“一触即发的数据危机:我们是否需要一部信息宪法?” (亚洲研究所报告)

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“一触即发的数据危机:我们是否需要一部信息宪法?”

 

贝一明 (Emanuel Pastreich)

所长

亚洲研究所

 

(翻译:赵寒玉)

 

最近,涉及美国司法部监听美联社和福克斯新闻的丑闻使得近年来隐私和言论自由所遭受到的侵蚀为人瞩目。但是,在将这些事件简单归咎于司法部长埃里克·霍尔德(Eric Holder)和其手下的道德败坏之前,我们也应反思促成这一事件和成千上万与之类似问题的技术革命。看来,政府官员认为信息可以被轻易收集和操纵是件很令人着迷的事。以获取和加工信息的技术的更新速度,现在美国和全世界执法与情报部门所拥有的技术也将很快被个人和小团体所掌握。

我们必须知道如何面对当前的信息革命,并主动构建全球性机制以确保我们的社会和政府在这段混乱和令人不安的时期能持续正常运转。计算机的强大功能在突发猛进,这意味着变化发生的速度远远超过人类政府缓慢前进的步伐。我们需要创造全新的制度来应对这场巨大而长期的危机。这不是通过在国土安全部新增一个部门或者依靠谷歌就能解决的问题。

我们别无选择。轻视这场危机就意味着容许那些见不得光的机构通过收集和扭曲信息来为自身牟取更大的权力。如果不能在制度层面上跟上技术变革的脚步,那么,未来政府的权威将徒有其表,实际上根本不具备权威和能力来应对由信息操纵造成的威胁。在最坏的情况下,企业和政府部门将沦为相互争斗的派系——群雄割据的新形式,无形的力量利用其对信息的控制发动战争以争夺全球性统治。

纵使官员们或企业领导有再强的道德使命感,也无法阻止监听行为的泛滥以及虚假信息的扩散,这是我们在未来十年中将要目睹的事实。决定这一变化的根本因素是摩尔定律——可以被廉价放置在一个芯片上的微处理器数量每18个月将翻一番(每14个月存储成本就会减半),而非公民的道德滑坡。人类获取、存储、分享、修改和编造各种信息的能力日新月异,这将为新技术的发展提供巨大的机会。然而,计算机功能的变化速度是如此之快,远胜过人类制度的适应速度,更别提人类物种的进化速度,这是我们将要面对的对人类文明的毁灭性挑战。

 

信息革命带来的挑战

信息技术成本的下降意味着个人可以获取海量的信息,以极少的投资就可以将这些信息整合、转化为有关成千上万个体的有效情报。记录人们在街道上的行走、将航拍照片和其他看似无意义的材料以特定方式组合在一起,从垃圾中提取个人信息的简易性将急剧增加。面部识别、声音识别以及将语音同步转为文字的技术都将成为雕虫小技。微型而廉价的无人侦察机将应运而生,全天候地收集人们的信息以供分析。最近,有人送给我儿子一架内置摄像头的直升侦察机作为礼物,价格不超过40美元。在几年之内,精确追踪和记录庞大人群的活动将被视为真正的“儿戏”。

 

与此同时,日益强大的技术使得文字、图像、视频和音频的制作变得愈加简单。从最新一代的虚拟实境技术(virtual reality)中,我们已经可以看到,在不远的将来,高精度的仿真势必让人难以分辨现实和虚拟世界。计算成本的大幅下降将使得为虚构事件编写详尽的历史、为虚拟人物立传成为可能,而且让其看起来令人信服。一旦虚拟人物拥有了四十年的复杂回忆和记录(从信用记录到病历与日记),那么,将他从真实个体中分离出来就成为极具挑战性的工作。此外,虚拟实境与社交网络相融合,将会造成极端的混乱局面。那些脸谱网(Facebook)上的好友可能在人们毫未察觉的情况下,沦为被超级计算机所部分控制、并最终完全控制的虚拟角色。

信息革命的影响不会止步于此。在转基因生物和其他领域中,DNA材料的使用和误用正愈发变得便宜。虽然获得人类个体基因组的费用曾是不可想象的高昂,但是基因测序成本下降的速度比摩尔定律中推算的还要快。

 

随着测序成本趋近于零,纽尔卡斯大学的约翰·伯恩(John Burn)教授也加入了为全人类提供基因组的提倡者队伍中。在未来五年甚至更短时间内,这将不再是一件难事,并且好处将是巨大的。但是,想象我们将生活在一个怎样的时代中——某个人的DNA可以轻易地从试管中取出,复制成克隆人,或者与其它的DNA相结合变成“生化武器”,异或制造成器官出售,那时我们将迫切需要为基因信息的获取和使用确立一套规章制度。

