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2300AD & 2320 Discussion of the original 2300AD from GDW, the revised 2300 from Mongoose Publishing, or QLI's 2320AD.

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  #31  
Old June 1st, 2008, 01:34 PM
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Azania isn't exactly a Libertarian paradise. They simply don't have the political will to spy on their citizens all the time. There are other Earth-bound nations that aren't surveillance states, but with one exception they are all Tier 4 countries. That exception is Texas. Iran in particular holds itself up as a bastion of free thought and action. (The irony does not escape me, and is indeed intentional.)

It's not so much that star-faring nations become surveillance states, but more that surveillance states become star-faring, in large part to provide a safety valve for their citizens who can't, or won't cope. It's not just the surveillance, but the whole accelerated lifestyle. Of course, access to off-world resources and markets is also a significant factor. For many smaller nations, the Tirane enclaves were enough to provide a release valve, but now Tirane is itself too civilized. Note that most Tiranean nations are full-fledged surveillance states as well. It just made sense to them as they matured.

Oh, and to be clear: Personally, I abhor the idea of a surveillance state. However, I see more nations tending that way, and I do understand the reasoning. I just don't agree with it. Anything more on the topic, though, and I would have to punt it to the Pit...
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  #32  
Old June 1st, 2008, 03:44 PM
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I just read Vernor Vinge's short story "Fast Times at Fairmont High", set in the same setting as Rainbow's End. This is a pretty plausible extrapolation of a near future high-bandwidth society. Although having a tremendous rate of change (this is after all the "inventor" of the Singularity) I think it wprks as a description of some advanced Core life pretty well, including the stress/fear of becoming obsolete. The surveillance isn't a Big Brother program, it emerges from all the smart technology everybody has everywhere - every link device, tag and sensor is doing surveillance by their nature. The surveillance states simply make use of all the available resources to protect/help the citizens, while the non-surveillance states let the data just lie around.
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Old June 2nd, 2008, 08:12 AM
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Something that has peripheral relevance to this whole situation is that a lot of people in America in 2320 probably wouldn't tell you they live in a Surveiliance/Police State.

The truth of the matter, sad or not is that most people don't really "use" the freedom they're given and won't even check to see if it's gone unless it's brought to their attention. The example I often use with this is about a curfew law.

Imagine if tomorrow, in your country, a curfew law is put into effect. This law requires that you spend nine hours out of every 24 inside your home, however, it only applies four days of the week, chosen by you. Furthermore, you're given four weeks off every year where the law doesn't apply to you at all.

Most people would rage incoherently against such a violation of their personal freedom, especially in the modern United States. However, if you really break it down, most of us would have no problems whatsoever complying with that law - the fulfillments of the law could probably be handled by those of us who don't travel on business quite easily.

I personally would think that "surveilance states" would vary in quality and how much they advertise how much surveillance they actually do. In many ways, many of us in urban areas already live in surveillance states, right now in the 21st century. Our images are caught by highway traffic flow cameras, private security cameras (tons of these), red light compliance cameras, cameras at the ATM, the dashboard cameras on a passing police car, etc. It's simply that these sources of surveillance aren't syncrochised unlike in 2320.

If daily life was molded around the idea of surveillance and so forth, I would somewhat doubt that any of us reading this thread would even care, beyond talking about how scary it is as cocktail parties or whatever. Otherwise, we'd just shrug and tolerate it as a simple cost of living in a technological society.
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  #34  
Old June 2nd, 2008, 11:33 AM
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Which is exactly my point. The surveillance state kind of crept up, both in 2320 and in the modern world. Cameras on stop lights, cameras on stores, cameras on police cars, ATMs, all done in the name of security. GPS trackers on phones, for emergency calls. RFID implants for locks, banking, security. Link all of these together, which is what the Link network was originally designed for, and Blam! instant surveillance state. In most nations, this information is sealed until needed, by police, rescue, what have you. But enough of it filters out to inform advertising, media, and anyone else who is really interested and has the time to dig.

Even the floating cameras are there for security. "If you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to fear"

Interestingly enough, the modern US is far more of a surveillance state than most people realize. And many not only accept it, but welcome it, in the name of security.
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Old June 2nd, 2008, 02:43 PM
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There is one surveillance camera ever 18 meter between my home and my office. Assuming I have found them all. Of course, by documenting them I have now revealed where I live to the entire Internet too.

