Category Archives: Technology and Society

Crisis in Intelligence and the Way Forward

Crisis in Intelligence and the Way Forward

Emanuel Pastreich

1. Making the Information Crisis into an Opportunity for Brave Reform

The crisis in intelligence in the United States has reached an extreme today as the multitude of contractors that feed on massive, and often obscure, budget, clamor to be fed without any concern for the long-term interests of the citizens of the United States, the constitution that defines that nation, or the security of our brittle planet.

The question of what to do, however, is not so simple.

No matter how much intelligence agencies are maligned or rebuffed, it is a fact that the covert gathering of information by governments, corporations, and other organizations has gone on for thousands of years and, granted human nature, will continue to be a reality in the future. The process can be regulated, to a certain degree, and it can be given a higher purpose, but it cannot be eliminated.

But the current situation is unsustainable and dangerous. The commercialized exaggeration of the term “intelligence” so as to extend into the field of human experience has distorted and diluted its meaning. Both creating deep misunderstandings when it is applied inappropriately and suggesting that anyone and his uncle can engage in intelligence.

Sadly, although there were remarkable figures in intelligence in the United States who have stood up for the accurate and scientific analysis in intelligence and who have opposed the abuse of authority by intelligence agencies for profit, (some going to jail, most simply disappearing into obscurity), such moral commitment has declined perspicaciously over the last decade.

The entire intelligence community has been radically privatized so that those in senior positions merely oversee the granting of contracts to contractors and have little sense of camaraderie with others engaged in a global battle for the wellbeing of our citizens.

Intelligence agencies that once played a critical role in keeping politicians and other government officials, up to date on the true threats facing the nation, have been carved up by jackals and hyenas working for multinational corporations.

Essential analysis has been outsourced over the last two years to Facebook, Google, Amazon, Oracle, and other multinational corporations that cannot be said to be “American” in any sense of the world. These lumbering leviathans are owned by banks and private equity funds around the world, many of which are happy to sell short the United States at any time.

The result? The entire intelligence community has been transformed into an appendage of big tech that abuses the authority of the Federal Government to advance the corporate agendas of these monopolies.

Not everyone is in on this game. Some bravely fight against the silent takeover. Nor is this battle entirely new. Terrible internal conflicts have wracked the intelligence community before—often completely unknown to the man in the street.

But this destruction of “intelligence” is far more serious and must have been in the context of the greater act of menticide, the murder of the human mind, undertaken against all American citizens by shadowy multinational finance.

Whether it is journalism or education, entertainment or advertisement, the goal is to reduce us to instinctive animals that are incapable of anything but a desire for food, sex, and superficial distractions.

The conspiracy channels would have you believe that it is intelligence agencies that are driving this war on the citizens. This interpretation, although not entirely without basis, is a serious misunderstanding.

Although intelligence agencies have always had corrupt elements happy to do the bidding of the powerful, they have also had pockets of the brave and the committee who have the technical and geopolitical understanding and the training that allows them to stand up when professors, NGO leaders, and politicians hide in fear.

The evidence of criminality within intelligence agencies is overwhelming, but the ultimate source of those orders remains obscure. The massive privatization of intelligence means that the line between government, corporations, and organized crime are blurred, or completely disappears. Sadly, the super-rich is able to misuse these organizations and then redirect all blame to the CIA.

The breakdown of intelligence is taking place at precisely the moment that we desperately need a system that can assure the integrity of information in the United States, and around the world, for our citizens.

This intelligence crisis is taking place at the moment that we must assure that those in positions of authority have access to accurate scientific information, not distorted commercial media, or the slick brochures of lobbyists and persuaders.

We have an obligation in intelligence reform the citizens of the United States and to the scientific truth. We have no obligation to conform to corrupt practices in Washington, D.C. that are accepted as reality.

2. Intelligence and the Crisis in Governance

Professors and researchers, ethically committed citizens and journalists, should lead the charge in the search for scientifically verified information that will serve as the foundation for ethical governance. At the same time, we must recognize that the search for scientific truth is not a democratic process. If we are voting on the truth, treating all opinions as equal on Capitol Hill, then we are no longer engaged in ethical governance and democracy is impossible.

It would be the best tit we could limit the role of intelligence agencies to specific intelligence-gathering missions in the diplomatic and security fields, and to small-scale counter-intelligence operations. We should cut back the massive bureaucracy that benefits from creating, and expanding, problems, and create a small focused group of experts.

That vision, often articulated by experts, is not readily available to us today.

First, the intelligence apparatus has grown so bloated over the last twenty years as a result of the deliberate misinterpretation of the legitimate imperative to respond to the vast implications of the information revolution. We must recognize that the sprawling fields of intelligence subcontractors that surround the CIA, NSA, and now most branches of the Federal Government, will not simply disappear by magic. A complex transformation must take place in which new roles are established and a new institutional culture put in place that holds up high ethical principles, not the pursuit of budgets for private profit.

Moreover, the simple pursuit of truth in the post COVID19 era is a matter of life and death. The level of risk involved in speaking the truth in the face of multinational corporations and other shadowy organizations that defend the interests of the global rich is far too much for the timid likes of professors, journalists, and other researchers to take on. If it were not for the support (often hidden or tacit) of those in intelligence agencies, the hard-hitting alternative media would have been suppressed long ago.

Thus intelligence, a combination of the capacity to gather and analyze information, to promote a perspective even the most hostile environments, and to take action to respond to threats (real or perceived), is what makes these agencies so dangerous and at the same time so necessary in the face of the massive degradation of information taking place today around the world.

The above intelligence capabilities have often been employed by the rich and powerful to suppress alternative views and enhance their influence. That part of the story is well known. The manner in which intelligence agencies have used these three capabilities to defend people is virtually unknown. Yet that is precisely the role that is demanded by today’s crisis.

Reforming intelligence into a reliable and ethically committed institution that addresses directly the misuse of information by techno-tyrants is made even more difficult by the burgeoning conspiracy industry.

When I use the term “conspiracy industry,” am not assuming, as some would, that the various conspiracies discussed on the alternative media are specious and unfounded. There are numerous conspiracies that have taken place or are taking place, around the globe. Any intelligence professional must first accept the remarkable depravity of humans and accept that the battle for a better world requires us to pick our fights.

