WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange's Last Interview Before His Arrest in London
On 20th September 2018, World Ethical Data Forum broadcast an interview with Julian Assange, the founder and former Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks.
This interview was the first time Julian Assange had been heard from after his communication channels were cut off by the Ecuadorian embassy in March, 2018. The interview proved also to be the very last time he was heard from, as on 11th April 2019, Assange was carried out from the embassy by UK police and taken to Belmarsh Prison on the charge of having breached his bail conditions. He has since spent most of his time in solitary confinement and is currently awaiting an extradition hearing at Woolwich Crown Court on February 24th, 2020.
An hour long, this last interview is of interest historically, as well as in its own right, covering subjects such as the conditions of his detainment, his reasons for beginning WikiLeaks and his treatment at the hands of the press, the consequences for culture should WikiLeaks disappear, the meaning and importance of cryptography, the recent advances in AI hacking, cyber-warfare and surveillance technologies, and very much more.
World Ethical Data Forum broadcast the interview via RT and Ruptly as it was shown to the forum attendees, resulting in a media frenzy that resulted in over 2.4 million views across YouTube in just a few days.
Australian editor, publisher, founder of WikiLeaks.
World Ethical Data Forum
This is a provisional transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
WikiLeaks Julian Assange's Last Interview Before His Arrest in London
Broadcast on September 20th, 2018
JA: I started WikiLeaks to solve a very interesting problem to me, which was to know the fate of man, to know the fate of mankind, insofar as that the development of man is revealed by the development of his institutions and how they behave in practice internally. The great political struggle of mankind, insofar as it has been rational... and we all know politics is largely irrational… but the irrational part, I feel, is sort of random, and the rational part is based upon what we know… what we know about ourselves, what we know about each other, and what we know about how human resources are distributed, and how human institutions behave, and what sort of internal and external rules we engage in. So that’s the purpose of WikiLeaks, to try and understand mankind, and then from that we can perhaps produce a better, or more realistically put, less worse, human civilization. But that’s changing. Mankind in some sense, just having a small glimmer of understanding about how it is progressing through the world, I think is now almost completely eliminated and not in the way that I expected. We actually have access to much more knowledge about how we work than we ever did before; but it has been eliminated through the speed of informational processing and therefore the speed of the change of knowledge. And that is rapidly moving into other… the algorithmic processing of knowledge is moving into artificial intelligence; and while artificial intelligence is just another kind of algorithm, I think the scale changes that have occurred in the last seven years are significant enough to classify it as a qualitative change. And that qualitative change might be a very serious threat to the stability of human civilization… not that they should be too stable... and to the ability for human beings to organize their fate in an intelligent manner. So I think you guys in both these two dimensions are able to do something.
WEDF: What is it like spending everyday in the embassy?
JA: The interesting stuff I can’t describe, because I am in an adversarial relationship with a number of states... a really serious adversarial relationship. And then the situation for detained people... and I have been detained in prison under house arrest and in this embassy, without charge at any time, in this country, for almost eight years now… and the difficulty for people who are detained in one form or another is monotony. Absolutely. So I try and make each day as different as possible, as it possibly can be, and it is never different enough for me...
WEDF: What do you plan to do once you get your freedom? Will you return to Australia?
JA: There’s a shifting geopolitical constellation, as far as the operations of WikiLeaks and other publishers are concerned that are trying to push the envelope. WikiLeaks is designed in its structure... well, because it kind of suits the sort of things I like doing... to be the boldest but still credible publisher. It’s an interesting tension that “but still credible”. By that I mean we’re very bold… not so bold that we publish child pornography… that would certainly be bold... but it’s not, I think, interesting and credible.
WEDF: What led you to start WikiLeaks?