 

还有很多迫在眉睫的威胁需要我们建立国际性的管控体系,而非仅仅依靠简单的市场力量和君子协定。有些威胁可以预见,有些我们只能加以推测。例如,当货币完全电子化,其价值易于遭受全球范围内的无形操纵和波动后,我们将面临严峻的挑战;微型无人侦察机的崛起也是如此,可能超出政府的控制范围,从事间谍活动、发动无形战争,因此需要新的制度来加以管控;新一代的3D打印技术能使生产器官、合成可食用肌肉组织等领域产生重大突破,从而造福人类,也使得非法制造武器成为可能,从而对人类造成威胁。这些技术发展带来的问题,只有构建新的法律和道德体系才能彻底解决。

 

信息

我提议,起草一部全球性的“信息宪法”作为应对信息危机的第一步,为使用信息、准确保存信息确立具体的规则,在一套强有力的制衡机制的基础上,创建一个可靠的系统,确保对信息的控制不会演变为进一步的滥用权力。

尽管信息的收集和操纵已经成为一个大问题,但是,无论美国还是其他国家,现行的国家宪法——法律和政府治理的基石——却几乎没有触及这个问题。并且很多人还没有充分认识到信息危机的严重性:它在很大程度上隐于无形,因为其改变的是我们认知这个世界的根本方式。

 

我们需要召开国际制宪会议,起草一部具有全球约束力的“信息宪法”来应对信息革命带来的后果。在这个节骨眼上,单纯起草一份宪法文本是没有意义的,因为真正有效的宪法不是一份文书,而是通过一系列谈判、协商所创建的制度和机构。目前,我们能做的就是指明问题的急迫性,以及那些必须囊括在宪法中、必须由制宪会议创立的机构来解决的主要问题。

 

那些反对设立“信息宪法”、认为这是鼓励滥权的危险集权形式的人,并没有真正意识到我们面临的问题究竟是什么。信息的滥用已经达到了前所未有的程度,我们正处于“井喷”的边缘。

在其反乌托邦小说《1984》中,乔治·奥威尔预见了高度集权的官方信息管制机构——“真理部”的危险性,其为了确保“真实性”甚至建立了专门生产小说的斯大林式工厂。这种为了纠正发行中出现的海量虚假信息和错误信息的做法极尽扭曲,恐怕在读者心中留下了极为深刻的印象。我们应该高度重视这一危险性。

我们呼吁建立一个真正负责任、具有制度透明性的系统,规范那些控制、收集和修改信息的机构。其意义在于明确道德义务,提供对未来的憧憬。如果不能创设像“信息宪法”这样的机制,那种田园牧歌式的乌托邦不仅不会被保留下来,反而将促使更大规模的信息收集和操纵出现,远远超过一切机构的控制范围。结果将会是人类社会逐渐被无所约束的无形黑暗力量所操控。

遵循大卫·布林(David Brin)在1998年出版的《透明社会》(The Transparent Society)一书中的观点,“信息宪法”背后的一个核心假设是,由于科学技术的演进,未来对个人隐私的保护,即便不是完全不可能,也将变得极为困难。矛盾的是,为了维护信息的完整性和私密性,我们必须让信息成为公共财产的一部分。换言之,当我们考虑到获取和篡改信息的新技术将获得巨大发展,单纯保护隐私是不够的。

 

在这部未来的“信息宪法”以及根据其创设的机构中,必须坚持透明性、问责制和维护民众共同福祉的原则,根据经过仔细谈判后产生的条约协定,建立一套涉及信息监督、控制和处罚信息滥用的复杂分权机制。由政府的三个分支来分别进行信息治理,就如同立法、行政和司法系统一样,在遵循孟德斯鸠“三权分立”思想所建立的宪政政府中良好运转着。系统中的各个分支可以被赋予信息监督的不同任务和权限。管理信息的部门将树立自身的权威,相互竞争的利益会促使他们限制其他部门的权力。当前,在全球情报体系或具有全球影响力的大型IT企业中都极度缺乏这样的权力制衡。

 

因此,我建议在信息管理中实行“三钥匙”系统,作为政府三个分支的一部分。也就是说,允许访问敏感信息(否则将无法确保信息的准确性),但是,只有在代表系统中三个分支的三把钥匙同时出具时,才能访问这些信息。这三个机构的利益并不必然重合,因此,只有在三方共同见证的情况下获取信息才能保证责权分明。

既要保护隐私,又要确保准确性和可靠性,要满足这一双重需求就需要全面的制度性变革和对现有宪法体系的重新诠释。然而,在像美国这样的国家中,人们已经进入“后宪法时代”,因此,我们必须再度肯定这种公共契约的价值,以免让其沦为装点门面的一纸空文。

维护信息“生态系统”平衡和可靠性的挑战纵然无法在短短一篇文章中分析透彻,但是我们可以设立目标,并召集专业人士和智者来共同推进这一目标,为这一建立在透明性和问责制基础上的系统确立核心信条。

 

 

 

原文:

The Impending Crisis of Data: Do We Need a Constitution of Information?