The conspiracy industry, however, often promoted by corrupt branches of the intelligence community, combines real evidence of the crimes by the global elite with fantastic, or exaggerated, narratives about Satanism, devil worship, Chinese and Jewish conspiracies for global domination, and other tales in a manner that misleads citizens as to the real interest groups behind these conspiracies and also makes it possible for authority figures to dismiss real evidence because those presenting it also talk about UFOs and the Second Coming.

In an age in which you can easily lose your life trying to speak the truth (inside government or outside government), we need for strong organizations, let us call them intelligence agencies, with the slap-down capacity, need to protect those investigating the truth. Only if the search for truth has a real backbone can it serve as a compass in the cloud of information chaos.

The fact that many of the intelligence experts have previously thought only about their paycheck and consulting contracts should not discourage us concerning the potential for transformation. Profound crisis, such as we face today, makes such transformation possible.

We must start by turning back the privatization of intelligence. We have seen an exponential increase in this trend over the last five years, a shift that can be traced back to the weakening of intelligence organizations after the Vice President’s directives for privatization as an effort to crush resistance to that regime within the intelligence community.

I was shocked when a friend recently sent me postings for job openings in North Korean intelligence analysis at Facebook, Amazon, Oracle, and Microsoft. Positions that once had to be held by government officials on long-term contracts paid for by tax dollars are now controlled by multinational corporations loyal to short-term profits.

Suffice it to say that Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft are not American organizations. Their stock is owned by the global elite, from Paris to Moscow, from London to Beijing, and they make decisions based on their interests.

Moreover, major investment banks like BlackRock and Goldman Sachs, which have also played a big role in the privatization of intelligence, have decided to sell the United States short as part of a strategy for reducing domestic resistance to tyranny by outsourcing American industry, that produces educated and self-sufficient individuals, to China, India or elsewhere. We need intelligence officers capable of standing up to multinational banks, not serving as cover for their nefarious plots and ruses.

We never want to see again a scam of the global elite pinned on the CIA while the real culprits celebrate in luxury.

3. The Impact of Technological Change on Intelligence

Part of the problem can be traced back to technological change and is not the result of the evil done by individuals. The exponential increase in the capacity of supercomputers in accord with Moore’s Law has created a tremendous capability to manipulate the decision-making process on a global scale and give undue power to the very few who control such supercomputers.

The small group of billionaires who control the best networks of supercomputers has become a shadow government that is above all the politicians we see on television.

Just as Gresham’s Law suggests that debased coinage will displace pure coinage in the economy as people start to hoard, the degraded information we are being fed by the media and by multinational corporations has displaced accurate information completely in our society, leaving citizens to try to make sense of the garbage that they are fed by the corporate media, universities and research institutes now bought and paid for by multinational banks, and celebrities cultivated by those same forces.

As Arthur C. Clark suggests in his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, technology is not simply a passive tool subject to the human will but is a force in itself that can determine human evolution and human thinking.

The exponential development of technology has created an environment in which new unprecedented risks are unleashed. The few can amass detailed information about all individuals in the world and also control the information that is presented to the citizens so as dumb-down the population (making democratic process impossible) and to slowly reduce us to slavery. The Constitution ceases to be of meaning in that process and the government becomes tyranny.

This process is already well underway in the United States, and the super-rich who are pushing the buttons follow the strategies of menticide outlined by Joost Meerloo in his classic study The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing (1957).

Government is not prepared to respond to the radical degradation of, and manipulation of, information that underlies the true information warfare we witness today. We are not talking about Chinese spies who steal secrets, but rather multinational equity funds (including Chinese and Russians, but also Japanese and Americans) that intend to destroy the capacity of citizens to think for themselves.

Government is the first victim of the systematic manipulation of information by global technology tyrants. In fact, the tyrants who have launched this world war like to hide behind the façade of government and to attribute their evil acts to government officials.

The intellectual response to this global takeover may come from journalists, university professors, community groups and other activists. But they are easily intimidated and cannot formulate the strategies for global information warfare.

As dangerous as it may be to turn to intelligence agencies in response to this global assault, we are left with no choice.

The critical point, the decisive aspect, of the proposed reforms, is severing the connection between global finance and intelligence and then creating out of the parts of the intelligence community a powerful force, like the Army of the Potomac, that adheres to the Constitution, creating a group of patriots devoted to the interests of the citizens, to the true, and to principles of the Constitution.

To be specific, that means that the CIA, NSA, DIA, FBI and other organizations must be taken back by citizens of the United States, transformed into organizations that not only do not report to Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, Vanguard—or to the superrich who lurk behind those organizations, but that are capable of frustrating, or even facilitating the arrest and prosecution of the heads of these organizations.

We know for a fact that normal courts do not have the spine, or the global structures, necessary to take on these global forces that claim to control wealth beyond that of most nation-states.

Once the sections of the intelligence community that is not hopelessly infected with the cancer of global finance are able to rally, they must first assert that they are the government, not the appendages of global finance and that they are empowered by the Constitution to use their awesome power to defend the citizens against slavery by technology, much as Abraham Lincoln did in 1860.  

4. Defending the Intelligence of the Citizen at Home and Abroad

If we think more deeply about the future of intelligence in the United States, we are led to the inevitable conclusion that part of our role will be to defend “intelligence” in the other sense of the word: the capacity of citizens to think for themselves so as to play their sacred role according to the Constitution.

Although we have been so overwhelmed as to be unable to formulate our position, the current trend of “menticide” directed against citizens by the globally integrated AI systems controlled by the super-rich is an attack on the Constitution, and by extension, on the United States.

That is to say that a new role of intelligence must be to defend the ability of citizens to think, to serve citizens, and not to have their minds destroyed by pornography, video games, addictive apps, and the manipulative social media employed by dark forces to reduce them to passivity.

We must formulate a national and a global system to assure the accuracy of the information and to prevent its abuse that allows us to create a space for a regulated and public system for the control of information for the benefit of citizens that does not belong exclusively to multinational corporations, or to the rich. Current efforts funded by multinational corporations, directly or indirectly, to assert what is fake news have no legitimacy.

