George May 30, 2006 6:29 AM

Nice one.
It’s a pity that governments refuse to agree with these forecasts. Or just ignore them, because of that 4 or 5 years before the following election comes.

bob May 30, 2006 8:02 AM

Painfully accurate. This perfectly derives the class of the current canadian nationwide gun registry – the information is all crap, the cost is 10x what was forecast and it has never once been used to solve a crime (nevermind doing any good by actually PREVENTING one)

Pat Cahalan May 30, 2006 12:29 PM

25 years from now someone’s going to run on the platform of getting rid of these things, and get elected. Pity we have to waste the money for the next 25 years to get there…

The recent immigration “debate” in the States has produced a number of quotes from politicians from both sides of the fence talking about how a national ID card is a good idea (but a fence/deportation scheme/amnesty/whatever) is a bad idea. The generally held idea that “we need to secure the border” has led to a lot of really bad politics…

Anonymous May 30, 2006 1:38 PM

Excellent, lucid piece.

@Pat –

I only wish 25 years were enough for the pendulum to swing and recover from something like this.

I’m afraid that such a program would prove to be a ‘black hole.’ Governmentally, no one could ever admit it was a bad idea and more and more money would be poured into it to try to ‘fix’ it.

geoff lane May 30, 2006 4:17 PM

Many of the problems are designed into the system. Take for instance the fact that in the UK the average time that a family lives at a given address is five years. If we assume a two month allowance for updating the ID database, we can say for certain that just over 3% of all addresses will be wrong at any given time.

As we can expect to be charged for every update, the population will tend to put off any update until the last legally acceptable time, say six months. In that case 10% of all addresses will be wrong and the usability of the database becomes marginable.

There are also real problems with finger prints and iris photographs. These will be found to be much less unique than expected (no large scale tests have been conducted and there is an awful lot of hand waving proofs being used to justify the current plans.)

mark of the beast May 30, 2006 10:53 PM

Fear drives us to do irrational things and call them rational.

This National card idea reminds me of gun registration law. Is gun registration going to stop criminals from possessing guns who will definitely NOT register a weapon? gun registration will do a better job of hassling those who are law abiding.

Is a National Id going seperate “us & them”? Some laws seem to be passed merely to give a false sense of security.

Laws are supposed to suppress the unjust, not the just. Frivolous laws that focus on controlling the masses grow from an undercurrent of fear and greed that seems to be as foreboding as the deficit these days.

I think we are going the wrong way. Don’t take if from me.. take if from one of the founding fathers.

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.
–Benjamin Franklin

P.S. I think the next $200Bill should be spent on hunting for Al Queda. But what the hell do I know, I’m just an ignorant savage.

Terri May 31, 2006 6:11 AM

As I’ve just said over on Charlie Stross’s blog, the problems in the UK aren’t confined to the ID system.

The parallel system for 0-18s – the ‘Children’s Index’ – is potentially far more dangerous. It provides the hub that interlinks the entire network of social care, health, education, police and criminal justice agencies that hold detailed records on all children from birth. This includes the results of in-depth psychological assessment tools, and speculation as to the likelihood of a child committing criminal offences at some point in the future.

This hub-and-spoke model has been piloted on children over a period of several years, and my guess is that the function of the NIR is to provide a similar system for the rest of the population.

The CIP has already recommended that a way be found to link the Children’s Index with the NIR into a central population register.

An added factor in all of this is that children will become so habituated to the routine sharing of information that resistance will gradually fade over the next couple of decades – by which time the majority of the population will be on a central system, possibly with unprecedented access to their personal records.

Tank May 31, 2006 8:15 AM

Fear drives us to do irrational things and call them rational.

This could explain those comments here describing this sci-fi hypothesis set 10 years in the future as “very very accurate”.

Personally I didn’t get past the “increasing and large scale civil disobedience” about a multi-use card.

Who has time to read crap fiction when there are so many Iraq war dead reports to ignore cause it only took a year or two to get over the outrage about that.

Charlie Stross May 31, 2006 11:13 AM

Tank: you’re going to end up with civil disobedience just as soon as you try soaking everyone in the UK for £100-300 in fees for a card they don’t see any use for, and which needs to be renewed every 2-3 years (because, like credit cards, it’s going to end up being carried everywhere and subjected to comparable levels of abuse).

Or had you forgotten about the Poll Tax riots and the tax revolt that, at its peak in 1989, had about 50% of the population of Scotland refusing to pay?

RvnPhnx June 1, 2006 10:22 AM

Speaking of gov’t black holes, we already have two: the war on drugs and the war on terrorism (and many other things which could be characterized thusly).

Tank June 2, 2006 3:13 AM

Best get right on that sharpish then. That piece says you’re already over due.

guthrie June 3, 2006 5:17 PM

Dont worry, charlie is not alone.

There are various websites, and lots of people who at the moment just treat this ID thing as another of the gvts ideas. Like Charlie says, when it comes down to it, they will start objecting when the costs escalate.

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