Status Report: The Dishonest Minority

Three months ago, I announced that I was writing a book on why security exists in human societies. This is basically the book's thesis statement:

All complex systems contain parasites. In any system of cooperative behavior, an uncooperative strategy will be effective -- and the system will tolerate the uncooperatives -- as long as they're not too numerous or too effective. Thus, as a species evolves cooperative behavior, it also evolves a dishonest minority that takes advantage of the honest majority. If individuals within a species have the ability to switch strategies, the dishonest minority will never be reduced to zero. As a result, the species simultaneously evolves two things: 1) security systems to protect itself from this dishonest minority, and 2) deception systems to successfully be parasitic.

Humans evolved along this path. The basic mechanism can be modeled simply. It is in our collective group interest for everyone to cooperate. It is in any given individual's short-term self interest not to cooperate: to defect, in game theory terms. But if everyone defects, society falls apart. To ensure widespread cooperation and minimal defection, we collectively implement a variety of societal security systems.

Two of these systems evolved in prehistory: morals and reputation. Two others evolved as our social groups became larger and more formal: laws and technical security systems. What these security systems do, effectively, is give individuals incentives to act in the group interest. But none of these systems, with the possible exception of some fanciful science-fiction technologies, can ever bring that dishonest minority down to zero.

In complex modern societies, many complications intrude on this simple model of societal security. Decisions to cooperate or defect are often made by groups of people -- governments, corporations, and so on -- and there are important differences because of dynamics inside and outside the groups. Much of our societal security is delegated -- to the police, for example -- and becomes institutionalized; the dynamics of this are also important. Power struggles over who controls the mechanisms of societal security are inherent: "group interest" rapidly devolves to "the king's interest." Societal security can become a tool for those in power to remain in power, with the definition of "honest majority" being simply the people who follow the rules.

The term "dishonest minority" is not a moral judgment; it simply describes the minority who does not follow societal norm. Since many societal norms are in fact immoral, sometimes the dishonest minority serves as a catalyst for social change. Societies without a reservoir of people who don't follow the rules lack an important mechanism for societal evolution. Vibrant societies need a dishonest minority; if society makes its dishonest minority too small, it stifles dissent as well as common crime.

At this point, I have most of a first draft: 75,000 words. The tentative title is still "The Dishonest Minority: Security and its Role in Modern Society." I have signed a contract with Wiley to deliver a final manuscript in November for February 2012 publication. Writing a book is a process of exploration for me, and the final book will certainly be a little different -- and maybe even very different -- from what I wrote above. But that's where I am today.

And it's why my other writings continue to be sparse.

Posted on May 9, 2011 at 7:02 AM • 260 Comments

Comments

AllenMay 9, 2011 7:31 AM

Bruce,

I look forward to the book being released. It does seem like it will be a good read once it comes.

GreenSquirrelMay 9, 2011 7:36 AM

At the risk of sounding like a fanboi, I too am looking forward to the publication of the book.

Count me as a potential customer.

Wicked LadMay 9, 2011 7:36 AM

Bruce, using the term "dishonest" to describe the minority seems out of place in context. Wouldn't "parasitic" or "uncooperative" or even "deviant" fit better? Their deceptiveness seems less less relevant here than their non-conformance to norms or their parasitism.

Danny MoulesMay 9, 2011 7:36 AM

I realise this is just an excerpt but I don't understand why they're called the 'dishonest minority'. It strikes me that the label as you're using it could be applied to completely honest individuals.

I'm probably part of the anti-culture dissenting minority - but one would (hopefully) never describe me as dishonest.

Why use the term honesty at all?

DavidMay 9, 2011 7:37 AM

Societal norms are immoral? But if morality evolved in prehistory, isn't morality a societal norm?

DanMay 9, 2011 7:37 AM

This reminds me of research on evolutionarily stable strategies. There will always be defectors, it's up to the society to ensure that they do not spread.

Oliver HollowayMay 9, 2011 7:39 AM

Taking the thesis statement's last paragraph in its broader sense, that the advantage to having a dishonest minority is that that's where society's improvements come from.

Meaning this as a compliment, the abstract brought Carse's Finite and Infinite Games to mind.

acMay 9, 2011 7:55 AM

I like your comment in the last para of your quote to the effect that society needs 'dishonest' people. I think there's a whole book in that one idea. Today's defectors could be tomorrow's norm.

RakkhiMay 9, 2011 7:56 AM

Bruce sounds interesting will probably buy bit please release as an ebook on kindle or iBooks

What do you hope to be the outcomes of people reading the book? Are you looking for any specific behavioral or policy changes or is it just FYI and education of why security has "evolved" to what is. Includes your thoughts on where it will go next?

Early part of thesis reads like directly out of selfish gene and other books from Richard Dawkins (a good thing)

Jim HarperMay 9, 2011 7:57 AM

I wonder whether morals and reputation preceded laws and technical security systems in human development, or whether perhaps it was the other way around or altogether different.

I move my family into a cave to prevent plunder and put a club near my bedside to bludgeon intruders --- that's a pair of technical security systems that probably preceded morals and reputation in human development.

When society reaches a higher order, those technical systems can relax a bit in light of a community morals, reputation, and law --- common law, that is: consensus rules about how people should act, subject to consensus punishments. Certainly legislation --- laws posited by a king or by groups acting as legislators --- came along quite late in the game, but common law in its earliest iterations was probably right there with morals and reputation.

Becky SharpeMay 9, 2011 8:01 AM

Honest and dishonest seem such value-laden terms.

It sounds like you are struggling with defining the difference between individuals who have internal versus external locus of control - those that are prepared to surrender decisions to an external decision-maker (a government, a church, a political party) and those that insist on thinking for themselves.

