How far does trust go?

Those paranoid posts in my last entry got me to thinking: at what point do you not trust your government, partner, etc? There are certain things we’d like not to believe; such as our government works in our best interests (duly elected to serve the people anyone?), and that our partner is always honest with us. Note here that I can accept a government ‘lies’ in the interests of the people, as long as it is in the interests of the people.

One day down at the World Trade Center I stood and watched a conspiracy theorist expound on his own beliefs about what happened on 9/11 and in Iraq. A group of college age kids was listening intently, with occaisional smiles between themselves, as he pushed flyers on them and told them what he believed to be true. Further back a group of middle ages guys stood shaking their heads and pointing, till one of their number eventually went up to the guy and told him what he thought (paraphrased here as “you’re crazy you are” but with a lot more expletives). The conspiracy theorist stood his ground and said “it’s all on the internet if you want to see for yourself” – to both the kids and the adults. The adults didn’t seem to want to hear that themselves and stormed off, swearing.

So what does this tell us? Everyone has certain beliefs they don’t want questioned. We don’t want someone to disprove the existance of God if that’s who we’ve put out faith in. We don’t want someone to tell us that our Prime Minister is a liar who was actively involved in the deaths of innocents. We don’t want to believe that man has not walked on the moon. The big lies are the easiest to believe sometimes. At what point do we start to question these beliefs?

Would there be an uprising against a government if people found out that government had been involved in faking or supporting ‘terrorist’ acts against their own people? I believe not. A few people might complain loudly. A few individuals in the government would be sacrificed. A few more people would ‘take their own lives’ rather than testify. So at what level of evidence does a ‘conspiracy theory’ become ‘fact’? Fact that is strong enough to motivate a change in behaviors amongst a populous that would rather sit and be force fed placating crap on the TV? To be honest I don’t know, although I’m inclined to think it requires a helluva lot these days having seen what evidence does get ignored.

So let’s look at this another way; say you found out something, something mind blowing that would cause such change. What would you do with it? Philip K Dick had a number of short stories about this, my favorite of which involved a fictional college run by the army, and blueprints of a secret engine of 1000% greater efficiency that the army was hiding – the student in question was faced with the choice of tell the administration or hand the idea over to the public. He chose the administration, and was booted out of the college for not being a free thinker. If only that was true.

These days the good old interweb offers you greater freedoms for such world changing information. For me, there’s my blog – but that could easily be pulled down should I say something too controversial (yes they are listening, to all of us – text search on keywords is not that hard). There are bulletin boards on shared servers, drunken conversations in bars or even television (but not Fox of course, unless you’re just in the business of scaring people even more – even CNN is less than positive, witness the other day when the words ‘London Attacks’ as a headline was presented with the word ‘London’ only half the size of ‘Attacks’ implying it could be anywhere, even in YOUR neighbourhood so watch out…). All of these are monitored in some way, even the harder to find newsgroups.

So I’ve come up with a couple of ideas, should anyone feel like using them; The first is simply to have peer to peer sharing of text based information, a ‘rumour net’ so to speak. Someone finds interesting ‘facts’ or rumours, they post it to the gossip net, it gets instantly replicated across 1000s of servers – both in hosted facilities and at people’s homes. Even if a government takes a dim view of certain information escaping then it’s hard to put that genie back in a bottle once it’s free. This idea has it’s good and bad sides, and still relies on you, the reader, to make up your own mind.

The other idea is more radical – total transparency of government. At present government documents are ‘de-classified’ (unless it’s too embaressing) after 50 years or so. However how are we to know what is kept classified or ‘lost’ in the process? Here’s a solution: using the aforementioned gossip web you release all government communiques using encryption keys that are changed on a daily basis. Current encryption methods keep information safe for a certain period of time before brute force hacking works, but that creates it’s own release date. Keys could be doubled up based on the level of security – with keys for differing levels of government applied successively. Hence you could always tell who was involved with a decision based on what keys were applied to the information. If this mechanism was linked to all government e-communiques then there would never be anywhere for people to hide should they be abusing their power. Or conversely, politicians who are as clean as they claim would be vindicated.

Of course this wouldn’t work in practice, there are always ways around it, but it’s a nice idea to believe that no government would be scared to deploy this method. In the meantime I’m going back to believing the only thing that ever happened at Area 51 was that aliens landed… faking moon landings? What a crazy idea! Surely the reason there aren’t manned scientific stations with telescopes on the dark side of the mood is because.. erm… it’s too dark! That’s it.

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