The question will be whether we can create, out of the ashes, new intelligence institutions that are “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Journalism will be a major part of this effort. The degradation of journalism over the last twenty years has been one of the most severe threats to national security. Much journalism today is a matter of opinion, with no application of the scientific method, no opportunity for alternative opinions, or for honest debate. Arguing that human activity does not impact the climate, that the Earth is flat, or that the Biden administration is Communist are allowed to pass without any scientific analysis.

The obvious answer for many is to intelligence out of journalism and to allow for a free press that is not force-feeding citizens the agenda of multinational corporations. Many citizens have rightfully demanded such actions and advanced powerful arguments for an end to this media puppet show.

There is another vision that deserves to be taken seriously, even if it seems counterintuitive at first glance. That is to argue that reformed intelligence agencies that represent the citizens and the Constitution should play a central role in the rebuilding of journalism in the United States and defending journalists.

Those who argue that intelligence should simply leave journalism alone are hopelessly naïve. Although it is certainly true that the influence of big money on intelligence, and on journalism, must be ended, we find ourselves in the midst of a hot information war on a global scale. Things may look peaceful for those sipping lattes at Starbucks, it is increasingly common for journalists who touch on sensitive topics to be threatened, or killed, around the world.

If we want to have journalism that presents accurate information in such a state of war, we must protect journalists and journals and make sure that they develop so as to fulfill their constitutional role.

In the current situation, it is necessary rather to rethink intelligence as a force that can fight for the integrity of information, and this transformation is possible.

It is not without risks, but nothing in war is without risks.

5. Moving Forward with True Intelligence Reform

We need to step back and take a new view of what the true challenges for the United States, its citizens, and the citizens of the Earth, are in this age of unprecedented technological change. We need to assure that that the United States has government agencies that provide the most accurate information possible to its lawmakers and to its citizens and that assures that the information in circulation is reliable. Such an institution does not exist now, even though it is desperately needed.

Such an institution can easily degenerate into a “Ministry of Truth” that suppresses the truth on behalf of the powerful. It does not have to follow that route, however.

In this age of fake news and massive mental manipulation, our citizens are subjected constantly to distorted information that are produced by the rich and powerful. The intelligence community which could protect them is assigned to an entirely different task and there is no other powerful institution to protect them.

The result is information anomy. The Internet is rapidly decaying into a ruthless jungle. Newspapers and TV news have degenerated into propaganda mouths.

It is essential that our citizens have accurate and objective sources for information about the world that assures stability in government policy and that will end the reliance of government officials on sensationalist media, or corrupt lobbyists, for information and analysis. True intelligence reform is not just about improving methodologies and policies, but about establishing a new vision for a healthy information ecosystem that makes its role critical to the wellbeing of all citizens. If done well, intelligence will no longer be a dirty word in our society.

(Korea IT Times, November 4, 2021)

“New importance of humanities in fourth industrial revolution” Korea Times

Korea Times

“New importance of humanities in fourth industrial revolution”

June 30, 2018

Emanuel Pastreich




There has been much talk about the importance of the humanities in this age of rapid technological transformation and we see funding for “digital humanities” programs that provide cutting-edge communications technology that is claimed will revolutionize teaching and will provide online videos that effectively present complex information for any number of viewers around the world.

We have scholars in history and in the social sciences who have obtained funding that allows them to bring to bear advanced supercomputing technology on historical or social conundrums.

Massive amounts of textual and statistical information are analyzed by them using supercomputers, and their unexpected discoveries are presented to us via fascinating graphs and charts. Big data reveals to us new truths previously obscured ― although we cannot help but wonder if the amount of time spent reading and pondering is being drastically reduced.
Read more of this post

JoongAng Daily

“Technology and critical thinking”

April 25, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich



Koreans boast to me about their country’s latest technological developments, or express envy for technologies that other nations have mastered. After 10 years working with Korean research institutes, and observing Korean society, I am convinced that the most serious challenge Korea faces is not a lack of technology, but rather the decline of scientific thinking.

A new automobile, or robot, is presented to Koreans as something miraculous, an amazing device that can do the impossible. Although such an approach inspires awe for technological achievements, it encourages complacency in our thinking and a sharp dip in our critical analysis. Citizens should be inspired to try to understand how a smartphone works, or for that matter how the government or the economy works.

Indulging in dazzling presentations leads to impulsive decisions and sloppy thinking.

News broadcasts these days assume that the audience doesn’t want to see anything that isn’t entertaining. Complex subjects are stripped down to simplistic one-line phrases. Of course, the technology used to film and edit these short programs is state-of-the-art. Excellent broadband service provides those images instantaneously for watch

What Korea must do is insist on the rigorous application of the scientific method in education, in media and in the policy decision process. Read more of this post

“Meeting the Great Data Challenge: The Case for a Constitution of Information” in Global Asia (January 2017)





Meeting the Great Data Challenge:

The Case for a Constitution of Information

Meeting the Great Data Challenge

The Case for a Constitution of Information



Global Asia

Winter, 2016





Emanuel Pastreich

The w o r l d has been rocked in recent weeks by reports of rampant fake news stories circulating through social media that have the potential to completely disrupt the political process and undermine the international standards for transparency and accountability that we have come to take for granted. So serious has the problem become that Face – book has proposed a new system to identify doubt ful news reports and tag them for readers, as well as to limit the circulation of such stories. However, in the case of Facebook, the third party assigned to confirm the accuracy of reports is a fact-checking network established by Poynter, a nonprofit school for journalism in St. Petersburg, Florida, in collaboration with ABC News, Politifact, Fact Check, Snopes and the Associated Press.

But is Poynter’s “fact checking network” the best place for Facebook, or anyone else, to turn for a determination of what is accurate? After all, many of those media organizations have themselves been caught passing questionable stories in the build up to the Iraq War and other recent incidents. All this comes on top of the divisive dispute concerning the massive hacking of the emails of the Democratic National Committee in the United States by Wikileaks, an act which has been attributed to Russian intelligence as part of explicit Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Assuring that information in the media is accurate, or that email is secure, is no longer a personal issue.

