Why I got vaccinated? (part 1)

Tags: English, opinions, essays, personal, learning, life
Created on Fri, 04 Jun 2021

Edit: see part 2: what is True and part 3 - what would convince me NOT to vaccinate for progress on opinions in this article.

TL;DR: Because I care about myself, my parents and friends and I believe vaccination is the best way to protect myself and them, in order to resume any kind of "normality". I believe the risk of vaccination outweights the risk of not vaccinating, I trust the process of vaccination approval and testing by the various national and supra-national organizations, I trust the scientists and (even though I don't have to) I understood the relative simplicity of the idea of the vaccine and immune response generated by it. I find it unlikely that there is a larger conspiratorial picture for control, even if the vaccine has not naturally occured but it turns out it has been produced artifically on purpose for some geo-game or by accident by leaking/negligence. I find it much more likely that people look for someone to blame, people falling for all sorts of biases and missconceptions, media and government trust being at such low levels that people search for "alternative" explanations, all the while social media making finding agreeing groups much easier than ever with possible state actors trying to subvert trust in the "western" sciences, democracies and the like. Larger picture: because despite everything, we live in the best of times and I trust humanity.

Plus: now I truly have Internet everywhere. My hand has a ringtone, my fingers shoot lasers, my ears are satellites, I see in 5 dimensions and my thoughts have thoughts that manipulate the government.

The Big Bang Theory's Leonard shows a "sarcasm" sign

This post is long. It's messy, touching topics not so much on the vaccine safety, testing and inner workings - this can be found elsewhere. I'm also not trying to convince people to vaccinate because of herd immunity or to get "back to normality faster". It has been plenty covered and I have less to say about this anyway. This post is actually more about how does one find to believe what they believe, how does one find truth and what is truth anyway. It's very philosophical, possible full of errors and biases of my own but are things that I have been researching and interested in lately (and possibly for a long time too).

I will go pretty deep on what "truth" means at all at a semantic, mathematical and physical sense. I am not the first blogger or philosopher or whatever thinking being to think about at all, but I think about it and this is my blog and most of this is probably wrong anyway. Here is my slice of the philosophy that I've been exposed to in my life.

I was doing lot of self- (and through other-people-) reflection these past few days and weeks. For the first time in my life, I am exposing myself heads on, very willingly to opinions and world-views quite different than my own. Of course, I knew I was living in a bubble but I have resisted getting out of that bubble of scientific knowledge and science-minded people.

So I thought (and keep on thinking) about what I hear and try to understand where it's coming from, what should I change in me and what things I should keep.

My shocking conclusion (so far): I trust people.

Would I live any other time?

I got asked the other day "in what time of history would you chose to live?". I don't think I would chose any other time than now, despite the romanticism of some periods and the badness of the now. I enjoy having a nice, clean toilet with running water. I enjoy not having to die of hunger, have a relatively low chance of getting mugged, killed, tortured, getting a decease with absolutely no better resolution than shamans screaming in my face. Since I don't know what the future might be, and despite the global pandemic and relative uncertainty - this might be the best pandemic humanity has "enjoyed" - I chose now. We may be getting out of this badness in the next year or so - a record! And even if "it's not even a pandemic but a blown-out-of-proportion flu" (it's not) - is it possible to think of this 1-2 year period as a training for society in case a really much deadlier pandemic hits us? Learn through a relatively undeadly decease (it's not) so that if a new plague comes over we are much better prepared. It's not the best that we do that of course, but even if this was the case, it would still be extremely valuable.

Think of it: overall humanity has made such progress that we can develop a vaccine in a year! It's not a new method of vaccination - it's something we have been researching for years. Here's how it works, courtesy of the most informative comedian on the web:

xkcd 2425 - mRNA Vaccine

This is the progress of the scientific and engineering world, logistics, advances in medicines, bio-engineering and other fields that I will misname if I keep on going. It wasn't rushed - it was just extremely prioritized. Every single test that we usually do was done. The difference - it was done in parallel whenever possible.

But how could I possibly trust these people, without knowing them or without even knowing the fields they are working in? How could I possibly understand the benefits of mRNA vaccines over... the other kind? How could I possibly trust that all tests are done without even knowing the tests? Effectiveness rates and immune system responses, side effects and risks - even in my scientific minded world it would take days or weeks of research and in the end - I will still have questions and I may misunderstand a lot of the things "they" say, or I will doubt reports and authorities until I get so paranoid as to not dare to breathe. I have not researched other vaccines before - why should that one be any different? In fact, I have not researched so much of things I do everyday which relies on trust of people and groups of people doing their job honestly - why should a vaccine be any different?

How can I truly know there is no global conspiracy of chip manufacturing that is being put in the vaccines to control my mind? Seeing all the inadequacies of governments and corruption which gets exposed daily, seeing all the mindless restrictions, all the failed businesses, all the profiteering companies at the top level compared to that - how could I possibly trust people, science and society?

Here's the thing: Despite a global pandemic, climate change, inequalities, the world is getting a lot better in a lot of metrics that you don't hear too often. Take a look at Hans Rosling's Gapminder foundation to test yourself on how much you think the world is bad vs. how bad it really is (spoiler alert: it's actually quite good!).

It's insane how good we are but we still have long ways to go. We uncover things that we suck at that we would've never discovered if it wasn't for the systematic, methodological way of doing things - sometimes with two steps forward and 1.9 (or 2.1) steps backward. Maybe we overdid the restrictions. Maybe we sacrificed too much. Maybe it's extremely important not to go down the slippery slope of trusting authorities to take our rights of free movement, we shouldn't let governments tell us when to hug each other or when to cover our faces, making it hard to breathe.

I see these points. And we all changed our lives in the past year or so and may never get back to "before". The fact is, there is no promise of progress in humanity - we may have actually slid backwards in some measures of authoritarianism. Perhaps the virus was artificially created for some twisted domination of a random group of people. This will be hard to uncover (if ever) but despite that my conclusions were the same.

Could the vaccine be a sneaky way for some people to control us through chips or 5G? Unlikely. We live in a society the basis of which is that we trust immensely each other. What water should I drink if I don't trust people? What food should I get? Do I go living in the woods by myself? It's an option for many - but it comes with all the negatives of not having anyone else around. Instead of benefiting of all the human experience we have gathered painstakingly over many generations, should I get back to literally "reinvent the wheel"?

On the other side a complete blind trust in authority is also detrimental - we have seen real conspiracies being shown to be true. One can't trust everything because then you become a naive robot, devout of critical and self-thought. But too much self-thought in the wrong areas is also bad - for you become a paranoid, misinformed citizen. Misinformed - although some will claim that they have "the best words/information, because they think for themselves" - because then you are a slave to your own biases and missconceptions which humanity has cleared out for free for you to benefit from.

So where does one draw the line of trust?

Game theory vaccination

If I care about anyone other than myself, my best bet is to get vaccinated.

Game theoretically, my best outcome would probably be to "convince everybody else to get vaccinated but not get vaccinated myself". This way, I personally get all the benefits with none of the associated risks with vaccination or even getting the decease.

Assuming I'm willing to stay at home, not meet people while the pandemic is raging, wait it out and not meet with my parents or any other people that may have hidden condition that may get unlocked by Covid, it would be best to not do anything.

But I don't want to. I want to travel and see and hug my parents again. Not that I haven't during the pandemic but it was a risk. There is always risk - for anything.

There is risk for traveling. There is a risk for staying at home. There is risk for doing something or doing nothing. There is a risk for vaccinating and getting severe side effects, there is a risk for not vaccinating and getting Covid's side effects. There is a risk of the vaccine creating an unpredictable chain of reaction in my body that 10 years down the road kills me. There is a risk of getting Covid with or without symptoms, creating an unpredictable chain of reaction in my body that 10 years down the road kills me.

Here is a (stupid) unit called micromort that provides some estimate of risk of different activities. We, humans, are not good at estimating these numbers - we need historical evidence and statistics. If I try to estimate my risks I will almost certainly be wrong. Why? Remember the proverb - one dead human is a tragedy, a thousand is a statistic. Media and society will pay huge attention to a single gruesome death from a vaccine but not to the millions of protected. Have you ever heard the news "many people didn't die because they put their seatbelts"? Of course not - no one cares if people keep on living, we care when people die. We will even hear as a big news if people have died despite putting seatbelts on - because nothing is secure, things reduce risks but nothing, ever eliminates all risk for anything.

We, humans, get biased by the Internet articles we read, the news on the TV that we hear and we have very bad judgment as to what is really going on. Plane travel is the safest in almost any possible measure. But still we get more scared getting on a tube traveling in the middle of the air as if by magic, no matter the logical reasoning and statistics. We picture the unlikely and overly publicized scenario of a plane crash despite the facts that airtravel has been getting safer year after year. Reasons are many, compared to - let's say - car travel. You have much less control over the pilot. Feeling that makes you out of control is more scary, because you have to trust others. Car crashes and deaths are statistical measures in a country, unless a particularly nasty crash has happened today. But an emergency landing is almost always on the news - even if nothing really happened, no one was hurt and there was just a bad storm or abundance of caution by the pilots.

