Get rich fighting crime! Save the girl – and make big money doing it – by correcting one simple error in your thinking.

You are a moth ramming a sheet of plate glass again and again, insisting by your behavior that the glass must somehow give way eventually.

You are a moth ramming a sheet of plate glass again and again, insisting by your behavior that the glass must somehow give way eventually.

The pitch…

That’s a sweet offer in the headline, don’t you think? It’s like Batman meets Ironman, but it’s all real — achievable now, no super-human powers required.

Not enough? You want more?

How’s this?

I can show you how to all-but-eliminate every sort of street crime.

I can show you how to protect any real estate or personal property you own from theft, mayhem, mishap or from simple maintenance oversights.

I can show you how to resolve almost every kind of civil dispute — without courts, without attorneys — and usually without rancor.

I can show you how to perfect your sales praxis to an amazing state of efficiency.

Hell, I can even increase your chance of successfully hooking-up at the singles bar.

I can cut your commute time, maximize your work-day productivity and save you from getting Aunt Whatshername’s name wrong when you see her.

Watch me: I can show you how to create a brand new trillion-dollar industry that will spin off dozens of start-ups as it is aborning and hundreds more later on.

I can show you how to mine an incredible new source of vast, uncountable wealth, a source no one has ever thought of before. I can put you there, at the dawn of a new age of human productivity — a pioneer, a prospector, and ultimately a tycoon in a brand new way of making money.

As you gaze upon that incredible motherlode of riches — knowing that there are unfathomable trillions more buried within it — I have one simple question to ask you:

To gain access to those riches — no fear of crime, no more petty lawsuits, better closing skills on and off the job, plus hundreds of new businesses, each one throwing off astounding new opportunities — would you be willing to correct one simple error in your thinking?

Are you willing to consider the proposition? Stay tuned…

The moth, the cat and the ontological nature of error…

Oh, good grief! Was there a fifty-cent word in that subhead?

There was, alas.

The good news is that, if you can hang in there, and if you have the guts to change a fundamental error in your thinking, I can show you how to improve your life dramatically by being right where you have been wrong all along, until now.

The bad news is this: That fundamental error in your thinking is — obviously, necessarily — a philosophical error.

Like it or don’t, we’re talking about philosophy, and if you simply can’t bear to stretch your brain around big words, feel free to go do something you enjoy more. Philosophy isn’t for everyone, after all, and there is certainly more to life than fighting crime and saving the girl — banking big bucks in the process.

But, but, but…! Philosophy doesn’t concern itself with comic-book-style thrills and chills!

You are mistaken, but that’s hardly a surprise. You’re mistaken about virtually everything that matters.

But here’s more good news: The fact that you have been wrong about just about everything for just about all your life does not matter. What matters is that now you have the opportunity to be right.

So let’s take a look at the world and see what we can understand about it.

It’s coming on summer in the desert, and so every moth spends every night flying senselessly toward every light source it can find. It doesn’t matter why moths do this, and moths don’t matter very much in the larger scheme of things. But this is what moths do, and we’ve all known this fact by first-hand observation since we were children.

The other night, I was watching a moth gamely trying to strafe a light fixture in our kitchen, and gamely failing to get to the light again and again.

Why was it failing? Because there was a dual-pane window standing between the moth and the light. The moth would race toward the light again and again, colliding with the glass again and again. It would start to fall when it hit the glass, then regain control of its wings and fly around to make another run at the light.

In cinematic comedies, this kind of scenario is called a pratfall — a repeated failure to achieve some objective, with each failed attempt leading to some sort of physical pain. Big yucks when it’s Lucille Ball or Jim Carrey suffering the consequences.

It’s not that funny when a moth does it, but it is instructive, if you’re of a mind to learn from the world around you.

Why did the moth keep coming back for more? Because whatever passes for a brain in a moth was not sufficient to apprehend the true facts of the situation. The moth’s behavior was directed by a moth-ware analogue of this theoretical proposition: If you can see a light, you can fly toward that light. I don’t know how a moth’s brain guides that moth’s behavior, but we can infer from the evidence that a moth’s brain is not equipped to comprehend a substance that is simultaneously transparent to light and yet impermeable to moths.