False information, in increasingly realistic formats, can be profoundly disruptive to the international order. Moreover, the exponential evolution of technology suggests that these current crises are but part of a far more serious transformation of our society that we have yet to address directly. We will face devastating existential questions in the years ahead as human civilization enters a potentially catastrophic transformation driven not by the foibles of man, but rather by the exponential increase in our capability to gather, store, share, alter and fabricate information of every form, coupled with a sharp drop in the cost of doing so. Such basic issues as how we determine what is true and what is real, who controls institutions and organizations, and what has intellectual and spiritual significance for us will become increasingly problematic.

In the case of the US, the emerging challenge cannot be solved simply by updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 to meet the demands of the present day;1 it will require a rethinking of our society and culture and new, unprecedented, institutions.


A change in human life itself

The International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that there were at least 4.4 zettabytes (4.4 trillion gigabytes) of digital data in 2013 and that the total will rise to an astounding 44 zettabytes by 2020.2 The explosion in the amount of information circulating in the world, and the increase in the ease with which that information can be obtained or altered, will change every aspect of our lives, from education and governance to friendship and kinship, to the very nature of human experience. We need a comprehensive response to the information revolution that not only proposes innovative ways to employ new technologies in a positive manner, but also addresses the serious, unprecedented challenges that they present for us. The ease with which information of every form can now be reproduced and altered is an epistemological, ontological and governmental challenge for us.

Let us concentrate on the issue of governance here. The manipulability of information is increasing in all aspects of life, but the constitutions — whether in the US or elsewhere — on which we base our laws and our government has little to say about information, and nothing to say about the transformative wave sweeping through society as a result. Moreover, we have trouble grasping the seriousness of the information crisis because it alters the very lens through which we perceive the world.

If we rely on the Internet to tell us how the world changes, for example, we are blind to how the Internet itself is evolving and how that evolution impacts human relations. For that matter, given that our very thought patterns are molded over time by the manner in which we receive information, we may come to see information that is presented online as more reliable than our direct perceptions of the physical world. The information revolution has the potential to dramatically change human awareness of the world and inhibit our ability to make decisions if we are surrounded with convincing data whose reliability we cannot confirm. These challenges call out for a direct and systematic response.

There are a range of piecemeal solutions to the crisis being undertaken around the world. The changes, however, are so fundamental that they call out for a systematic response. We need to hold an international constitutional convention through which we can draft a legally binding global “constitution of information” that will address the fundamental problems created by the information revolution and set down clear guidelines for how we can control the terrible cultural and institutional fluidity created by this information revolution.

The process of identifying the problems born of the massive shift in the nature of information, and suggesting workable solutions will be complex, but the issue calls out for an entirely new universe of administration and jurisprudence regarding the control, use and abuse of information. As the American writer and novelist James Baldwin once wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

An information constitution


The changes cannot be dealt with through mere extensions of the US Constitution or the existing legal code, nor can it be left to intelligence agencies, communications companies, congressional committees or international organizations that were not designed to handle the convergence of issues related to increased computational power, but end up formulating information policy by default.

We must bravely set out to build a consensus in the US, and around the world, about the basic definition of information, how information should be controlled and maintained, and what the long-term implications of the shifting nature of information will be for humanity. We should then launch a constitutional convention and draft a document that sets forth a new set of laws and responsible agencies for assessing the accuracy of information and addressing its misuse.

Those who may object to such a constitution of information as a dangerous form of centralized authority likely to encourage further abuse are not fully aware of the difficulty of the problems we face. The abuse of information has already reached epic proportions, and we are just at the beginning of an exponential increase. There should be no misunderstanding: I am not suggesting a totalitarian Ministry of Truth that undermines a world of free exchange between individuals. Rather, I am proposing a system that will bring accountability, institutional order and transparency to the institutions and companies that already engage in the control, collection, and alteration of information.

Failure to establish a constitution of information will not assure preservation of an Arcadian utopia, but rather encourage the emergence of even greater fields of information collection and manipulation entirely beyond the purview of any institution. The result will be increasing manipulation of human society by dark and invisible forces for which no set of regulations has been established — that is already largely the case.

The constitution of information, in whatever form it may take, is the only way to start addressing the hidden forces in our society that tug at our institutional chains. Drafting a constitution is not merely a matter of putting pen to paper. The process requires the animation of that document in the form of living institutions with budgets and mandates. It is not my intention to spell out the full parameters of such a constitution of information and the institutions that it would support, because a constitution of information can only be successful if it engages living institutions and corporations in a complex and painful process of deal-making and compromises that, like the American Constitutional Convention of 1787, is guided at a higher level by certain idealistic principles.

The ultimate form of such a constitution cannot be predicted or determined in advance, and to present a version in advance here would be counterproductive. We can, however, identify some of the key challenges and the issues that would be involved in drafting such a constitution of information.

Threats posed by the Information Revolution

The ineluctable increase of computational power in recent years has simplified the transmission, modification, creation and destruction of massive amounts of information, rendering all information fluid, mutable and potentially unreliable. The rate at which information can be rapidly and effectively manipulated is enhanced by an exponential rise in the capacity of computers.

Following Moore’s Law, which suggests that the number of microprocessors that can be placed on a chip will double every 18 months, the capacity of computers continues to increase dramatically, whereas human institutions change only very slowly.3 That gap between technological change and the evolution of human civilization has reached an extreme, all the more dangerous because so many people have trouble grasping the nature of the challenge and blame the abuse of information on the dishonesty of individuals or groups rather than on the technological change itself.

The cost for surveillance of electronic communications, for keeping track of the whereabouts of people and for documenting every aspect of human and non-human interaction, is dropping so rapidly that what was the exclusive domain of supercomputers at the National Security Agency a decade ago is now entirely possible for developing countries, and will soon be in the hands of individuals.

In 10 years, when vastly increased computational power will mean that a modified laptop computer can track billions of people with considerable resolution, and that capability is combined with autonomous drones, we will need a new legal framework to respond in a systematic manner to the use and abuse of information at all levels of society.

If we start to plan the institutions that we will need, we can avoid the greatest threat: the invisible manipulation of information without accountability. As the cost of collecting information becomes inexpensive, it is becoming easier to collect and sort massive amounts of data about individuals and groups and to extract from that information relevant detail about their lives and activities.