So there must be some trust, somewhere to get authorities to decide some things for you. And in an age where we trust less and less authorities - we see fake ads, fake promises, fake news - how the hell do we even begin to understand the ground truths?!

Why is it important to "get" science

Science in schools is (mostly) boring.

I believe almost every human is born with natural curiosity about the world around them and schools often manage to kill that. One way to look at science is that it's the structured way of humanity to resolve a lot of the curiosities that we have about the world around us. It doesn't necessarily show us "the truth" as truth is difficult to define. This is more the philosophy of science - what is true, what is real and so on.

However, a more realistic way to look at science is that progress happens when there is a frequently economical need for it to happen. Sometimes we discover things out of curiousity and not knowing what might turn out. Einstein couldn't have predicted GPS satellites would be enabled by his Theories of relativity. He was inspired by solving a much smaller problem - syncronizing clocks in cities. Computers weren't created to play games - it was created to break crypto codes in war times and do faster math in general. The Internet (protocols) were created so that communication can be resilient against nuclear strikes during the Cold war, not to watch funny cat pictures 24/7.

Science follows engineering but also enables new engineering in a loop. Some people working on it are driven by pure curiosities. But that curiousity wouldn't be possible in a modern world where all the low hanging fruits of experiments that you can do at home are taken, without the money enabling you to work in teams and have access to equipment to probe deeper into reality.

An almost universal among the people I talk to is that whether you like science is very much dependent on the teacher (their ability to teach in general and your personal like-ness/relationship) and environment in which you grew up. I have been fighting on-and-off this boring kind of education since high school.

Now, in times of pandemic we see the real world effects of the result of a lot of factors that have detached people from the pursuit of understanding what the world is like. While we try to employ free speech laws and rules to guard the possibility of free expression and prevent fascism, this results in encouraging everyone to come up with their creative narrative of what is really going on. It's still probably better this way.

However, we do see that some of the results is that a lot of conspiracy theories, spread around even more easily than before through the means of social media bubbles. We can't and probably shouldn't tell BigTech what to allow and what not - they are private companies doing their own thing, but the fact that there are billions of people on these platforms puts them in a special position, in some regards more powerful than governments.

The result of these conspiracy theories is real harm, causing people to doubt vaccinations intent, causing real suffering and deaths in the world. While there are some legitimate questions that should be posed for vaccines and how COVID came to be, illiteracy in scientific concepts like what is a virus, what is RNA and even more so - the unwillingness to learn about these real concepts because of bad experience with the scientific method drawn from schools - causes the real world harm that we see today.

So that's why I fight [g/G]od(s). Not the personal belief and comfort that you receive from the protective/parent-like concept of [g/G]od(s). I'm not even against the [g/G]od(s) of the gaps (the idea that what we don't know must be [g/G]od(s)). You can call these concepts whatever you like - prayers, self-motivation, hypotheses or whatever you want. I fight against the [g/G]od(s) of ignorance.

Progress in humanity is not guaranteed - we can slip into the dark ages and some people actually do, believing in [g/G]od(s) and other supernatural explanations where other, hard-earned explanations already exist.

There are real conspiracy theories - Snowden's NSA revelations hit the world particularly hard, at least in my field of expertise. Some conspiracy theories of today may well turn out to be true. A big problem of society today is to find the balance - how can you find out which are these are true and which are complete bollocks.

How do we know what we know?

Anything that "science" has "discovered" (I should stop putting quotes because almost any word or phrase can be vague) is of varying sure-ness level. Some things we know really well (e.g. the Anomalous magnetic moment of the electron is now known to one part in a trillion and recently huge experiments are trying to find new physics in some small differences there), some things we sort of speculate and still need more work (what is exactly the nature of Black holes or what is Dark matter) while others we completely don't even know where to begin with (what is consciousness). We kind of know what we know, we know some of what we don't know but we also don't know what we don't know - but that last one is probably always completely irreconcilable almost by definition.

But everything that we do know is extremely hard to demonstrate and verify. Even the simplest facts like "The Earth is (kind-of) spherical" requires knowledge and understanding of experimental evidence, geometry and math that a monkey would not be able to understand - and we are mostly monkeys individually. Only collectively the humanity is able to make assertions and verify these assertions so naturally that means that to really belief even the simplest scientific truths you need to trust that part of humanity that was able to verify it.

For some things you can come up with your own experiments to verify it for yourself - but with more complicated science you need more people around you to construct and understand each part of the experiment. Humans are "winning" over monkeys because we can communicate on a common natural language but also in more complicated languages like math and logic or even programming languages.

So if you rely on your "own independent research" you are likely to make errors, errors that have been made many, many times before by many different humans. Millions of lifetimes won't be enough for you to read and even less to understand what humanity has come up with. But how do you know who and what to trust?

Hypothesis vs. Theory

Ah, the ever-present semantics of said languages. In everyday talk we use the word "theory" to talk about possibilities. There is this dissonance that in sciences for the same concept we use the word "hypothesis". In most sciences the word "theory" is a stronger version of "hypothesis" - we have made a lot of theoretical and/or experimental probings of a given hypothesis and we call it a theory.

There is no "proof" in science. Scientists have never "proved" anything, despite writings in magazines and newspapers. They have just made better logical conclusions based on rigorous mathematical systems and/or experiments from one or several angles that provide some level of certainty to a hypothesis. After many years, many experiments, many probings (and failures) to disprove a hypothesis, many modifications to the original hypothesis, sometimes a hypothesis can graduate to a theory. But the word "theory" is also a bit of a historical thing - it doesn't really matter what you call a certain proposition in science - it can always get wrong in some circumstances. Even so called "laws" are also just hypothesis that historically have been found out early enough to have the arrogance to call them laws - like "Energy Conservation Law" or "Newton's Second Law of motion". These are also valid hypothesis in certain situations that can be broken (e.g. in open systems or in non-inertial / relativistic frames of reference) or that we have discovered that are coming from a more fundamental principle (e.g. principles of symmetry or quantum fields).

What is "True", "Fact", "Discovery"

Let's get down to truth as much as we can. Most scientists would not even begin to question mathematics - it is a pure conjecture of logic and every single science lies on the truth of mathematics. While experiments can be wrong, while "laws" of nature can be disproven at some point, the one thing that most scientists won't question is the perfectness of maths - it's not about probing reality, it's the fundamental tool to discover reality. So what if even maths may not be true can be faulty?

Let's assume 1+1=2. To know that you need to know what is 1, +, = and 2. These are not real things that you can discover in the Universe in any way. These are not built in structures in our brains when we are born. We learn them and we agree on them. We agree that the symbol 1 represents a singular virtual quantity of something but not something in concrete - something abstract. That's insane amount of assumption and understanding that by itself is almost impossible to grasp when you peer into it. And that true statement on which all further mathematics is built upon - is true by definition.

Anything that you build on have to have something at the bottom that you trust or define to be true. These are called axioms. As far as I know there is no "axiom-less system of knowledge" or some kind of "recursively defined" system that doesn't need ground beliefs. So these abstract definitions like the numbers and what it means to sum up something are axioms. Of course, one can invent other axioms and build the 1+1=2 to be a consequence of these axioms rather than an axiom itself - but nevertheless, you need some unprovable truth at the bottom of it all.

So, what does it mean for something to be true by definition? Well, you could define that 1+1=10. And that is actually true in binary counting. Then 2+2=4 is not true - there is no 2 in binary, there are only 0 and 1s. One could also build some mathematics in which 1+1=3 and then define 3 to be 2 or what-not. Romans had I+I=II which if we represent in our modern arabic digits would look like 1+1=11. So this simple "truth" we defined above is a truth by definition, it's true because we say so, not because it is really a law of the Universe.

But once we accept that and believe in this, let's call it: "God of mathemathics" then following a set of consistent logical structures we are enabled to discover the true laws of the Universe. Math is perfect, there are just a minimum of a few things to trust and once you trust them - the Universe, or even - all the possible Universes that could ever exist (not merely the single one we can probe - that would be Physics) unfolds themselves in all their glory.

Consistent?

... and then of course it all got ruined. A badass named Kurt Gödel figured out in 1931 (when he was just 25 mind you!) that math is not consistent (or if it is, it can't prove that it is). Math is not even complete. Turing further discovered math is not even decidable. And not only our math - any math, any "consistent system of axioms (believes like 1+1=2) is capable of proving all truths about the arithmetic of natural numbers". Meaning there could be true statements in (any sort of) Maths that cannot be proven to be true. This blows out "completeness". He did a figurative 1-2 blow with the second punch being that any "the system cannot demonstrate its own consistency".

A simple example which is usually given is in the sentence "This sentence is false" - a famous paradox that I got to know as early as 10 years old. If the sentence is false, then that means it's true. But if it is true - then it's false. So it's inconsistent ad infinitum. Of course, Gödel stuff are much more complicated but the gist is kind-of the same.

