (otherwise they would study the subject matter and soon would not be a layperson because their studying would give them a better understanding of the issue. Note, a level playing field would give this person a better opportunity to study the subject matter from a wider scope of views) with or without everyone having an equal voice while an interested person will likely fact check as much as possible and read opinions from many different people to come to a reasonable conclusion. But giving everyone a level playing field gives the interested people a greater opportunity to research a wider scope of opinions, including opinions from other interested people, and to test their opinions against the opinions of others in discussions which will help everyone come to better conclusions. People with an unlevel playing field, as mainstream media has abundantly demonstrated, tend not to go into details of an issue, they tend to ignore and censor many issues and only talk about generalities from a one sided bias perspective. Allowing everyone a level playing field allows niches of people to focus on issues more specifically than what is presented by those with an unlevel playing field. Uninterested laypeople are likely to listen to the broken mainstream media anyways.

     

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    Doctor Strange, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 12:48am

    Re: Re: Re:

    More examples of your insults. and when you use terms like, "Laypeople" and "If everyone has an equal voice" you are suggesting that only people YOU deem non - laypeople should be given an unlevel playing field and everyone else should be silenced.

    I'm afraid not, on both counts. Please stop.

    You somehow have decided that 1) I deem myself capable of doing complex analysis of large data sets and coming to well-reasoned conclusions myself and 2) I deem myself capable of anointing others to do so.

    I assure you that neither is true.

    Labels like "smart" and "stupid" are derogatory and pretty irrelevant here, not to mention subjective. Objectively, I have lots and lots of formal education. Unfortunately for me, it's not primarily in the areas of statistics or, say, economics. Despite all my training and experience, I lack the expertise to perform or properly evaluate a really in-depth analysis of many kinds of complex data. With respect to this, I, too, am a layperson.

    Perhaps my concerns spring from the fact that I have some inkling of an idea of how difficult, technical, and nuanced a really good analysis is.

    Have you ever read Freakonomics? It's a neat book. It shows that if you've got enough data, lots of time, and are a genius, you can draw some pretty amazing conclusions. (Before you call me an elitist again: that Levitt is a genius does not say anything about what you can do if you're not a genius; on that matter the book provides no data). The analyses described in it are not simple. I could not perform a single one of them. They controlled for dozens of variables, using extremely clever methods. In fact, not all of the analysis was primarily Levitt's - the section on drug dealer economics, for example, was based on years of research by another researcher, Sudhir Venkatesh. Although Levitt likely had the skill to do the analysis himself, he probably didn't have the time - and who can blame him?

    Was anything in that book true? To be honest, I have no idea. I don't have the time to check, and even if I did have the time, I don't have the skills. They could be pulling a real fast one on me and I'd never know. Is this because I'm stupid? No, it's because doing good analysis is hard. Just because the average person cannot do something does not make that person stupid. The average person cannot perform neurosurgery, does that mean that they're stupid? Of course not.

    Your continued assertions that I think the solution to these problems is that "non-laypeople should be given an unlevel playing field and everyone else should be silenced" are also incorrect. Again, perhaps this is the only solution you can think of.

    Here are some things we might consider that do not involve silencing anybody:

    Maybe we should increase our educational focus on topics like statistics. Maybe we should make taking basic statistics more mandatory, or at least more attractive. Maybe we should try to standardize objective quality measures for different kinds of analysis. Maybe we should focus on researching new visualization methods that make it easier to make sense of large amounts of data without eliding important details.

    Sure, to some extent more data may add more confusion, but it adds a LOT more clarity.

    Again, you implicitly accuse me of wanting to hoard or limit access to data, when I have advocated no such thing at all. All I asked was: given that we can expect both confusion and clarity, can and should we do anything to minimize the former and maximize the latter?

    Your opinion, if I understand it correctly, is that no, we should do nothing. The problems will take care of themselves. Professor Lessig would label you a "reformer," then, and whether you like that label or not, I would encourage you to take it up with him. From the original article, it seems that, unlike you, he isn't sure what to do.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 12:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Maybe we should make taking basic statistics more mandatory, or at least more attractive. "

    Basic statistics should be mandatory and it upsets me that I haven't taken a stats class all through high school, not a SINGLE STATS CLASS IN HIGH SCHOOL. I completely agree with this, everyone should take at least ONE stats class in high school.

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 1:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Your continued assertions that I think the solution to these problems is that "non-laypeople should be given an unlevel playing field and everyone else should be silenced" are also incorrect."

    With sentences like, "If everyone has an equal voice" you sure could have fooled me. Why even mention it if you don't think that everyone having an equal voice is a problem that needs to be resolved? Everyone having an equal voice is not a problem. A lack of education maybe a problem, as you mentioned, but everyone having an equal voice is not a problem.