Seemingly insignificant data taken from garbage, e-mails and photographs can now be easily combined and systematically analyzed to essentially give as much information about individuals as a government might obtain from wiretapping — although emerging technology makes the process easier to implement and harder to detect. Increasingly smaller devices can take photographs of people and places over time with great ease, and that data can be combined and sorted so as to obtain extremely accurate descriptions of the daily lives of individuals — who they are and what they do.

Such information can be combined with other information to provide complete profiles of people that go beyond what the individuals know about themselves. As cameras are combined with mini-drones in the years to come, the range of possible surveillance will increase dramatically. Global regulations will be an absolute must for the simple reason that it will be impossible to stop the gathering of this form of big data. In the not-too-distant future, it will be possible to fabricate cheaply not only texts and data, but all forms of photographs, recordings and videos with such a level of verisimilitude that fictional artifacts indistinguishable from their historically accurate counterparts will compete for our attention. Currently, existing processing power can be combined with intermediate user-level computer skills to effectively alter information, whether still-frame images using programs like Photoshop or videos using Final Cut Pro.

Digital information platforms for photographs and videos are extremely susceptible to alteration and the problem will get far worse. It will be possible for individuals to create convincing documentation, photos or videos, in which any event involving any individual is vividly portrayed in an authentic manner. It will be increasingly easy for any number of factions and interest groups to make up materials that document their perspectives, creating political and systemic chaos. Rules stipulating what is true, and what is not, will no longer be an option when we reach that point. Of course, the authority of an organization to make a call as to what information is true brings with it incredible risks of abuse. Nevertheless, although there will be great risk in enabling a group to make binding determinations concerning what is authentic (and there will clearly be a political element to truth as long as humans rule society), the danger posed by inaction is far worse.

What is reality?

When fabricated images and movies can no longer be distinguished from reality by the observer and computers can easily create new content, it will be possible to continue these fabrications over time, thereby creating convincing alternative realities with considerable mimetic depth. At that point, the ability to create convincing images and videos will merge with the next generation of virtual reality technologies to further confuse the issue of what is real. We will see the emergence of virtual worlds that appear at least as real as the one that we inhabit.

If some event becomes a consistent reality in those virtual worlds, it may be difficult, if not impossible, for people to comprehend that the event never actually “happened,” thereby opening the door for massive manipulation of politics and ultimately of history. Once we have complex virtual realities that present a physical landscape with almost as much depth as the real world, and the characters have elaborate histories and memories of events over decades and form populations of millions of anatomically distinct virtual people, the potential for confusion will be tremendous. It will no longer be clear what reality has authority, and many political and legal issues will be unsolvable.

But that is only half of the problem. These virtual worlds are already extending into social networks. An increasing number of people on Facebook are not actual people at all, but characters and avatars created by third parties. As computers grow more powerful, it will be possible to create thousands, then hundreds of thousands, of individuals on social networks who have complex personal histories and personalities.

These virtual people will be able to engage human partners in compelling conversations that pass the Turing Test — the inability of humans to distinguish answers to the same question given to them by machines and people. And, because these virtual people can write messages and Skype 24 hours a day, and customize their messages to what the individual finds interesting, they can be more attractive than human “friends” and have the potential to seriously distort our very concept of society and reality. There will be a concrete and practical need for a set of codes and laws to regulate such an environment.


The rise of fake truth

Over time, virtual reality may end up seeming much more real and convincing to people who are accustomed to it than actual reality. That issue is particularly relevant when it comes to the next generation, who will be exposed to virtual reality from infancy.

Yet, virtual reality is fundamentally different from the real world. For example, virtual reality is not subject to the same laws of causality. The relations between events can be altered with ease in virtual reality, and epistemological assumptions from the concrete world do not hold. Virtual reality can muddle such basic concepts as responsibility and guilt, or the relationship of self and society. It will be possible in the not-too-distant future to convince people of something using faulty or irrational logic whose only basis is in virtual reality. This fact has profound implications for every aspect of law and institutional functionality. And if falsehoods are continued in virtual reality — which seems to represent reality accurately — over time in a systematic way, interpretations of even common-sense assumptions about life and society will diverge, bringing everything into question.

As virtual reality expands its influence, we will have to make sure that certain principles are upheld even in virtual space, to assure that it does not create chaos in our very conception of the public sphere. That process, I hold, cannot be governed in the legal system that we have at present.

New institutions will have to be developed. The dangers of increasingly unverifiable information are perhaps a greater threat than even terrorism. While the idea of individuals or groups setting off “dirty bombs” is certainly frightening, imagine a world in which the polity can never be sure whether anything they see/read/hear is true or not. This threat is at least as significant as surveillance operations, but has received far less attention. The time has come for us to formulate the institutional foundation that will define and maintain firm parameters for the use, alteration and retention of information on a global scale.

You are being watched

We live in a money-based economy, but the information revolution is altering the nature of money itself right before our eyes. Money has gone from an analog system that was once restricted to the amount of gold a government possessed to a digital system in which the only limitation on the amount of money represented in computers is the tolerance for risk on the part of the players involved and the ability of national and international institutions to monitor the system.

In any case, the mechanisms are now in place to alter the amount of currency, or for that matter many other items such as commodities or stocks, without any effective global oversight. The value of money and the quantity in circulation can be altered with increasing ease, and current safeguards are clearly insufficient. The problem willgrow worse as computational power, and the number of players who can engage in complex manipulations of money, increases.

Then there is the explosion in the field of drones and robots, devices of increasingly small size that can conduct detailed surveillance and that increasingly are capable of military action and other forms of interference in human society. The US had no armed drones and no robots when it entered Afghanistan, but it has now more than 8,000 drones in the air and more than 12,000 robots on the ground.

The number of drones and robots will continue to increase rapidly and they are increasingly being used in the US and around the world without regard for borders. As the technology becomes cheaper, we will see more tiny drones and robots that can operate outside of any legal framework. They will be used to collect information, but they can also be hacked and serve as portals for the distortion and manipulation of information at every level.