But even that does not provide the granularity necessary to describe those that follow rules and those that do not. Presumably organised crime has individuals that follow the crime-group rules but violate societal rules.

Of course, free-thinkers will sometimes optimise decisions at the personal level, and sometimes at the group or sub-group level. It is difficult to predict.

Interesting.

bobMay 9, 2011 8:06 AM

I immediately see a parallel (in the US) where an ever growing percentage (currently hovering in the 50 +/- 5 percent range, depending on which survey you see) is not paying (federal) income tax.

At some point (which I fear is not far away) the remaining people paying it will change strategies (the rich ones will go to friendlier countries or lawyer up, the poor ones will switch to cash/barter or simply become a little poorer and join the freeloaders) and the system will collapse.

COMSECMay 9, 2011 8:19 AM

"Societies need dishonest people"
Could be true, could be false, it all depends on the nature of the "dishonesty".

Robbing, murder, sexual abuse of children -> "bad dishonesty".

Civil rights workers in a totalitarian society -> "good dishonesty"

So, are your (I'm using the term "your" in a general sense to refer to everyone that is engaging in acts that society has deemed "dishonest", but which in fact that individual feels is good and can serve as source for positive societal change) actions/views good dishonest, or bad dishonest?

That's really the question, right?

You are appealing to "morals" as the judge, as a standard by which you can differentiate between "good dishonesty" and "bad dishonesty".

"Since many societal norms are in fact immoral, sometimes the dishonest minority serves as a catalyst for social change"

Where did you get this standard from? What definition are you using? To Whom are you appealing to judge whether or not something is moral or immoral? The majority? History? An individuals sense of right and wrong? Reason?

HindMay 9, 2011 8:20 AM

I look forward to reading the book. I'm looking into cooperation in Vehicular networks as part of my research. I think there can be a situation where we have a dishonest majority cooperating to deceive unsuspecting entities, you can't always guarantee to have a dishonest minority. It will be great to devise ways to guarantee it though.

Best of luck :)

Paul RenaultMay 9, 2011 8:23 AM

Venkat Rao, of ribbonfarm.com had a series called "The Gervais Principle" which, from what I can tell from this excerpt, deals with related ideas.
First GP:
http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/...

While you'all are waiting for Bruce's book to be published, you can read the four (and more) Gervais Principle posts. Or anything from his site.

LenMay 9, 2011 8:23 AM

I understand that you're using the word "evolution" somewhat loosely, but I think your thesis is actually improved if you use it more accurately: evolution doesn't have such a thing as "group selection"; selection is selfish, indeed at a finer level even than individuals (see e.g., The Selfish Gene).

As Dawkins described in detail, cooperation evolves not because it's "good for the species," but because an individual with "cooperative" genes probably has neighbors who also have "cooperative" genes, and in that environment he leaves more offspring than an unsuccessful defector or a member of a community of defectors. I.e., natural selection has its own "invisible hand" where benefitting the group is rewarded *because* it's good for the individual--in the same way that participants in a free market generally do good for others *because* it's good for themselves.

In that context there's some literature already on the relative merits of pure cooperation, pure defection, "tit for tat" and other strategies, with honorable mention of the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma competition.

Your thesis argues that the evolutionarily stable strategy is something like, "Usually cooperate, retaliate against defectors, but occasionally defect," and then applies that argument to computer security. You can certainly put me down for several copies when it comes out.

BradMay 9, 2011 8:27 AM

@David:

I believe he said that many societal norms are immoral, morals are only a part of those norms. In fact I believe many of the morals of our prehistoric ancestors would be considered well outside of our current norms.

shadowfirebirdMay 9, 2011 8:42 AM

I'm not sure that I see that reputation is a security system, so much as a natural result of communication and distrust.

EdT.May 9, 2011 8:59 AM

Instead of "dishonest", I would use "non-conformist" - in the sense of "refusing to conform to the rules of society (whether it entails running stop signs, coloring outside the box, or wearing off-beat [or even no] clothes.)

I particularly like your last paragraph, and think you might want to compare and contrast societal non-conformism with genetic mutations: both being an enabler for evolution, both having both beneficial and negative impacts on the organism involved.

Hmmm... this is causing me to think of security in a whole new light.

~EdT.

WilliamMay 9, 2011 9:02 AM

Is is possible that the cooperative majority has a "norming phase" early on in which people of similar attitudes (or aptitudes) determine the "rules" of the society and that the "dishonest minority" has simply developed a survival mechanism in order to cope with not fitting in to the majority's view of how a society should look?

lazloMay 9, 2011 9:04 AM

"Dishonest" may be an incorrect and value-encumbered term, but calling it by the correct term: "The Defective Minority", would be much, much worse.

AdamMay 9, 2011 9:08 AM

I wonder where you stand on religion as a mechanism that (without making any claims as to _why_ it is so prevalent historically) helps enforce honesty?

Or perhaps you see religion in this context as largely equivalent to 'morals', but I'm specifically thinking of the theory that religion involves _costly_ displays of commitments to a wider belief system that incorporates moral beliefs.

phred14May 9, 2011 9:21 AM

Where everyone else seems to have chosen to interpret "dishonest" as "nonconformist" or "criminal" or even "altruistic", I looked instead at "the tragedy of the commons" and thought of the "dishonest" as those who take from the commons without contributing.

RSaundersMay 9, 2011 9:25 AM

I think both "security systems" and "deception systems" are used symmetrically on both sides. Parasitic players are full-scale security users, like omerta among Sicilian organized criminals, and honest folks deploy deception, like faux security cameras. The more circular example is the TSA, or any classic security theater, where the delegated security folks apply deception to lie to the majority rather than against the parasites.