    "The problems will take care of themselves."

    I don't think getting the government to regulate the free flow of information is a solution or even something we should entertain. More education on statistics in high school, absolutely, but getting the government to limit the free flow of information on the Internet, no.

     

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  59.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 1:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "A lack of education maybe a problem, as you mentioned, but everyone having an equal voice is not a problem."

    But a lack of education (ie: statistics) is a problem regardless of whether or not everyone has an equal voice.

     

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  60.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 1:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Your opinion, if I understand it correctly, is that no, we should do nothing."

    I think there is a lot we should do. We should either disbar the FCC or force them to allow more people to use the airwaves as a communication tool and to broadcast a wider scope of opinions and to allow independent artists to use the airwaves to broadcast their music without giving some unnecessary third party (ie: the RIAA or soundexchange or whoever else) money. We should either allow anyone to compete on the existing cable/telco infrastructure or we should allow anyone permission to build new infrastructure.

    All federal agencies should be ran by elected officials, especially our corrupt FDA, and they should be subject to reelection every two years. No unelected official should be allowed to pass laws (ie: FDA, FCC), laws that are passed/vetoed must be tied to specific elected officials who wrote and signed and/or vetoed them (ie: a group may vote on it but everyone should know exactly who wrote in each clause and who voted yes and who voted no for each bill and/or clause). Yes, a lot more needs to be done. Intellectual property lasts WAY too long. We need more transparency, more accountability, we need to fix our broken system.

     

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  61.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 1:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "It shows that if you've got enough data, lots of time, and are a genius, you can draw some pretty amazing conclusions."

    again, we already have solutions. We have blogs where you can come here and peer review us and correct us and where people can peer review and correct each other. People can write their own programs that crunch numbers and do more complicated calculations. Others can write other programs that do other calculations and everyone can generate and use these numbers to peer review one another to arrive at more accurate and complete conclusions. More data will lead to more accurate and complete conclusions, less data will inevitably lead to less accurate and complete conclusions.

     

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    Doctor Strange, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 2:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    More data will lead to more accurate and complete conclusions, less data will inevitably lead to less accurate and complete conclusions.

    Eventually, you're probably right. And, for the umpteenth time, I am not advocating the restriction of data or the hoarding of knowledge. But I do not share your confidence in the "marketplace of ideas." Will good ideas eventually win out over bad ones? For some value of "eventually," sure.

    It's the interim where we can do far better, and where I worry most. Let's recall some current, recent, and historical major market forces in the "marketplace of ideas," where some significant fraction (like 10% or more) of the U.S. population subscribe or subscribed. Please feel free to dispute whether there is or was sufficient data available in the following areas:
    • The theory of evolution is basically false. (Somewhere between 35-45% of Americans)
    • President Obama was not born in the United States. (42% of Republicans, which are a little less than half of the U.S., so figure ~20% of Americans).
    • George W. Bush had something to do with the 9/11 attacks. (25% of Democrats, again a little less than half so figure ~12% of Americans).
    • The Sun orbits the Earth. (18% of Americans)

    Others for which I can't find statistics, but for which it seems there is or was strong support:
    • Vaccines cause autism.
    • "Sub-prime" loans are a great way to provide more people with the "American Dream" - a home of their own.

    That last one is a pain in my particular ass. Yep, we did eventually find out that wasn't such a good idea. Too bad that, by the time the majority of people figured it out, my taxes are going to be fucked AND I'm not going to be able to buy a house for years. You also can't blame that one on the Big Evil Government or the Big Evil Banks. How many plain, ordinary people bought into that myth hook, line, and sinker?

    I could go on and on. The point is, just because an idea is correct or good does not automatically imply that it will be popular or accepted, especially in time to avoid critical social failures that affect everyone.

    It's not just a matter of data being available. Why is this? Because as with so many things, the product quality isn't the only thing in play. Guess what also plays a role: scientific illiteracy, innumeracy, misdirected incentive structures, educational failures, the unbelievable strength of confirmation bias, the almost equally unbelievable strength of wishful thinking, and so on.

    Having more data is not going to solve all of these problems. Nor will it be a pure and ultimate good: it may, in fact, aggravate some of these problems. If we see a huge influx of data coming down the pipe in the near future, shouldn't we be even more incentivized to prepare now?

     

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    CAS, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 2:24am

    Re:

    @Doctor Strange

    You're right, disruptive technologies will have negative effects. I think it's misleading to say that the effects will be negative for the many. In fact, if the net sum of consequences are bad for the many then the technology will not be adopted. Basic economics I think.