Moreover, drones and robots have the potential to carry out acts of destruction and other criminal activities whose source can be hidden because of ambiguities over control and agency. For this reason, the rapidly emerging world of drones and robots deserves to be treated at great length within the constitution of information.


Drafting the Constitution of Information

The constitution of information could become an internationally recognized, legally binding document that lays down rules for maintaining the accuracy of information and protecting it from abuse. It could also set down the parameters for institutions charged with maintaining long-term records of accurate information against which other data can be checked, thereby serving as the equivalent of an atomic clock for exact reference in an age of considerable confusion.

The ability to certify the integrity of information is an issue that is of an order of magnitude more serious than the intellectual property issues on which most international lawyers focus today, and deserves to be identified as a field entirely in itself — with a constitution of its own that serves as the basis for all future debate and argument.

This challenge of drafting a constitution of information requires a new approach and a bottom-up design in order to sufficiently address the gamut of complex, interconnected issues found in transnational spaces like that in which digital information exists. The governance systems for information are simply not sufficient, and overhauling them to meet the standards necessary would be much more work and much less effective than designing and implementing an entirely new, functional system, which the constitution of information represents. Moreover, the rate of technological change will require a system that can be updated and made relevant while at the same time safeguarding against it being captured by vested interests or made irrelevant. A possible model for the constitution of information can be found in the “Freedom of Information” section of the new Icelandic constitution drafted in 2011.

The Constitutional Council engaged in a broad debate with citizens and organizations throughout the country about the content of the new constitution, which described in detail mechanisms required for government transparency and public accessibility that are far more aligned with the demands of today than other similar documents.5 It would be meaningless, however, to merely put forth a model, international constitution of information without the process of drafting it because without the buy-in of institutions and individuals in its formulation, the constitution would not have the authority necessary for it to be accepted and to function. The process of debate and compromise that would determine the contours of that constitution would endow it with social and political significance, and, like the US Constitution of 1787, it would become the core for governance.

For that matter, the degree to which the content of the constitution of information would be legally enforceable would have to be part of the discussion held at the convention.

Constitutional convention

To respond to this global challenge, we should call a constitutional convention in which a series of basic principles and enforceable regulations would be put forward that are agreed upon by major institutions responsible for policy — including national governments and supranational organizations and multinational corporations, research institutions, intelligence agencies, NGOs, and a variety of representatives from other organizations.

Deciding who to invite and how will be difficult, but it should not be a stumbling block. The US Constitution has proven quite effective over the last few centuries even though it was drafted by a group that was not representative of the population of North America at the time.

Although democratic process is essential to good government, there are moments in history in which we confront deeper ontological and epistemological questions that cannot be addressed by elections or referendums and require a select group of individuals like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. At the same time, the constitutional convention cannot be merely a gathering of wise individuals, but will have to involve those directly engaged in the information economy and information policy.

That process of drafting a constitution will involve the definition of key concepts, the establishment of the legal and social limits of the constitution’s authority, the formulation of a system for evaluating the use and misuse of information and policy suggestions that respond to abuses of information on a global scale. The text of this constitution of information should be carefully drafted with a literary sense of language so that it will outlive the specifics of the moment and with a clear historic vision and unmistakable idealism that will inspire future generations, just as the US Constitution continues to inspire Americans.

This constitution cannot be a flat bureaucratic rehashing of existing policies on privacy and security. We must be aware of the dangers involved in trying to determine what is and is not reliable information as we draft the constitution of information. It is essential to set up a workable system for assuring the integrity of information, but multiple safeguards, and checks and balances will be necessary. There should be no assumptions as to what the constitution of information would ultimately be, but only the requirement that it should be binding and that the process of drafting it should be cautious but honest.

Private versus public

Following David Brin’s argument in his book The Transparent Society, 6 one essential assumption should be that privacy will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to protect in the current environment. We must accept, paradoxically, that much information must be made “public” in some sense in order to preserve its integrity and its privacy. That is to say that the process of rigorously protecting privacy is not sufficient, granted the overwhelming changes that will take place in the years to come.

Brin draws heavily on Steve Mann’s concept of sousveillance, a process through which ordinary people could observe the actions of the rich and powerful so as to counter the power of the state or the corporation to observe the individual.The basic assumption behind sousveillance is that there is no means of arresting the development of technologies for surveillance and that those with wealth and power will be able to deploy such technologies more effectively than ordinary citizens. Therefore, the only possible response to increased surveillance is to create a system of mutual monitoring to assure symmetry, if not privacy.

Although the constitution of information does not assume that a system that allows the ordinary citizen to monitor the actions of those in power is necessary, the importance of creating information systems that monitor all information in a 360-degree manner should be seriously considered as part of a constitution of information. The one motive for a constitution of information is to undo the destructive process of designating information as classified and blocking off reciprocity and accountability on a massive scale.

We must assure that multiple parties are involved in that process of controlling information so as to assure its accuracy and limit its abuse. In order to achieve the goal of assuring accuracy, transparency and accountability on a global scale, but avoiding massive institutional abuse of the power over information that is granted, we must create a system for monitoring information with a balance of powers at the center. Brin suggests a rather primitive system in which the ruled balance out the power of rulers through an equivalent system for observing and monitoring that works from below. I am skeptical that such a system will work unless we create large and powerful institutions within government (or the private sector) itself that have a functional need to check the power of other institutions.

Perhaps it is possible to establish a complex balance of powers wherein information is monitored and abuses can be controlled, or punished, according to a meticulous, painfully negotiated agreement between stakeholders. It could be that ultimately information would be governed by three branches of government, something like the legislative, executive and judicial systems that has served well for many constitution-based governments.

Accuracy assurance

The need to assure accuracy may ultimately be more essential than the need to protect privacy. The general acceptance of inaccurate descriptions of a state of affairs, or of individuals, is profoundly damaging and cannot be easily rectified. For this reason, I suggest as part of the three branches of government, that 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 information can only be accessed when three keys representing the three branches of government are presented.

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. Systems for the gathering, analysis and control of information on a massive scale have already reached a high level of sophistication. What is sadly lacking is a larger vision of how information should be treated for the sake of our society.