So - if I ever meet (any) God - I will immediately ask him of His resolution to the Omnipotence paradox which is usually stated as "Can You create a stone that you cannot lift?" - assuming of course He knows English, gets meaning and all the other caveats. We as humanity "discovered" maths and also have claims about all sorts of possible maths and that's as far as our slightly-better-than-monkey intellect goes. Maybe there is "something" beyond that, the equivalent of us explaining our simple 1+1=2 rule to a dog and assuming we succeed, asking it to derive Gödel's incompleteness theorems (which by the way, took a surprisingly long time for humanity - we have "discovered" Special and General relativity and most of the postulates of Quantum mechanics was there before we figured out Maths is inconsistent!).

And that's what so much of what we know is build upon? What could we possibly trust?

Communication is impossible

Let's shake of a bit of our existential crisis of knowledge and assume I discover some truth. How do I put it out there at all?

Well, I write a paper and publish it, or to get even simpler - I want to check with my friend that I'm not a looney and send them the paper to review. But then how do I know if they have received it? Well, then they can send me a letter to acknowledge that they have received it. But if I don't get that letter - how do I know if they have received it and sent the letter or if the letter got lost? Well - in that case, once I receive the letter of receipt, I will send them a letter that I have received the receipt. But if they don't receive this second confirmation, how could they know if I have received their confirmation or the first one got lost... They could retransmit but each of the retransmissions could suffer the same problem of unknowability...

This of course is a variant of The Two Generals' Problem - and guess what - there is no solution! The mindful and computey-geeky of my readers would say "Then how does TCP solves it if it's impossible - there is the 3-way handshake thing?" (TCP is on some level how the Internet works btw). Well, TCP doesn't solve it - it provides some guarantees of liveness but it cannot solve it, because it's a paradox that is proven to be unsolvable and you can see the proof in the wiki page above.

But then - imagine we forget about letters and meet on a zoom/jitsi call. Then I can see their expression and know if they have received the information. But then you know what's next - "Hello, do you hear me?" "Yes, I do, do you?" - and this solves it for the previous message, but not for any further - the connection can drop at any moment and each of the one could be speaking to the blank connection - and then we need to reastablish our "hearing each other" again.

OK, screw tech, let's meet face to face (with masks maybe). Then we can surely know that communication happened, right? Well, then the medium is the air between us. And we can assume hearing happens, but the other person can get a stroke at any time, become deaf or just blank out - invisible to us. They can pretend that they listen, but we cannot know if they hear us.

Communication is impossible!

But let's go even further! We don't even want to talk to anybody, just to ourselves. How could we possibly know that we hear our own thoughts and get receipts and confirmations of thoughts. Then the problem is our connectome, our neurons sending these same confirmations of receipts, same two generals' problem but in our own head, happening a billion times a second.

Now if you understood all of that and you are not in an existential crisis, I don't know what could possibly put you in one!

I think therefore... am I?

I'm not the first person, by far, to try to figure out what we know and how could we know it. Rene Descartes's famous "Cogito, ergo sum" is what he describes as ""we cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt" which for my read is his attempt to construct Principia Mathematica in human language - this is what Russel and Whitehead tried to achieve just before Gödel came to the stage to ruin it. They tried to make maths consistent by attempting to remove all possibilities of inconsistence such as "the set of all sets that don't contain themselves". But even though they've written an insane amount of dense pages full of mathematical consistency, Gödel proved that they will fail, even if they succeed writing 100x the text that they began with.

So, no, sorry, Descartes - this won't work even if we wanted to. Even our own thinking may approximate our belief in existence but we will never be able to get a consistent, complete and decidable grasp on reality.

Back to reality - how do we discover things at all?

Okay, forget all this philosophy of impossibles. Let's get a bit closer to our world. Assume we have maths, assume we have communication - what is a "fact" at all?

Let's take our favorite green apple. We point at it and say "this apple is green".

Green apple

This is "a fact". Or is it?

Michael from Vsause

Assume we even know what is "green" and what is "apple" (we will tear apart this argument soon enough, don't worry). Remember the dress?

The Dress

Do you see it "blue and black" or "white and gold"? It seems half of the population sees it one way, the other half - the other. It's an interesting visual perception illusion that divided the Internet back in 2013, defusing a World War III by mere luck. Of course, there are many, many, many more visual illusions that demonstrate we cannot possibly trust our sight in many ways, e.g. - the squares below are the same color:

Chessboard illusion

Sight is not our only sense that can be lied to. So can our hearing.

All right, but that's why we have computers and equipment right? We can probe reality and demonstrate what the "truth" of something is without relying on our imperfect senses.

That helps! Somewhat... And that's how we come up with physics, chemistry, biology and all the in-between natural sciences. Both our senses and engineered technology helps us demonstrate from multiple experiments in multiple ways what is real, measurable (up to some errors and statistical significance analysis which is all a field within itself). It is extremely time consuming process...

Back to trust

...that anyone can also cheat. I can write a paper describing I've done some experiment that I haven't, received some result that I haven't, do a wrong analysis on the numbers to prove my point, gather people to do the same, convincing them that this is the right thing to do and so on. This happens - and more often than you think! Scientists are incentivised to write papers in order to get grants/money.

Then the question is of consensus and trusting. Google ranks the search results that you see based on the same idea that scientists trust each other. How many times a paper is cited is a proxy for how trustworthy the paper is. Google calls it pagerank and is a recursive algorithm that values a certain webpage X higher, the higher ranked webpages (Y,Z,A,B) point to the the X one. It's recursive, because "the higher ranked webpages (Y,Z,A,B)" are also ranked in terms of their links from other "higher ranked webpages". So it's a kind of a network of interconnected pages that rank themselves.

And the same is used for scientific articles that cite others. The higher the authority of an author (which is judged by how often one is cited) the higher the authority of the papers that they cite in their current paper.

Of course, the algorithm is not perfect. Google bombing is an early cheat on the search engine that was able to push false information in a higher ranking. Link farming and Content farm are other problems that Google and other search engines fight daily. There is no perfect mathematical solution to trust (as we have seen previously). There is a constant game of cat and mouse. Rich entities (billionaires, governments, interest groups) can create click/link farms and other forms of manipulation techniques.

True conspiracies

Translated into the scientific world - we know of the tobacco's industry conspiracies in the 70s that turns out to be true. They "coordinated activities to promote the social acceptability of smoking". This was legitimate equivalent of content farming in the world of scientific research - create uncertainty and doubt, apparently ruining the consensus of scientists. Same with the lightbulb conspiracy that today may still be true in planned obsolescence.

(Un)fortunately, there is no real Google for scientific concensus. There is no ranking of which scientific theory is more correct and the fight that Google pulls of for search results is on the scientific community and media to demonstrate validity of true science and invalidity of bad actors.

I said (un)fortunately because even when we do have Google as the authority for the web - why should they be? Google is a private company, with incentives to get more advertising $$$ from other companies, with responsibilities to their shareholders. It's not a non-profit, it's not an all-good/all-knowing entity as much as it tries to be.

There is another problem when as we see recently when we have such an authority for the web...

Google/Facebook/Twitter are banning Free speech!

As I said: Facebook/Twitter (and Google/YouTube) are private companies. The websites that you visit are created by these private companies. These are their properties, albeit virtual. They are the equivalents of houses, offices, private land or other kind of property in the physical world. They allow you to express your opinion there but they can ban you, oust you or if they want - completely shut down their sites tomorrow. Would any private company allow you to write any graffiti on their buildings? This is the equivalent of all of the above companies.

There is no "free speech" there. Of course, free speech itself is a construct with a lot of asterisks and it is very different in each country what you can say and where without reprecautions. We are relatively more free to express our thoughts and opinions without governmental prosecution but that's not even remotely true when you start looking into the details even into "freedom" countries like the US. The a look into the US free speech exceptions, a short list is:

and others. And all of these require interpretation as there is no law in the Universe what is "free speech", any "universal human rights" are vaguely defined based on historical and cultural rules that certain groups of humans has made up, just like how countries and money are made up concepts.

Whose responsibility is it anyway to tell you the truth in a democracy?

Unofficially - the media. It's not the government - they should be kept in check by the people. But what is "the media"? Is it the pagerank-like authority-based trust model? Or is it every single person to make up their own mind?

On the one side societies in which people are considered equal should have the right to make up their own mind. We are, of course, not equal (blasphemy, I know) by whatever definition of equal you want to put. There is no way a 2-day old baby is equal to 32-year old person. There is no way that even the magical 18-year old person is equal to any other 18-year old person - each have their own experience and expertise. Some people understand maths more, some people understand art and history more. Some people have schizophrenia, others have dementia, some have one sort of genitals, others have the other, some have both. So naturally, each trying to discover "the truth" by whatever definition is going to be biased in their own way.

On the other side - trusting the authoritative media - is at an all-time low. Attention span is low so people read the titles of articles, scrolling to the next one on Facebook. So the most bombastic, angrying or annoying article gets attention, gets shared - not necessarily the most true (again - whatever true is). Media gets defunded, noone visits their websites to click on ads, everyone is on Facebook. No one buys newspapers, everything is online. The media is highly concentrated in many countries, some have ties with the government. Freedom of the press tries to measure that.

Then of course, people are unhappy. People are emotional, searching for someone to blame, searching for reason and meaning. They stop trusting big media authorities, because they provide with a scientific, dry, slow arguments - and people want to blame someone or something on their unhapiness. So they turn to "alternative media". Who is to say which one is more correct than the other? Once upon a time you could see "yellow newspapers" full of shit sayings - now these same are a click away, shared on social media, consumed by people who want to be more unique in understanding the world - and the rest are sheep who follow whatever mainstream media and government tells them.

