A DIFFERENT TALE OF TWO BROTHERS

 

NOT SO LONG AGO, IN A NEARBY LAND, there were two brothers, Hermann and Albert. It is said, as children they loved each other dearly. Hermann became a famous warrior, his younger brother Albert a decent merchant. Then in their country, an evil king arose who seduced the hearts and the minds of the people by promising riches and land for free. Riches, not earned by their own endeavors, but by suppressing foreign peoples, murdering the citizens, stealing their property. The evil king turned the country into a dark empire. Hermann became his ardent follower, Albert instead opposed the evil king viciously.

Hermann who climbed up the career ladder in the dark empire converted himself into an infamous mass murderer, responsible for the deaths of millions. Albert instead refused to bow to the evil and saved as many people as possible from the persecution of his brother and the evil king. Finally, Hermann, who became second in command in the dark empire, brought the war to many countries. Albert instead supported the resistance against the evil king and his brother and helped prisoners to flee.

Hermann turned himself into an inhumane monster. Albert turned himself into a savior of the weak and defenseless, a hero of humanity.

Our place in life is not predetermined by birth, race, family, sex, circumstances, intelligence, education, social status. We chose ourselves where we go, only we are responsible for our decisions.

As you might have thought, this tale is no fairy tale, it is a real-life story. Both brothers had the same surname, Goering. Hermann Goering, second in command in the Third Reich, who served the evil king Hitler, was put on trial at Nuremberg, sentenced to death and committed suicide. His younger brother Albert Goering suffered for the rest of his life from the dark shadow of his infamous brother and lived a decent life. In Germany, he was never honored for his outstanding demeanor until today. It is reported, that Hermann, the evil brother, saved Albert, the good brother, several times from the Gestapo due to his paramount influence.

Why is this tale told on LinkedIn? Both brothers were successful political and economic leaders. But only one of them contributed to the success of a humane civilization, to humanity. Success as such is not enough, it is worthy only with a positive aim.

Do We Have a Right to Mental Privacy and Cognitive Liberty? Consequences for customers and developers of tech products.

In his impressive article “Do We Have a Right to Mental Privacy and Cognitive Liberty?” (Scientific American, 2017) the Swiss scientist Marcello Ienca describes the challenges which privacy faces in the light of new technologies which include interference in neurological processes, our brain.
All new technologies ignite fears. As scientists warned with the introduction of the railway, velocity above 30 km/h would be deadly for humans, they warn today light speed traveling would be fatal. Despite all technology optimism, skeptics help to recognize flaws in time, detect dangers before they become life threatening.

New technology to intrude into privacy
Ienca describes the moral and ethical risks of new technologies which interfere in deepest corners of privacy. The warrant “the thoughts are free, no-one can detect them” which was taken for secure, is devalued. He cites various new methods and devices which interfere in the “inner privacy” without the knowledge and consent of the affected person. Ienca stresses on uses for the military, usage in courts, predatory marketing studies: “With the growing availability of Internet-connected consumer-grade brain-computer interfaces, more and more individuals are becoming users of neurodevices.”

Ienca refers to possible misuse of neurological devices for “brainjacking”. Subsequently he demands a “reconceptualization of the right to mental integrity.” which allegedly is met by Article 3 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights “as a right to mental health [which] should not only protect from mental illness but also from illicit and harmful manipulations of people’s neural activity through the misuse of neurotechnology.”.

The political dead-end-street
To protect the individuals from losing their “right to psychological continuity [which] might preserve people’s personal identity and the continuity of their mental life from unconsented external alteration by third parties” he cites an initiative of the European Parliament for a global ban of research “which seeks to apply knowledge of the chemical, electrical, (…) or other functioning of the human brain to the development of weapons which might enable any form of manipulation of human beings.”

Curiosity trumps morals
To shield individuals, humanity from the misuse of technology by banning research was never a good idea in human history. It is was never possible to ban humans from following their curiosity if for the good or the evil. Those who want to stop research to protect us from the evil, inhibit unwillingly the research for the good as well.

The popular game when children keep their hands in front of their eyes and rejoice excitedly: “You can’t see me” does not work in the world of adults. The more promising tangible way is to address the alleged dangers as early as possible, fight misuses relentlessly, following the old game of cops and robbers.

Enhanced privacy, morality has a price
For the technology world, it means, to develop appropriate products which meet the demand of the customers. If the latter want products which respect their privacy, the tech world should offer them. Ads relying on business models derive from the early period of the Internet when customers were not willing to pay subscription fees. As the internet evolves, business models evolve too and those customers who emphasize on enhanced privacy as part of their lifestyle and morality will be willing to pay a premium.

GOOGLE’S LANDMARK MOVE

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The  “right to be forgotten” is valued as a landmark decision of the European Union’s Court of Justice (ECJ). In brief, it allows the removal of names, information from search results which plaintiffs find to be ‘inadequate’ or ‘irrelevant’. Despite the wishy-washy character of the wording which could mean all or nothing to be removed, dependent on the subjective assessment of a court, it is a dangerous sentence in regard to the freedom of information, science, historical facts. At worst, genocides could disappear from the landscape of information under political influence.

A Landmark Move
Given these uncertainties, Google’s move to appeal France’s highness court has a landmark character itself, demanding clarity in the swampy thicket of wording. Until now, no notable European organisation sued in regard to this questionable sentence. Google shows balls in a situation where European authorities in Brussels have decided this company be their prior target in their conflict with the “American Internet Giants”, claiming monopoly issues.

The Alternative
The European Union’s Court of Justice decision should simply be removed, “forgotten”. This is the 21st century, the politics of suppressing information should be past history. Of course, deliberately false information have to be removed, which is not a matter of a nebulous “right to be forgotten”. All disputed information should not be removed as long as they are based on verifiable facts. The involved participants should have the right instead to add their views to the scrutinized information in comments, statements which clarify their position.

TECH VS. STATE – STALEMATE? (ACT 3)

From a foreign perspective the Fed’s calling of the ‘all writs act’ into game sounds like a governmental declaration of defeat. Especially when scrutinizing the cases when this weapon of last resort sould be used in “…. the absence of alternative remedies—the act is only applicable when other judicial tools are not available“. Are really all means exhausted? Or is this just a sequel of the last standoff between tech and state?

The forth and back goes on as anticipated, indeed quite entertaining. But the question is no more who blinks first, but who has the most supporters in state and civil society. The Feds did not answer the pivotal question about the alternative remedies, because until today they never were seriously challenged. Due to the rule of law, they are used to have the upper hand since 1776. But does this recipe still work in the 21st century?

A dynamic equilibrium always needs to be adjusted, permanently. This is valid for all societies, predominantly democracies. The 21st century seems to become the century of the civil society and the citizens are the heroes of history, of their own history. Sorry government, today the balance leans more in the direction of the citizens.

Though it looks like a stalemate, an argument without winners, the show is not over yet. As in a movie drama, the participants must show muscles, determination, grim faces to convince us, the audience, how seriously they are about their position. Some participants in the political circus yet demand for a compromise. But there is no compromise needed, just a joint will to solve the task collaboratively. The tech community is savvy enough to develop sophisticated tools to give the governmental agencies means to do their job adequately while preserving privacy as well.