    As far as the few - yes, we should be cognizant of negative effects. Lessig notes some negative effects: loss of revenue for artists (well, actually the RIAA, artists are just earning more money through concerts now) or loss of revenue for newspapers. I'd like to note that while these are negative effects for these few, they are actually positive effects for the many. Now, music and news are widely available to everyone at their marginal cost (i.e. 0). Perhaps these negative impacts are actually positive ones. Poor business models deserve to die, not to be propped up because supporters have political clout.

    Lessig makes a fine point that we need to be careful. However, he uses poor evidence that seem geared towards protecting those who became rich from utilized the inefficiencies associated with relaying information.

    Lessig's best piece of evidence is regards to systemic misinterpretation of facts which may be caused by a rational lack of attention.

    However, if this were the case, wouldn't we, as rational human beings, begin to adjust our attention spans in order to better understand data? If not, then what Lessig is asserting is that the short attention span is in fact irrational and that is wary of providing information to the incapable public (but of course, that stance is untenable).

    I say forge forward with radical transparency and allow the public to sort out how to deal with it.

     

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  64.  
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    Doctor Strange, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 2:42am

    I think it's misleading to say that the effects will be negative for the many. In fact, if the net sum of consequences are bad for the many then the technology will not be adopted. Basic economics I think.

    Subprime loans and associated derivatives were just new financial technologies. How many people were they bad for? I guess we de-adopted them eventually. Did we do it in time? Now that we've seen the outcome, are we, collectively, preparing ourselves so it doesn't happen again? I don't mean "is the government doing anything about it," I mean are we seeing real social change?

    However, if this were the case, wouldn't we, as rational human beings, begin to adjust our attention spans in order to better understand data? If not, then what Lessig is asserting is that the short attention span is in fact irrational and that is wary of providing information to the incapable public (but of course, that stance is untenable).

    You would hope so, but I think the jury's still out on whether people, collectively, are rational and do things that are collectively in their best interests. When there's an overwhelming amount of data and expected outcomes become difficult or impossible to predict for the vast majority (and even for those dedicated to doing so), how do you make "rational" choices?

    Even then, there are potential counterexamples: you can make a pretty strong argument that large swaths of Americans, for example, do not vote their own interests in elections, and have not for decades. (Rather, they tend to vote the interests of people they admire or aspire to be like).

     

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    herodotus (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 6:59am

    "Maybe we should increase our educational focus on topics like statistics. "

    What 'we' should or should not make our 'educational focus' has little to do with what people actually learn. People can be force fed statistical analysis, certainly. But unless they actually care about what they learn and use it regularly it will enter the cognitive netherworld whence goes peoples knowledge of how to create a valid proof of the Pythagorean theorem, or the exact date that the Stamp Act was repealed. Most Americans have learned these things in grade school, but I dare say that very few remember them.

    "Maybe we should make taking basic statistics more mandatory, or at least more attractive. Maybe we should try to standardize objective quality measures for different kinds of analysis. Maybe we should focus on researching new visualization methods that make it easier to make sense of large amounts of data without eliding important details."

    Or, maybe we could simply stop acting as if statistics were a direct hot line to enlightenment. There is this horrible anti-philosophical tendency in our culture to act as if any assertion not 'backed up' by statistics is 'merely anecdotal'. And yet most of the great books of the western world are 'merely anecdotal' in this sense. At the same time, even economists who are in general agreement can argue endlessly over how to interpret a particular body of statistics.

    Now I am not saying statistics are meaningless, just that they aren't exactly a solid basis to build an epistemology on. If people stopped trying to do this, or worse, assuming that this is the only possible basis for knowledge, there would be less need for hand-wringing of the sort that Lessig is engaging in here.

     

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  66.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 7:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "More data will lead to more accurate and complete conclusions, less data will inevitably lead to less accurate and complete conclusions.

    Eventually, you're probably right."

    Without more data it will take LONGER to come up with more accurate and complete conclusions. Without a free flow of information it will take LONGER to do so and chances are we may NEVER even come up with correct and complete conclusions on many important issues.

    "Will good ideas eventually win out over bad ones? "

    restricting the free marketplace of ideas assumes that those doing the restriction are the ones with good ideas, which is nonsense.