Then there is the Dunning Kruger effect - the less you know, the more likely you are to overestimate your abilities. So if you read something untrue (like that 5G causes covid simptoms), you don't understand even the basics (how electromagnetism works and germ-theory), you look for semantics (theory - meaning it's not proven), adjust to your emotional state (someone is doing this evil on purpose because you need an agent that you can blame, instead of nature being nature) - then you start believing in your own little bubble of understanding and the less you understand, the more likely you are to be firmly entranched in your beliefs - and possibly also spread them.

And then with Facebook/Instagram/Youtube - you find people just like you - so you don't think you are crazy anymore. Other people reached your conclusions, so who is to say what is right? A mental virus in itself.

But which one is more correct? There are true conspiracies that may not be found out immediately by the mainstream. But amongst them there will be a ton of false conspiracies, many, many more and then it's up to each one's filter to figure out which one is true, based on their own psychotic and emotional situation.

Deepfakes propaganda

A picture is worth a thousand words. How about a video then?

There are lies, there are proofs. And today it's easier to find proofs for whatever you want to believe in. Deepfakes allow us to create images and video of people saying things. Alternative media can use this easily, spreading it, playing on people's weaknesses.

The motivations can be propaganda by a state actor or a crazy uncle somewhere. Anyone can create a Facebook page. You don't pay for hosting like websites and with the right message - get a lot of followers. The right message is not necessarily true in any sense - but it can get a lot of attention.

I don't know where this is going

This post is a brain dump of shitty writing that I almost threw out. But I will put it out there just in case someone learns something new.

I don't have anything conclusive or optimistic to say right now. There is no solace in what I have described. We live in a post-truth world and I have no idea how we get out of it. We are all doomed.

Now I really want to install Windows.

Have a nice day!

The Great Asymmetry

Tags: English, life
Created on Tue, 18 May 2021

The Random (or destiny, God, Universe, luck) has crossed my life path these days with an unlikely person that makes me think outside of my box. It is possible of course that I make myself think outside of the box, or the box got smaller, or my thinking larger. It is also possible that I'm reinventing the wheel, getting more bored at work or COVID/knee injury isolation is making me nuts. But it's kind of romantic to think it's a person. And isn't it almost always a certain somebody that makes you think strange things and change your direction in life? Anyways.

I lose some sleep every once in a while thinking about a certain great asymmetry that science around me never seems to talk about (or I am not in those circles at least). Not physics, not biology or chemistry.

Why am I experiencing stuff from this exact brain/body?

Sure, I understand that my brain interprets serotonin, dopamine or oxytocin as pleasure (or I would understand if I actually studied the brain and not just watched educational YouTube videos or read a pop-sci books). In any case, there is some process that is, I believe, fairly well studied and if I asked or dared to learn and get a degree in neurochemistry I would be able to fairly accurately describe the paths, the neurotransmitters and the hormones at play.

The Hard Problem

But what is pleasure? This is part of the hard problem of consciousness. The description of what pleasure is or how pleasure gets delivered or what brain activity is associated with pleasure is the easy problem. The hard problem is more about the experience that I know I have, that you know you have but you don't know whether I have it and I don't know whether you have it. I believe that other humans or living beings experience sadness and pain, pleasure and happiness but I can't know for sure. I can test their brains, I can measure their voltages between certain regions, I can see them light up in one of these big medical machines. But I cannot know whether they really experience it.

In any case - why this exact brain? There are about 7 Billion or so roughly equivalent brains on the planet even if we limit experiences to human. Although - we don't have to. The 1% difference (or whatever - depends how you measure it) in DNA to monkeys can't possibly exclude them from the potential pool of possibilities I (whatever I is) could have "attached" to. I don't have accurate statistics, but isn't it possible that the smartest monkey is smarter than the dumbest human? I'm talking babies or some degenerative/psychiatric human brains compared to the "Einstein" of chimpanzees? Isn't there some overlap? And if we go down the same logic - maybe some dogs, cats or rats, dolphins, magpie (also addorably known as Pica Pica) or cockroaches (there are some insanely smart bunch out there). Why this brain? Why this particular body?

Is it the atoms that make it? Or the cells? If this is not one of these common misconceptions, I'm pretty sure all atoms/cells have been changed one by one since my birth ala the Ship of Theseus. So there is some continuity in my existence even though it may not be material.

So: soul?

But if soul is the answer, based on what we know about the physical world so far - it is a free rider on the physical wave of existence. If soul is somehow non-materialistic (i.e. either not found out by current physics or impossible to find by any scientific method (the later would make it quite philosophical in existence)) then how much can the soul really do? It seems our brain and neuron structure is governed by fairly simple laws of chemistry and biology, creating the illusion that it's magic only because it's so much of it.

I mean, looking at the Internet, it can be kind of magic - there are so many computers, so many cables, each computer - a Universe by itself. And yet, it is governed by a handful of protocols, created and managed by humans. You don't notice the Internet how brilliantly and seamlessly it works. Until, of course, it doesn't work. Then you notice it. Then you call the Internet Service Provider (ISP) or the electricity company. Or the ISP calls their upstream provider's support and so on until they find and fix the problem (sometimes literally by laying down new cable).

But the Internet is not really magic. It's complicated, messy, sort-of evolved by trial and error, not really intended to be what it is today. It is impossible for single human to comprehend it and it's probably impossible to even properly map it out, even with computers. Yet, it works.

And as far as we know, so is our brain. But because we didn't create it and we have "just" started understanding (in the past some-hundreds of years, depending on how you count) we still don't know each cabling where it goes and what it does. But whenever we poked at one specific part of it, we understand it from bottom to top, all the way. We haven't mapped it out yet, but there is no indication that there will be some hidden region in it called "soul". We don't understand it because it's so huge, it's an Internet in our heads evolved for about 4 billion years - cabling has went everywhere. But we will get it. We will explain every part of it eventually - I have no reason to doubt it.

And when we do, we will be able to trace every single decision down to the neuron or neurons that started it. We will have a complete history of what vision or sound created which electrical signal. We will play the favorite game of Robert Sapolsky - get down to the nanosecond before the decision, then play it backward to the last minute, hour, day, month, year, decade all the way to our parents and grand-parents genes, our ancestors way of life and the evolution that made them.

The fact that we can't do it is an engineering problem, not a principal science problem. Then where is the free will? What made me take that decision - there doesn't seem to be space for it, not in our material world.

Types of soul

But if it is the soul - does the soul obey our laws of nature? If it does - then it "rides" on the laws of physics, perhaps giving us a solution to the hard problem - the soul is what experiences the physical world. But it's a "read-only" kind of soul - it can experience but it can't possibly influence decisions. So this kind of soul does not provide space for free will. But maybe it provides this asymmetry that keeps me up at night. Somehow this soul is attached to these ever-changing physical characteristics of my body for some time. It doesn't matter that it chose this brain/body but does every brain/body has some soul like this? Do more "complicated" pieces of matter have more/less soul? Do dogs, cats, ants and cockroaches have some soul that experiences? Do trees, mushrooms, bacteria and viruses have soul? Do rocks? Stars? Galaxies? Atoms? Quarks? Is there a limit, a quantity? Of course, all of these questions assume some eventual discoverability of such a soul - I'm leaving the completely philosophical kind of soul for my third year of quarantine - then I will go completely crazy.

What if it's another kind of soul - a read/write kind of soul? Can it influence the physical world? A common place where people hearing about some effects of the quantum world try to put such kind of soul is the entanglement or in the measurement problem. The randomness of the quantum world.

Quantum magic

Some caveats - these effects are magnitudes smaller than a brain, smaller than neurons, organelles in the cell, or even the DNA. MAGNITUDES. As in 5-6 magnitudes, meaning 1 with 5-6 zeroes, meaning 10,000-100,000; meaning if a quantum effect is a fluctuation happening at the scale of a bean (1 cm), the scale of a neuron will be roughly 1-10 km.

And these are RANDOM - meaning if this was the case that gives us souls, we wouldn't have thoughts - we would start moving a piece of our mouth, then choke, start a letter of a thought, then twitch a finger or stop our heart. Nothing would make sense if, as far as we know, the quantum effects are really random.

But this is the only place where some unpredictability happens. And OK - small effects, "butterfly effect" (doesn't apply here, it's not (necessarily) chaos really), loads and loads of handwaving - I know I'm talking some bollocks in this post, science friends - if you haven't switched off long ago, probably you want to do it now - I know this will be wrong, but enjoy the ride if you decide to. I don't want to feed wrong ideas to the wrong kind of people - I know they are wrong. Please don't cite me. I'm dreaming and exploring here.

Maybe it's not random - we don't have enough data. Maybe it's random just at first sight, but if you take the whole Universe, we will discover the pattern. Or the pattern is something beyond human comprehension... Although it is: all measurements of random seem to be perfectly happy - we can test if something is random and how random it is. For example AAAAAAAAA is much less random than EUXMQPFHN and even this is not a random string of bytes but all capital, printable, ASCII/English characters. In any case, quantum is quite random. But maybe this seemingly random thing is not random and bubbles up 6 magnitudes to create something like a soul.