JA: Coming out of my experience with dealing with governments and in the computer security industry, I got into encryption. I became an encryption engineer. I ran a number of small companies and consultancies. And after a while I viewed that the universe was hard enough to understand for human beings without going around encrypting it all the time. And that, in some sense, that was to make human life harder to understand. And while I understood — and facts come back — I suppose to embrace that earlier philosophical position of mine, that in a computerized civilization, encryption is the fundamental building block of liberty. I think that is clear, though interesting philosophically as to why that is why that is so. So I then instead thought, well, I should really tackle trying to de-crypt physical reality. That sounds mad but that's what physicists do, right? We try and decrypt physical reality; to understand time and space, the beginning and end of things. And after a while I felt I had — although physics is very wide — a decent enough understanding that the extra time put in wouldn't produce a great deal more understanding. And so then I came back, taking some of these concepts that have been developed in quantum mechanics about understanding flows of causality, how one thing causes another, and if you look at it according to particular interpretation through the flow of information, of how information from one thing that you're trying to measure goes on to cascade causality across others, and then eventually to the person looking at it... And so I thought, why not take that concept, which can perhaps be described in the way that WikiLeaks uses it, as “causality amplification”... some small amount of capital leading to a larger amount of information leading to a cascade of effect, and try and put that into place to help understand human civilization... and while that's in some sense a very ambitious and impossible project, along the way to have some fun and achieve some important blows for justice. Which is satisfying when you're doing it. It's very, very satisfying to see innocent people, for example, walk out of prison with one of our publications above their head. You know, the key documents used...
WEDF: What can we expect from WikiLeaks in the future?
JA: Back in 2007 when I launched WikiLeaks… I don't know if people can bring their minds back to the cultural dynamics on the internet at that time... it was, in some sense, far more controlling a space than it is now; in other senses, far more open, because there weren't... the big players didn't dominate it as much as they do now. But the fight as to whether a WikiLeaks was culturally acceptable hadn't been had yet, and through succeeding in that fight and defending the organization we became, in a very unusual way, part of the status quo. Not of the status quo of establishments, obviously. Many establishments are opposed to us because we publish secrets, and all establishments are, in some sense, hypocritical and rely on keeping a different interior world to exterior presentation. And WikiLeaks became culturally established such that there would be a tremor sent through the broader internet culture, which is now the broader Western culture, if WikiLeaks were to disappear. And that's a very difficult role to be in. What would it mean? It would mean that, essentially, the envelope for publishers and freedom of speech and the rights of citizens versus institutions and establishments would suddenly contract. So I personally, and WikiLeaks, are partly in the business of keeping the envelope wide, being that avant-garde where we're constantly crashing up against icebergs; constantly; trying to smash through the ice or at the very least maintain position, so that behind us there is a widened cultural space for liberty, broadly speaking.
WEDF: What are the biggest threats to businesses and governments today?
JA: I mean, you've had some very good speakers that are speaking at the kind of practical everyday computer security industry. So I'm not going to do that, probably because I wouldn't be that good at it...
WikiLeaks has a threat model, but it's an exceedingly… it's a very high threat model. Absurd, in fact. I mean, the UK Government by 2015, by the middle of 2015, admitted just one department alone had spent 12.6 million pounds — it was very embarrassing — on surveilling me. It was very embarrassing. And so in response they classified the budget. So the budget figures have not been released, and they certainly haven't been released for others. So that's a high threat level environment. It's very interesting, I suppose, all the means that we have come up with to deal with that environment; but they are in some sense unique to a small to mid-size organization operating at the highest levels, of which I'm not sure that there is any other than us. I suppose that there are some independence groups and terrorist organizations… but, at least on the terrorist side, obviously it's a different game than the one that we are engaged in.