    "That last one "

    You blame the Internet for that last one?

    regarding the other ones, so what, there are people that disagree with you on certain issues. They should have EVERY right to voice their opinion just like those who agree with you do, regardless of whether what they say is true or not. They have been voicing their opinion on the Internet and guess what, the world didn't come to an end. You're making an issue where there is none. In fact, the issue regarding many of these that I see is that the mainstream media and public schools are one sided and the Internet offers at least SOME balance. Yes, things need to change, public schools should present a wider variety of views and they shouldn't be so dogmatic. The vaccine autism link may or may not be true but to say that vaccine manufacturers, with deep pockets, don't have conflicts of interest and are unwilling to suppress important data and opinions to their gain is nonsense. People have EVERY RIGHT to freely discuss the issues regardless of whether or not their opinion is true. and what needs to change is for the mainstream media and for public schools to foster a wider variety of views even if you don't like them.

    "President Obama was not born in the United States."

    While I disagree with this, I've been in discussion forums where people have discussed in favor of this? Guess what, their misinformation gets corrected by others. Guess what, them expressing their opinion doesn't make the world come to an end. They have every right to believe that Obama wasn't born in the untied states and to freely communicate it all over the world. Yes, it may or may not be true, but that's absolutely no excuse to censor it.

    "Guess what also plays a role: scientific illiteracy, innumeracy, misdirected incentive structures, educational failures, the unbelievable strength of confirmation bias, the almost equally unbelievable strength of wishful thinking, and so on.'

    All this stuff comes in play with or without the free flow of information. The broken mainstream media, with their top - down structure, is no less subject to these problems than an Internet where the free flow of information exists. There is no reason to believe that public schools, mainstream media, or any authority is any more immune to any of these factors. The free flow of information will get us to a more complete truth faster than the restriction of the free flow of information.

     

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  67.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 8:08am

    Re:

    "You would hope so, but I think the jury's still out on whether people, collectively, are rational and do things that are collectively in their best interests."

    Giving people the communication structure to act collectively will only improve their ability to act in their own best interest. Now, if a company rips me off, I can communicate it to everyone and if enough people communicate it others can either protest or avoid that company. If the government does something wrong we can organize protests and communicate more meaningful discussions over who we need to vote for. To say that restricting the free flow of information is better in terms of allowing people to act collectively in their own best interest is nonsense. We should absolutely give NO ONE the authority to act as a gatekeeper/gateway of information, absolutely NOT, because the public is more capable of acting in its own best interest with the information than any gatekeeper of information, who would most likely act in its own best interest and not in the public best interest (as the mainstream media has demonstrated). The public is more capable of acting in its own best interest with more data and not less, and this is certainly true if corrupt entities like our mainstream media have any say over what information gets and doesn't get distributed. We have shown many times on techdirt that important information gets censored by mainstream media and only get recognized by them only AFTER it has been communicated via the Internet ( http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091012/2150126495.shtml ). If it weren't for the Internet COUNTLESS important issues would be hidden from the public view (and there is no reason to suggest that our broken mainstream media would even consider broadcasting these issues if it weren't for the fact that everyone already knew about them thanks to the Internet, so broadcasting them doesn't really change much after the fact). Yes, things need to be changed, our broken top - down mainstream media structure needs to be fixed, but the Internet is fine the way it is.

    Too much data is better than not enough data and more data is better than less data.

     

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  68.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re:

    Another example is this

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090917/0354056223.shtml

    "Why weren't those intrepid "only we can do investigative reporting" journalists taking on the issue? This week, the NY Times has an article by Olivia Judson explaining why: they're scared to death of being sued ,as well, thanks to draconian UK libel laws.


    But, it's also illustrative of how an interested group of "amateurs" can certainly band together and take on a project, even in places where reporters fear to tread."

    If it weren't for the free flow of information these issues would probably be COMPLETELY unknown to everyone given that mainstream media ignores them. But the free flow of information allows people to discuss important issues that are censored by our broken mainstream media. Yes, things need to change, our broken mainstream media needs not be a top - down structure and we need to turn the airwaves into more of an Internet like communication medium. Perhaps disbarring the FCC is a good idea or perhaps forcing them not to only serve corporate interests at public expense. But the Internet is fine the way it is, it need not turn into the broken mainstream media. and to say that, "we'll have many media outlets, it won't be censored" is a lie, we have shown it to be false many times on techdirt.

     

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    Rosedale (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 8:37am

    O'Reilly media

    O'Reilly has been trying for some time to open up Government and provide more transparency. There is actually a pretty big push from Tim O'Reilly. The idea is to get the "geeks" together to churn through data and do something useful with it.

    Anyway here was a take on Radar http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/10/larry-lessig-and-naked-transpa.html

    Data by itself won't solve anything, but doing something with that data can accomplish a lot. http://www.gov2summit.com/

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    While I disagree with this, I've been in discussion forums where people have discussed in favor of this (err, didn't mean to put a question mark after that one). In fact, here is a discussion on it that I read the first couple of pages (but I eventually stopped following up on it).

    http://forums.christianity.com/Right_Wingnuts_Still_Clinging_To_Obama_B%25C%25_Myth/m_444910 1/mpage_1/tm.htm#1

    Yes, people discussed the issue. Yes, people still think Obama was not born in America and they express their opinion. Guess what, the world didn't come to an end.

