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Showing posts from July, 2013

Trust, Security, and Privacy

If you want to think about moral concepts that ground debates about privacy, you can't help but think about trust. The basis of a community is the trust that the members extend to one another: the trust that we will leave each other in peace, respect one another as human beings, and (hopefully) look out for one another's welfare. Democratic political institutions rely on citizens' trust that fair and open procedures create just societies. Without the possibility of trust, we lose all society, and all social philosophy.

Trust is also an important concept in security. We employ security out of a lack of trust. We trust the designers of our security and encryption systems. Citizens encrypt their data or web traffic because they do not trust the government. The government resists citizen use of strong encryption because they do not trust the citizens.

It might be easy to conclude that with sufficient trust, we would have no need for security or encryption. I think there are ind…

The Information Economy

I must apologize for my neglect of the blog. Preparing for an international move is, as my people say, "no joke." Nevertheless, the content must flow, so let me share with you a brief summary of my current work-in-progress.

Consider all of the pieces of information you acquire in your normal online life. The results of Google searches, status updates from social networks, email and calendar notifications - all of these can be thought of as informational goods. For the most part, you acquire them at no monetary cost, they appear to be free as in "free beer."

Still, if you think about it for a moment, there is something you've had to exchange for these informational goods. In particular, you have to trade some token of your own private information in exchange for these very convenient and valuable informational goods. In order to find out what your friends are up to, you have to reveal that you associate with those people. If you want Google to remind you of an a…

Networked Discourse

Sorry to let the flow of posts dry up, but I'm preparing to move abroad for a really interesting teaching opportunity. In the meantime, here's a fragment from some thinking about the rational discourse and communication technology.


Information and communications technology enables a raft of networked communications platforms. Email, IRC, and various social networking platforms are all designed to facilitate communication between individuals. Of course, we must also be aware that communication platforms shape the content of interpersonal communications. By creating a vessel for content, content must also fit within the vessel. 
Consider three stages of human communication technology: Discourse Cacophony – with written language and symbol as the only communication technology, much human communication takes the form of spontaneous utterances in natural language. Discourse means nothing other than holding a conversation. With the sense of individuality arises the individual voice,…

DC Reflections

I just returned from a trip to Washington, DC where I spent a few days attending events and networking with various think tanks and advocacy organizations. Having spent the last few years doing academic work in political theory and intellectual property, learning about the policy work that happens closer to the sphere of praxis than theory has been eye-opening. My motivations for working on political philosophy included finding ways to make actual change in the world, and I have at times found myself frustrated with the isolation of the academic environment.

Going to DC, I learned that the isolation problem works both ways. While it's difficult to get politicians and policy-makers to hear academic arguments, I've found myself that academics are not always interested in the application of their theories. Since my work contains specific and substantial discussions of how theory should shape practice, I've gotten a bit of pushback. I've heard similar stories from other ac…