Category Archives: Society

A failure of society

Monday I was trapped on a bus for a good 15 minutes. I think the story was fairly simple: Some little old lady didn’t pay her fare. The bus stopped at the Bellevue Highway station, a little bus stop on the highway, about a city block’s walk from a park+ride. A bunch of people got on, and slipping between people was this little old chinese lady. Now, I’m fairly certain she didn’t pay the fare: I was somewhat looking up, and I did see her slip past. I don’t think she even noticed the fare collector, though.

She wanders to the back of the bus, everyone sits down or finds a handhold, and prepares to move. The bus driver shuts the doors. And doesn’t move. Just sits there. After a little bit, people started to notice that we weren’t moving, but nobody did anything (Including I). Finally, the driver got out of the bus, and a police officer got on. He walked back, talked briefly to the woman, and then escorted her off the bus.

Now, all in all, this was not a horrible result. No violence, no angry yelling. But, at the same time, there was no human interaction. There was only a sort of cold machine-logic to it. The busdriver didn’t even attempt to explain the issue to either the cause or any of the rest of the passengers. And, probably, he couldn’t, by law or union rules.

Now think of it this way: This bus was filled with business commuters. I was the least dressed person on the bus, and was wearing a nice leather jacket and a collared shirt. Most everyone else was in a business suit. Further, it was a double-long bus. Every seat was filled, and there were multiple people standing.  Every one of these people was 15 minutes later to work that morning. Over a $2.25 bus fare, and probably a misunderstanding of one at that! Society has built safety buffers so that there are not “incidents”, but at the cost of far more than the incidents could ever be. If this were downtown LA, maybe the caution would be warranted. But this was Bellevue, Washington, and the “criminal” was a little old asian lady to boot.

A very wise webcomic author once described a risk/reward chart for crime: The amount you gain from the crime, the chance of succeeding, the fines/jail time if you get caught. It’s important to balance it so that the risk*failure chance is slightly greater than the gain*chance of not getting caught. The chance for not getting caught sneaking onto the bus is relatively high, but the gain is so low it’s barely worth bothering with.

There are two courses of action that are fairly obvious, and produce better results: Either A) The driver went on with the trip, calling a metrocop to meet us at the next station or b) The driver said something, casing her to either Pay the Fare, get off, or worst case, I woulda just paid it for her! It’s $2.25. It’s simply not worth the bother.

A Cause, and suspension of disbelief.

There exists a book entitled “An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa. For several years, it was considered the authortative work on the customs and culture of what we now consider Taiwan in Britain. This amuses me to no end. The customs and culture described within are little short of ridiculous. In one section, it claims that “Men walked naked except for a gold or silver plate to cover their privates”. Yet, it was taken, if not seriously, to be worthy of curiosity by many educated gentry. True, it’s writer and backer did much to help with this claim: His strange habits included eating raw meat and sleeping upright in  a chair, and was good at arguing the point. Still, even as a novelty, one must wonder how people were willing to suspend their disbelief to play such a game.

It is my intention to find a copy of, scan in high detail, and transcribe this gem of  hoaxery. It’s an important historical document: It’s author and the claims within are referenced in “A Modest Proposal”. It’s also an interesting view of what a large world it seemed in the early 1700’s, and what people were willing to accept.

Rank and Phyle

It’s fairly obvious that you can pick your friends. Who you choose to be around is a definite choice: Though one that’s not been around for long. A mere hundred years ago, you couldn’t reasonably be expected to ever travel 100 miles away from where you were born. Your friends were limited to those within a few miles of where you lived. Now, it’s possible to go across the globe in a day, for prices that anyone can afford if they try. Further, it’s possible to know people across the globe, and communicate with them instantly, anytime, anywhere.

Who your friends are says a lot about your person. Your friends are generally the people like you. My friends, for example, are stereotypically Geeks. Uber-geeks, the social class of the geek heirarchy.

I belong to a Phyle. It’s not called that (Though, I think anyone among them would recognize that we are such). It’s more than simply a a group of friends: It’s less than a full nation, city, or even town. We are a diverse group, but we have the common ground of Gaming, of Computers, Of anime, electronics, physics, math, photography, and just about anything else geeky.

We could be considered a proto-phyle: It wasn’t specifically such that drew us together. We don’t have any particular laws or group logic (Except that the PS3 sucks, and some of us debate even that). However, given a topic, we generally come with a preconceived concensus. We think the same.

I joined this phyle a mere 5 months ago, though I had a foot in the door before then. I joined online: I came into the phyle’s domain, an IRC channel, and was rather quickly accepted. I considered many of the members friends before I met them in person. There’s a couple who I consider close friends whom I’ve met in person but once, briefly. Simply mentioning the phyle, and your association, gets you credit in my and other phyleist’s books. A couple days of conversation in a chatroom gains you more. A large amount of credit comes from simply having joined, and the process and selection are not hard.