AndrewMay 9, 2011 9:28 AM

Bruce, the concept of the book sounds very interesting as well as timeless. It's precisely the gradual shift I see occurring in American society today. We desire a "rock star" in the office of president, and as a result campaigns have become 18 month long super bowl commercials and the common people have largely relinquished their power to govern themselves. May the dissenters always strive.

Two quotes come to mind:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
-George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903)
"Maxims for Revolutionists"

What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure.
Thomas Jefferson

paulMay 9, 2011 9:30 AM

Dissenting or Uncooperative might be a little too non-value-laden for a security book. Maybe Rule-Breaking?

One of the things I hope Bruce will address in here is the phenomenon of tribalism, which makes many/most people into both majority and minority members at the same time. There are rules about what you do within your own family/clan/other group that don't apply to interactions with outsiders, be it that you don't cheat your friends' friends, or you don't kill noncombatants in a feud, or you only use root privileges to mess with people who also have root, or whatever.

This makes reputation and auditing (and possibly sanctions) context-dependent. No one really likes that.

HJohnMay 9, 2011 9:32 AM

Actually, to break with some other commentors, I would keep the term "Dishonest Minority" since the target seems to be dealing with parasites.

But I would suggest modifying statements like the following: "Since many societal norms are in fact immoral, sometimes the dishonest minority serves as a catalyst for social change."

I would say something like: "Since many societal norms are in fact immoral, sometimes a dissenting (or honorable) minority serves as a catalyst for social change."

Dissenting minorities can be both honest and dishonest. I would reserve the term dishonest minority for parasites, and not let it expand to include honorable dissent.

DamonMay 9, 2011 9:34 AM

Like some others, I worry that "dishonest minority" will be a distractor and discourage some who could most benefit from reading your new book. It's the obvious complement to "honest majority", but are they really two different sets of people?

Look, I obey traffic laws, pay my taxes, and work hard for my job and family. I am part of the honest majority. However... I do speed occasionally, I don't go to exhaustive lengths to report internet purchases to my state tax dept, and I do take long lunches. So maybe I'm part of the dishonest minority?

In reality, I'm both. We all are. Bruce acknowledged that by mention strategy-switching in the first paragraph.

Don't call me honest or dishonest. Don't call me altruistic or self-serving. The reality is more nuanced. Any agent in any complex system that has the ability to measure success from past choices is going to make choices to maximize future expected success. Sometimes, that means following the rules, being generous, costing yourself to punish others, picking up a $20 bill dropped by someone who just left in a taxi, or concealing evidence of a major crime.

By labeling it the "dishonest minority", you push the idea to an external group, denying the fact that we're all part of it.

I'd suggest a title that is a little more engaging: "Why Don't We Cheat More?" You could still have a sub-title like "The Dishonest Minority and Social Security"

aikimarkMay 9, 2011 9:41 AM

As a (probable) member of the Dishonest Minority, I look forward to reading a pirated copy of your upcoming book. :-)

Who knows...maybe I'll take the 'honest' route and visit my local library.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 9:47 AM

"Bruce, using the term 'dishonest' to describe the minority seems out of place in context. Wouldn't 'parasitic' or 'uncooperative' or even 'deviant' fit better? Their deceptiveness seems less less relevant here than their non-conformance to norms or their parasitism."

I definitely mean "dishonest" as defined by the current social norm. I use the terms "parasitic" and "uncooperative" as well, but -- at least right now "dishonest" seems to capture what I want best.

But yes, it applies both to the person who won't pay his taxes because he wants to keep the money and the person who won't pay his taxes because he doesn't approve of what his government is doing.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 9:49 AM

"I realise this is just an excerpt but I don't understand why they're called the 'dishonest minority'. It strikes me that the label as you're using it could be applied to completely honest individuals."

Yes, it could. One of the issues is that it's hard -- from a security perspective -- to know. Is the person hacking your computer a criminal or a Chinese government agent? Is the criminal -- think of the people who ran the Underground Railroad in pre-Civil War America -- actually moral? Is the government agent actually criminal?

"I'm probably part of the anti-culture dissenting minority - but one would (hopefully) never describe me as dishonest. Why use the term honesty at all?"

Fair question. Right now, I'm using it because it fits best.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 9:51 AM

"Societal norms are immoral? But if morality evolved in prehistory, isn't morality a societal norm?"

Sometimes. There are morals that are universal in humans, and show up in other primates. Fairness is a good example. Those seem to be less societal norms and more genetic predispositions.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 9:52 AM

"I like your comment in the last para of your quote to the effect that society needs 'dishonest' people. I think there's a whole book in that one idea. Today's defectors could be tomorrow's norm."

Agreed.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 9:54 AM

@ Rakkhi

The book will be published in a variety of electronic formats.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 9:55 AM

@ Oliver Holloway

I ordered Carse's "Finite and Infinite Games" from the library.

COMSECMay 9, 2011 9:56 AM

@Bruce:
"But yes, it [the term dishonest] applies both to the person who won't pay his taxes because he wants to keep the money and the person who won't pay his taxes because he doesn't approve of what his government is doing"

So,
a. since most dishonest persons in the social activism category (not talking about murderers here) are going to believe they are "good dishonest"

b. but in fact not all dishonest persons are in fact "good dishonest" or advocating 'good dishonest" social change

c. we need to come up with a criteria for differentiating between good and bad dishonesty. You seemed to be appealing to "morals" with your use of the term "immoral".

One cant endorse every counter societal norm position as a source of positive change.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 9:56 AM

"What do you hope to be the outcomes of people reading the book? Are you looking for any specific behavioral or policy changes or is it just FYI and education of why security has 'evolved' to what is. Includes your thoughts on where it will go next?"