Most responses to the information revolution have been extremely myopic, dwelling on the abuse of information by corporations or intelligence agencies without considering the structural and technological background of those abuses. To merely attribute the misuse of information to a lack of human virtue is to miss the profound shifts sweeping through society today.

The constitution of information will be fundamentally different than most constitutions in that it must contain both rigidity, in terms of holding all parties to the same standards, and also considerable flexibility, in that it can readily adapt to new situations resulting from rapid technological change. The rate at which information can be stored and manipulated will continue to increase and new horizons and issues will emerge, perhaps more quickly than expected. For this reason, the constitution of information cannot be overly static and must derive much of its power from its vision.


The representative system

We can imagine a legislative body to represent all the elements of the information community engaged in the regulation of the traffic and the quality of information as well as individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It would be a mistake to assume that the organizations represented in that “legislature” would necessarily be nation states according to the United Nations formulation of global governance.

The limits of the nation state concept with regards to information policy are increasingly obvious, and this constitutional convention could serve as an opportunity to address the massive institutional changes that have taken place over the past 50 years. It would be more meaningful, in my opinion, to make the members companies, organizations, networks, local governments — a broad range of organizations that make the actual decisions concerning the creation, distribution and reception of information.

That part of the information security system would only be “legislative” in a conceptual sense. It would not necessarily have meetings or be composed of elected or appointed representatives. In fact, if we consider the fact that the actual physical meetings of government legislatures around the world are mostly rituals, we can sense that the whole concept of the legislative process requires much modification. The executive branch of the new information accuracy system would be charged with administering the policies based on the legislative branch’s policies. It would implement rules concerning information to preserve its integrity and prevent its misuse.

The details of how information policy is carried out would be determined at the constitutional convention. The executive would be checked not only by the legislative branch but also by a judicial branch. The judicial branch would be responsible for formulating interpretations of the constitution with regards to an ever-changing environment for information, and for assessing the appropriateness of actions taken by the executive and legislative branches.

The terms “executive,” “legislative” and “judicial” are meant more as placeholders in this initial discussion, not actual concrete descriptions of the institutions to be established. The functioning of these units would be profoundly different from branches of current local and national governments, or even international organizations like the United Nations. If anything, the constitution of information will be a step forward towards a new approach to governance in general.


Vision needed

It would be irresponsible and rash to draft an “off the shelf” constitution of information that could be readily applied around the world to respond to the complex situation of information today. Although I accept that initial proposals for a constitution of information may be dismissed as irrelevant and wrong-headed, I assert that as we enter an unprecedented age of information and most of the assumptions that undergirded our previous governance systems based on physical geography and discrete domestic economies will be overturned, there will be a critical demand for new systems to address this crisis.

This initial foray can help to formulate the problems to be addressed and the format in which to do so in advance.

In order to effectively govern a new space that exists outside of our current governance systems (or in the interstices between systems), we must make new rules that can effectively govern that space and work to defend transparency and accuracy in the perfect storm born of the circulation and alteration of information. If information exists in a transnational or global space and affects people at that scale, then the governing institutions responsible for its regulation need to be transnational or global. If unprecedented changes are required, then so be it.

If all records for hundreds of years exist online, then it will be entirely possible, as suggested in Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, to alter all information in a single moment if there is not a constitution of information. But the solution must involve designing the institutions that will be used to govern information, thus bringing an inspiring vision to what we are doing. We must give a philosophical foundation for the regulation of information and open up new horizons for human society while appealing to our better angels.

Oddly, many assume that the world of policy must consist of turgid and mind-numbing documents in the specialized terminology of economists. But history also has moments such as the drafting of the US Constitution during which a small group of visionary individuals managed create an inspiring new vision of what is possible. That is what we need today with regard to information. To propose such an approach is not a misguided modern version of Neo-Platonism, but a chance to seize the initiative and put forth a vision in the face of ineluctable change, rather than just a response.

“We need a new concept of security due to technological change and climate change” (Asia Today May 10, 2016)

Asia Today

“We need a new concept of security due to technological change and climate change”

May 10, 2016


Emanuel Pastreich


Technology is evolving at an unprecedented rate. Even though Moore’s Law, the rule-of-thumb that computer chips double in power every two years, is drawing to a close, computers will continue to rapidly transform our world. These transformations have a profound impact on the security of nations, even though they are not well understood.
As we look towards the future, we risk spending tremendous amounts of our precious resources preparing for wars that will never happen and miss out on the chance to prepare for life and death challenges which are almost a certainty. The technology-fueled changes in the nature of national security mean that we can take our eyes off the past and re-focus our attention on real threats. – even the ones that don’t match up with our assumptions.
There are two major issues that need to be discussed openly and cooperatively between the Republic of Korea, Japan, the People’s Republic of China and the United States.
First we must consider whether technological change will render many weapons systems inappropriate in the years to come and ask ourselves whether a more profound rethinking of military issues is required, perhaps one that moves beyond the traditional nation-state assumptions we have used so far.
Second, we must consider whether we must limit the development of weapons systems, and rather turn increasingly to rigidly enforced weapons limitation treaties for fundamental ethical reasons because of the increasingly destructive potential of the next generation of weapons. We need to ask ourselves whether we will even have the budgets to pay for conventional weapons over the next twenty years in light of the tremendous costs of adaption to, and mitigation of, climate change. Could it be that we must reach binding agreements to limit, or ban, weapons so that we can effectively devote our precious resources to the basic steps required for human survival?


How technology is changing the nature of security
Will the nature of military conflict be so transformed by emerging technologies that most of our weapons systems will cease to play a meaningful role in the near future? We can’t assume that our conflicts will end or that deterrence is unnecessary. As technologies that can kill tens of thousands become cheaper and more accessible to small groups, even to individuals, we should certainly continue to think about how we will respond.
However, it is not clear that the battles of the future will be between nation states per se, which are rapidly fragmenting. Nor is it at all clear that the weapons we employed in previous conflicts will be helpful in such conflicts.
Three of the most important transformations are: 1) the emergence of drones and robots; 2) the sophistication of cyber warfare and 3) the emergence of 3D printing and other means of transmitting objects through non-conventional means.
The conventional military is made up of tanks, fighter planes, missiles and battleships and aircraft carriers, all of which are extremely expensive and vulnerable to these new weapons. Read more of this post

“Distinguishing science from technology” (JoongAng Daily March 7, 2016)

JoongAng Daily

“Distinguishing science from technology”

March 7, 2016

Emanuel Pastreich

I worked very closely with several national research institutes in Daedeok Valley back in 2008-10, and I participated in many heated conversations with the researchers working there about the future of Korea’s science and technology. At the time the researchers lamented the fact that Korea had lost the Ministry of Science and Technology that they associated with Korea’s rapid industrialization and long-term support of research.