     

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  71.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 8:41am

    Re: O'Reilly media

    Sure, but less data means we have less data to do anything which which, by default, means less will be accomplished.

     

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  72.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 9:07am

    Re:

    "You would hope so, but I think the jury's still out on whether people, collectively, are rational and do things that are collectively in their best interests."

    Here is another example of people acting rationally and collectively acting in their own best interest because of the free flow of information.

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091005/0044246415.shtml

    If it weren't for the free flow of information the chances of the mainstream media acting in the best interest of the public are almost zero and chances are the public interest will be completely ignored (like it was before the free flow of information and still is in many regards, though less so now thanks to the free flow of information). The mainstream media acts only in its own best interest. But thanks to the free flow of information people are more able to act collectively in their own best interest and there is plenty of evidence suggesting that is exactly what they are doing. I think your problem is exactly that you don't want them to.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 9:39am

    Re: Re: O'Reilly media

    Sure, but less data means we have less data to do anything with which, by default, means less will be accomplished. *

     

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  74.  
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    Bob, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: anonymity

    They're also full of non - violent criminals.

    Absolutely. There are many nonviolent things that are illegal.

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    Not Surprised

    I have to admit that I've now read Larry Lessig's article in The New Republic, Against Transparency, three times, and I still can't figure out what he's trying to say....Lessig's piece seems to suppose that the point of transparency is that everyone will dig into the raw data -- which is an obviously silly notion. But if that data is exposed, then more people can actually provide those valuable tools and insights on top of it.

    I'm not terribly surprised you don't get it Mike. And the reason I'm not surprised is contained in Lessig's article (and was pointed out above):

    Reformers rarely feel responsible for the bad that their fantastic new reform effects. Their focus is always on the good. The bad is someone else’s problem.


    In the simplest terms, Lessig is pointing out the Law of Unintended Consequence. That a thing (transparency) is considered good, and may indeed be very good, does not mean that the results of the good thing will be themselves good. Even if it's the start of a process, the end of that process may not be what you expect it to be and may been much worse that what you had before.

    That's not to say that more transparency in our society is not a goal to strive for (I believe that it is), but that there will be adverse unintended consequences (there always are), and if you don't try to think about what some of those adverse consequences might be at the start of the process and deal with them, you're likely to get them.

    It's really not that difficult to grasp. A little more of that type of thinking could be good around these parts as well.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 1:49pm

    Re:

    It is like anything. Absolute anything (no transparancy, transparency, total copyright, no copyright, total patent, no patent) is a problem. It is almost an unrealistic state of being.

    Yeah, too little of anything is bad. Take baby rape, for example. Sometimes the little buggers just need to be raped. Absolutely outlawing it is just unrealistic. [/sarcasm]
    HUH? WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING?

    Copyright and patents are two other things that we would be better off without. Period. There is no "right amount" for some things.

     

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    Coises (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 1:56pm

    Dr. Strange, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Data

    A couple weeks ago, I saw a T-shirt that read:

    Common sense is what tells you the Earth is flat.

    In comments above, Dr. Strange develops a quite valid point introduced in Dr. Lessig’s essay: information does not equal understanding, and the path from the former to the latter is often neither fast, easy nor obvious. Outside of the range of problems and decisions with which we are engaged day-to-day, we are more often than not ill-equipped to reach trustworthy conclusions from raw data given the amount of time and effort we are (quite reasonably) inclined to apply to a given question.

    Recognizing a form of this problem two dozen centuries ago, Plato considered it a fatal flaw of democracy. We can perhaps dismiss as elitist Plato’s view of the common man, but that doesn’t resolve the dilemma. No matter how intelligent one might be, one has limits in training, in skill and in time. None of us can be “experts” in the analysis of more than a fraction of the matters which modern politics must contemplate.

    So my first observation is that this problem is real, it’s certainly not new — and it has nothing to do with the data increased transparency would provide. The problem is overwhelming now... in the political arena.

    My second observation is that we don’t see much of this problem outside politics; when we do, it happens when a question has become “politicized.”

    I don’t know how to bake bread. Yet I can buy the bread I like at the local grocery and leave the expert knowledge to the bakers. And thousands of people like me keep the bakers doing their job well, all of us exercising our free choice without knowing any technicalities. I’m sure bakers have their communities in which technical discussion thrives, techniques are proposed and details are analysed. Fortunately, the much larger bread-eating public doesn’t have to understand all that to both motivate and enjoy advancements in the art of baking. The marketplace doesn’t care about arguments — along the way, you may need to convince an investor or an executive of the merits of your proposals, but in the end, a real product must be delivered, and the characteristic of accurate conclusions is that they produce expected results, while inaccurate ones do not.