That's a good question. I don't think I will have any near-term policy impacts, but I hope to make people think a little bit differently about security and society.

Clive RobinsonMay 9, 2011 9:56 AM

@ Bruce,

Have you considered what effect your book will have on "The Great American Dream"?

One viewpoint you should consider is why societies form for efficiency reasons.

Put overly simply every productive task has a setup and teardown time component. It is often more efficient to make twice as much of something in one go than it is to do the task twice.

Further as was discovered with making pins (you use for clothe making) if you break a complex task down into individual small tasks it tends to be more efficient (ie 20 men working together made ower a hundred times as many pins as one man working alone). This was the basic idea that gave rise to the likes of production lines.

However history shows this with many earlier examples such as making of beer and production of metals and building materials.

We see this still today with population densities. In some third world nations the population density is to low to make the likes of schools and hospitals economicaly viable thus they stay trapped below a povity point. The solution is to increase the population density either by increasing the number of people or by bring the people closer together which is what transport infrestructure effectivly does.

In Northern Europe people were effectivly forced into villages and then towns by water bourn diseases being overcome by beer making by religious organisations. When the population density was above a certain level it was possible for nearly all tasks to become proffessions and this allowed the greater efficiency to produce real economic growth. This then alowed spare capacity to be devoted to other things such as art and later engineering and science.

So co-operation between individuals lifts everybodies boats and will always do so.

However it alows surpluses to be formed and these can be used for good or bad depending on the societies viewpoint. And the difference in viewpoint over how the surpluses get used is what gives rise to cheating and crime as well as art and science, they are but two sides of the same coin.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 9:58 AM

"Early part of thesis reads like directly out of selfish gene and other books from Richard Dawkins (a good thing)"

I do mention that research in my second chapter.

roundRiverMay 9, 2011 9:58 AM

This is essentially a theory of deviant behavior (criminology). I would argue that society is an emergent phenomenon in the chaos of invididual choices. Those choices are based on mores. Shared mores give rise to society. Societal structures also reinforce these shared mores - laws and folkways.
Small group security (directed adherence) is different than large group dynamics (inferred adherence). Check out Anomie/Strain, Subcultural, Control, and an Integrated theories of Criminological Theory.

Your theory appears to be a blend of Social Control and Strain theory.

Also look at the Anonymous Phenomenon in relation to Social Banditry theory (Hobsbawm).

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:00 AM

"I wonder whether morals and reputation preceded laws and technical security systems in human development, or whether perhaps it was the other way around or altogether different."

There's a lot of co-evolution, but morals and reputation are both pre-human -- before we developed any tools.

"I move my family into a cave to prevent plunder and put a club near my bedside to bludgeon intruders --- that's a pair of technical security systems that probably preceded morals and reputation in human development."

Here, I think it somewhat depends on definitions. Finding defensible locations is a very early adaptation in human life.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:03 AM

@ COMSEC

The problem with any "good dishonesty" versus "bad dishonesty" is that distinction, by definition, exists within a culture. So it can be hard to tell which is which. If you secure against the bad dishonesty completely, you also necessarily throttle the good dishonesty. That's totalitarianism.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:04 AM

"'"Since many societal norms are in fact immoral, sometimes the dishonest minority serves as a catalyst for social change' Where did you get this standard from? What definition are you using? To Whom are you appealing to judge whether or not something is moral or immoral? The majority? History? An individuals sense of right and wrong? Reason?"

I don't have any standard. But -- you're right -- people will apply standards from all of those viewpoints. I don't have any meta-system for determining if any of them are right.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:07 AM

"I understand that you're using the word 'evolution' somewhat loosely, but I think your thesis is actually improved if you use it more accurately: evolution doesn't have such a thing as 'group selection'; selection is selfish, indeed at a finer level even than individuals (see e.g., The Selfish Gene)."

I am not relying at all on the concept of group selection, even though many respected evolutionary theorists use it to explain bunches of weird human behaviors. It seems pretty uniformly agreed that groups did survive or not based on various characteristics. What is contentious is whether those characteristics were based on natural selection.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:08 AM

"Bruce how bout publishing a draft to us for comment?"

I'm not planning on publishing a draft. The publishing world isn't ready for that kind of thing, and I'm not sure I am either.

But it's something I've thought about.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:10 AM

"Is is possible that the cooperative majority has a 'norming phase' early on in which people of similar attitudes (or aptitudes) determine the 'rules' of the society and that the 'dishonest minority' has simply developed a survival mechanism in order to cope with not fitting in to the majority's view of how a society should look?"

Maybe. I just don't have the anthropological background to figure it out.

CurbyMay 9, 2011 10:12 AM

"The term 'dishonest minority' is not a moral judgment; it simply describes the minority who does not follow societal norm."

I have to agree with others and say that this term does not describe such people. "Nonconforming" might not have the same punch for he purposes of a headline or title, but it is ultimately a lot more accurate.

"Right now, I'm using it because it fits best."

You cite the Underground Railroad as an example, but that's a good reason to NOT use this term. As "honorable in principles, intentions, and actions; upright and fair", i.e. the very definition of honest, you couldn't describe it as dishonest. However, it was certainly outside the societal norm.

As Becky wrote in one of the first comments, the terms honest and dishonest are burdened with connotation. As you wrote above, it's hard to judge honesty from a security perspective. So why not abandon this imprecise and arguably incorrect term for something more appropriate and neutral? Sure it's a catchy title, but it definitely does not fit best.

Just 2c, the book sounds interesting regardless of title!

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:12 AM

"I wonder where you stand on religion as a mechanism that (without making any claims as to _why_ it is so prevalent historically) helps enforce honesty?"

