Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,


I realize that my previous inflammatory comments could do with some explaining. When I some people of being emotion-driven rather than rational, I realize that without the context of what I mean, that can sound pretty damned bad.

I linked to a coverage of survey results suggesting that 7 in 10 Brits would be happy to trade freedom for safety. They'll accept mandatory ID, police tapping people's phones for mere suspicion and letting their email and bank details be freely available to the government. Basically, the government sees that you're overdrawn by £32.47 and they have a powerful tool against terrorism.

Or not.

The problem.
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
The solution.
Let the government watch you every second of every day because the government, fortunately, has the resources to do this. And they would never, ever abuse this privilege. Tony Blair will take care of that once the cash for peerage scandal dies down.

Anyone see a problem with that?

Here's a little analogy of the problem. Let's say that I'm programming a system which takes financial data and sends it through three computers before finally spitting out company reports.

                    +-------+   +-------+   +-------+
                    |       |   |       |   |       |
(Financial data) -->|   A   |-->|   B   |-->|   C   |--> (Company Reports)
                    |       |   |       |   |       |
                    +-------+   +-------+   +-------+

With me so far? Now what I'm about to explain happens every day, all over the planet. It's a major reasons why the software you buy is so buggy and full of security holes and crashes if you breathe on it funny.

Pam the programmer is picked by her big boss, Betty. She tells him "the reports coming out of 'C' are borked. Fix it now or get fired. Have a nice day."

So Pam looks and sees that sure enough, the reports are indeed borked. Maybe a column of numbers doesn't add up. Maybe the formatting is off. Whatever it is, she changes the code on 'C' and everyone's happy.

Except there's a problem. The bad code wasn't in 'C'. The bad code was in 'A'. Or maybe we were getting bad financial data. Pam, by putzing around with the end result, didn't solve anything. She put a band-aid on it and what's worse, she may even have thought she did the right thing. However, the bug is still there and waiting to manifest in other ways.

Would you trust a building contractor who tells you to just prop up your ceiling and doesn't notice the foundation of your home is crumbling? Would you trust a doctor who just throws drugs at you and doesn't bother to find out anything about your history? Would you want to turn the country into a police state without asking why we're seeing the problems we're seeing and trying to solve them? Apparently, 7 out of 10 people in Britain are quite happy with that.

Tags: 1984, philosophy, politics
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