I think the key question in real and imagined surveillance societies is how effective the use is. Most surveillance cameras in the UK are apparently useless, because they are placed in the wrong places, at too high angles, take pictures too seldom, are not recorded properly etc - they are better at intimidation than surveillance. Even when they work they can only help after an event; software like face recognition and "unusual behavior" detection produces too many false positives to be much help. But I have no doubt one could construct robust, workable, maybe even very livable surveillance societies. With enough accountability and transparency they might even be better than partially closed societies - maybe some Core countries are actually quite close to David Brin's "transparent society". After all, the reason we tend to fear surveillance societies is that we think the people who watch behind the cameras are unaccountable and possibly nasty. But many Core societies might have extensive privacy protection laws and functioning democratic control over their surveillance systems. It is the inefficient or unaccountable states that are really dangerous.

Surveillance societies add a twist to much roleplaying: how do you run an adventure if The Powers That Be can track everything and everybody? It takes a great deal more thinking and planning than the usual "you make a distraction, you flank them and we storm them!" One way is of course to be sneaky and have ways of evading surveillance - something many Core kids learn early on, and may develop as adults. Another way is for the issue to be outside of the interest - or competence - of the Powers That Be. A third way is to hide in plain sight - the first one to do something apparently strange loses.

For some ideas along these lines, check out Halting State by Charles Stross (TCP/IP over AD&D!), The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.
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Old June 3rd, 2008, 07:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anders View Post
Surveillance societies add a twist to much roleplaying: how do you run an adventure if The Powers That Be can track everything and everybody? It takes a great deal more thinking and planning than the usual "you make a distraction, you flank them and we storm them!" One way is of course to be sneaky and have ways of evading surveillance - something many Core kids learn early on, and may develop as adults. Another way is for the issue to be outside of the interest - or competence - of the Powers That Be. A third way is to hide in plain sight - the first one to do something apparently strange loses.
In an old Cyberpunk 2020 game I used to have group that had a very sinister purpose. It was a social engineering group of charming borderline sociopaths who called themselves "Hiding In Plain Sight" (yes, HIPS for short - term they loved to use because of how humorous and stupid it make their group sound, and thus would distract the observer). HIPS basically made it their purpose to sift through surveillance ESs and AIs and figure out what was necessary to "down a flag." Essentially, certain kinds of behavior always raise flags with such ESs and AIs. However, observers will often conclude that certain kinds of behavior might seem suspicious but is actually harmless ("we're here to protect the public trust, not to play psychiatrist!"). When behavior that normally raises red flags is overriden by human overseers, it's referred to in HIPS as "downing the flag."

HIPS loves people like this, because once they find them, they can generate an enormous databases of them. Every gated community has a few of these people. From that old woman who is actually pretty wealthy but insists on rooting through trashcans anddumpsters for recyclables, the guy who has secret agent fantasies but never does anything but sneak around in a ninja suit by night but is powerful executive by day, so is beyond harassment, the couple who are swingers so always have a variety of fellow swingers and callgirls and such always stopping by their house "discreetly."

HIPS makes it their business to know all of these kinds of people in an area and understanding surveillance software that has "downing the flag" subroutines in them already. These behavior profiles can then be sold (at very high prices) to people who really intend mischief who'll be overlooked because their red flag already went up before, then was verified as harmless, and nobody likes to be the one who files a false report. "Okay, dress like this old woman, we have her wardrobe monitored for the last three years. Buy it and get a wig of this color too. Now, she's always rooting around dumpsters in the business district, so the back cameras there are used to her if you go by there during the day. If you keep out of this camera and this camera here, nobody is going to notice you going through that old ventilation fan into the Jameston building. From there, you can access the underground water and power conduit over to the Trilon building..."
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  #37  
Old June 6th, 2008, 08:08 AM
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I just saw this article: 'Herds' of wary cars could keep an eye out for thieves. Sounds like just the reason to Link-enable your car. Of course, if you could hack the system things get really fun.

In my game one the PCs worked at a car shop (this happened before the above article, I have a creative game group). She cobbled cobbled together a small Link-device that she inserted into every car that came by the shop. Normally it would be quiet, to avoid detection. After a few months she sent an activation signal that made the cars "wake up" and tell other nearby cars to "wake up". Now quite a few cars were running her own private Link network on a secret frequency across town. When a hacker PC downloaded the right scripts they could even use the car network as rowing RFID/Link detectors - this way they found out where a compatriot had been taken. So in time for the big battle the hacker uploaded a nasty script that made the cars congregate close to the villains and then go berzerk.

The moral: Physical access always beats software security. Always check your car for foreign hardware and that it is not sending messages on unknown frequencies, otherwise it might suddenly decide to run into a minefield while broadcasting revolution propaganda...
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