I think it does, in two ways. One, it influences behavior through a moral code. And two, a judging deity and an afterlife provides a reputational security system that works even if no other human is watching.

"Or perhaps you see religion in this context as largely equivalent to 'morals', but I'm specifically thinking of the theory that religion involves _costly_ displays of commitments to a wider belief system that incorporates moral beliefs."

I've read a lot about the evolutionary origins of religion, and I don't want to enter that debate.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:15 AM

"Where everyone else seems to have chosen to interpret "dishonest" as 'nonconformist' or 'criminal' or even 'altruistic', I looked instead at "the tragedy of the commons" and thought of the 'dishonest' as those who take from the commons without contributing."

That is much closer to the definition I am looking for.

Like "security," "attacker," and "defender," terms like "honest" and "dishonest" are generally more value-laden than I want them to be. But that seems to be true for all the alternative terms I've looked at, too. So I think I'm just going to prompt people to look past their immediate moral judgments at the dynamics of the systems.

In the book I'm using many varied examples that make that point clearer.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:17 AM

"I think both 'security systems' and 'deception systems' are used symmetrically on both sides. Parasitic players are full-scale security users, like omerta among Sicilian organized criminals, and honest folks deploy deception, like faux security cameras. The more circular example is the TSA, or any classic security theater, where the delegated security folks apply deception to lie to the majority rather than against the parasites."

Agreed. I use both criminal organizations and the TSA as examples in the book.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:19 AM

"As a (probable) member of the Dishonest Minority, I look forward to reading a pirated copy of your upcoming book. :-) Who knows...maybe I'll take the 'honest' route and visit my local library."

In general, I'd rather you pay for the book than steal it. But I'd also rather you read it than not read it. So as long as you dishonest minority don't affect my sales all that much, I'm okay with you.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:20 AM

"...we need to come up with a criteria for differentiating between good and bad dishonesty."

I don't think we can. Or, at least, I don't have the moral theology to be able to. And I hope it doesn't matter for the purposes of the book.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:21 AM

"So co-operation between individuals lifts everybodies boats and will always do so."

This is interesting.

I don't know if it applies to what I'm writing, but I will think about it.

E-mail me privately.

Chris SMay 9, 2011 10:22 AM

Judging by the comments it has prompted, the somewhat loaded meaning of the term "dishonest" will be the very feature that helps to drive the discussion forward.

I agree solidly on the high level overview, but I will note that the details really matter here. So, yes, I'm looking forward to release and reading. Is there an ISBN yet?

A further point comes to mind, though. As people create new complex systems, it can be pointed out to them that they are creating opportunities for parasites, precisely because "all complex systems have parasites". The creators often get very annoyed, if not outright angry, at this suggestion, probably because they don't want to take responsibility for the parasitic niches. It's for this reason that I've tried using the term "systemic inevitability" -- lousy for a book title, certainly, but somewhat less perjorative when you in a person-to-person discussion.

After you weed out a book title and some James Joyce references from your search results, this leaves only about a hundred uses of the term; using it here will likely drive the number upward significantly!

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:22 AM

@ roundRiver

I am reading some things on theories of criminology, but I don't think this is one.

I will look at your sources. Thank you.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:26 AM

"As Becky wrote in one of the first comments, the terms honest and dishonest are burdened with connotation. As you wrote above, it's hard to judge honesty from a security perspective. So why not abandon this imprecise and arguably incorrect term for something more appropriate and neutral? Sure it's a catchy title, but it definitely does not fit best."

The goal of a title isn't to fit best, but to sell books. And controversy is good for books.

That being said, I don't know if the honestly/dishonesty axis is the best one for what I want to describe. But, at least right now, I think an emotionally laden one is better than a neutral one because it is a reminder that these things are set locally.

TomMay 9, 2011 10:26 AM

Dishonest person or dishonest behavior?

The latter should be a more defensible term when citing examples. Honesty is well defined and has a clear meaning. Even so, if I do something dishonest and you call me a dishonest person, I'll object and tell you all the reasons that, on balance, I am honest. If you cite my dishonesty and call the behavior dishonest, it's harder for me to refute that. I'd keep the term in your title.

Looking forward to the finished version - I'd be happy to read it on my Kindle.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:27 AM

"Is there an ISBN yet?"

I don't think so. I just signed the contract last week.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:28 AM

"Dishonest person or dishonest behavior?"

Dishonest behavior. Or, perhaps, dishonest person for that particular action at that particular time. No one is entirely one or the other.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:30 AM

"As people create new complex systems, it can be pointed out to them that they are creating opportunities for parasites, precisely because 'all complex systems have parasites'. The creators often get very annoyed, if not outright angry, at this suggestion, probably because they don't want to take responsibility for the parasitic niches. It's for this reason that I've tried using the term 'systemic inevitability' -- lousy for a book title, certainly, but somewhat less perjorative when you in a person-to-person discussion."

I think the more technical terms I use, the fewer readers I will have. I'm not even sure I should be using the terms "cooperate" and "defect," even though they're canonical when talking about the Prisoner's Dilemma.

This is a good discussion, though. Nomenclature is a aspect of the book that is still very much in flux.

DurhamMay 9, 2011 10:36 AM

[ Power struggles over who controls the mechanisms of societal security are inherent: "group interest" rapidly devolves to "the king's interest." ]

.

This is just a variation the well proven "Iron Law of Oligarchy", first developed by the German sociologist Robert Michels in 1911 .

It states that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic or autocratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop into oligarchies {rule by a few insiders}.

The reasons for this are the technical indispensability of leadership, the strong tendency of the leaders to organize themselves apart from the larger formal organization & and its objectives, and to consolidate/pursue their personal self-interests; plus, the general immobility and passivity of the mass of people composing the overall organization.

