Al?xes in the news

Alex Halderman, University of Michigan computer security professor and my best friend from childhood (see previous Shtetl-Optimized coverage here and here), has been in the news again, with a new Internet anti-censorship system called Telex that he co-developed with Ian Goldberg, Eric Wustrow, and Scott Wolchok (see, e.g., here, here, here for more info).  Basically, Telex would let interested governments or ISPs help the citizens of (say) China or Iran access content that their governments are trying to block.  Having gotten hold of the Telex software (say, from a friend), the Chinese or Iranian websurfer would access an innocuous-looking website, but insert cryptographic tags into its HTTPS requests to alert an ISP along the way (not an ISP inside China or Iran) that it wanted to activate the anti-censorship service.

If you happen to be a high-level official at the State Department or a three-letter agency, or a wealthy philanthropist, I can think of few smarter things you could do than to support this kind of effort.  The system that Alex and his collaborators envision wouldn’t be trivial to deploy, but it’s certainly cheaper than aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, in other Al?x news, my cousin Alix Genter was splashed across the cover of Philadelphia Daily News this morning (you can read the accompanying article here).  What happened is that the owner of a bridal store in New Jersey called “Here Comes the Bride” refused to sell Alix a wedding dress, after finding out that Alix plans to marry another woman in New York State.  So now supporters of gay rights are having a field day with Here Comes the Bride’s Yelp page.

I wish both of these Al?xes the best, as they work toward a better world in their different ways.

37 Responses to “Al?xes in the news”

  1. fraac Says:

    China or Iran or Britain, if the recent noises from our government mean anything. Ugh.

  2. Mohsen Says:

    Like to fraac comment; why there is no button to say so :)
    I am really thrilled by the world enthusiasm toward our internet censorship ;)
    I have to use VPN to see the most of the web. As an example the Yelp page! I am not that interested either

  3. raoul ohio Says:

    It is not clear that this will be as effective as an aircraft carrier. Also, what are the odds that this turns out to be a good thing? Organizers of flash riots will find it handy.

  4. Sampaio Says:

    raoul ohio: That’s my concern too. I think a nation is sovereign about its laws, which should “evolute” naturally as a consequence of its people’s culture.

  5. Scott Says:

    raoul ohio #3: If you don’t think this would be a good thing, then you seem committed to saying that the Chinese and Iranian censorship regimes are not particularly bad things. Do you believe that?

  6. Scott Says:

    Sampaio #4: Then why couldn’t the US or some other country simply say: well, our sovereign laws, which have “evoluted” naturally as a consequence of our people’s culture, have led us to install anti-censorship systems like Telex in our ISPs, for the benefit of visitors to our websites from abroad? :-D

  7. Mike Says:

    “Also, what are the odds that this turns out to be a good thing?”

    What new technology can’t you say the same about — fire (arsonists), automobiles (hit and run drivers), blah, blah, blah?

    “why couldn’t the US or some other country simply say: well, our sovereign laws, which have “evoluted” naturally as a consequence of our people’s culture, have led us to install anti-censorship systems like Telex in our ISPs, for the benefit of visitors to our websites from abroad?”

    Exactly!!

  8. Jiav Says:

    My best wishes to Alix.

    As for Alex, isn’t it possible for a governement to instal Telex on some servers, so as to detect who’s trying to use it?

  9. Yatima Says:

    “Telex would let interested governments or ISPs help the citizens of (say) China or Iran”

    Scott, you need to become far more cynic. Like, far more.

    The only way our governments would be “interested” would be to pump propaganda cooked up in government buildings towards the receiver, grab the receiver’s IP address, try to contact him or her surrepetitiously for recruitement in a local “color revolution”, then deny everything if by accident the subject was made identifiable to local law enforcement through sheer ineptitude of the local “operators”.

    Half an hour later, some three-letter-agency guy would call up and ask if the reviled country could maybe submit an offer (denominated in USD) to torture a couple of kids on our behalf who, we think, might have been terrorists earlier.

  10. Ling Tao Says:

    You seem to take as gospel that the Chinese government has no right to censor the information accessible to its people, but you have not provided proof for this assertion. In fact, the Chinese government knows what is best for its people, not you. Such careless analysis would not be acceptable in a computer science paper; why invoke it in a political discussion?