Okay, but there is a much bigger threat to everyone, and I see it like this: some of you... well, at the time of the Los Alamos project, physics, Western physics, became harmonized because you brought the different physics traditions from across Europe, the leading figures, to the United States and to Los Alamos, and then you had a harmonization of nomenclature and understanding, and those people then spread out. So one of those people was Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist… very interesting man. One night, Enrico Fermi was out walking in Los Alamos with some of his physicist buddies and he looked up at the stars and said, “where is everyone?” And so you're going to freak out a little bit, because, yes, I'm bringing the aliens into this part of the talk to answer this question. His question is very deep; it's that there don't appear to be any. And by ‘appear’ I mean there are no physical signs, that we can detect. In terms of what happens to stars, the energy seems to be constantly boiling off, being wasted into space; we don't hear radio signals; we don't see anything of civilized life. And yet in the last 10 years we see that planetary astrophysics has shown that there's tens of thousands of extrasolar planets that we have actually detected on an individual basis. And from that you can assemble the probabilities of there being Earth-approximating planets… and there's hundreds of millions, maybe billions, just in this galaxy. So the question then becomes, well, where is the civilized life? Why don't we see it? Why don't we see any signs of it anywhere? And so the answers to that are, well, it could be the reasons we don't see signs of civilized life with our increasingly powerful measurement apparatus, is because life simply doesn't evolve, life itself. That's why we don't see civilized life. That there's something very rare about the earth as a means of life here. But when we look at the earth and when we look at extrasolar planets, we don't see any reason why that should be true. In fact, we see organic aminoacids in space dust, and asteroids and so on, and we know that asteroids cross-pollinate. For example, there are asteroids here from Mars, or bits of Earth have gone to Mars, etc. When we get hit by an asteroid and stuff flies off, etc. So there's quite a lot of reason to believe that the basic building blocks of life have spread widely. So, my view, and I think it's the only view you can take so far until more data comes in, is that there's something very unstable about civilization... there is something very unstable about technologically advanced civilization, that means it doesn't go on for long. And I think the answer to that is the very rapid competition, if you like the light speed competition, that occurs when you wire up the world to itself, and that very rapid competition can have two fates. And number one, it can produce very robust artificial intelligences, that are then coupled with their states... you can see that panning out in the United States and China; as they each grow up they're going to take, you know, those two forces are going to take essentially all the market, and the rapid competition between them with the backing and support of the state's behind them. And the exacerbation of the commercial competition through geopolitical competition will lead to an uncontrollable desire for growth in artificial intelligence capacity, leading to very severe conflict or stultification. There's interesting… you can follow these trajectories in different ways, but that takes too long to describe. So I think that's our biggest threat. It is geopolitical competition; removing what otherwise might be sensible human controls on the development of artificial intelligence; that geopolitical competition harnessed by, and itself harnessing, the largest artificial intelligence companies to ratchet up a process, which human beings can no longer control. Not in the sense of there being killer robots, although, of course, Google's now putting its AI in drones and so on, so yeah, there are killer robots; not in this classic dystopian sense but rather in a way that comes from understanding how human institutions behave; which is, institutions that are built on competition and growing their size and dominating markets, etc. take any advantage they get, and will continue to ratchet up in competition, and everything that they produce has that DNA in it. And that's where we're headed. And that's a severe threat to human beings in general, and all businesses. But perhaps the answer to that threat is people who understand computer security, offensive computer security in particular, trying to work out what to do about it.
WEDF: What is your view of cyber warfare, whether offensive or retaliatory?
JA: The nation states haven't been around that long; most people don't understand that. The West the Westphalian system has only been around for about 400 years. And, in fact, most nations, not states but Nations, communities of people, were not even in the Westphalian system for a long time. Now, you can think about why the Westphalian system, why the nation state system, developed... I think it's essentially that technology, including speed of transport, letters, radio, communications, etc., meant that each centre of organization attracted smaller groups of organization to it, and they grew and grew and grew and kept growing until they hit the boundaries of others also doing the same. And then there was conflict and then borders were constructed... Well, unless there were natural borders, borders arose as a result of trying to dampen down the expense of that conflict. Okay. And there's clear physical reasons why that arose. It's a geographical conflict and geographical basically means a two dimensional spatial conflict. But the internet has no two dimensional spatial nature. So instead what you see with the conflicts that occur through internet-based organizations, and states are included because increasingly moving on to the internet, is a kind of interdigitization of conflict. That is, there's no border; there's no border and it's 220 milliseconds from New York to Nairobi; so why would there ever be peace in such a scenario. There is no border of peace within which there's greater cooperation. That's not easy to construct. Now, with cryptography, to the degree that it's well engineered, you can create some kinds of borders. In fact, that's