There’s more: One of our cats was on the other side of the glass, striving desperately — teeth, paws and claws — to get at that moth. What’s the theory-analogue? If you can see the prey, you can capture the prey.

Both the moth and the cat were in error, of course — from our point of view, that is. It’s wrong to speak of an animal operating on its instincts or some other form in-born programming as being in error, since to be in error implies that the error could be corrected.

This is false to fact with respect to animals. My dog Shyly scratches at the floor every time she lays down. Why? Her instincts “teach” her that there could be snakes or bugs on the ground. With treats and correction, I could train her not to scratch the floor, but she cannot ever discover on her own and I cannot ever communicate to her the obvious fact that a snake cannot be hiding within a solid piece of ceramic tile.

But Shyly, the cat and the moth are not in error about the universe. Their minds are simply unable to apprehend and respond to facts that are not already pre-programmed into their mental functioning.

For a life-long student of epistemology, you sure do get a lot wrong…

What we are talking about is the intersection of three important branches of philosophy: Ontology, epistemology and teleology.

O, the pain! Three fifty-cent words in a row! How will you survive…?

Fret not. This is all very simple, I promise.

Ontology is being. It is the branch of philosophy that concerns itself with the actual, unchangeable nature of real things, regardless of what anyone thinks about them. The impermeability of an unbroken window to moths is absolute and inescapable regardless of how the moth or the cat behave. Their failure to achieve their respective goals is the consequence of this objective ontological impermeability, and there is nothing either the moth, the cat or you can do to change this fact by means of changing your thinking. If you were to toss a rock through the window, the whole scenario would change, but, so long as the glass is unbroken, the events I described will repeat themselves in perpetuity.

Do you see why? The glass can’t be penetrated by the moth, but the lack of an appropriate response to this situation is also an ontological fact: Moths and cats don’t have the built-in brain-power to modify their behavior in the presence of previously-unforeseen facts.

Why is that? Because they can’t learn in any meaningful way. The cat can “learn” where its food bowl is located, and Shyly “learned” to pee outdoors with just a few days of training. But the why of that “knowledge” — the why of anything — is beyond every animal’s mental abilities, so far as we know.

Epistemology is knowing. More exactly, it is knowing the why of what you know. Epistemology is the theory of knowledge: How do you know what you know? How can you reliably verify your knowledge? How can you test and validate or invalidate new propositions?

Why is the error the moth and the cat are making immediately obvious to you, when those creatures can never, ever discover that they are making an error, nor even that errors can exist and that they can be corrected by a process of rational thought and the choice to do better going forward?

The error is obvious to you because — even though you probably didn’t know this — you have been a life-long student of epistemology.

But that is itself an ontological fact: As the moth’s nature is to race toward the light, yours is to discover and correct errors.


By choice.

But, but, but!! Nature isn’t chosen!

There’s some truth to that. The moth cannot choose not to fly toward the light — even though it fails to reach it again and again — but you sure can choose not to discover and correct the errors in your thinking. The truth is, you do it a lot, especially in those moments when being right or wrong matters most.

A more precise statement would be that you have been a life-long student of epistemology as the existential expression of ontology and teleology: You are born with the capacity to observe reality, to reason rationally about your observations, and to guide your behavior according to your reason — but you don’t have to use those abilities. Those capacities don’t have to be cultivated by your parents, and, even if they are, you don’t have to exercise them.

Compared to the actions and reactions of inanimate matter, of planets and billiard balls and chemicals in beakers, the behavior of animals can seem fairly autonomous. But in fact, with one known exception, every organism’s behavior is governed by in-born and ultimately inviolable pre-programming. The moth can’t give up chasing lights, choosing to chase penny-stock windfalls instead, and even though my Shylygirl eats nothing but the most savory crunchy meat-pellets, she cannot ever declare herself to be a gourmet.

The exception would be you, of course, and me — human beings. The capacity to reason and to choose is born within you, but those natural abilities had be be cultivated by your parents for you to make use of them. A kitten raised by dogs grows up to be a cat, but a genetic homo sapiens raised by wolves grows up to be a crippled, pathetic imitation wolf. A human being is an artifact — a man-made thing. A genetic homo sapiens is a product of ontology, but a reasoning, choosing human being is the result of both ontology and teleology.