  11. Scott Says:

    Yatima #10:

    It’s hard to see what point you’re trying to make. This sort of project wouldn’t have to be supported out of the goodness of anyone’s heart; rather, it would provide an extremely cost-effective way for many countries to further their national-security interests. Of course, it’s entirely possible that those countries will still be too stupid or shortsighted to do it—but even if so, does that mean that I shouldn’t even write on my blog that they ought to do it?

    All things considered, I’m a pretty cynical person, but I’ll confess to not being so cynical that I think the CIA would never try to destabilize a government it disliked, if in so doing it might also inadvertently advance some worthwhile cause. If you’re that cynical, I suppose I should feel sorry for you … but then again, why would such a thoroughgoing cynic even care enough to urge other people to be cynical as well? :-D

  12. Scott Says:

    Ling Tao #10: Actually, you’re mistaken. I am, in fact, the one person on earth who knows what’s best for the entire nation of China. How do you know I’m not? You haven’t provided any proof!

  13. raoul ohio Says:

    I am absolutely not in favor of China and Iran repression.

    BUT — I missed the part where you explained why this would not be used to enable, say, a another round of London rioting. For those snoozing last week, online organizing was a key enabling factor the Blighty dustup. Could be MIT next.

    BTW, I saw some interesting footage showcasing traditional British manners. A half dozen looters queued up while a shop window was broken, then waited in line to make their selections.

  14. Yatima Says:

    This is not a personal critique! ;-)

    Don’t be sorry! Be realist. Unfortunately in this time of headless and untransparent über-government this means being a cynic.

    “I think the CIA would never try to destabilize a government it disliked, if in so doing it might also inadvertently advance some worthwhile cause.”

    The CIA and various other TLAs does not think in worthwhile causes. They think in bureaucratic advancements and in pleasuring the most serious power brokers from D.C.

    Millions of dead people all swept under the rug of “unintended consequences” and “actions that were worth it” bear witness to that.

  15. Mike Says:

    raoul ohio #13: “BUT — I missed the part where you explained why this would not be used to enable, say, a another round of London rioting.”

    BUT — I missed the part where you explained why that new fangled invention “fire” would not be used to enable, say, a crazy arsonist to burn down a hospital full of babies. ;)

    Ling Tao #10: “In fact, the Chinese government knows what is best for its people, not you.”

    I don’t believe any government “knows” what’s best for its people, but after reading your comment, perhaps what you say is true in some limited cases.

    Yatima #14: This is not a personal critique ;), but you don’t seem so much like a realist, more like a propagandist. Obviously, you wouldn’t fit in with the CIA and the other three letter agencies, but there’s probably some openings on the other side.

  16. Scott Says:

    Raoul Ohio #13:

    I missed the part where you explained why this would not be used to enable, say, a another round of London rioting.

    Your argument makes no sense. What it would be used for is bypassing attempts at Internet censorship. And while some people use the Internet for bad things—not just organizing riots, but extortion, credit-card fraud, planning terrorist attacks…—in free societies, we tend to think the benefits of free speech outweigh the risks. As Mike pointed out, you might as well argue that the Internet as a whole should be shut down, along with cell-phone service, etc., because of the potential of rioters to use them.

  17. Scott Says:

    Yatima #14: In the sentence you quoted, I was pointing out that the CIA (like many other government agencies around the world) might have completely self-interested reasons to support anti-Internet-censorship projects—reasons having nothing to do with the abstract value of free speech. In response, you simply repeated your assertion that the CIA is evil. Even if true, that’s manifestly irrelevant to what I said. If you’re going to be that unresponsive, then further discussion is pointless.

    Is it just me, or is the quality of argument here the lowest it’s been on any Shtetl-Optimized comment thread in recent memory? Come on, people! :-D

  18. Scott Says:

    Jiav #8:

    As for Alex, isn’t it possible for a governement to instal Telex on some servers, so as to detect who’s trying to use it?

    Sorry I missed it! That’s the one serious argument anyone has made so far. There are obvious cryptographic techniques that could make that harder—e.g., the Telex client could require digitally-signed messages from the server. But then a sufficiently-motivated government might create spoof Telex clients as part of a “sting operation,” etc. etc. I haven’t yet read the technical paper, but I’m sure they discuss this (this is not the sort of thing that fails to occur to computer security researchers :-) ).

    In any case, it seems clear that these are second-order effects: things to worry about, but not reasons not to install an anti-censorship system in the first place.

  19. John Sidles Says:

    There hasn’t been much discussion of the history of human rights on this thread, and in particular there’s been no discussion of the various historical role(s) of the STEM enterprise in securing these rights. Gee, maybe past successful roles can be models for present successful roles? And even guide us in making thoughtful choices regarding Telex and Alix?