    In the sciences and other academic disciplines, peer review serves to implement a reality check. I’m a programmer, but I don’t happen to know much about designing pseudo-random number generators. However, if I require one in a program, I can relatively easily learn the salient points about the known methods of generation and their limitations (for example, that some which are easy to implement and suitable for casual games would be bad choices if significant adverse consequences could result from a user finding a way to predict a portion of the sequence). I can get information which is reliable, detailed and accurate enough to use for all but the most critical applications without repeating all the work that has been done to arrive at these conclusions. Reasons I can trust this include that anyone who chooses to investigate that field can access the information and arguments upon which contemporary conclusions are based, and that study and research continue. I and other programmers can benefit from the accumulated knowledge regarding pseudo-random number generation without having to learn all of its intricacies first-hand.

    In a more generic vein, consider Wikipedia. Given the breadth of subject matter, the diversity of source information and the openness of the editing process, I find it almost astonishing how worthwhile and generally accurate it is. Doubtless one can find errors; but it seems to me beyond doubt that Wikipedia dispels far more ignorance and misunderstanding than it engenders.

    Alas, the Wikipedia model is limited in its suitability for “politicized” topics. The market model doesn’t work for collective decision-making, where the impact of an individual choice does not fall primarily on the individual who makes it. And the academic model is too slow to arrive at conclusions which must be reached in months, not decades.

    “Serious” journalism, I think, was once expected to do the job of bringing the issues of the day to the public in a comprehensible fashion that could inform meaningful participation in democracy. If it ever approached that ambition, it’s surely jumped the shark by now.

    My final observation is simply that while we desperately need a mechanism for developing, validating and delivering expert knowledge regarding matters of political interest to ordinary citizens — and to politicians! — and we have next to nothing capable of doing that now, I see no models of such systems in other areas that rely on or benefit from restriction in the flow of information. (Arguably some market systems make use of some limits on information flow, but this is in a competitive context, where the development of the constrained information is allegedly promoted by the ability to constrain it. I can’t see any valid extension of that model to the sort of information in question here.)

    Indeed, I can’t help but think that the more information that is available about our political system, its issues, its actors, its inputs, its outputs and its methods, the greater the chances that a system will emerge that can “crowdsource” a real, openly reviewed and validated understanding of political issues and the choices we make — or that are made in our name — and their consequences.

     

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  78.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 1:59pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    What I do not know is whether there are ways to encourage productive and responsible use of the data and discourage counterproductive and irresponsible use.

    Oh yeah, I've heard that kind of talk before. It's often heard along with something along the lines of "When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you".

     

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  79.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 2:50pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    And where do you draw the line?
    I would draw it at the official duties of government employees and officials, not icluding their non-governmental activities.

    And why do you get to draw it?
    Well, you asked. If you don't want to know, then don't ask.

    The Government is a very, very big entity...blah blah blah...
    Oh boy, another "we're all the government" argument. Well, no, we're not. Did you get a income statement (W-2) from the the gov't last year? If not, then you probably weren't part of "The Government". There may be some exceptions, but it really isn't an impossible determination to make.

    Where do you draw the line between public and private information?
    Some examples. How much income taxes the gov't collected last year and from which classes they were collected: public information. Individual tax returns: private information.

    How do you distinguish privileged and security-relevant information from information that should be public?
    That can be difficult because claims of "national security" usually aren't challenged or reviewed by anyone with an interest in public participation in gov't. Having been involved in work under such conditions I can tell you that many times I dealt with things that were classified as secret even though we knew full well that every other gov't on the face of the Earth probably already knew all about it. The only thing the secret classification really did was to keep people from talking about it and causing public relations problems. Well know current examples are the ACTA negotiations.

    Now this doesn't mean that nuclear weapon designs, for example, should be made public. But ACTA negotiations aren't nuclear weapon designs.

    It's tough to draw such a line.
    Many things worth doing are "tough". That doesn't mean they shouldn't be done.

    You say "fine, only elected officials." What about their staffs? Their consultants? Their administrative assistants?
    And what about their kids? Their hair dressers? Their dogs? Again, I would mostly limit it to gov't employees. As to contractors, I would limit it to their interactions with gov't employees.

    These aren't easy questions to answer, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't ask them.
    Agreed.

    In this context, what does a Twitter soundbite like "when it comes to government transparency we should accept nothing less than full disclosure" add to the debate?
    It adds this kind of discussion.