But I must admit that I had a very different idea concerning this issue which I did not dare tell anyone. I felt that rather than reestablishing the Ministry of Science and Technology, Korea rather should split the “science” and “technology” apart and create a Ministry of Education and Science and a Ministry of Industry and Technology. Read more of this post

Kang Sung-mo on robotics and the 4th industrial revolution on G Lounge


February 7, 2016

Emanuel Pastreich


The Asia Institute

 steve kang on g lounge

Interview with Kang Sung-mo (Steve Kang) President of KAIST)

Arirang TV

G Lounge

“The 4th Industrial Revolution and its implications for Korea”


A discussion of robotics and their potential for Korea and for the world following Steve Kang’s visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos where the them was the 4th Industrial Revolution and what we need to do to prepare.


“Why Wikipedia Is in Trouble” Emanuel Pastreich

Emanuel Pastreich

“Why Wikipedia Is in Trouble”




This Time Magazine article “Why Wikipedia Is in Trouble”

(January 14, 2016) suggests that Wikipedia is in trouble because of some obscure cultural inflexibility. Although the problems with Wikipedia, despite its considerable popularity, are quite serious, the article intentionally misdiagnoses the problem so as to distract the reader from the real issues.

The failure of the article is perfect representation of the profound corruption of popular media in the United States. One of the most powerful myths even today is that media is simply dying because of the internet. If the information in the was sufficiently relevant and accurate, people would pay for it on-line. The problem is rather that media is increasingly written to protect special interests, rather than to deliver media. Media content is more often a mixture of propaganda with a bit of truth to make an almost convincing argument that will impact perceptions while avoiding a rational argument.

Let us look at what the article states:


“The problem, most researchers and Wikipedia stewards seem to agree, is that the core community of Wikipedians are too hostile to newcomers, scaring them off with intractable guidelines and a general defensiveness. One detailed study from 2012 found that new editors often find that their first contributions to the site are quickly rejected by more experienced users, which directly correlates with a drop in the likelihood that they will continue to contribute to the site.”


I have had a variety of battles with Wikipedians and I do not believe that they are simply hostile to new comers because of some form of cultural conservatism. They are hostile to people who have a different conception of Wikipedia which they consider to be a threat to their economic and political interests. The problem not more, or less, complex than that. Read more of this post

New Facebook layout for 2016

I have been pondering possible improvements to the format of Facebook that would have universal appeal among users. Please do look at my suggestions and let me know what you think.



facebook front page





Headings for the Facebook options:


Vote on new Facebook CEO

Vote on pending Facebook policy
Propose legislation for Facebook privacy

Suggestions for Facebook functions and policy (pending votes by Facebook citizens on policy)

Election of Facebook congress to represent your interest groups
Full disclosure of all Facebook financial transactions
Your Facebook stock value (amount acquired in return for the content you produced)
Your royalties today for the content you have produced for Facebook

Archive of Facebook postings
Post news
Review and correct news posted on major media
Find people with similar concerns globally
Organize a political party
Launch a class action lawsuit against a multinational corporation


Design your own emoticon

Write your literary work

Sell your design or work

Buy designs and texts
Develop business relations with other small businesses around the world

Find out rates for cancer and other diseases in your region
Update on air and water pollution in your region
Compare malpractice cases for doctors in your region
Where produce sold in local stores is produced and amounts of contaminant found


Post to Media:

Personal Post (privacy setting):

Entertainment Post

Your art:
Whistleblowing (corporate or government):

Facebook Search (select browser or create browser with your community):

“IT 시대, ‘필담’ 전통으로의 회귀가 필요하다” (월간 과학과 기술 2015년 12월 )

월간 과학과 기술


2015년 12월


“IT 시대, ‘필담’ 전통으로의 회귀가 필요하다”




임마누엘 페스트라이쉬  


아시아 전역의 전문가들이 국제회의 참석 차 모여 있을 때가 있다. 아마도 정부 장관, 교수나 사업가일 텐데 서로 어색하게 악수하고, 서투른 영어로 가볍게 인사를 나누다가 성급하게 대화를 끊고 서로에게서 떨어진다. 필자는 이런 모습을 목격할 때마다 민망해진다.


심도 있는 정보교환 이끄는 국제회의 환경 필요

이런 전문가들을 집결하는데 필요한 비행기 티켓 값과 호텔 숙박비는 값비싸다. 그런데도 전문가들 사이에 진지한 대화는 거의 오가지 않는다. 공유할 수 있는 엄청난 양의 지식과 경험이 있는데도 말이다. 정부나 산업체에 의해 마련된 비용이 많이 드는 큰 행사임에도 불구하고, 안타깝지만 대부분의 경우, 전문가들은 도착했을 때와 마찬가지로 돌아갈 때도 여전히 서로 전혀 알지 못 한다. 비싼 식사 모임을 갖는다고 해서 추후 협력에 대한 약속으로 이어지거나, 같은 행사에 참석한 다른 전문가의 지혜와 지식을 알게 되는 것도 아니다.

국제 정상회담과 회의에 참석하는 아시아 전역의 대표들에게 시간제한 없이 진지하게 대화할 기회가 생긴다면, 서로에게서 엄청난 양의 지식을 얻을 수 있을 것이다. 예를 들면, 다른 나라의 동료 전문가들이 자국에서 어떤 방식으로 새로운 혁신적 행정 전략을 사용하는지 배우고, 그 방식을 채택해 사용할 수도 있다. 또는 제조업에서 사용되는 새 기술이 어떻게 생산성을 크게 향상시킬 수 있는지 배울 수도 있다. Read more of this post