I am most likely to say that teleology is shoulding, but it is equally true to say that teleology is choosing, or, even more basically, that teleology is the pursuit of values.

What values “should” a moth pursue? Wool by day, light by night.

What values “should” a cat pursue? Light-bulb-seared moths, freshly toasted to a golden brown.

But that’s too easy, isn’t it? When we “should” with other organisms, all we are really doing is restating their teleologically-analogous ontologically-consequent behavior and insisting that they “should” do what they cannot avoid doing. To say that a cat “should” drive a tractor and a moth “should” write symphonies is simply absurd. Animal behavior is teleological in the sense that the animal normally does pursue the values it requires in order to survive and to persist as that particular type of organism. But none of this behavior is reasoned or chosen by the animal, and so it is nothing like value-pursuing behavior as we would describe it in humans.

Moths and cats and dogs can do things that we see as being stupid — comically ineffectual — but only human beings can be in error.

And, man, are we good at it!

How can you be right about virtually everything and yet still be wrong about almost everything that matters…?

Here’s a fun little challenge: Give your cat a bath. If you started doing this when the cat was a kitten, you just might get away with it. But if you try to bathe an adult cat, it will be you taking a bath — a soapy bloodbath — instead.

Even better, persuade a moth to fly upside down. How hard could that be?

Ah, but you know that can’t be done, don’t you? Your cat might take a bath on its own — if there are birds in your birdbath — but a moth cannot fly upside down and a dog cannot learn to play chess. These are obvious ontological facts, and you’ve known them — with zero room for doubt in your mind — since you were a child.

So here’s an even better challenge: Raise my right hand.

Can’t do that, either, can you? You can bathe a cat, if you insist, but you can’t cause a moth to fly upside down, and you can’t cause me to raise my hand. Those things are ontologically impossible, no matter how much you might want to do them.

So here’s another feat for you to attempt: When I express a fact or opinion you don’t like, silence me. Glower at me with all your might. Get all your friends to glower at me, too. Set up a #hashtag on Twitter so you can glower together electronically. Throw raw eggs at my porch. Throw rocks through my windows. Have the FBI come by to question me. Have Congress pass a law denouncing me.

By any of these means will you have silenced me?

No. You could kill me, if you’re that kind of brute, or you could erect some kind of wall of censorship around me. But even then you will not have caused me to be silent, you will have simply tried to find some way to shout me down. And even then you will fail, since you cannot ever stop the ringing of my words in the ears of the people who have heard them in the past. You cannot stop them from sharing those words with other people, or simply revisiting them — inaudibly to you — in the silence and solitude of their own minds.

You cannot raise my hand, you cannot silence my speech, you cannot control my purposive behavior in any way. You can push me around like a mannequin, you can lock me up, beat me, torture me, even kill me. But you cannot cause me to take any sort of purposive action against my will.

This is a simple — and completely obvious — ontological fact.

Why is it interesting?

Because this is the error in your thinking. Even though you know beyond all doubt that you cannot control other people’s behavior, still you insist to yourself in dozens of ways that you can.

Want to stop speeding on the highways? Raise the fines.

Want to make sure you will succeed in business? Outlaw your competition.

Want to silence some street-corner Socrates who is undermining your treasured illusions? Glower harder!

In each one of these cases, and hundreds more I could name, the strategy that is being followed in pursuit of the objective is useless for achieving that objective. In simpler language: You are a moth ramming a sheet of plate glass again and again, insisting by your behavior that the glass must somehow give way eventually.

I am sick of error. It’s not interesting to me, and there is no benefit of mine to be realized from chastising you for having been wrong about just about everything for just about all your life. You have been wrong — wildly, madly, persistently, obstinately, absurdly, comically wrong — but none of that matters now. Now is the time for learning how to be right.

So: If, as a matter of absolute and inescapable ontological fact, you cannot ever control another person’s purposive behavior, what conclusions can we draw?

How about this, for a start: Stop trying! A fool might try to bathe a cat — once! — but only a lunatic would insist on trying to bathe that cat again and again and again, like the moth dive-bombing the window.

Foreswearing vice isn’t much of a virtue, but its corollary is: Instead of insisting that you must, somehow, have the power to compel other people’s behavior, try this instead:

Act upon them as they actually are.