     

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  80.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 4:18pm

    Re: Not Surprised

    "It's really not that difficult to grasp."

    The problem is that you're grasping at straws.

    "In the simplest terms, Lessig is pointing out the Law of Unintended Consequence."

    You mean the unintended consequences of allowing Lessig get his way or allowing pro intellectual property maximists to get their way or allowing the mainstream media and big corporations to get their way. The intent is good but the consequences are that the mainstream media turns into the corporate controlled nonsense that it is, innovation is hindered, the disparity between the rich and the poor increases, the government acts in the best interest of the rich and the powerful at public expense, etc... Those are the consequences of allowing a lack of transparency, which is exactly what our current system minus the Internet has done, and those are exactly the consequences you want.

    "I'm not terribly surprised you don't get it Mike."

    Yes, because people who disagree with you must misunderstand something. Great logic.

    "That a thing (transparency) is considered good, and may indeed be very good, does not mean that the results of the good thing will be themselves good."

    That a thing, translucency, is considered good (by big corporations) and maybe good (though it's not) does not mean that the end result is good. We've seen the end result, the end results is the airwaves becoming controlled by corporations who make a mockery of the FCC and censor important information, they result in the cable infrastructure turning into a monopoly where important news is censored, taxi cab corporations getting monopolies on how many people can become taxi cab drivers, all sorts of atrocities occurring with the obvious expectation that the public will not know about it because those who commit those atrocities know darn well mainstream media does not cover these issues. We've seen the bad that happens when you get your way and we're tired of it.

    "It's really not that difficult to grasp."

    No, it's not difficult to grasp. You want to commit atrocities at public expense and not have anyone know about it. I get it, it's not difficult to grasp.

     

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  81.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 4:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: anonymity

    illegal != unethical. Sure some nonviolent things are unethical but I'm specifically referring to the illegal things that should not be illegal.

     

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  82.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 4:26pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "And why do you get to draw it"

    Taxpayers get to draw it because they pay taxes.

     

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  83.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 4:36pm

    Re: Dr. Strange, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Data

    "In the sciences and other academic disciplines, peer review serves to implement a reality check."

    and in the public arena we have blogs where you and the experts and ANYONE can peer review others and are free to.

    "and the path from the former to the latter is often neither fast, easy nor obvious."

    but more data, just as in the case of science and peer review, invariably yields a better understanding than less data.

    "we are more often than not ill-equipped to reach trustworthy conclusions from raw data given the amount of time and effort we are (quite reasonably) inclined to apply to a given question."

    Less data makes us less equipped to reach trustworthy conclusions.

    "validating and delivering expert knowledge"

    and with this statement you defeated the last statement I quoted.

    Regarding the last statement I quoted, the same exact thing can be said about the alleged experts. What we don't need is government sanctioned "experts" who are somehow given an unlevel playing field simply because the government deems them experts. Not acceptable. They have to EARN their reputation in the free market place of ideas by gaining the trust of others. Ie: they can start their own blog and if they show themselves to be trustworthy (like Mike has) and good at fact checking people aren't stupid, they will figure it out and trust them as a more reliable source of information. But they can't steal it via any government intervention whatsoever, which is exactly what our mainstream media has done. That is not acceptable. Earn it, like Mike has, but don't steal it, like our mainstream media has.

    No one is stopping the "experts" from giving their opinion and starting their own blogs or going on here and giving their opinion. But what we don't want is for the government to give them an unlevel playing field. There is no reason to believe that their views should somehow not have to compete with EVERYONE ELSES criticisms and views in an open marketplace of ideas.

    "My final observation is simply that while we desperately need a mechanism for developing, validating and delivering expert knowledge regarding matters of political interest to ordinary citizens"

    You're too late, we have methods. It's called blogs, discussion forums, chat rooms, twitter, etc... where everyone peer reviews one another. Again, you're making a problem where there is none.

     

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  84.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 4:48pm

    Re: Dr. Strange, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Data

    "In comments above, Dr. Strange develops a quite valid point introduced in Dr. Lessig’s essay:"

    Dr. Strange had his way with respect to the mainstream media, the public airwaves, the FCC, etc... and look at the mess it's turned into. The mainstream media does almost nothing but lie to us, they censor important information from the public, they turn the issues that they don't censor into their intellectual property, cable television is overpriced and offers nothing but commercials and lies, the FCC has turned into a corporate mockery, and the whole thing is a disaster. We should not allow this person to get his way with respect to the Internet just like s/he did with respect to the mainstream media. This is just a ploy to turn the Internet into the nonsense that the mainstream media has become. Furthermore, we should be proactive in either disbarring the FCC or forcing them to serve public interests and not just private interests at public expense. Same thing with our broken FDA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  85.  
    identicon
    Bob, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 1:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: anonymity

    illegal != unethical.