    Given that three topics much-discussed here on Shtetl Optimized are human rights, philosophy, and revolutions (mathematical, scientific, and even technological), it’s good news that next month Cambridge University Press will be publishing IAS professor Jonathan Israel’s long-awaited Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights 1750-1790. And it’s especially good news that the introduction to Prof. Israel’s book is available on-line free-as-in-freedom, the explicit intent being “to provide a clear and concise résumé of the overall argument, to enable readers to grasp clearly what is being argued.”

    Israel’s thesis, as summarized in his introduction, is that the Enlightenment viewed as a “transition toward modernity” continues in the present day, and that therefore

    Any scholar discussing Enlightenment in broad terms has a clear responsibility to render as accurate, carefully delineated, and complete a picture of the phenomenon as possible. Except for those willing to yield to Postmodernism and concede the death of reason and moral universalism, it remains an ongoing, live, and vital issue. … It is an astounding fact that many aspects of this great movement still remain remarkably little known.

    [As Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d’Holbach wrote] ‘If error and ignorance have forged the chains of peoples, if prejudice perpetuates them, science, reason and truth will one day be able to break them.’

    A noble and beautiful thought, no doubt, but was he right? That was and remains today the unresolved challenge of the Radical Enlightenment.

    Needless to say, Israel’s essay exemplifies precisely the sort of social narrative that authoritarian regimes, both past and present, have been concerned to suppress. It would be very interesting to know whether various authoritarian firewalls around the world are presently passing this essay? Oops … will Shtetl Optimized be censored for mentioning it?

    It is natural to ask more broadly, do STEM scholars share in the “clear responsibility” that Prof. Israel imputes to historians and philosophers, namely, the responsibility of understanding the historical Enlightenment, in order to sustain it as a 21st century enterprise that “ongoing, live, and vital”?
    The answer depends largely on one’s attitude toward Postmodernism and moral universalism … and from this in turn, largely depends one’s attitude toward freedom-enhancing social tools like Telex and social innovations like Alix’s. For it is evident that pro-Telex and pro-Alix attitudes are naturally grounded in the continuing Enlightenment.

    May we therefore credibly regard weblogs like Shtetl Optimized, Gödel’s Lost Letter, Computational Complexity, and the newly resurrected Quantum Pontiff as key venues for broadly sustaining STEM-related aspects of the continuing enterprise that is the 21st century Enlightenment? Obviously this regard resides mainly with individuals, and (it seem to me) Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson got it right in asserting:

    It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse-races.

    Here Twain too is arguing for a fundamental principle of the Enlightenment … arguing perhaps as cogently as Prof. Israel (and certainly more humorously). Therefore, may social tools like Telex, and social innovations like Alix’s, and social histories like Israel’s, and by extension the diversely Pudd’nheaded and thus wonderfully Twainian horse-race that is Shtetl Optimized and the broader STEM blogosphere, all of them “live long, and prosper!” :)

  20. Jiav Says:

    Scott #18,

    Hey this was a question, not an argument. Actually, I feel I was lazy a bit.

    “The code or specifications to run a Telex station would be made public, so it is possible for the censor to run their own Telex station. However, without the private key used by the real Telex stations, the censor will be unable to detect or block tagged connections. ”

    https://telex.cc/qa.html

  21. John Sidles Says:

    On a technical note, there’s an obvious, simple (yet politically transgressive) game-theoretic strategy that would immediately and globally catalyze penalty-free Telex-style anonymizing access.

    Namely, provide open public access to the following public STEM utilities exclusively via Telex-style anonymizing protocols: (0) MathSciNet, (1) the arxiv server, (2) TCS Stackexchange, (3) MathOverflow, (4) Wikipedia, (5) Shtetl Optimized, (6) Facebook, (7) Twitter, and (most transgressively?) (8) Google (and there are dozens more).

    Other anonymizing services can then piggyback upon these essential services—thus preventing state-level blocking and surveillance.

    The argument being (1) there should be penalties for lack of openness, (2) the above strategy makes these penalties explicit at low cost and zero (technical) risk, and (3) this strategy can be implemented unilaterally by academic communities like TCS StackExchange (for example).

    So, should TCS StackExchange convert to exclusive anonymizing access as a unilateral first step? Would this measure unwisely and inappropriately mix scholarship and politics? Should we respect the Law of Unintended Consequences, and foresee that any such step is all-too-likely to end badly?