You would never, ever think to take a nice big piece of river rock and put it on the meat slicer so you could make yourself a thinly-sliced-rock sandwich. What is there in your epistemology that leads you do conclude that you can somehow cause people to drive the way you want them to by threatening them? Even if you made this error in the first place, surely all those cars whizzing past you will have made it plain by now that your plan isn’t working.

With one exception, human beings respond appropriately to every entity, every action or event, every attribute of matter with which we come into contact. Within the limits of our epistemologically-verified knowledge, we conform our teleological goal-pursuit to the actual absolute and inescapable ontological identity of the thing we are dealing with or acting upon.

The one exception would be you, of course, and me — human beings. This is not new. Whether the means are religion, the organized thuggery of government or just simple glowering, people have been trying to push each other around since there were people to push around.

The problem is it does not work. It cannot work.

If you glower hard enough or threaten convincingly enough or thrash your victim soundly enough, you might induce that person to do whatever it is you want done. But you will not have caused that behavior. Your victim could refuse to do anything — or he could turn on you and thrash you to the death you so richly deserve. But even if he seems to comply, you will not have persuaded that person of anything. He will simply be doing what he thinks will get you to stop punishing him.

So unless you put a cop right beside me in the passenger seat, you can figure that I’ll be driving at the speed I choose — not the speed you think you have insisted upon — just about all the time. Unless you manage to eradicate every atom of cocaine from the face of the earth, some folks are going to snort all they can get, regardless of how stiff you make the penalties for getting caught. And if you should get the idea you can silence anyone, ever, I invite you to Google the word “Socrates” and see what comes up.

You cannot control other people’s purposive behavior, so you should stop trying. But other people can control their own behavior perfectly, so acting upon them as they actually are can, should and has proved to be mutually profitable for all of human history.

Your “right to privacy” pretty much ends at your skin…

By way of a practical example, here are some news stories I have collected lately:

In Royston, England, the local constabulary is monitoring every vehicle passing through town with video-cameras, image-processing software and a database look-up of license plates. The goal? Sniff out bad guys.

But The Economist fears that face-recognition software may undermine presumptive privacy.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, bars and nightclubs are using live streaming video to help you decide, from home, whether or not to go out and party.

Each one of these stories turns on the so-called “right to privacy” we read about so often in alarmist technology stories. And that angle, in its turn, turns on a false idea of privacy.

I’ve been making this argument for years: Privacy is an artifact of inefficiency:

It’s a simple enough idea: What you’ve thought of all your life as privacy has simply been a function of inefficient data processing tools. The more efficacious the means of acquiring and storing data become, the less privacy — unintentional ignorance by others of observable facts — you will have.

If you find this idea repellent — dang…

It is what it is, and it’s absurd to rebel against it. We are real, physical entities. Our purposive actions sometimes have secondary physical consequences that are potentially observable to other people — and to data acquisition devices. Your best hope of achieving privacy, going forward, is to expire. Short of that, you might try to exist in some sort of extra-physical way. And short of that, you might try doing everything you do where no one — and nothing — else can observe you. And short of all that, swallow hard and prepare to have every fact of your life known, at least potentially, by anyone or everyone else.

If you insist that your presence in a public place or on someone else’s private property must somehow be “private” — guess what? You’re a moth slamming into a window.

If you insist that I have no right to match a photograph of you I just took in my place of business with the 227 photos of you that you and your friends have thoughtfully uploaded to Facebook and Flickr — guess what? You’re a cat trying to capture a moth through a window pane.

If you insist that no one should be able to take a photo of your license plate and run it against a database of outstanding warrants — guess what? You just might be a criminal!

Whatever objection you might name to internet-broadcast video-streaming, to face- or object-recognition software, or to data interpretation or database look-ups resulting from the use of those tools — guess what? Your objections are meaningless.

The facts of your life that you cause to come to be knowable by your own actions are, thereafter, potentially knowable to anyone. To insist that something cannot be so when it plainly and obviously cannot not be so is simply verbalized insanity…

But what about rape…?!??!!

I’m going to keep playing with the example of image-analysis, but I want to deal with one more vitally important philosophical issue before we press on.

What’s the topic?

It’s this:

What about rape…?!??!!

