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Quotes

  Politics  
 
 

The likelihood of any given person being killed in a terrorist attack are infinitesimally smaller than the likelihood that the same person will clog up his arteries with fatty food and die of heart disease. But a terrorist attack happens now; death by heart disease is some distant, quiet catastrophe. Terrorist acts lie beyond our control; french fries do not.

Steven D. Levitt/Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics, London, 2005, p. 151.

 
 
 

Whether it's punk kids loitering on the streets of London, or loyal secretaries that take extra-long lunch breaks, surveillance technologies meant to hunt terrorists or criminals could ferret out these minor transgressions as well. If we mandate that the internet be tappable, we will wiretap the internet, at a rate and for purposes beyond those required for counterterrorism. If we build video surveillance networks, we will track people on the streets, and hook that information up to facial-recognition databases and RFID-tag readers.

I don't mean to imply that we have no free will in this matter. We can choose to use highly invasive technologies only for the more serious security and law enforcement purposes. But we must build those restrictions into the machines themselves. Law alone will not be enough to control the natural human desire to use technology for all it is capable of doing, regardless of our values or goals. The inevitable alternative is mission creep.

(Jennifer Granick, https://www.martin-birn.de/images/pfeil.gifSowing the Seeds of Surveillance, Wired, 31 January 2007)

 
 
 

Terrorists' attack on open societies cannot be completed but with help from ourselves, and from our political leaders. This must not happen.

https://www.martin-birn.de/images/pfeil.gifFITUG e.V.

 
 
 

[E]mails can and should be encrypted by everyone. The often-repeated claim that a person has no secrets and thus has no need to encrypt messages must be countered by pointing out that written messages are not normally sent on postcards. However, an unencrypted e-mail is nothing than a letter without an envelope. [...] The public authorities should set a good example and themselves employ encryption as a standard practice in order to demystify the process.

European Parliament, Temporary Committee on the ECHELON Interception System, Working Document in preparation for a report on the existence of a global system for intercepting private and commercial communications (ECHELON interception system), May 18, 2001, p. 103.

 
 
  Science  
 
 

Prediction is extremely difficult, especially about the future.

Niels Bohr

 
 
 

The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.

Albert Einstein

 
 
 

The gods have not revealed all things to people from the beginning,
but by seeking they find in time what is better.

There never was nor will be a person who has certain knowledge
about the gods and about all the things speak of.
Even if he should chance to say the complete truth,
yet he himself knows not that it is so.
But all may have their fancy.

Xenophanes, Diels-Kranz, Fragments 18 and 34.

 
 
  Economy  
 
 

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.

Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations, Book Four, Chapter 2.
The complete book in ASCII format can be found here (644 kB).

 

 
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