Then of course the question is, as with every God explanation - what controls the soul? If there is something more complicated outside of our Universe, doesn't it also deserve explanation? If God created the soul, who created God? Are we back to "turtles all the way down"?

Entanglement is cool and all but hard to keep it. The brain is too "hot and wet" for Entanglement to exist for too long time or for too many particles. But some respectable scientists like Penrose seem to be going in this direction, looking at this with some smart anesthesia folks. I don't think he is right, but also I don't want to say a Nobel prize winner is not right, so - keep at it, maybe we find out something new.

The measurement problem is interesting as well - what counts as measurement? What actually disturbs the quantum states? Doesn't the equipment that measures become part of the quantum system? Doesn't the person and brain reading the measurement also then become part of the system? What exactly collapses the wave-function?

There are a few states where this type of soul/consciousness seems buggy - and as the analogy with the flaky Internet goes, and as real scientists, we should poke there. The times of sleep. The time of a coma. The time of a general anesthesia. Drunkenness. Mushrooms. Other forbidden or less forbidden stuff. Yoga. Meditation. These stuff some claim provide different experiences. And some of them I've never experienced, I can't deny that they exist for some people. It's like if I was blind to deny that some people see. Or if I never experienced happiness to deny some people can. It's basic politeness and the whole soul/hard problem depends on politeness - otherwise I can just postulate that everything is a hologram put by the Devil and only I can experience stuff, the whole Universe is a hoax.

As many of the links, videos (and laziness to include all other links) shows - none of this is new or original, of course. But this is my blog. And these are my thoughts these days. Losing sleep. Thinking why am I in this particular brain and not in another. Giving in into the slippery slope of mysticism perhaps? Looking at some of my previous writings and the speed with which I wrote this one, having previously read and thought on a lot of these topics - it's probably not (just) the romantic thing.

But she definitely sparked it (back).

"НЕ" на задълижителното машинно гласуване

Tags: Български, политика, технологии, хакове
Created on Thu, 06 May 2021

В предишния ми пост обясних защо не трябва да позволяваме електронното гласуване. Депутатите миналата седмица, обаче приеха задължителното гласуване с машини в секции над 300 избиратели. Това също е огромен проблем ако искаме доверие в демократичния избор.

Елементарната аналогия

Ето какво правим: връщаме се в дните, когато кутиите за пускането на бюлетините не бяха прозрачни. Преди може би 15 години вече решихме, че така може да се манипулира кутията, като се пуснат гласове предварително или някой да подмени кутията без някой да гледа. Въпреки, че твърдим че минаваме в "дигиталната ера" или се "модернизираме" истината е, че тази стъпка със задължителното машинно гласуване е огромна стъпка назад що се отнася до доверието в изборния процес. Вижте предишния ми пост относно как технологиите ускоряват както добрите, така и лошите неща. В случая в този пост ще защитя идеята, че този вид дигитализация е лоша, тъй като създава много повече проблеми.

Машината за гласуване е черна, тъмна кутия пълна с код, който може (не казвам, че ще се, но е възможно) да се промени от достатъчно малък брой хора, така че да се запази конспирацията в тайна.

Информацията, която следва е от обучителен клип предназначен за Секционните Избирателни Комисии (СИК):

Ако не ви се гледа видеото, следното е важно: разбираме, че има три разпечатки от машината - 1. една в началото която показва нули за всички партии, 2. по една разпечатка след всеки вот и 3. една в края, която показва сумите на всички гласове.

Разпечатка 2. (или отделните вотове) се пускат в тъмна кутия (това го чух, че е тъмна, а не прозрачна, но нямам потвърждение - ако някой знае първоизточник моля да ми изпрати). Тази кутия НЕ се носи в Районните Избирателни Комисии, което на практика изглежда я обезсмисля като верификация. Ако тези листчета всъщност се използват или като верификация на вече разпечатаните гласове от разпечатка 3. или като първоизточник на реалния брой гласове (т.е. се броят както стандартни бюлетини), то това би направило машинното гласуване сравнително еквивалентно на нормалното гласуване с бюлетина. Доколкото ми е известно това не е така.

Така остава, че разчитаме само на изхода от Разпечатка 3. Да видим какво може да се "хакне". Следното са само няколко бегли идеи за това как може да се наруши процеса. Не твърдя, че имам информация, че ще стане, не твърдя, че ще стане и не приканвам никого да прави тези неща - просто изяснявам защо не можем да вярваме на тъмна кутия.

Хакване

Както говорих в миналия пост има три основни парадигми в сферата на сигурността съкратени CIA - confidentiality, integrity, availability (съвпадението със CIA като Central Intelligence Agency на САЩ е полу-случайно). Това на български в превод биха били: поверителност (или запазване тайната на вота), почтеност/непокътнатост (или че вотът, който е даден ще бъде същия като вотът получен като резултат) и наличност (или че машината ще работи независимо от външни обстоятелства).

От тези особено големи проблеми са почтеността и наличността. Поверителността се запазва, тъй като машината няма информация кой сте - картите, които ви се връчват са анонимни и (поне не би трябвало) няма камери или друг начин машината да ви идентифицира - идентификацията става пред комисията.

Следват спекулации. Ако някой има първоизточници - да ми изпрати (не искам пропаганда на определени партии или медии - говоря за официални документи, технически характеристики на машините, обществени поръчки, публикувани в сайтове на министерства и пр.)

Почтеност

Машината се твърди, че не е свързана с Интернет. Да приемем, че това е така, поне не с LAN кабел, тъй като би било твърде очевидно, а и прекалено зависимо от физическа инфраструктура. Разбира се възможно е да бъде модифициран хардуера, да се добави WiFi, Bluetooth или друг радио модул. Атака/хакване на това ниво е малко вероятно да се направи за всички машини без да изтече информация за конспирацията.

Софтуерът, който се инсталира на машините, обаче вярвам че ще бъде един и същ за всички машини. Нямам информация кой прави това. Нямам информация софтуера да е отворен код (open source), а дори и да е - няма верификация, че същия код, който бихме видели като отворен, ще бъде инсталиран на тези машини. Има начини за дигитален подпис на софтуер, но не съм наясно дали такъв съществува на тези машини.

Това накратко означава, че хората, които ще инсталират софтуера могат да променят само числата, които излизат накрая от машината, независимо за кои партии са гласували. Това е един начин да се наруши принципа за почтеност/интегритет на изборния резултат. Разбира се, за да е достоверна лъжата, машината трябва да отчете колко гласа са пуснати общо, а не да има записани стойност от преди това и да преразпредели гласовете процентно. Т.е. ако някой накоди 200 гласа за партия А и 100 за пъртия Б преди машината да се инсталира (приемаме отново че няма достъп до нея от Интернет или някакъв вид локална мрежа) а гласуват само 50 човека, то при сумирането в протокола ще бъде очевиден този вид хак. Но това е тривиален код.

Наличност

Вторият голям проблем, разбира се, е осигуряването на наличността на машината. Както се вижда от видеото машината е снабдена с батерия, която ще я остави включена при временно спиране на тока. По-дълго спиране на тока ще е проблем. Друг проблем е самата машина да не стартира или да спре да работи по средата на гласуването или непосредствено преди последната разпечатка.

Доколкото разбирам депутатите са приели, че в такъв случай се минава на гласуване с нормални бюлетини. Но всяка секция трябва да са снабдена с достатъчен брой бюлетини, тъй като не се знае къде и кога някоя машина може да спре да работи. Ако това не стане изборният процес в тази секция ще бъде нарушен, тъй като няма да има "наличност" на нито един начин за гласуване. Тъй като ще има достатъчно бюлетини така или иначе защо да не се позволи да гласуваш с каквото искаш, а си задължен освен ако няма сериозен проблем? Това го оставям на будния читател да помисли.

Ще могат ли да се осигури необходимия брой машини до 11 юли (доколкото разбирам за сега това е датата) - едва 2 месеца от сега? Става въпрос за машини включително в секции в чужбина, които са над 300. Ще има ли достатъчно време за обучение, тестване и проверка на интегритета на всички тези машини без да настане хаос, който ще намали доверието на изборите?

Ctrl+Z

Има още един проблем, който намерихме с един приятел при гласуване с машина. Той би трябвало да е сравнително рядък, но въпреки това е уникален с машините, но не и при хартиеното гласуване.

При хартиено гласуване ако се объркаш и гласуваш за грешния кандидат или прецакаш бюлетината със знак, можеш да върнеш бюлетината на комисията, тя да бъде унищожена и ще ви се даде нова. Гласът не е пуснат, докато не влезе в кутията, което го прави публичен, но таен вот - тъй като всеки може да види, че гласуваш, но не и за кого.