Rule by a few self-interested insiders = rule by a dishonest minority. The Federal Government is a prime example, but the same inevitable situation happens at your local PTA or church.

KevinMay 9, 2011 10:43 AM

@adam

"I wonder where you stand on religion as a mechanism that (without making any claims as to _why_ it is so prevalent historically) helps enforce honesty?"

Does religion enforce honesty, or is it simply co-opting obedience from the honesty majority to a dishonest minority? I have a feeling that this is not where the book is going (or wants to go).

rabid_badgerMay 9, 2011 10:43 AM

Book sounds great! Couple of thoughts:

1. Do you address the existence of individuals who make the seemingly irrational choice to work harder at defecting for less benefit than is needed to cooperate? Always wondered about those people and the addictive nature of defecting/parasitism.

2. The presence of both good and bad dishonesty reminds me of Stuart Kauffman's idea of the "adjacent possible"; exploring the phase space of moral behavior and constantly redefining the boundary between moral & immoral behavior. Hackers vs crackers, criminal vs nonviolent resistance, etc. Staying within game theory, it seems to be a way of generating new solutions to the prisoner's dilemma & avoiding TotC.

KevinMay 9, 2011 10:48 AM

Meant to say "honest majority" above. These darned bifocals!

Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing this book too as it looks like it should raise many questions.

GreenSquirrelMay 9, 2011 10:48 AM

@shadowfirebird

"I'm not sure that I see that reputation is a security system, so much as a natural result of communication and distrust."

Isnt that the nature of security?

@Bruce
While I have no axe to grind with Kindle/ebook versions please make sure there is always going to be a nice, hardbacked, paper copy for luddites to read :-)

Wicked LadMay 9, 2011 10:49 AM

Bruce: "[C]ontroversy is good for books.... I think an emotionally laden one is better than a neutral one because it is a reminder that these things are set locally."

Okay, then go with "deviant." :o)

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:59 AM

"While I have no axe to grind with Kindle/ebook versions please make sure there is always going to be a nice, hardbacked, paper copy for luddites to read."

Of course.

MikeAMay 9, 2011 11:00 AM

FWIW, I find "Deceptive Minority" to be less value-laden (who doesn't like a caper movie?) without losing all its provocative bite.

Viceroy butterflies are deceptive for very good reasons, as were the folks who ran the Underground Railway.

Che CarsnerMay 9, 2011 11:01 AM

"But if everyone defects, society falls apart."

I think this is a blatantly false statement. If everyone defects governments may fall apart, but society remains.

AndrewRMay 9, 2011 11:01 AM

In any group, once production exceeds consumption, parasitic behaviour which does not exceed the surplus will always be tolerated. It is preferable if the parasitic behaviour is not destructive though. When a person or group wants to leech more from the system than their neighbors feel is their fair share, they adapt strategies of secrecy, deception and misdirection. One favoured starting strategy is to propagate the idea that everyone has secrets and that privacy and secrecy are necessary for the good of everyone... But the key point here though is that most parasitic behaviours are well tolerated and done out in the open: musicians, artists, pro sports, etc.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 11:02 AM

While I won't post a draft of the book for general reading and comment, I do want to send drafts of the book to sufficiently interested readers who are willing to comment and critique it.

I think than anyone reading the comment thread this far down qualifies.

If you are willing to do the work, please send me private mail. Let me know who you are and your background, so you're not a stranger. I don't know yet if I'll be sending out electronic files or -- gasp! -- paper copies. Time frame will be sometime this summer, and I would want comments back within a week or two or three.

People with backgrounds that don't match mine are much preferred.

Thanks.

Marcus ShockleyMay 9, 2011 11:05 AM

I am really looking forward to this work. I have to agree that the term 'dishonest minority' seems inaccurate, although certainly catchy. In order to include criminals who break the law for personal gain in the same group as individuals who break the law in an effort to shape society, I would suggest perhaps 'compliant majority' and 'non-compliant minority', or even 'resistant minority'. Perhaps even, 'insubordinate minority'.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 11:06 AM

"FWIW, I find 'Deceptive Minority' to be less value-laden (who doesn't like a caper movie?) without losing all its provocative bite."

But deceptive isn't anywhere near what I'm getting at. The person who litters, or overfishes, or doesn't pay his taxes, or steals, or practices witchcraft, or runs a protection racket isn't being deceptive. He might be, but that's incidental to his actions counter to the group interest.

nateMay 9, 2011 11:09 AM

Does your book talk about the minority who defect in the ultimatum game rather than accept a 60/40 split?

Petréa MitchellMay 9, 2011 11:17 AM

Becky Sharpe:

"It sounds like you are struggling with defining the difference between individuals who have internal versus external locus of control - those that are prepared to surrender decisions to an external decision-maker (a government, a church, a political party) and those that insist on thinking for themselves."

That's not even it. A person can cede control to an entity which is disruptive to society at large-- think a cult, or a charismatic revolutionary leader.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 11:17 AM

"Does your book talk about the minority who defect in the ultimatum game rather than accept a 60/40 split?"

Yes. Punishing people who are perceived to be acting unfairly is a very old societal security system.

Petréa MitchellMay 9, 2011 11:19 AM

Oliver Holloway:

"Meaning this as a compliment, the abstract brought Carse's Finite and Infinite Games to mind."

Oh, excellent suggestion! I haven't thought about that book in ages...