    It seems to me that these questions have good answers and simple answers, but no good simple answers.

  22. raoul ohio Says:

    I agree that my remarks in #13 are not a valid critique of the exact project under discussion. Rather, they were a critique of the entire category of projects that aim to undermine repressive governments in China, Iran, etc. The point being that, why will these tools be used by the “good guys” in China, Iran, etc., rather than scammers, stalkers, terrorists, etc., everywhere else?

  23. LonePeep Says:

    Hey, can we like, not undermine the Chinese government or group it in with Iran? My impression is that the “Communist” Party seems to be relatively focused on improving economic prosperity of it’s citizens, doesn’t seem to be very good at military intimidation or force projection, believes strongly in infrastructure, isn’t overly antagonistic to the U.S. or its neighbors, and seems to care about academia (though better quality control might be required). Also, Shanghai is a pretty cool place.

  24. Noon Says:

    Maybe it’s worth wondering if technology that somewhat “lessens” the penalties put out by so-identified “bad” governments makes the citizens less interested in taking action on their own, because they have workarounds. No workarounds may force a total revolt; but some workarounds may allow a workable level of apathy to set in. The situation with Alix seems to be the reverse; i.e. had Alix been able to purchase an “underground” wedding dress, then probably nothing will change … (I suppose, though, with Telex the view would be for a communication founded by it to initiate a resolution; probably less likely though, given the parties involved).

  25. Scott Says:

    LonePeep #23: I agree that the Chinese government isn’t as bad as the Iranian one. But it’s still pretty bad, and it rules more than a billion people.

  26. Scott Says:

    Noon #24: It completely blows my mind how people are willing to make arguments in this context that they wouldn’t make in any other context. Imagine some Iranian democracy activist who’s been imprisoned, beaten, etc., fears for his life, and is begging for some way to communicate away from the censors’ eyes. “Sorry,” we patiently explain, “we could help you, but we won’t … because if we did, you might not find your situation quite as terrible, and would therefore become less motivated to change things!”

  27. LonePeep Says:

    Dear Scott,

    “I agree that the Chinese government isn’t as bad as the Iranian one. But it’s still pretty bad, and it rules more than a billion people.”

    Fair enough.

    But as an aside from issue about the extent to which the United States (and I suppose NATO allies) should care about censorship, it isn’t at all clear to me that a “Stuxnet” strategy is better that an overt approach of applying political and economic pressure. My guess is that it might actually be harmful.

    I’m not talking about China or Iran finding ways to make Telex or similar anti-censorship systems very dangerous for its users, and this will always be possible when a country is willing to hire tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) or people to analyze web content and network traffic patterns. I’m talking about pushing these countries along the wrong end of Ian Bremmer’s “J-curve” -”en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_J_Curve:_A_New_Way_to_Understand_Why_Nations_Rise_and_Fall”.

    My impression is that China cares a lot less than people think about having folks in major cities or smaller coastal cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, etc.) looking at 4chan or reading inflammatory articles about Tiananmen square. If they did care, they’d spend more time clamping down on the sort of films and games one can readily buy on the street in Beijing. I suspect China cares a lot more about preventing people from spreading and accessing video clips of local officials beating protestors with electric cattle prods in the countryside, rumors mixed in with real information about officials colluding with contractors to allow the construction of school buildings in the Sichuan province with paper-thin rebar, and so on. Threaten the central government’s ability to prevent much worse versions of the violent flashmobs we recently witnessed in Britain, and nothing will change in the cities, but the countryside will disappear into an intranet black hole.

    As for Iran, there are a different set of issues involved, but I remember reading in F.P. that there’s already a large-scale government project to create an Iran-only intranet.

    In the end, just like Stuxnet, it’s my opnion that this feels like passing the buck. If the U.S. and its NATO allies are serious about fighting censorship, it will take real political capital, financial sacrifices, and being pessimistic about Iran, aircraft carriers as well.

  28. Noon Says:

    Scott, I did say “Maybe” :) But even so, I didn’t say I wouldn’t make the same argument in another context. I may indeed do so. At the very least, it doesn’t seem to me to be completely unreasonable to at least think about.

  29. Mike Says:

    “The point being that, why will these tools be used by the “good guys” in China, Iran, etc., rather than scammers, stalkers, terrorists, etc., everywhere else?”