what all institutions that are surviving on the internet, an anarchic international space, are doing; they’re creating their own borders, using cryptography. But the size of the attack surface for any decent sized organization, and the number of people and different types of software and hardware that it has to pull inside itself, means that that is very, very hard to establish; and things are moving so fast that I don't think it's really possible for organizations to come up with borders that are predictable enough and stable enough to eliminate conflict. Therefore, there will be more conflict. States are kind of, you know, they’re sexy, because they have a lot of power, and they conform to certain classical human models that we've culturally absorbed over the last at least few hundred years, and a notion of a well defined cultural other. But I think they're small players, really small players in this game, as it goes forward. And you look at what Google, and Baidu, and Tencent, and Amazon, and Facebook are doing in their basically mass open cut harvesting of the knowledge of humankind, as we express it when we communicate with each other. As some people do on Facebook, or uploaded YouTube videos, or deals between different companies to get hold of it... that classical model, which people in academia have called surveillance capitalism; namely, you acquire capital through surveillance, capitalise the data, and then you sell it to advertisers, basically. That's changed now. It's really a very, very interesting and important and severe economic change; which is to take the surveillance capitalism model and transform it, instead, into a model that doesn't yet have a name, but we call it the AI model. Which is to use bait and switch techniques that Google and others have done to provide enticing services to get hold of data, and then using that vast reservoir train artificial intelligences of different kinds; thereby replacing not just intermediating sectors — most things you do on the internet, in some sense, are more efficient intermediations — but to actually take over the transport sector, or to create whole new sectors. And even just the transport sector alone, this is truly worth trillions of dollars more than the advertising intermediation sector. So to be a player in that game, you have to have the vast reservoirs of data. And Europe doesn't even have one, it's incredible! It could have perhaps, perhaps, could have struggled forth with one. But of course, the AI companies in the UK have mainly been bought out by US companies. Similarly with Germany. I'm not sure whether… I don't know whether China has been buying out European companies. But if you look at things like the European privacy legislation and the tradition of privacy, not so much from UK but emanating from Germany and Germanic Europe, culturally, that while it's kind of dear to me, as someone who understands about the importance of privacy, it has meant that a European company has not been able to emerge... although I think there's other reasons as well why it hasn’t… that could harness all the data of Europe, pull it together, and use that to train artificial intelligences in the way Chinese and American companies have.
WEDF: Identity theft is on the rise. Why is this area increasingly attractive to criminals?
JA: It's an interesting question… I think it's, you know, the answer is not terribly interesting, and a bit obvious, which is, vast databases of IDs are economically interesting to institutions, for other reasons and the centralization of those vast databases then makes the marginal cost of stealing each ID lower. And the globalization of, principally, commerce means that you can use IDs in more places. But let's kind of pull back and look at it at a more philosophical perspective. I say that this generation… well that perhaps is our generation… but anyway, this generation being born now, in seconds in most countries… very shortly in most countries... and it's already happened in, say, China, most European countries, the United States... is the last free generation. You are born and either immediately or within, say, a year, you are known globally; your identity, in one form or another, coming as a result of your idiotic parents plastering your name and photos over Facebook. Or as a result of insurance applications, or passport applications, transport on airlines, etc. You are known to all the world's major powers, all the world's major state powers, and all the world's major commercial powers. That's a very different situation for individuals to be in than they have previously been in. A small child now, in some sense, has to negotiate its relationship with all the world's major powers. Of course, in practice it can't do anything; its parents are NOT managing that negotiation. But it puts us in, I think, a very different position, in the sense that very few, in fact, maybe only a few people in this audience, very technically capable people, are able to live apart, to choose to live apart, to choose to go their own way. They must be part of not only the state, but major state-like corporations so powerful they may as well be states, and not just their own state, but other states as well. That's a significant change, a cultural change, for humanity.
It smells a bit like totalitarianism in some way. Obviously the world is different, but there's some feeling about it which is totalitarian. And so what is the answer? For nearly everyone, that is an inescapable conclusion. So is the answer that we all have to be part of the state? You all have to be part of managing the on-going evolution of our cultural, national, commercial international structures, because we can't escape from them?
WEDF: What is your opinion of the media’s coverage of your activities?
JA: [JA LAUGHTER] Well, I mean, you know, journalists have one of the lowest approval ratings of all professions. I think the last study in the United States was about 25%. I think lawyers are just slightly lower; congressmen are way lower; and just about everyone else's higher. Why is that? Well, it's a sad thing; it's a really sad thing. As someone who loves to document how human civilization actually works, we're in constant warfare with those people who are trying to distort the understanding of how human beings actually behave, including distortions by proxy, which is to, you know, come up with nonsense about WikiLeaks or me.