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 11:24 AM

One of the things that is annoying me is that, in the social sciences, nothing seems ever settled. I'm used to math, where someone figures out the answer and then everyone moves on. In psychology, anthropology, political science, philosophy, and all the other social sciences, there's always some residual uncertainty and a minority of scholars who don't believe in the majority view. This makes sense, but it also makes it hard to write a more popular book about these topics. How much do I "teach the controversy" and how much do I ignore the controversy. There's no obvious answer.

Old TFF FanMay 9, 2011 11:24 AM

'The tentative title is still "The Dishonest Minority: Security and its Role in Modern Society."'

If it's about security, the final title will be "Cyber Security in Cyber Space For Cyber Warriors" if Wiley wants to sell it. :(

A voice of reason and seriousness, I'm afraid, will not be welcome in this world of "cyber" hype to get scarce taxpayer funding.

COMSECMay 9, 2011 11:26 AM

@ Bruce
"The problem with any "good dishonesty" versus "bad dishonesty" is that distinction, by definition, exists within a culture. So it can be hard to tell which is which. If you secure against the bad dishonesty completely, you also necessarily throttle the good dishonesty. That's totalitarianism."

fair enough, your point being that if we attempt to distinguish between the good and bad we by definition define good and bad using out standards.

Which is as good as defining what "we" will and will not accept

Which essentially moves the "good dishonest" people into the "honest " people category, which means we have come full circle to the majority defining what is right.

That is all true, but, we cant have anarchy either, can we? Somewhere between anarchy and a totalitarianism lies a free society.

so, is the intent of your book to argue that "free society is good", or is it your intent to go further and say something about the US?
Not trying to belittle or put down anything, sometimes it's hard to convey that and get to the point at the same time, but no disrespect intended.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 11:32 AM

"...so, is the intent of your book to argue that 'free society is good', or is it your intent to go further and say something about the US?"

I don't know. My general inclination is to steer clear of actual policy recommendations. My expertise isn't in that area, and I have a better chance of my book being taken seriously if I don't do that.

And, generally speaking, I don't make any statements about what amount of dishonest minority is healthy. Only about why it exists, why there is either more or less of it, and what the costs and benefits of it are.

I prefer being descriptive to being proscriptive.

But, as I keep saying, this is all in flux. (Especially this, it's section three of the book, which is a complete mess right now.)

aikimarkMay 9, 2011 11:36 AM

@Bruce

Sam Harris might have some salient thoughts on the subject from a non-religious perspective.

An advantage to the paper copy is that you might attract buyers at book-signing events, wanting an autographed copy. Hopefully, you'll get some Book-TV coverage at one of these events.

TomMay 9, 2011 11:37 AM

[It is in any given individual's short-term self interest not to cooperate.]

Isn't it more accurate to say that this is only sometimes the case, and that one of the goals of an effective security system is to reduce the incentives that make it so?

Petréa MitchellMay 9, 2011 11:39 AM

A couple general comments on the word "dishonest":

First, there is no non-loaded word to use. The overtones that come with any kind of terminology for types of behavior are part of the very societal security system we're discussing here.

Second, people who read this blog are more likely to have a value system that puts a strong positive on nonconformism. "Dishonest" being a negative word for it, we naturally want to replace it with a word with more positive connotations like "nonconformist" or "free-thinking". But I'm pretty sure the average reader will be okay with "dishonest", and the point of the book is, after all, how the integrity of the group is maintained, for good or ill.

My only objection to the title remains the word "minority", because practically everyone exhibits dishonest behaviors in one everyday circumstance or another.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 11:44 AM

"My only objection to the title remains the word 'minority', because practically everyone exhibits dishonest behaviors in one everyday circumstance or another."

Right, and -- generally -- when we do so we're in the minority. (And when we're in the majority, major social change is afoot!)

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 11:45 AM

"[It is in any given individual's short-term self interest not to cooperate.] Isn't it more accurate to say that this is only sometimes the case, and that one of the goals of an effective security system is to reduce the incentives that make it so?"

Yes. Exactly.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 11:45 AM

"Sam Harris might have some salient thoughts on the subject from a non-religious perspective."

I have his latest book on my Kindle.

echowitMay 9, 2011 11:49 AM

"The goal of a title isn't to fit best, but to sell books. And controversy is good for books."

Interesting, an 'honest' statement about a 'dishonest' practice. Oh wait, a dishonest use of an 'honest ... (Flash of the Morton Salt girl :-)

"That being said, I don't know if the honestly/dishonesty axis is the best one for what I want to describe. But, at least right now, I think an emotionally laden one is better than a neutral one because it is a reminder that these things are set locally."

Excellent explanation as to why there are no "best" words to use. (Unless you want to encourage subjective reviews and restrict sales.) Let's face it, we were all educated in parochial (secular def.) schools. Use of the emotional load to explain itself seems rather effective, if not a little recursive, to me.

@rabid_badger

"...Always wondered about those people and the addictive nature of defecting/parasitism."

No idea how old you might be but you must have somehow experienced the Sixties.

Petar MaymounkovMay 9, 2011 11:51 AM

Hi Bruce,

This is a very eloquent exposition of a social dynamic that is
probably, as you point out, as important (or a part of) evolution.

I am a theoretical Computer Scientist and have been aware of
this thesis (not in these words) for a while. I've been storing
a desire in the back of my mind to formalize/quantify some shape
or form of this phenomenon (along the lines of game theory and
dynamical systems).

If you want to discuss/suggest specific ideas, I'd be happy
to listen anytime and will be happy to put some math work into it.

Leslie Valiant has recently laid out a nice definition of evolvability,
so perhaps it is possible to find connections between the game theoretic
forces you describe and evolvability.

All the best,
--Petar

Steven HooberMay 9, 2011 11:53 AM

I wonder if "technical security systems" is the right way to phrase. I presume you mean "policies and procedures."