I am an anarchist — an anarcho-capitalist to be precise. I make no secret of this fact — very much the contrary. But the reality of my life is that I can’t say, “Taxes on hot dog vendors should be reduced,” without someone shrieking, “But what about rape…?!??!!”

Rape is apparently so horrifying for champions for coercive-monopoly dispute-resolution that they can’t think about anything else, when the subject of reducing government in any way comes up.


I’m going to show you how to rid the developed world of 95% or more of all forcible rapes — passively and peacefully, with no need for cops, courts or jails.

How are we going to do that?

By acting upon other people as they really are, and not as we insist in our insane ravings that they must be.

So let’s send some sweet young thing out into the world. If you can’t picture her for yourself, just rent a Batman movie. Watch for her a few minutes into the first act — maybe even before the credits roll. Nice girl, nice looking, nicely dressed. She’s just a sweet kid from the farm out to have a good time in the big city — so cue the ominous music.

But on her breast is a broach, and within that broach is a video camera — maybe more than one camera, as on the Xbox Kinect. All the cameras do is stream: They take in the visible data in our young lady’s surroundings and transmit it in real time to the internet. That’s all. No on-board data-processing at all, just video and the ambient audio.

But when the video gets to the cloud, all kinds of interesting things happen. Every face that can be gleaned from the video is run against every other image in the face-recognition database on the file-server. Virtually everyone who gets anywhere near our tender ingenue can be positively identified in seconds.

Including — guess who? — every man who, in the past, has been accused or convicted of forcible rape. All the other bad guys, too: Muggers, personal-loan dead-beats and creeps who stay the night but never call you back for a second date.

Do you see? Instead of rebelling against your own and everyone else’s physical visibility — an absolute and inescapable ontological fact — if instead you embrace that fact and all that it implies, your life is — just like that — substantially more safe.

The software in the cloud can collect and organize much more data than anyone cares about. But if our young friend is being chatted up by a potential rapist, one quick phone call or text message from the server is all she needs to protect herself.

The immediate consequence is that every sane rapist would be out of the rape business as soon as this technology became publicly known. That’s how I can eliminate 95% or more of all forcible rapes. Most rapists are sane enough to try to avoid detection, and so they will cease to commit rapes as soon as their chances of avoiding detection vanish.

I can do better than this, though. It seems highly plausible to me that there are common pre-cursors to rape and other crimes of violence that could be statistically abstracted from a large enough video database of human behavior. Not only can my software alert our sweet young thing about known rapists, it can warn her about troubling behavior being exhibited in real time by men who have not been accused of rape. It’s possible she could end up dismissing a decent guy whose needs are just a little too urgent. But she won’t get raped.

Take note: No cops, no courts, no jails — and no rapes.

So: What about rape…?!??!!

My solution works and yours does not. Which of us is better at fighting crime…? Which of us really cares about rape…?

If we can eliminate rape, we can eliminate virtually all street crime…

I want to put a video-streaming broach on your breast or a tie-bar at your collar or a camera mounted on your eyeglasses or on your Bluetooth headset. I want you streaming live video to my servers wherever you go. Turn it off at home if you want — I would not — but I want to see and interpret everything you see when you are out in the world.

There’s more: I want to mount an intelligent panning-tilting-zooming (PTZ) video camera on your house. I can watch your stuff when you’re home or away, and I can watch my little piece of your street all the time. Give me enough PTZ cameras on enough houses and businesses, and my software can see everything going on outdoors all the time.

While I’m at it, I’d like to have PTZ cameras mounted high on light poles and traffic lights at key intersections all over town. Now, on top of fighting crime, I can monitor traffic, and, in due course, heuristically develop traffic-diversion strategies for dealing with accidents and break-downs as soon as they occur.

But, meanwhile, all of that video has eliminated virtually all street crime. Why? Because even if the crime itself goes unphotographed and unstreamed, all of the events leading up to and succeeding the crime will have been recorded. It would be easy enough to recreate the entire event, before, during and after, with only the actual crime itself being omitted from the assembled video. Not even Johnny Cochran could beat evidence that conclusive.

There will always be crazy people who will still commit crimes even if they know they cannot escape detection. But there is nothing you or anyone can do about that. Lightning does strike.

