We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day… or The Law of Unintended Consequences

…the Great Firewall has been an enormous boon to freedom. Without it, the authorities in China would not have been foolish enough to allow the entire country to have internet access. With it, they thought they would be able to control the flow of information, so they hooked up to the net, and now they’re in a position where disconnection is unthinkable.

Perry Metzger

10 comments to Samizdata quote of the day… or The Law of Unintended Consequences

  • From what I understand software to get around the Great Firewall is available, but the Chinese government has detection software that can tell if the ‘getting around’ software has been installed and thus knows who’s been naughty.

    It looks to me as if this is a game of measures and countermeasures with no permanent winners or losers, but everyone involved is developing cyberwar skills at an amazing rate.

  • Gerry N.

    Here in the Great Pacific Northwet, many many people are of Chinese descent. Some families have been here many generations, some are recent. My doctor is second generation Chinese, as are several others in the clinic I go to. I had many classmates in school who were Chinese. One thing they all had in common (other than missing the Scandinavian Eyefold I have, and sporting black hair.) is that none were stupid. Whether that is because of the generally accepted, by me at least, proposition that immigrants to America tended and tend to be the hardiest, most adventureous and smartest, I don’t know.

    Gerry N.

  • A slightly different take on the Great Firewall here:

    I spent a few days in China. I got around it at the Internet cafe by using a free online proxy. Actual Chinese people have dozens of ways of getting around it with a minimum of technical knowledge or just the ability to read some instructions.

    The Chinese government isn’t losing any sleep over this (although they also don’t lose any sleep over murdering political dissidents, so maybe they’re just very sound sleepers). Their theory is that by making it a little inconvenient and time-consuming to view subversive sites, they will discourage casual exploration. No one will bother to circumvent it unless they already seriously distrust the Chinese government and are specifically looking for foreign websites, and these people probably know what the foreign websites are going to say anyway.

    …This is all to make a larger point about how trivial inconveniences can drastically change behaviour. There’s probably something in it.

  • Perry Metzger

    @Rob Fisher: the tradeoff was not, however, between having a free internet without restrictions in China and having the Great Firewall. It was between having nothing and having the (very leaky) Great Firewall.

    Certainly, people have less access to information than if the Great Firewall wasn’t there, but they have vastly more than if the government had been too terrified to allow the internet at all, which was the likely alternative. Believing themselves able to effectively control the network, they installed it. Now, knowing they can’t possibly remove it without destroying the economy, they rationalize that most people don’t evade the firewall on a daily basis (which is true, but not nearly what they had hoped for initially).

    Under the circumstances, the Great Firewall was a boon — it gave the government the illusion of control while opening up the country far beyond what was previously imaginable.

    Pause to consider just what widespread access to pirated Western television has done to the culture. (There are scores of local bilingual fans who lovingly subtitle every episode of Western entertainment shows and then mass distribute them inside the country.) Sure, a lot of it is tripe, but on the other hand, hundreds of millions of people are getting very regular glimpses of life in much freer countries. That’s only one change that the network has brought…

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Last night I was laying in bed enjoying a bit of the hypnogogic when it flashed before my eyes: a botnet generating not spam, but long strings of random numbers with just enough structure to simulate an encoded message.

    Of course, botnets are immoral, but my, wouldn’t that just overload the world’s monitoring programs?

  • The Chinese government isn’t losing any sleep over this (although they also don’t lose any sleep over murdering political dissidents, so maybe they’re just very sound sleepers). Their theory is that by making it a little inconvenient and time-consuming to view subversive sites, they will discourage casual exploration. No one will bother to circumvent it unless they already seriously distrust the Chinese government and are specifically looking for foreign websites, and these people probably know what the foreign websites are going to say anyway

    No I’m sure this is COMPLETELY wrong, it not fits the collective mindset. This is observing by westerner not understand what he seeing. I grew up under communism and once thing I learned was communists OBSESSED with small shit. The idea someone somewhere is getting through net (any net, not The internet) DOES give these people sleepless nights. To think otherwise is credit with more rationality & less emotional motivations than ALWAYS the case.

  • Last night I was laying in bed enjoying a bit of the hypnogogic when it flashed before my eyes: a botnet generating not spam, but long strings of random numbers with just enough structure to simulate an encoded message.

    As we say on the internetz, this is awesome with awesome on top :-)

  • Alisa

    Kristaps is right. But OTOH, the discussion here seems to take it as a given that a communist government is some kind of a monolith with one brain and one hand. In reality, that is never the case, and it often happens that one hand does not know what the other is doing – or worse better yet, they are actively fighting each other.

  • revver

    It is a valid point that the state exaggerates the small stuff, but I believe a more subtle and sinister explanation can be found. They don’t need to concern themselves with overt displays of power, but rather the mere constant reminder of the state’s existence and pervasiveness has a pschychological effect stronger than anything else.

    The effect is all the more stronger when looked at as “reverse pschychology”: “We are already so powerfull, we can afford to give you proles table scraps without worrying “

  • The effect is all the more stronger when looked at as “reverse pschychology”: “We are already so powerfull, we can afford to give you proles table scraps without worrying “

    I am with Kristaps on this. I suspect that is not how they think at all. If there are some scraps for the proles, it is not for want of trying to deny them said scraps.