Who is responsible for solving social problems?

Solve social problems through technology

You can't solve social problems through technology.

In debates about the use of locking technology or technical filters, or when it comes to the enforcement of communication rules, we find this phrase in some very similar formulation.

It says that even if technology was the catalyst for the visualization of a social problem, the social problem cannot be solved by more or changed technology. Examples are numerous: Mailing lists are not to blame for people treating each other badly and filter lists with block words only lead to the fact that it becomes a sport to bypass the filter function. The internet is not to blame for people being bullied, it just gives bullies another field in which to offend their victims.

In the discussion about the secret service attacks on our electronic communication, very different approaches to solving the problem are discussed, which should get the social problem of secret service surveillance under control.

  1. #schlandnet is the attempt to tame the transnational Internet by forcing it into national (or European) borders: data is only routed within the network, a “German packet” does not leave Germany. This is intended to combat surveillance by “foreign powers” ​​and to simplify the enforcement of certain national laws
  2. Cryptography is the attempt to put a new2 layer on the open Internet in which most of the communication takes place. Strong cryptography (as far as we know) cannot yet be broken by a reasonable amount of effort by secret services3, but its application is often very complex.
  3. There is a demand for a stronger control of the secret services in order to direct their actions in orderly channels and to prevent all too large attacks against any groups (citizens, citizens of allied states, etc.)
  4. In many places (including myself) there is a demand to abolish secret services and to outlaw them internationally, to equate the use of secret services with acts of war.
  5. And there is also the somewhat short-sighted “I don't care, the secret services won't do anything to me, it just affects other” perspective. (Falsely summarized as “I have nothing to hide”. More aptly would be “I hope not to be affected and I don't care about those who are”)

If we delete solution 5 (I don't care about anything) and solution 3 (which obviously doesn't work, as the last few months and years have shown), 3 options remain. If we keep the opening quote (“You can't solve social problems through technology.”), Then #schlandnet and cryptography cannot be the solution to the problem: Both try to solve a social, a political area of ​​tension through technology.

Technology should filter the problem in such a way that it fits known solutions: Either we catch the wild Internet with the technical lasso and lock it in our little paddock or we try to drive it in front of us so that the state cowboys can't grab it .

And we know that. We know that we have to address the problem ourselves. That we have to cure the autoimmune disease of democracies (and nothing else are secret services). Any debate about balkanization of the Internet or more and new cryptography distracts from the real problem.

Technical solutions have charm: They are manageable. Requirements are defined, engineers are rushed to solve the problem, and X time units later, you have a solution within the defined specification. This is up to the technicians / nerds / hackers / technophile groups as well as the politicians who, because of their daily business, know all too well how exhausting, messy and inefficient solving social problems is - especially under the systemic pressure of the alleged lack of alternatives to the existing system - is. But it just doesn't help.

We have to get to the root of the problem. And for this we have to find new alliances, convince new political groups, find majorities. Because that's what it really is without alternative.

P.S .: I would like to make it clear again at this point that I do not consider cryptography to be pointless, I encrypt my hard drives myself. I just don't consider “more crypto” to be a politically viable solution to a social problem for more than a small select elite.

Ceterum censeo secret services esse delendam.

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  1. And the telecommunications providers in the local network are looking forward to the possibility of expanding existing monopolies / oligipoles. [↩]
  2. not really new, cryptography has been around for a long time, rather new in the sense of “discovered and implemented by the mainstream” [↩]
  3. For the sake of simplicity, we ignore the fact that the designs of the chips that we use or our operating systems could have built into some kind of backdoor that the secret services use, because that would never end [↩]
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