I mean, there's been a lot of quiet… yeah... there are a lot of amazing plots that we’ve uncovered... yeah... in one form or another thing. I think my favourite allegation is that I'm a cat torturer [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]. No, seriously, AFP, Agence France Presse put that everywhere, and even into the New York Times. So there's... I don't really know where to start. But for people who aren't familiar with this kind of disgusting machine that the media is and how it works, perhaps it's enough to say that most human wars have come about as a result of lies. And that seems absolutely clear in democracies, that democracies have to be lied into war. It's a very serious on-going problem. It has resulted in the deaths of millions of people in the last 50 years. And you can do a calculation how many deaths is each journalist responsible for; and I did it in the United States because, not meaning to pick on it, but the figures for the total number of political journalists is about 5000. It's something like 200 kills per journalist in the last 20 years, just the US journalists alone, because they would not do their job, they would not be accurate, and because they lacked courage...
WEDF: Do you have any regrets about releasing sensitive information that could have endangered lives?
JA: No, this is another one of these propaganda talking points, and not to criticize you, I know you're trying to give me something to bounce off. But the United States government had to admit under oath in the trial of Chelsea Manning in 2013 that it could not find a single instance of someone who had been physically harmed as a result of our publications to that point. Now, I should say that if you work on industrial scale, everyone knows you work on industrial scale, then the world is big, and there's a lot of reverberating dynamics that you can never properly play out. It’s the same for car manufacturers, it’s the same for big publishers. But thus far there is no example of that happening for us.
WEDF: When you eventually leave the embassy, do you plan to continue your activities?
JA: Yeah, I don't know. It is not... I mean, I do know, but I don't know what I should answer in response to that question: it's an interesting, diplomatic back-and-forth, about, well, really about, in my view, the Alliance structure, the western Alliance structure between the United Kingdom and the United States. That's caused problems for many people in the UK for a long time with injustice in relation to extradition cases. And quite a bit of prestige, as well, quite a bit of state pride involved. States never like to be forced to follow their own rules. In fact, they define themselves in significant degree as having power by violating their own rules... That's one of the key ways in which states demonstrate the supremacy of their power: that they're the one group that doesn't have to obey its own rules. And that's true in my situation.
WEDF: How do you see things changing in the next 5-10 years in terms of cyber threats?
The 10 year period is hard to predict. And that's the big problem. The National Security Agency, GCHQ, Five Eyes Alliance more broadly, France a bit, Russia a bit, China mostly domestically, have been engaged in mass surveillance, and the Five Eyes countries for, well, serious computational mass surveillance, for about 20 years. That's something that’s of such scale that it strategically affects the development of human civilization. In fact, it's called strategic interception for exactly that reason. Now, strategic interception is slowly being degraded. And that was a very important thing to do, because, and I guess some people can't see the reasons, but as we threw... as the majority of the world's populations threw itself on to the internet… we merged our human societies with the internet. So the result is that whatever the security structure of the internet, our human societies also became part of that. And that structure was, in part, mass strategic interception.
Now, I worked on this for years, many other people as well, and we had a really big hit with in 2013 with the Edward Snowden revelations that smashed that into the consciousness… not of the average person, I think that was a negative actually, because they all became paranoid about what they were saying, and became fearful and conformist... but we smash that into the minds of engineers, and engineers thereby felt ennobled. And so they were part of the flow of human destiny by including encryption into the communications protocols. So that has checked a very dangerous development. And we're left, then, with the other dangerous developments, of which, you know, the important ones are the ones that I described. I don't think that now and perhaps in the next three years, we're going to see computer hacking at scale. People talk about it as if it's happening at scale. At the moment, it's not happening at scale, not compared to strategic interception. But the AI-ification of computer hacking is something that will happen at scale, because you're automating it.