При машинното гласуване, ако се объркаш нямаш undo. В момента, в който машината изпищи няма как да поискаш да прегласуваш. Ако видите видеото има подробност, че има общо 5 карти - 3, които се сменят за всеки избирател (не може да се гласува с една карта два пъти последователно) и две административни, чрез която да се разпечатат гласовете в началото и в края. Това е сравнително добро ниво на сигурност, тъй като не позволява двоен вот от един избирател. Но това означава и че веднъж натиснат гласът не може да се върне. Комисията не може да ви даде друга карта, тъй като това означава, че ще гласувате два пъти. Доколкото разбирам от видеото административната карта не позволява да се върне вот (и не би и трябвало - това би било еквивалент на комисията да бърка в урната). Така че гласуването в случая отново е тайно и публично, но машината играе ролята едновремено на тъмна стаичка и на урна.

Заключение

Хакове винаги могат да се измислят и при хартиено гласуване. Но имаме хартиено гласуване от много време и сме минали през голяма част от възможните проблеми с решения като прозрачни урни. Не съм против прогреса. Но задължаването за гласуване с машина е грешно, при положение, че не сме изчистили хакове, а напротив - връщаме такива (както казах в началото - машината е тъмна кутия с код). Имам вече няколко приятеля, които казват, че няма да гласуват с машина, защото знаят колко нечестно може да бъде. Не просто нечестно, но нечестно лесно могат да бъдат хакнати. Няма интегритет на кода. Малко хора могат да ги накодят, което маха прозрачността на изборния процес. Това недоверие или проблеми, които се появят по време на изборите може да доведе до касация и нови избори.

Не знам дали има начин това да не стане на 11 юли. Не съм сигурен, че достатъчно хора разбират за проблемите с това решение. Надявам се поне малко да съм ви накарал да се замислите. Ако нещо си заслужава да се излезе на протест, то това е. Но не мисля, че обществото ще има енергия за този конкретен и трудно разбираем проблем.

Дано не съм прав.

Защо онлайн гласуването НЕ Е добра идея?

Tags: Български, политика, технологии, мнения
Created on Tue, 27 Apr 2021

За хората незапознати с този блог - здравейте, аз съм Даниел Цветков, специализирам в област сигурност на облачните технологии и работя в Гугъл, Швейцария. Мнението си е мое и не представлява това на компанията ми, но се надявам че с това ще ми повярвате, че имам бегла представа за какво говоря. Мнението ми се споделя от специалисти в бранша, вижте връзките най-долу (на английски предимно)

Ако нямате търпение за цeлия пост, основното, което трябва да знаете е, че технологиите нямат вграден морал или етика. Те не могат да ускорят само добрите неща без да направят лесни и лошите неща - те просто ускоряват.

Технологиите улесняват гласуването от вкъщи, но в същото време правят много по-лесно манипулирането на гласовете. Ако истинността на избора на суверена е важна за вас, то онлайн гласуването, колкото и да е примамливо в днешно време, НЕ трябва да става истина.

Гледайки развитието на новините тези дни по всичко личи, че българите ще трябва да гласуваме поне няколко пъти в идните месеци. Има и някакъв теоретичен шанс да изпаднем в политическа криза и цикъл от постоянни избори в следващите години. От доста време се прокрадва идеята за електронно гласуване и сега е перфектна буря тази идея да се реализира. Изглежда удобно - защо да не гласувам отвкъщи? Защо да ходя да се редя на опашки във време на пандемия? Колко пъти трябва да ходя до урните, да си губя дните вместо просто да цъкна няколко бутона и да си дам гласа - все пак мога да пазарувам онлайн, как може изборите да са по-важни от пари? Ето, Естония се справя вече повече от десетилетие - защо не и ние? Защо да живеем в миналия век, като всеки има телефон и Интернет навсякъде?

Преди време аз бях на същото мнение. В този пост ще се опитам да разкажа накратко защо го промених без да навлизам в технически детайли. Ако са ви интересни техническите подробности, може да направим подкаст по тази тема с любопитковците

Сега, разбира се, много хора ще кажат, че "ако изборите решавали нещо щяха да ги забранят". Няма да дискутирам тук дали изборите в една демократична държава са важни - това го оставям на упражнение на драгия читател да реши дали има смисъл въобще от гласуване за каквото и да е или ситуацията е "просто си пий ракията и се оплаквай колко е зле държавата". Гласуването е право, не задължение, поне в България, поне за сега. Единственото, което искам да разясня е, че електронното гласуване е лоша идея. Аз съм човек, който живее в чужбина от вече десетилетие и също като някои поп-лидери в момента съм трудно подвижен (също коляно). За мен би било най-лесно да твърдя, че искам да мога да отида на някой уебсайт, да цъкна бутонче, да си направя избора и да си продължа работата.

Най-големият проблем с технологиите е, че те ускоряват както добрите, така и лошите неща. Да, ще е по-бързо, лесно и удобно да цъкнете на бутон за коя партия гласувате отвкъщи. Но в същото време ще е много по-бързо, лесно и удобно гласът ви да се подмени и то не само вашият, но и масово, на целия народ. Да, възможно е да вдигнем избирателната активност с малко. Може би. Но цената, която трябва да заплатим ще е огромна - и в парично изражение, и като доверие към цялата избирателна система.

Тайната на вота

Гласуването в днешните демократични държави изисква тайната на гласа. Гласът трябва да е анонимен, защото е ваше право да не споделяте тази информация, да не бъдете гонен от партии или организации, всички знаем за платените гласове. Анонимността не е същото като тайна - не е тайна, че сте отишли да гласувате, но е тайна за кого. Влизате в тайната стаичка и гласувате, пускате бюлетината и не е ясно за кого сте гласували. Постигането на такава анонимност, колкото и проста да изглежда, е почти невъзможна с Интернет технологии, дори да приемем, че Вашето устройство няма вирус, който може да манипулира вота (каквито ще се появят непременно). Системата, която имаме в момента не е перфектна и купуването на гласове е проблем. Но ако за минута си представите, че вие сте човек от някоя "лоша" партия, който иска да купи гласове, ще видите че и това не е много лесно. Трябва да сте внимателни, да имате много хора под вас, които да са вътре в конспирацията, трябва да намерите кои хора са податливи, но и които няма да ви издадат. С Интернет е достатъчно да имате връзка с хората, които разработват софтуера - клиентската или сървърната част - и сте "вътре".

Технологиите ускоряват и лошите цели. Вместо да се плаща по единично за гласове, достатъчно е да се разбият крайните точки на събирането на гласовете, за да се променят последните числа. Или софтуерът, който се изпълнява на машините да има бъг, който се знае само от разработчиците, или дори само от кръг хакери, които имат специалност да намират подобни бъгове. Най-сигурният компютър е този, заключен в мазе, заобиколен от въздух, бетон и желязна решетка, без портове, изключен от Интернет, по възможност изключен от тока и ако стаята няма врата или прозорец - това е горе-долу сигурен компютър. За повечето хора. Всичко друго е излюзия.

Сигурността на технологиите

Проблема с технологичните решения също е, че те са само привидно прости за хората, които никога не са се занимавали с разработка на софтуер, или които са се занимавали със софтуер без да обръщат особено голямо внимание на сигурността. Интернет (и компютрите свързани към него) е изключително сложна машина, ако въобще може да се нарече машина. Да, изглежда работи почти постоянно. Но ако сте в средите и се интересувате, постоянно ще чуете за разбити защити и изтекли данни на международни организации като Фейсбук или банки, които имат високо платени екипи да се занимават само със сигурност. Проблемът е огромен и даване на обществена поръчка за разработване на софтуер на компанията, която предложи най-евтино е изключително безотговорно. Интернет по архитектура не е направен да е сигурен. Сравнително сигурен е само за някои неща и в много малка степен като в повечето случаи не се разчита толкова на сигурността на технологиите, а на законовите рамки около тях.

Как тогава плащате "сигурно" онлайн? Истината е, че банките плащат милиарди всяка година за сигурност. И въпреки това има много, много пробойни, за които те разбира се не искат да разберете. Но това развитие на тези сравнително сигурни системи става с течение на много години, много опит и има други легални и финансови инструменти, които решават технологичните пробойни. Виждате как напоследък имате все повече (досадни) нива на защита - пращане на смс код, сертификати, 3-Д пароли или каквото Вашата банка го нарича. Тези неща не са случайни, но трудно разбираеми за повечето хора - просто трябва да съществуват и банката ви казва, че не може без тях. Ако например плащане е извършено с вашата карта, вие получавате смс или нотификация, или ако огромно плащане е направено без вие да знаете банката ще получи сигнал вътрешно и може да ви се обади да потвърдите или да отложи транзакцията. Гласуването онлайн няма да има подобен процес поне не първоначално - гласувате веднъж и в края на деня резултатите се обявяват. Ако се намери хакерска атака въобще в някакъв по-късен момент изборите могат да се касират, което ще ни накара отново да се върнем към урните. Казах ако въобще, защото хакерските атаки на системи, които не са тествани могат да се скрият много, много умело. А тестването също трябва да отнеме много, много години, за да имаме поне някаква сигурност. Вижте параграфа относно какво специалистите в средите смятат за "сигурни компютри" - мазето, бетона и прочие.