    Your point was clear, pretty meaningless, but clear. the tools may be used by scammers, stalkers, terrorists, etc., everywhere else– so what? So are cell phones, and a hundred other things. What exactly are you proposing that people do about this — stop developing new technology — now that’s a great idea ;)

  30. John Sidles Says:

    It’s clear that anonymizing methods can be abused … which makes it unclear that universal untraceable access to these methods would be wholly good.

    In hope of illumination, we can search for the word “theorem” in the writings of America’s founders, and in The Federalist #31 we can read Alexander Hamilton’s extended meditation upon the relative roles of reason in politics and in mathematics.

    One lesson is that in creating tools to extend the capabilities of individual free inquiry, we had best take care not to inadvertently expand state power to suppress or punish that inquiry … a power that all too readily expands.

    Another lesson is that America presently is possessed of no politicians — in either party — who can write and reason like to compare with Hamilton … or Madison, Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, Adams, Priestley, etc. :(

  31. Mike Says:

    “One lesson is that in creating tools to extend the capabilities of individual free inquiry, we had best take care not to inadvertently expand state power to suppress or punish that inquiry … a power that all too readily expands.”

    John,

    I love your posts and you’re a very thoughtful person, but I just don’t think there is any way to implement this. Our best hope is to keep pushing forward; the government types can’t keep up, can they?. And, if they can, then we should just keep pushing forward anyway. Don’t you think? Now, I’m not saying let’s be reckless (I don’t know, maybe I am), but do you really believe that somehow this huge, rapid expansion of human knowledge that’s going on can be modulated somehow? I don’t know, maybe you’re right –am I missing something?

  32. John Sidles Says:

    Mike, your comment raises a number of strong points, and in particular you have asked me the tough question “What do you really believe?” That’s the kind of question that I avoid answering directly, on the grounds that no matter what I believe, there’s someone wiser, more expert, and more famous than me, who expressed the same point more clearly.

    So here are five quotations that I particularly agree with:

    Justice, I think, is the tolerable accommodation of the conflicting interests of society, and I don’t believe there is any royal road to attain such accommodations concretely.

            Judge Learned Hand

    —————————————-

    What safeguard remains? Apparently only day-to-day — or perhaps year-to-year — opportunistic measures, a long sequence of small, correct decisions. […] The most hopeful answer is that the human species has been subjected to similar tests before, and seems to have a congenital ability to come through, after varying amounts of trouble.

            John von Neumann, Can We Survive Technology? (Forbes, 1955)

    —————————————-

    Other mathematicians prove what they can, von Neumann what he wants.

            Domokos Szász in John von Neumann, the Mathematician, quoting A. Rényi (Mathematical Intelligencer, 2011)

    —————————————-

    Philosophical problems are not solved, they are dissolved.

            Ludwig Wittgenstein (commonly asserted in lecture, 1930–50)

    —————————————-

    We want to be the National Institutes of Health, and we want also to be the National Institutes of Hope.

            NIH director Francis Collins, in audio accompaniment to Reengineering Translational Science: The Time Is Right (Science Translational Medicine, 2011)

    The preceding five quotations unwind as follows: (1) A natural and uncontroversial path to resolving the tension between individual freedom and state regulation is to focus (per Collins) on concrete associations of research to human welfare. (2) This path acts to dissolve (per Wittgenstein) state-versus-citizen tensions, in the sense that the path that Collins proposes to follow is radical in its means yet uncontroversial in its goals. (3) The 20th century’s “yellow book” mathematical toolset, with its radical foundations in naturality and universalism, allows individual researchers to “prove what we need”(per Rényi) to pursue Collins’ great “Institutes of Hope” program, along Wittgenstein’s wise path, with von Neumann’s vigor and confidence. (4) Rather than one great intractable issue, in the 21st century we STEM researchers will find ourselves focusing upon innumerable small issues (per von Neumann) and at the level of individual citizen-researchers this incrementalism is hugely advantageous. (5) Thus by progressing along this incremental path — a path that for individual STEM professionals requires neither state permission nor compromise of traditional scholarly values — the 21st century world will find itself making concrete progress toward justice (in Judge Hand’s reasoned conception of it).

    The fifth-and-final of these references, namely Francis Collins’ just-published Reengineering Translational Science is worth reading (or hearing via podcast) by every CT/QIT/CS/QSE researcher … even though Collins references not a single article from the literature of complexity theory or quantum information theory or computer science or quantum systems engineering. That omission is not Collins’ fault, it is soley our fault … because we have not articulated (even to ourselves?) the vital role(s) of CT/QIT/CS/QSE in the 21st century’s emergent “Institutes of Hope.”