Now within AI, how you train AIs for discrete problems... and computer hacking, many aspects of it, is a discrete problem... there hasn't been significant progress on in my view. What there has been enormous progress on is how you kind of map through a space, which is in between a fluid problem and a discrete problem. And so an example of a space like that is the game of Go; that's a very good example ‘toy space’, where each step in go is discrete, but you've got enough pieces and enough board that it almost starts to become a fluid. And when you assemble all the computer hacking techniques together, there are so many, and so many targets, that now you have a search space that starts to look more like a fluid and these search spaces we can increasingly conquer. And when you have very large computer programs, and I suppose when you fuzz large computer programs, if they're large enough, you have enough discrete kinks in the attack surface that all together they're more like a fluid. So I think inevitably we're going to see this AI-ification of computer hacking attacks, and that then will be merged with other search spaces. And those other search spaces look like what is the informational space. Because in the end, what you really want is machines and human beings to make particular decisions, so you bring to bear... you acquire as much knowledge as possible, and then map it back in, onto the actors whose decisions you want to affect. And so there's a lot of talk about hybrid warfare — some of it legitimate, some of it overblown — it's actually been something that's been around for many, many years. But I think this notion of bringing together different search spaces in AI that are large enough to have a semi fluid property means that you can then go through the search spaces having all of them together, and that can produce something very powerful, and from a human perspective, completely incomprehensible.
WEDF: Is there a point at which you may decide to walk out of the Embassy and see what happens?
JA: Yeah, I mean like, I guess there's a… human beings are very adaptable; it's their best quality and their worst quality. They adapt to doing nasty things; they adapt to being on the receiving end of injustice, and they cease complaining about. The real question is when, not whether but when, are the UK government [going to] follow its treaties that it is signed up to? And, if we look in my particular situation… yes, everyone understands there's a vast political and geopolitical dynamic that's intimately connected with the United States, but it is instrumentalized in practice by UK intelligence services and police, who will physically arrest me and hold me for whatever the US wants to do with me. But what is the excuse to actually do that, to enable those budget-spends? The excuse is in a case that I was never charged for, where the extradition warrant has already been dropped, where I repeatedly won, they say that we're going to keep around the warrant, the UK end of the warrant, for the Swedish extradition, which I won. They're going to keep around that warrant despite me winning that, because I came in here and, perhaps, they might want to — they haven’t — but perhaps they might want to charge me with a bail violation. This is the technical excuse. They haven't. Twice the UK courts have refused to do so. Why? Well, because if you move your house-arrest location to pursue a parallel legal process, a higher legal process, which is an asylum application, that's not a bail violation. Okay, but what if it was, what if you disagree with that analysis and you say that is a bail violation? Well, okay, even before I came into this embassy and applied for asylum, which is everyone's right, everyone in this audience, if you are genuinely being persecuted... even before I came in this embassy, if you add up the time in prison and under a very gruelling arrest for 18 months, I've already done three times the maximum amount of time under UK sentencing legislation. And UK sentencing legislation values house arrest at 50% of prison time. That's the law. So not only is this a bogus warrant that has no purpose. If you, as the judge did a couple of weeks ago, say well maybe if he came to court I might want to charge him, so that's why I need to keep that warrant around… okay… but if that occurred there could be no possible prison time because I've already served more than three times the maximum possible prison time, even before I was awarded asylum. If you include the time in the embassy, which you should because the UN has assessed that, and said if you legally block someone from leaving the country that's a form of detention, that would be ten times the amount. So the real question is, when is the UK government going to uphold the treaty obligations that it assigned and uphold basic justice principles within UK law?
WEDF: Governments are meeting with private sector companies to showcase their offensive cyber capabilities in secret. Is this something that should worry the public?
JA: We've published a series called The Spy Files that documented these conferences, private government conferences, where the different mass surveillance vendors and targeted hacking vendors, like Gamma Group, present their wares. And actually there’s quite a lot to be gleaned from that and whenever you're talking about a big, well, a sizable industrial sector, it's impossible to really hide its shadows now. You always see the shadow, you don't always see the thing, but you can see you know a little shadow of a foot sticking out somewhere, and through that you can map out some of the contours. That is an indirect enough process, and a conflict-free enough process, that it is kind of hard to get the public really involved in it.