Ето списък на пробойните в големи компании с изтекли данни. Ето друг списък с хаквания - това са все системи, които в един или друг момент са считани за "сигурни" от големи имена. Ако не сте в средите звучи лесно да се "защити", да се сложи "парола", но както казах - технологиите ускоряват нещата - ускоряват защитите, но ускоряват и пробойните. Вечна игра на котка и мишка с постоянни проблеми. Ето канал, който (почти) всяка седмица прекарва 30тина минути да дискутира пробойните само през последната седмица. Ето и друг канал, който прекарва 3 часа да навлезе в дълбочина, за някои от тях.

Добре де, не са сигурни технологиите - но каква е сигурността сега? Не може ли същите пробойни да се случат и със сегашната хартиена система? Много, много по-трудно. Изборите нарочно са бавни. Системата, която имаме в момента нарочно има сложности с протоколи и множество хора и организации, които следят процеса в определени моменти или в тяхната цялост. Има наблюдатели на изборите, броенето на гласовете става в секциите и да - отново се носят на централно място. Но има много различни хора с различни интереси, самите партии пращат наблюдатели в процеса и подкупването или пробиването на системата трябва да стане на много места, за да има значителна разлика. Разбира се, определени пробойни ще има, но те са локални. Софтуерно гласуване ще позволи пробойната да е глобална. И ако огромни организации, банки и експерти не могат да защитят техните системи, на кого може да вярваме, че ще защити гласуването и демокрацията?

Друг елемент, който спада към сигурността е това системата да е достъпна. Това е третото от едно основно трио принципи в сигурността (Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability - за първите две - конфиденциалност и интегритет говорихме в контекста на запазване на тайната на вота). Това една система да не работи в продължение на четири години, а после в един ден да бъде достъпна (т.е. да не "падне") за 2-4 милиона българи в един ден, е изключително трудна инжинерна задача, която малко компании могат да си позволят. Разбира се, идва момента, че не просто хората имащи право на глас могат да "задръстят" системата, но и външни хакери, могат да я натоварят, така че да ограничат достъпа до възможността за гласуване електронно. Това е все едно в деня на избори да се изсипят 100 милиона човека от различни държави пред секциите и да ограничат достъпа на реалните избиратели. Това във физическия свят е много трудна задача, докато във виртуалния е сравнително лесна - ето тук идва това "лошо" ускорение, за което говоря от самото начало.

Естония

Много хора ще се сетят или са чували за Естония и как там избори се провеждат успешно електронно от около 15 години. Първо, Естония е сравнително малка държава с население едва милион и 300 хиляди с право на глас едва 900 хиляди човека. Системата със смарт картите е от няколко десетилетия и като цяло има доста добра онлайн система за много неща, доказала се по-рано. Вижте статиите и видеата в края на статията. Въпреки това, експерти по сигурността и независими хакери не веднъж са показали, че е възможно системата да се пробие по всевъзможни начини - това, че не е станало до сега показва повече липса на мотивация от трети страни или всъщност е ставало, но хакерите не са оставили следи. Това доколко е важна България и кой би имал интерес да хакне нашите избори, дали си заслужава риска - също го оставям като домашно на читателя. По-важни или по-малко важни сме от Естония? Защо нито една друга държава не смее да приложи такъв тип избори? Дали ще са руски или патагонски хакери, дали ще са интереси на някоя партия или хора гущери - това си е ваша работа да вярвате в която конспирация си изберете.

Избирателната активност

Защо по-рано казах, че само Може би ще вдигнем избирателната активност? Защо не със сигурност? Защото ако вие четете този пост, вероятно имате добра Интернет свързаност вкъщи и навън, мобилен смарт телефон или два пълен с камери, локации и какви ли не апове. Но много хора нямат това нещо. Много от нас имаме баби и дядовци, някои от които са големи хакери. Но не всяка баба Пена взима таблета в тоалетната. На някои е доста трудно. Така че, да - може би младите в градовете ще гласуват повече. Всички знаем за кого ще гласува дядо Пешо и има шанс, ако въобще четете този пост, вие да не сте съгласен с неговия глас и си казвате - "не ме интересува какво ще правят тия пенсионери, и без това гласуват за "лошата партия на носталгията". Но живеем в правова, демократична държава и правилата са такива, че всеки над 18 години има право на глас. Друг е въпросът дали това е най-добрата система - също няма да изразявам мнение за алтернативни системи, където определен брой хора имат повече или по-малко глас. Тествани са различни системи през хилядолетието и това е друг разговор.

Добре де, но защо не - трудно подвижни хора, млади или възрастни - нека да имат възможността да гласуват от разстояние. Нищо не пречи разбира се, който иска да отиде и да гласува по стария начин. Това е добър аргумент, признавам. Но това дава и възможност за двоен глас на някои хора - ако си регистриран по стария начин и гласуваш в секцията, а после или преди това гласуваш онлайн, то мястото на регистрацията също трябва да има Интернет свързаност и компютър, който да показва списък дали си гласувал онлайн. Което ни връща на проблема с технологиите - те не са сигурни и е възможно да падне сайта в деня на гласуването, да се хакне и тогава дори и нормалното гласуване няма да може да се осъществи.

Отделно от трудно подвижните хора, или особено във време на пандемия хора, които предпочитат да са вкъщи, трудността на гласуването в секция има и друг невидим плюс. Гласуването предполага някаква заинтересованост от политическия процес. Това да се вдигнеш и да си "изгубиш" времето е някаква бариера, която може би дори искаме да имаме - ако просто си седиш вкъщи и не се интересуваш какво се случва, но веднъж на четири години отидеш в един уебсайт и цъкнеш бутон - как това е по-представителна демокрация от усилието да станеш и да отидеш физически да гласуваш?

Поръчката

Разбира се като абсолютна основа за онлайн гласуване ще наложи издаването на смарт карти или дигитални подписи, което трябва да стане физически по същия начин, както се издават лични карти. Невъзможно е просто да цъкнете на "Регистрирам се", защото такава система ще е толкова несигурна, че ще бъде хакната от ученици и студенти не повече от 3 дена след пускането на системата. Регистрирането онлайн без да има реална свързаност с физическото лице ще позволи лесно създаването на ботове. За повечето неща, които сте срещали онлайн това вече е огромен проблем - с фалшиви профили се борят както Гугъл, така и Фейсбук, Туитър и всъщност почти целия Интернет с всяко нещо, което прави. Почти всяко анонимно гласуване онлайн е съпътствано с хиляди главоболия и съжаления като например наименуването на кораб Boaty McBoatface.

Така че задължително ще има редене по опашки за издаване на дигитални подписи. Трябва да има едно-към-едно съотвествие на онлайн профил с физически жив българин. Това е далеч от лесна задача сама по себе си. Разбира се, технически това означава, че по някакъв начин едновременно трябва да установиш пред платформата, че си ти чрез дигиталния подпис, но трябва да се раздели от това за кого си гласувал, иначе анонимността на вота ще се изгуби. Специално тази част разработена грешно или с бъгове (каквито не могат да бъдат доказано изчистени) ще бъде и нарушение на правата ви.

Задължително ще има обществена поръчка за разработване на софтуер и закупуване на сървъри, който може да струва милиони и разработването да протече в продължение на години. Подобен софтуер и тестване не се прави са 2 месеца. А освен Естония и някои имплементации в свободен код - няма много големи примери как да се случи точно, така че навлизаме в доста непозната територия. Цената за разработване на такъв софтуер най-вероятно ще надхвърли в пъти повече цените за провеждането на много, много избори. Ето списък на много закъснели, специализирани софтуерни продукти. Индустрията ни е много млада и много грешим, когато се опитваме да оценяваме колко време ще отнеме разработката и колко ще струва. Говорете с който и да е софтуерен разработчик с повече от 2-3 месеца опит.

Отделно, за разлика от хартиената система този софтуер няма да е разбираем за обществото - който не разбира как да пише или чете код няма да има представа дали в някой ред някъде няма грешка. А дори и да знаеш - общия брой редове включително операционната система и други приложения - може да е в рамките на милиони редове. Достатъчно е един от тях да има нещо сбъркано - един плюс или минус повече - и сигурността на цялата система отива на кино.

Отново доброто нещо на сегашната система е, че е бавна, но и сравнително разбираема от обикновения човек. Не напълно - има много протоколи, хора, организации както казахме и преди, неяснотии, но е в пъти, в ПЪТИ по-разбираема от софтуер. Това е важно, за да има доверие в процеса. Със софтуер, особено със софтуер със затворен код, това няма как да стане. Това също е техническа, но изключително важна точка.

Но технологиите са бъдещето!

Технологиите в последните 20 години ни позволиха да вършим много неща от удобството на дома. Цялото ми детство и тийнейджърство е навързано с чакане на по-мощен компютър, на по-бърз Интернет и каквото си мечтаех в един момент, една или две години по-късно ще е реалност, че дори и ще надхвърли очакванията ми. Лаптопите бяха само за бизнесмени, телефоните бяха с шайби и навързани с дома и само по филмите като Мисия невъзможна имаше някакви преносими джаджи и комуникация навсякъде. Сега всички живеем в това невъзможно бъдеще и за добро или лошо почти по време на тази пандемия в последната година, много от нас усетиха колко неща може да вършим от дома.

Но в същото време осъзнахме и границите на технологиите.