The recent scandal involving the surveillance of the Associated Press and Fox News by the United States Justice Department has focused attention on the erosion of privacy and freedom of speech in recent years. But before we simply attribute these events to the ethical failings of Attorney General Eric Holder and his staff, we also should consider the technological revolution powering this incident, and thousands like it. It would appear that bureaucrats simply are seduced by the ease with which information can be gathered and manipulated. At the rate that technologies for the collection and fabrication of information are evolving, what is now available to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the United States, and around the world, will soon be available to individuals and small groups.

We must come to terms with the current information revolution and take the first steps to form global institutions that will assure that our society, and our governments, can continue to function through this chaotic and disconcerting period. The exponential increase in the power of computers will mean that changes the go far beyond the limits of slow-moving human government. We will need to build new institutions to the crisis that are substantial and long-term. It will not be a matter that can be solved by adding a new division to Homeland Security or Google.

We do not have any choice. To make light of the crisis means allowing shadowy organizations to usurp for themselves immense power through the collection and distortion of information. Failure to keep up with technological change in an institutional sense will mean that in the future government will be at best a symbolic façade of authority with little authority or capacity to respond to the threats of information manipulation. In the worst case scenario, corporations and government agencies could degenerate into warring factions, a new form of feudalism in which invisible forces use their control of information to wage murky wars for global domination.

No degree of moral propriety among public servants, or corporate leaders, can stop the explosion of spying and the propagation of false information that we will witness over the next decade. The most significant factor behind this development will be Moore’s Law which stipulates that the number of microprocessors that can be placed economically on a chip will double every 18 months (and the cost of storage has halved every 14 months) — and not the moral decline of citizens. This exponential increase in our capability to gather, store, share, alter and fabricate information of every form will offer tremendous opportunities for the development of new technologies. But the rate of change of computational power is so much faster than the rate at which human institutions can adapt — let alone the rate at which the human species evolves — that we will face devastating existential challenges to human civilization.

 

 

The Challenges we face as a result of the Information Revolution

The dropping cost of computational power means that individuals can gather gigantic amounts of information and integrate it into meaningful intelligence about thousands, or millions, of individuals with minimal investment. The ease of extracting personal information from garbage, recordings of people walking up and down the street, taking aerial photographs and combining then with other seemingly worthless material and then organizing it in a meaningful manner will increase dramatically. Facial recognition, speech recognition and instantaneous speech to text will become literally child’s play. Inexpensive, and tiny, surveillance drones will be readily available to collect information on people 24/7 for analysis. My son recently received a helicopter drone with a camera as a present that cost less than $40. In a few years elaborate tracking of the activities of thousands, or millions, of people will become literally child’s play.

 

At the same time, increasing powerful technology will make the fabrication of texts, images, and, increasingly, videos and sounds easy. We can see already in the latest generation of virtual reality sophisticated forms of mimetic representation that promise to be indistinguishable from reality in the near future. The drastic drop in the cost of computation will make it possible to create elaborate histories for virtual events, and biographies for virtual people, that will make those realities entirely convincing. Once a virtual person has forty years of complex memories and records (from credit records to medical records and diaries), the challenge of distinguishing him from an actual individual will be difficult. In addition, as virtual reality merges with social networks, the chaos will be extreme. Facebook friends may end up being partially, and then primarily, avatars controlled by supercomputer networks without the individual being aware.

The impact of the information revolution does not stop there. The use and misuse of DNA material in genetically modified organisms, or for other applications, is becoming exponentially cheaper. Whereas a single human genome was once prohibitively expensive, the cost of sequencing is falling at a rate far faster than Moore’s Law.

 

 

As the cost approaches zero for sequencing, Professor John Burn of Newcastle University is one of a growing number who advocate for creating genomes for every single human on earth. Doing so will be easy in five years or less, and the benefits could be tremendous. But imagine an age in which one’s DNA can be picked up off of a glass and duplicated into clones, or combined with other DNA to form payloads for viruses, or employed to manufacture off-the-shelf organs, there will be a desperate need for a set of rules and regulations on the collection and use of genetic information.