But instead of insisting that we can threaten people into not committing crimes — even though this strategy has never worked for all of human history — we can choose to act teleologically in a way that is consonant with our understanding of human ontology. When sane criminals learn that they cannot possibly escape detection of their crimes, they will become former criminals — peacefully, passively and with the persuasion to behave better having been effected from the inside, the only way it can be effected.

Who needs Batman when you’ve got his trusty factotum, Alfred…?

Think about this: That camera I’ve convinced you to wear on your body is the entry point to the world’s most perfect contact database.

On my end of the transaction, on the server side, every face I can put a name to is in my facial-recognition database. Once I have the name, I have a whole lot more: Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In profiles for a start — including perfectly-up-to-date (maintained-by-you) contact information — along with all the warm-networking connections those profiles imply. I can see every blog post you’ve written, every comment you’ve left, every mention of you in the media. It’s plausible I know a ton about your finances, and I can infer a great deal without much hard data to work from.

Don’t like that? Dang. I’m not snooping. I’m simply collecting information you and people you know have freely volunteered to make available to me.

But when you come into video range of one of my clients, suddenly you are a record in that person’s contact database, as well. So everything I know about you in a general way comes across, along with every inference that can be drawn about you from people in my client’s warm network who also know you. And then as you and my client interact, that local contact database record gets substantially richer over time.

What’s the benefit? Let’s say my client is a car salesman and you saunter into the showroom on a Saturday afternoon. You’re wearing khakis and a polo shirt with beat-up dock-siders. From what my client can see of you, you could be as rich as Croesus or as broke as joke. Could it be of benefit for him to know that you have an imputed FICO score of 580 and a presumptive annual income of $40,000 or less? Would my client be interested to learn that you are a fleet buyer for a car rental company? Is there any chance my client might be able to make something of the fact that your brother-in-law is Warren Buffett? This is a vertical market up-sell from the hardware and software we already have in place — a start-up built on the existing architecture.

Let’s go back to the bar in San Francisco. I can give you a headcount easily. I can tell you the ratio of boys to girls. But with facial recognition software and database mining tools, I can give a horny young man a short-list of the five ladies in that bar who, historically, seem to have had the roundest heels, and I can give a proper young lady a short-list of the five guys in that bar most likely to call back for a second date.

With hardware and software alone, I can target-market anyone for anything. This is all eminently doable — no new statistical or data-processing theory required — it just waits the doing.

But what about “Big Brother”…?!?

Oh, but it’s “Big Brother” you say you’re afraid of?

That’s the beauty of this idea. The antidote to secrecy is transparency. “Big Brother” is only a threat to you if he has evidence on you — real or faked — that you can’t challenge. If all of this video is available to anyone all the time, all over the net, there is no way to fake evidence against you. If you’re cheating on your spouse, you’re screwed, and not in the good way. But if you have nothing to hide, your perfect pre-emptive defense — from everyone, not just “Big Brother” — is to hide nothing.

Meanwhile, here are two simple facts that tend to put your professed fear of “Big Brother” in doubt:

First, “Big Brother” needs nothing more than a jail cell and a set of brass knuckles to get the job done. Lo-tech don’t mean no-tech.

And second, you are doing absolutely nothing right now to rid your life of the threat of “Big Brother.” Chances are, you’re doing everything in your power to make the state bigger and more terrifying. Nice going…

Oh, but that’s not the “Big Brother” you’re afraid of?

The axis around which the modern Luddite movement turns is this: Governments, which murder people with great frequency and which commit endless crimes against everyone all the time, are not to be feared. No, the “Big Brother” to be feared — and legislated against — is that evil guy who wants to sell me stuff I want to buy at prices I want to pay. Secret police, yes, database mining, no!

But, but, but…! He Zestimated my credit score — and damnitall if he wasn’t right! That’s not fair!


The truth might hurt, but it’s still the truth. I myself am a serial deadbeat with delayed tax-filings and many, many black marks on my credit score. We are Realtors who survived the Phoenix market by clinging by our claws, and in the end we lost our own house. I’m not proud to state these facts, but these are the conclusions I would draw if I saw them on a credit application.

The facts of my life — and yours — are what they are. They cannot be erased by being denied, no matter how vehemently, and they are no more or less true for being known to other people. That much is simply factually wrong: If the facts of your life can be known, they will be known. You can’t stop this from occurring, so it benefits you nothing to try, or to pretend somehow that you have succeeded.