Уроците по зуум не са същите. Разговорите липсват дълбочина, постоянни са техническите проблеми - с Интернет връзката от едната или другата страна, камерата или микрофона не са включени или не работят, а груповите разговори са невъзможни защото само един говори в група от 15, а така не работи истинският свят.

Напреднахме много. Но в същото време технологиите не са готови да разрешат всеки проблем. Да, гласуването на хартия изглежда остаряло в сегашния модерен, дигитален свят. Но и демокрацията е стара, гласуването на хартия е от столетия и много от проблемите, които сме намерили са разрешени с много труд и загуби.

Ако смятате, че решението е блокчейн, биткойн, изкуствен интелект, пръстови отпечатъци или специализирани операционни системи мога отсега да ви кажа, че те не решават нищо, освен отделни, локални проблеми. Нищо, което имаме сега, не решава целия проблем, но ако ви е интересно пишете и ако намеря време ще се опитам да разясня защо.

Заключение

Не съм против прогреса. Напротив - работата ми всеки ден ме сблъсква с технологии, които не съм виждал използвани по начини, които не съм виждал и това ме зарежда! Може би ще е добре да имаме електронно гласуване някой ден. Но технологиите в днешно време въобще не са готови за нещо подобно. Има някои много основни правила, които вероятно биха забранили да гласуваме някога онлайн. Но всички знаем, че понякога човечеството намираме начини да разбием тези правила и да намерим решение. Сегашната ситуация с технологиите не е на това ниво, колкото и да ни се повтаря, че сме много напред. Едва от 30 години имаме Световната мрежа. Едва от 50 имаме нещо като Интернет. Едва от 70 нещо като компютри. Демокрацията е много, много по-стара. Нека развиваме технологиите в други сектори.

Ако вярвате в демократичния процес и ви пука за истинността на резултатите, електронното гласуване само може да подкопае доверието. Нека се затрудним специално по тази тема. Нека излезем и сложим маски, нека се редим на опашки един или няколко дена в годината. Нека да е бавно и досадно, архаично и да харчим пари за секции и много хора, които да са в процеса. Нека не ускоряваме манипулирането на гласувате. Не се поддавайте на общественото мнение. Това какво хората искат не винаги е правилно в дългосрочен план. Всеки иска заплата 10000 лева. И популистки изказвания твърдят, че каквото иска народа трябва да му се даде колкото и да е тъпо. Но както всеки икономист ще ви каже, че просто вдигане на заплатата 10 пъти ще повиши инфлацията многократно и ще понижи доверието във валутата, което може да ни вкара в икономическа спирала за десетилетия без никаква промяна за хората, така аз ви казвам, че онлайн гласуването е добро само на много повърхностен поглед и вероятно трагично за демократичния процес.

Благодаря за вниманието.

Линкове

The forbidden topic

Tags: English, politics
Created on Wed, 14 Apr 2021

#BlackLivesMatter. #MeToo. #WomenInTech. #GenderPayGap.

I'm going to talk about something that may get me fired, dead or worse - canceled. It's the dogma of our time. We do not talk that there are differences between people that may influence their career. We try to fool nature but as Feynman said - "Nature cannot be fooled". As we tried not to care about O-rings that will break under certain temperature that have killed people we try so hard not to care that different people - men, women, gays, blacks and especially - people that have sharp noses vs people who don't - have different capabilities. We talk only about equalizing the playing field. And some parts of it are smart and we need less bias, more understanding of different perspectives that different people bring. But many initiatives are annoyingly stupid and completely detached from reality, trying to fool nature. I'm going to agree with my corp bullshit that I have to swallow everyday, attend brainwashing trainings, listen and read articles that almost no matter what the topic is will claim that certain groups of people (mainly black and women) are the poor sufferers of injustices brought by me. This stupid blog post is the silent modern days' Galileo's "And yet it moves".

Americanisms have brought up a topic that I would never realize to care about. Gender and racial discrimination. Sure, I can relate to the gypsies minority in my own home country and how me, my family and friends have learned to treat "them", creating our own biases and human generalizations that we can try to work out and escape from. But I have not seen a "real" black person until I left my country when I was 19. So all the cultural baggage of "black lives matter" are almost completely incomprehensible to me - it is something, happening somewhere else yet because it's the empire I should care.

But let's get closer to "my home" of expertise:

"There are not enough women in tech".

Honestly, I don't give a crap whether you have a viable birth canal or not. Do you know why I can't SSH to my machine?

I have studied physics in high school where my class had 3 girls. The class above me had 0. Yet it was a girl in my class that was better than me in physics and we competed in competitions and Olympiads and she usually won. It didn't really matter it was a she - she was better in physics, I was a bit better in astronomy.

But you know what? Other than a birth canal, she also had blond hair. Maybe it was actually the hair! We only had 3 blonds in the class and one of them was better than me in physics!

Why do we decide to segregate people in gender or race? Here are a few more of the people that I feel may have more or less representation at the "top of the social hierarchy" (that is usually refered as the bosses or richest people in monetary amount):

Point is: we can segregate in an almost infinite amount of ways. We can put people in as many groups as our human's imagination can work out. We can say that "creating an environment where the voices of people who have not thought of green elephants in two years is toxic, discriminatory and biased, it is not inclusive and doesn't represent the true spectrum of diversity in our world". Replace the above with "women" or "black" and you will have almost every corporate message about "DEI" (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) that exists in corp emails or public statements.

Everyone has different perspective. Trying to equilize representation of everyone is an ideal that can never be achieved. I'm sure that designing software with people who use their spacebar as a heating device will be beneficial to some people.

xkcd's 1172: Workflow

I'm sure that seeing more people with hair in their ears win Oscars will help me understand the diversity we have in our planet.

So what that women are underrepresented in certain areas? Is that what we really want? Do we want equal amount of women to be also in construction jobs? Or mining? Do we want equal amount of women to commit suicide as men? Why do we equalize on certain areas but not others?

Ideally, I also want equal amount of men to give birth as women. This way we can understand more the women's perspective. But we can't. Or we could with modern medicine so why don't we push it? It's ridiculous. Certain people have differences in experience and perspectives - people who believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster should provde their perspectives when writing code.

Okay, I'm "privileged young male in a \"Western\" country" (Human languages don't have the idea of escaping quotes, right?). But I'm also a short, hairy, sweaty and coming from an almost third (or at least second) world country - an underrepresented group that I can claim that feels oppressed and that not enough sweaty people are hired in tech. I want a program that encourages sweaty people - "Sweaty people in tech". I would go there and educate sweaty people that they also deserve to work in tech! That they shouldn't listen to the nay-sayers, that they shouldn't be influenced by Hollywood's misguided ideals of perfection non-sweaty body! They can also learn how to code!

How can that be non-discriminatory?! Why create programs that encourage sweaty people but do nothing for non-sweaty ones? Why the DEI doesn't measure that characteristic! There has been no conclusive research that says that sweaty people are less intellectually capable of coding!

Is it historically that women were "oppressed"? What do I have to do with this, why should I suffer and apologize for what other people have done historically? How is that not more hurtful than what you are trying to do?

I want to be able to read articles without having to think about my pee-pee and whether my ancestors who did have a pee-pee created "great" stuff or whether other people with pee-pees have once again tried to talk dirty with people with birth canals. There are differences between men's and women's biology but there are also differences in people diagnosed with cancer and those with Asperger's syndrome. Stop writing about the only two differences that you can think of in people - namely gender and race - you are actually perpetuating any biases that exist and create ones that haven't existed in people like me who haven't thought about that until you write it in every email and talk in every talk show.

Sure, women and men have different agendas because of pee-pees and vaginas. Claiming that you will act no different if you had a chance of a 9-month period in which you will carry a tumor if you are not careful whose pee-pee you allow in your birth canal VS just going and fucking whatever looks like a hole - is insane. Of course you will think differently about a lot of things in your life! I have an injured knee now for the past month and underwent a surgery that requires me now to go with crutches - I rethink a lot of stupid trivial things how to do them in the past month but it will heal and will get back to "normal" in some time. Of course my sleep suffers. And my mental health. And my job. And I try not to, try to push through whatever I go through and so does every living or dead person on this planet. Claiming that I'm "the same" as everyone else is insulting to everyone else!

So are there intelligence differences between the sexes because of that? Probably - it's extremely hard to measure because we don't have a definition of intelligence. Is there a difference between people who can whistle and people who can't? Probably - it's extremely hard to measure because we don't have a definition of intelligence.

Do I want more women in tech? I don't really care. If they want to - come on in, join the fun of everyday machine telling you how dumb you are. Not everybody wants that. Do I want more women to be CEOs of companies. I don't really care - go on, become a boss and live through the stress of caring for a 100,000 people employees and the pressure of billionaires, countries and state agencies telling you what to do. Not everybody wants that but if they do - let them, don't stop them due to their birth canal or hair in their ears. Maybe stop them if they are dumb - although how is that not a discrimination against dumb people? They also have rights and should be encouraged ... ah, whatever, you get the point.

If this post reaches any public, anywhere, I will have trouble. Thankfully my blog is a complete shitshow mix of Bulgarian, English and posts that are semi-coherent that I can claim insanity.