 

There are a host of other threats on the horizon that call out for some international system of regulation and control beyond simple market forces and gentleman’s agreements. Some can be predicted, others we can only speculate about. For example, we will face serious challenges when it comes to the function of money as it becomes entirely digitalized and its value is subject to imperceptible manipulations and alterations on a global scale. So also the rise of micro-drones beyond the control of even governments that can spy and wage invisible wars will require new institutions to contain them. For that matter, the next generation of 3D printing not only promises breakthroughs such as organ fabrication and the synthesis of edible hydroponic meat tissues, but also threatens to make possible the unlicensed production of weapons according to designs. These developments will require new legal and ethical structures before they can be adequately addressed.

The Constitution of Information

I propose that the first step in responding to the information crisis is the drafting of a global “Constitution of Information” that sets down concrete rules concerning the use of information and the maintenance of accuracy of information, thereby establishing a reliable system that is founded on a strong set of checks and balances to make sure that attempts to control information does not lead to even greater abuses.

Although the gathering and manipulation of information has become a major issue, the existing national constitutions on which we base our laws and our governance (in the United States or elsewhere) have little to say about this problem. Moreover, many of us have trouble grasping the seriousness of the information crisis: it remains largely invisible because it alters the very means by which we perceive the world.

 

We need to hold an international constitutional convention in which we can draft a binding global “constitution of information” that will address the consequences of the information revolution. It would be meaningless simply to propose a text for a constitution at this point because a living constitution is not a written text but rather an institution created through a series of negotiations and compromises. At this point we can only identify the need and the general issues that must be addressed within such a constitution and by institutions created by that convention.

 

Those who object to such a constitution of information as a dangerous form of centralized authority that will encourage abuse are not fully aware of the problems we already face. The abuse of information has already reached epic proportions and we are just at the doorstep of exponential increases.

In his dystopian novel 1984, George Orwell foresaw the dangers of a centralized clearinghouse for official propaganda named “The Ministry of Truth” in which the imperative to promote veracity is perverted into a factory for manufacturing fiction in the tradition of Stalin. The dangers of such a distortion of any attempt to rectify the tremendous amount of disinformation and misinformation in circulation should be foremost in our minds.

We are proposing a system that will bring accountability and institutional transparency to the institutions that are already engaged in the control, collection, and alternation of information. The point is to give an ethical imperative and a vision for the future. Failure to establish institutions like this constitution of information will not assure preservation of an Arcadian utopia, but rather will encourage the emergence of even greater fields of information collection and manipulation that are entirely beyond the purview of any institution. The result will be increasing manipulation of human society by shadowy and invisible forces for which no set of regulations has been established.

 

One essential assumption behind the constitution of information should be, following David Brin’s argument in his book The Transparent Society (1998) that privacy will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to protect in the future in light of technological evolution. We must accept, paradoxically, that information must be made part of the public commons in order to preserve its integrity and its privacy. That is to say that simply protecting privacy will not be sufficient granted the overwhelming development of new technologies for gathering and altering information that will emerge in the years ahead.

 

Within a future constitution of information, and the institutions that it proposes, there must be a complex separation of powers wherein information is monitored, and its abuses controlled, or punished, according to a meticulous, painfully negotiated, agreement that follows the principles of transparency, accountability and the maintenance of a commons for the benefit of ordinary people. Information could be governed by three branches of government, something like the legislative, executive, and judicial systems that have served well in constitution-based governments following the proposals of Montesquieu for a tripartite system. The branches could be assigned different tasks and authorities within this system for monitoring information. The branches within government of information would have built into their mandates competing interests that would motivate them to limit the power of the other branches. Currently, there is little such balance of power within the global intelligence community or the large IT companies that have such influence globally.

 

For this reason, I suggest that as part of the three branches of government, a “three keys” system for the management of information be adopted. That is to say that sensitive information will be accessible — otherwise we cannot assure that information will be accurate — but that the information can only be accessed when the three keys are present that represent the three branches of the system. That process would assure that accountability can be maintained because three institutions whose interests are not necessarily aligned must be present to access that information.

The need to both assure privacy and to insure accuracy and reliability will require complex institutional changes and reinterpretations of the constitutional systems that exist already. But as we are already entering into a “post-constitutional” age in countries like the United States, it is imperative that we reaffirm the value of such public contracts so that to keep them from becoming mere ornaments.

The challenges of maintaining a balanced and reliable ecosystem for information cannot be dictated in a single article, but we can set the goal and start to bring together both practitioner and visionaries to put forth a direction and an encapsulation of the central tenets for a system based on transparency and accountability.

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