    Um, okay, nobody said otherwise. So what's your point?

    Sure some nonviolent things are unethical but I'm specifically referring to the illegal things that should not be illegal.

    Yeah, there are things that are illegal that shouldn't be and things that should be that aren't. And people in prison that shouldn't be and people that should be that aren't. But the fact remains that if you decide that you're just as much "The Government" as the the real "The Government" and that you're going to live by your own rules then you may get to see the inside of those prisons first hand. So, what was your point again?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  86.  
    icon
    LostSailor (profile), Oct 15th, 2009 @ 2:31pm

    Re: Re: Not Surprised

    The problem is that you're grasping at straws.

    Pointing out that there might be unintended drawbacks, as Lessig does, is hardly grasping at straws.

    You mean the unintended consequences of allowing Lessig get his way or allowing pro intellectual property maximists to get their way or allowing the mainstream media and big corporations to get their way....Those are the consequences of allowing a lack of transparency, which is exactly what our current system minus the Internet has done, and those are exactly the consequences you want.

    We'll leave the rabid anti-corporate rant aside. Neither Lessig nor I are "pro intellectual property maximists (sic)". Lessig quite the opposite. Neither is he (or I) against greater transparency in either government or corporations; sorry, I won't let you distort my views.

    Yes, because people who disagree with you must misunderstand something. Great logic.

    Not at all. Mike is a smart guy, but he's a dedicated reformer, and as the quote from the Lessig article indicates, sometimes reformers don't stop to fully consider all the ramifications, both good and bad, of the reform, they are much more focused on the "good."

    You want to commit atrocities at public expense and not have anyone know about it.

    Yes, of course. You found me out. I want the public to pay for atrocities (torturing puppies and kittens? Men and women living together without the benefit of marriage? Playing Brittany Spears at top volume?) while keeping those horrors away from the prying light of day.

    ...taxi cab corporations getting monopolies on how many people can become taxi cab drivers, all sorts of atrocities...

    Hmmmm... Did someone get turned down for a hack license? I fail to see how greater transparency in government will get you a job driving a taxi.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  87.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 3:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not Surprised

    Yes, of course. You found me out.

    I think we could have already guessed. Some people think it must be "OK" if the gov't does it while others don't buy that excuse. It's a moral and philosophical difference that has existed far back into history and you're certainly not alone in that belief.

    Hmmmm... Did someone get turned down for a hack license?

    If there are limits on the number issued, then I would expect that some have. If you want to claim otherwise, you're going to need to present some kind of evidence to convince me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  88.  
    icon
    LostSailor (profile), Oct 16th, 2009 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Not Surprised

    Well, don't let thought or reading comprehension get in the way of your preconceived notions of what I think or believe. It's clear that you didn't really read my comment or grasp Lessig's point.

    And I never said that no one ever gets denied a taxi license. It may be a personal inconvenience for you, but it's hardly an "atrocity."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  89.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2009 @ 5:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not Surprised

    Well, don't let thought or reading comprehension get in the way of your preconceived notions of what I think or believe. It's clear that you didn't really read my comment or grasp Lessig's point.

    Not preconceived at all but based rather on your own writings.

    And I never said that no one ever gets denied a taxi license.

    Well, if you want to get technical, I didn't say you did either. See how that works?

    It may be a personal inconvenience for you, but it's hardly an "atrocity."

    I've never had any personal dealing with it, so no, it hasn't been. And nobody I know of claimed it was an atrocity either.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  90.  
    icon
    LostSailor (profile), Oct 19th, 2009 @ 8:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not Surprised

    Not preconceived at all but based rather on your own writings.

    Which part? The part where I explicitly say that I'm in favor or more transparency by government and corporations? Or the part you made up that I'm in favor of any government action just because it's government action and the public should be kept in the dark.

    I've never had any personal dealing with it, so no, it hasn't been. And nobody I know of claimed it was an atrocity either.

    Nobody you know of? You made that claim:

    We've seen the end result, the end results is the airwaves becoming controlled by corporations who make a mockery of the FCC and censor important information, they result in the cable infrastructure turning into a monopoly where important news is censored, taxi cab corporations getting monopolies on how many people can become taxi cab drivers, all sorts of atrocities occurring with the obvious expectation that the public will not know about it because those who commit those atrocities know darn well mainstream media does not cover these issues.


    If it was your intention to not include corporate control of the airwaves or limits on taxi licenses as "those atrocities," you might want to brush up on sentence structure and punctuation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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