More and more, geographical boundaries mean less and less. Your friends, and your phyle, can exist without ever needing to meet. At the same time, locale still matters, and still will for the forseeable future. Moving out to Seattle, to the center of the Phyle, certainly didn’t hurt. Late night dennys runs, parties, and random outings are still major social events, even as well connected as we are via the internet.

Things have changed. The Phyle is not any social structure that has existed before: The members are eclectic, and bound by ideals rather than geography. However, we still try and carve out geographical continuity, and the old methods of interaction are still just as valid.

Dumpnet drafts, and societal models

Attached at the end of this post will be some drafts of the Dumpnet protocol and specification. There’s some good ideas in them, and a kernel of truth in the idea presented there of Ant Routing. However, these drafts are crap for a number of reasons, both technical and societal.

A perfect society wouldn’t need the DUMPNET. A perfect society would have distinct similarities to a surveillance society: Cameras, records, logs would be everywhere. The difference would be that while a surveillance society would keep those records to those in power, a perfect society would keep them open to anyone.

Granted, this probably wouldn’t work for any number of reasons, but it’s a nice hope. A society where security procedures and anonymity are unnecessary is simply a dream, because there will always be a fringe who attempt to work outside the system.

Where is the DUMPNET necessary, then? Really, it’s current design is for a dystopian society. It allows perfect anonymity. Nobody can prove which packets you sent, or just routed, without careful examination of your computer. The design is paranoid. More along the lines of a cyberpunk world. Not practical in any way.

Not everyone shares my idea of a perfect world. I know some people who would love to live in said dystopia cyberpunk world. Even in our world, they live and value privacy as if they were living in that world. It’s not a bad attitude to take, all things considered. It serves them suprisingly well, if not the best socailly.

Most of those friends are people who I would consider “Hacker” friends. It’s not coincidental. Technological people tend to have higher concerns for issue like privacy. Perhaps because we better understand exactly how much data is being collected, and how it’s used.

I like the idea of the darknet. I like both the idea of freedom and the community that surrounds it. I like the idea of creating a service that can be used to make the world better. I like the access, the intrigue, and mystery that surrounds it.

I’m re-writing the spec. It was written as both a layer 3 and 4 protocol, but really, what’s important is the layer 3.

DUMPTRUNK Server Routing Protocol.

Programs that operate over the DUMPNET supply the DUMPTRUNK node with a Public key on which to listen. They are then allowed to send packets to the DUMPNET, as permitted by server policy, and all incoming messages with a DEST matching their key are routed to them.

To send a packet, the DUMPNET programs simply send a basic encapsulation of the packet to the DUMPTRUNK node along their connection to it. This should be essentially a full packet, with ID at 0. It should already include DEST, TTL, SRC, ID, and DATA, and data should be pre-encrypted. DEST should not be hashed.

The DUMPTRUNK node hashes DEST, lowers TTL according to policy, hashes SRC with it’s own private key if non-zero, sets ID

A packet, be it ANT or DATA, is received via a connection. The DEST hash is checked against the public keys registered with this DUMPTRUNK routing node. If it does not match, the ID is checked with the “Recent ID” table. If that returns a match, the packet is dropped. Zero should always be on the “Recent ID” table.

If there is no match on the “Recent ID” table, SRC is hashed with the DUMPTRUNK node’s private key and TTL is modified, appropriately. The new SRC is added to the public key table, along with the interface upon which it was received. (Unix Model note: If designed properly, there needs be no differentiation between a registered program and a linked node within the routing table. It’s just an opened filehandle.) It is then forwarded to each other node that is connected.

If the DEST matches one of them, it is determined whether it is an ANT or DATA packet, by the value of ID. The SRC and DATA are then passed on to the program that “owns” the public key.

DUMPNET Ant Packet specification:

An ant packet is used to set up a connection. It consists of the following information

DEST: A hash of a public key specifying destination.

TTL: A number, counting down the number of hops left to go for a given packet before it should be destroyed. TTL is one of the more flexible parts of DUMPNET. It should be randomized at the sender’s end, and at each node. There must be a general downward trend, but a 50% chance of reducing by one hop, a 40% chance of reducing by two, and a 10% chance of increasing by one helps mask the network architecture. Each DUMPNET routing node software MAY handle this differently.

SRC: An identifier, essentially a repeated crypt of a public key used in linking packets.

??? ID: An identifier, unchanged from node to node, to reduce traffic by preventing broadcast collision.

DATA: A further message, encrypted, with the same public key as used to generate DEST.

Dumpnet Packet Specification:

DEST: the SRC of the ant that was received to create the connection.

TTL: As above

SRC: Zero. There’s no need for a backtrace in this occurance.

??? ID: An identifier, unchanged from node to node, to reduce traffic by preventing broadcast collision. Note that, since the DEST should be a direct path, this should be 0. Perhaps this should be omitted for packets with a SRC of zero?