We had done all that for example before the Edward Snowden publications but it was the conflict in the Edward Snowden publications that really drew people in. Because it's not simply that WikiLeaks was saying it was important or Glen Greenwald was saying it was important, it’s that the president of United States was saying it was important… “look, this is an outrageous situation!” And so people went “so power is concerned about this, therefore it in itself must be powerful!” Yeah, I think it impinges on a deeper question, which is: the world is complex, how much of it do you need to know directly and how much of it can you delegate? Now, I love the idea of intelligence agencies; I'm a fan of the idea of intelligence agencies because it has the word intelligence in it. And I like that people know things and maybe they might make sensible decisions if they know things. Intelligence agencies when they're acting their best reduce fear and reduce paranoia. Because if there's something that you don't know, hype merchants can fill this black box with the most terrifying possibility of what might be in there; but if you really do know another state’s weapon systems and capacities etc., it might reassure you that actually they're not as bad as the most catastrophic scenario. And so they can actually contribute towards peace in that way.
The problem is, it's a principal agent dilemma. So this is a classical problem when dealing say with lawyers, which is, you hire a lawyer to work for you and represent you and act on your interest, but of course the lawyer is also always trying to act in their own interest and inject their own interest into your equation. So how do you police that? How do you police it with lawyers? Well, you police it by constantly looking at their work and trying to do random samples, I guess. Introspecting into their work to see if the claims made are justified. That is the fundamental problem with intelligence agencies and it's the fundamental problem with delegation of assessment about how the world is working. You can't completely delegate because human beings inevitably are corrupt, and cut corners, and act in their own interests, and not of the person who has appointed them. And in that case, for example, in the UK intelligence services, which have a role… an important role, every state needs something like an intelligence service to protect it from interference by other states… but without insight, deep insight into how those organizations are acting, they go astray. So intelligence agencies must be transparent. It's vital that they are transparent. And some of that, because they are deeply interconnected with the industry, some of that transparency is provided by enforcing transparency on the industry itself, including at these conferences.
WEDF: What do you believe is the best way to address the privacy concerns presented by IoT (the Internet of Things)?
JA: I mean it's a big dilemma... one of our lawyers, who, of course we will have to educate them about… you know… different countersurveillance techniques... but they said goddamn it, you know what we should do, we should buy up some chunk of Madagascar or Patagonia, or somewhere, and just ban every electronic device from it. Like a high-intensity radiowave, electronic-free area, because of that constant buffeting that we have, by principally commercial organizations, trying to harvest our interactions with the world. That's the… yeah... that's the principle economic model that all these AI companies have had, and the traditional surveillance capitalism companies have had. And the number of degrees of interaction... so what do I mean by that… if you kind of imagine a space of interactions, the number of types of interaction, the frequencies of interaction, between you and everything else in the space, is dramatically increasing. And in a way you can consider each one of these degrees of freedom is kind of like a triangulation. So to try and triangulate something in two-dimensional space, well… okay… you just need two directions… two signals… directional signals. But we are giving off... if someone is using a mobile phone for example, they're probably giving off a couple of hundred of these on average per second. Something like that… maybe not quite as many as that... okay maybe a dozen perhaps. Although if you do video, of course, these are vast amounts more. So anyway between dozens and hundreds of measurements that we are emanating constantly. And if you click those together you can effectively triangulate someone's activities and behaviour. And I don't think that by chopping out many of them, or adding a kind of chaff cover, that you can make that much of a difference. And increasingly it's less. And in terms of the Internet of Things there are research prototypes now, which I assume are being used by intelligence agencies, but with very small electronic circuits that you can just put in paper or put in paint, or on the walls, that are powered by the GSM stations, and they operate as the GSM radio wave passes through them. It gives them enough power for a very small amount of time to do things. So obviously that tendency is going to continue. That’s not like the Internet of Things; it's like intelligent evil dust scattered everywhere, like confetti, in everything. So I think it's increasingly hard for human beings to work out how to deal with that. And the only way I can see is that we've got to securitize this problem. The computer security industry is, you know, it's been engaged in outrageous securitization for a very long period of time, hyping up threats, etc. I get how the game is played. It needs to be securitized in a different way. We need to securitize the... by "securitize" I mean you turn something into a threat, and thereby change behaviour or get economic gain from it... So we need to securitize the threat to elites by these developments. The people who run these companies. It's a threat to them, it's a threat to the most powerful people in society, and to eliminate the notion that there is a place that powerful people can hide from, or skilled people can hide from, this phenomenon. And that's the way to get all those people who have an ability to make a difference to make a difference.