    In summary, via the Collins/ Wittgenstein/ von Neumann/ Hand path, we may hope to arrive at a world in which liberty is secured not by an adversarial and hence inherently fragile balance of citizen-secrecy versus state-coercion (per Telex), but by a cooperative and hence dynamically stable balance of broadening citizen-access to a deepening collectively-held hope, and concrete understanding, and practical capability, of healing in its broadest conception.

    That’s my 2¢ regarding Scott’s “The Fate of Humanity” (the Shtetl Optimized category under which Scott has archived this topic); obviously it’s an optimistic conception of that fate!

  33. Mike Says:

    John,

    Well, thanks once again for thoughtful comment.

    I think, however, that the central question remains and is most clear when we ask specifically what should be our view regarding “Telex” (as a proxy for the ever broader array of technological changes afoot).

    Do we favor increasingly rapid development and implementation (not exclusive of other important actions of course), or do we argue for some rationally motivated slowing and adjustment process — was this actually implied by the quotes by the notables; I’m not certain?

    I think Scott’s and Alex’s view seems to be that, in view of all the facts and circumstances in the world, no such slowing is desirable. I tend to agree.

    My main point, however, was that desirable or not, I did not think such a thing, however well and rationally motivated, was actually feasible.

    I just don’t see how that could be accomplished.

  34. Vadim P. Says:

    Scientific advancement could be intentionally slowed by removing the environment that allows it to flourish. Society could entirely ban research and education, or at least deprioritize them by not teaching the foundations in primary school (sure, it’s bad now in that regard, but it could be much worse). If we really put our minds to it, we might even be able to plunge ourselves into another Dark Age. At the risk of this sounding like an understatement, I should say that the cost of this would outweigh the benefit.

  35. mike Says:

    Vadim,

    Of course, I agree that we could stop it all any number of ways — all bad. I just don’t think we can plan and choose what to develop and implement and expect to continue to make meaningful progress of the kind we have, and to the degree necessary to solve the problems we will inevitably face. I agree that we need to expand the environment that allows scientific advancement to flourish — and then deal with whatever problems may come along with that as they arise.

  36. John Sidles Says:

    Mike, your post asked for a binary strategic decision (“yes, push Telex” or “no, deliberately slow progress”) to what the post asserts is “the central and clearest question.” But it’s not self-evident (to me) that the question is binary, or clear, or even central. And more broadly, confining one’s attention to questions that are “binary, clear, and central” can sometimes be a big mistake.

    Of course, this is a familiar conundrum in complexity theory. For example, is P=NP? It can reasonably be argued that the answer may not be binary (PvNP may be undecidable), and it can reasonably be conjectured that PvNP might be reformulated to make it decidable (e.g. per Hartmanis, by requiring certificates of membership), and therefore we may reasonably view the PvNP question as possibly being not central to complexity theory.

    This is a familiar conundrum in quantum information theory too. As Scott’s header asserts: “Quantum computers […] can be simulated classically with exponential slowdown.” When we parse this assertion carefully, we realize that it is logically consistent with “Sufficiently noisy quantum processes, including noisy quantum computers can be simulated classically with polynomial resources.” There is strong evidence that both QIT assertions are true, but which one is more “central and clear”? Since the two assertions are comparably useful and interesting, perhaps neither is more central and clear than the other, and so we there is no need make a binary judgment of which is more central to QIT.

    Similarly, with specific regard to Telex, it might be possible for individuals to advance the same social goals as Telex (namely the open dispersion of ideas), via the non-adversarial strategy of simply quoting ideas such as those in Hayek’s Theory of Complex Phenomena:

    Man has been impelled to scientific inquiry by wonder and by need. Of these wonder has been incomparably more fertile. […] [Therefore] the prejudice that in order to be scientific one must produce laws may yet prove to be one of the most harmful of methodological preconceptions.

    In this regard, I will nominate Gil Kalai’s many wonderful posts to Math Overflow, for example his “A Book You Would Like to Write,” as having already exerted, via the gentle non-adversarial and non-coercive dissemination of ideas on open public forums, a cumulatively mind-opening influence comparable to any that might be achieved via purely technical fixes. And for this, none of us require state permission, or any resource other than our own commitment.

  37. Buzz Cogs Says:

    Awesome. To me it’s a no-brainer to help people have an uncensored internet. It doesn’t matter if one government isn’t “as bad” as the other!

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