Worse, when you buy into that Luddite line — Government is safe, but commerce is somehow too risky to be endured — you are empowering the state — the real Big Brother — by default. I’ve put a lot of cops out of business in this essay, but the ones who remain will always be on their very best behavior — when the cameras are rolling.

In that respect, as in all others I can think of, acting upon other people as they actually are is far superior to trying to bend them to your will. If you’re looking for your best defense from Big Brother, I’ve got that covered, too…

So: How much would you pay…?

I just showed you how to build a brand new trillion-dollar industry as a secondary consequence of fighting crime.

If you will let me put a broach or a stickpin on your shirt, I will eliminate the fear of street crime from your life — along with virtually every kind of civil suit, since hyper-abundant video takes all of the fun out of lying for lucre. On top of all that, I’ll give you the ultimate kick-ass contact-management database so you can keep track of everyone you come into contact with — including Aunt Whatshername.

How much would you pay for all that?

But wait. There’s more!

If you will let me put a PTZ camera on your house or business, I will protect all of your stuff and a lot of your neighbors’ stuff around the clock. I’ll watch for bad guys, of course, but I might just send you an email if I happen to notice paint peeling or water ponding on the roof.

How much would you pay for that?

But there’s still more!

If you will let me put my cameras where I need them on the streets, I will give you GPS traffic directions that are rewritten by probability algorithms, on the fly, as traffic conditions change.

Would that be worth a little something to you?

Now stop to think about how much of the state we just got rid of — cops, courts, jails.

Does that represent any sort of savings to you?

And think! I’ve talked about a few vertical market opportunities, but there are hundreds more still to be thought of. What can we hope to learn from a massively large, all-but-comprehensive historical and real-time library of video imagery? Whatever answer we might name, we won’t know the best answers until we’re a year or a decade into this technology.

So how much would you pay?

You can name your own price, but I like the internet solution: Free for the basic package, more for the up-sells. What makes this work is the availability of the video feeds, so my impulse is to give the cameras and the basic software services away for free, in exchange for all resale rights to the video.

Feel free to offer more if you like…

So what’s next…?

This is all very simple. In this practical example, all we did was stop pretending that we can be physically invisible because we want to be, and instead embraced the technological and commercial opportunities implied by our absolute and inescapable ontological visibility.

This is a fun idea, and that’s why I played with it, but the important lessons to take away from this essay are these:

1. Stop acting upon other people as they are not. Stop insisting to yourself that you can control their purposive behavior. You cannot.

2. Start acting upon people as they actually are. You may not like it that every other person is exactly like you — exclusively internally motivated — but denying this fact leads to failure and frustration, while accepting it will produce results and riches beyond your wildest dreams.

If you like this essay, I would be grateful if you would promote my memes into your warm networks — email, your social graph, in real life.

And if you have serious money and a serious interest in these ideas, you might think about sending me a contract and a check before someone else does. I have big-dollar horizontal and vertical market ideas growing out my ears.

But the most important thing is simply to be aware of how foolishly you have behaved, in the past, with respect to the absolute and inescapable ontological autonomy — the sovereignty — of other people, and how much better you can do, now and in the future, by acting upon other people as they actually are…

I wrote this in 2011. It’s interesting to me to see how little the debate has moved in that time. –GSS

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  • pelletfarmer

    Nice. That was magnificent, especially the first half; I didn’t read the second half as closely. Two comments…

    “If you glower hard enough or threaten convincingly enough or thrash your
    victim soundly enough, you might induce that person to do whatever it
    is you want done. But you will not have caused that behavior.”

    I may suck at Pragmatism, but I know how they think. “Big deal. Who cares what caused it? It works.” That’s their teleology, and they get to choose too, duh.

    “Including — guess who? — every man who, in the past, has been accused or
    convicted of forcible rape. All the other bad guys, too: Muggers,
    personal-loan dead-beats and creeps who stay the night but never call
    you back for a second date.”

    It may be the most important point that the two-edged-swordedness of information availability could be the thing that saves the species.

    That notwithstanding, you gotta be kidding with this. “Accused or convicted”? By whom? Plus, there’s the problem that a ton of bad guys haven’t been caught yet, and have a very strong tendency not to look like bad guys.


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