Technology now tends to mean bits and bytes, so it might be good to remind everyone that any way to detect and enforce is equally valid.

Looking forward to this. Lots of interesting stuff comes to mind, like the development of currency, then of control over currency, etc.

Charles DarwinMay 9, 2011 11:59 AM

Democracies and authoritarian regimes both have their laws, norms, and security apparatus. Security systems per se have no intrinsic morality. However, it may be it's a law of evolution that better societies are able to create better security tools.


Petréa MitchellMay 9, 2011 12:12 PM

Steven Hoober:

I think "technical security systems" is the point at which you outsource the enforcement of policies and procedures to a non-human agency. E.g. your policy is that you don't want anyone sneaking up to your cave at night, but when you set up a spiked pit to trap anyone who does try to sneak up on you, that's a technical security system.

(I was going to say "...to an inanimate object", but it occurred to me there are arguments to be made about the animacy of a computer program.)

Oliver JonesMay 9, 2011 12:33 PM

Dr. Schneier, there's a terrific new book called SuperCooperators, by Martin Nowak and Roger Highfield, just out from Free Press. They go into great detail about cooperation strategies between individuals and populations. Do cooperators win out? Do defectors ("parasites," in your word) win out? What kinds of strategies of cooperation and defection tend to stabilize a large system? One of the key issues they identify is the negative effect on the whole system when a player defects by mistake. Great reading.

I'm waiting eagerly for your book.

Pete CapMay 9, 2011 12:38 PM

"One of the things that is annoying me is that, in the social sciences, nothing seems ever settled. I'm used to math, where someone figures out the answer and then everyone moves on. In psychology, anthropology, political science, philosophy, and all the other social sciences, there's always some residual uncertainty and a minority of scholars who don't believe in the majority view. This makes sense, but it also makes it hard to write a more popular book about these topics. How much do I "teach the controversy" and how much to I ignore the controversy. There's no obvious answer."

Bruce, when you are doing any kind of "soft/fuzzy" work (e.g., market research, or spitballing hypothetical threat scenarios) there is always going to be the sense that your subject matter is a moving target. I believe this is not a problem so long as your assumptions are on the table, and so long as you are explicit about the context in which you believe your analysis to be correct.

I think Heuer has some material specifically on this topic, I will dig around to find a reference. Basically, there's nothing wrong with bias or assumptions so long as they are explicit and may be considered directly.

COMSECMay 9, 2011 12:52 PM

@Bruce "And, generally speaking, I don't make any statements about what amount of dishonest minority is healthy. Only about why it exists, why there is either more or less of it, and what the costs and benefits of it are"

fair enough.

IMHO (and reference my earlier statement about the difficulty in conveying respect in a post where one is trying to get to a point), "an open society is a good thing" isnt enough for a really compelling read. Virtually everyone believes it to be a true statement for security reasons as well as general fairness reasons.

Where people disagree is whether or not we actually do live in a free society.

A compelling read (IMHO), would address that question specifically as it pertains to a security perspective.

Petréa MitchellMay 9, 2011 1:01 PM

It's not just the social sciences where nothing is ever fully settled, but all science. Even really basic stuff in the "hard" sciences. Gravity, for instance: Newtonian physics works well enough at the human scale that we're still taught it in school, but Einstein showed over a century ago that it doesn't work entirely the way Newton thought, and lately the astrophysics world has been confronting the possibility that even that explanation is incomplete.

Trichinosis USAMay 9, 2011 1:38 PM

Given Sun Tzu's precept "All war is based on deception", and perhaps also bringing in General Smedley Butler's "War is a racket", it follows that the people you are describing can be perceived as a type of warrior. As such, you might want to familiarize yourself with Thom Hartmann's "Hunter in a farmer's world" ADHD theory. Hartmann postulates that ADHD is not a disorder so much as a naturally occurring genetic mutation that provides the human race with people whose physical and mental systems are optimized for the roles of hunter, warrior and explorer. As the world has gotten smaller and we've moved to a more agricultural and sedentary lifestyle in most parts of the world, ADHD is seen as a liability rather than an asset. No place is made in modern society fot this type of social deviance and so most of the time it plays itself out in negative ways.

A classic exception to the rule would be the example of Winston Churchill. Hartmann is fairly sure Churchill had ADHD. He was seen in a mostly negative light, even by his own family - accused of cheating his way through the military academy and being inordinately lazy. However, Churchill's ferocious and canny leadership during the rise of a fascist regime on the European continent proved absolutely essential to the survival of the Allied powers. It is a role he seems to have been born to; without his presence the Nazis may very well have won. As others here have said, there is a need to understand that there are times when social deviance is all that stands between the human race and it's own potential for inhumanity on a grand scale. Thus if I were to choose a phrasing for the folks a few standard deviations from the norm that you seem to be describing, I would probably use "social deviants" rather than "dishonest minority".

Hartmann's best presentation of his "hunter in a farmer's world" theory is found in his book "The Edison Gene", but he also refers to it in his other books.

Greatly looking forward to reading yours!

HarryMay 9, 2011 1:41 PM

I'm with Wicked Lad and others in not liking the term "dishonest" for the group you are defining. Based on the rest of your writing here and in the original post, you don't intend to draw moral conclusions about the group, and you intend that people move in and out of the group.

There are two problems with using "dishonest minority" to describe this group. One, "minority" implies to me that a person is permanently part of the minority, which is directly contrary to your thesis.

Two, "dishonest" is a highly charged pejorative that does imply a moral judgement. It's attention gathering and as part of the title is just about the first thing a potential reader will see about the book; so there's no arguing away the pejorative connotation. It's a little like saying "Well,... I'm using the word kike but I don't mean it in a bad way."

My vote is for "uncooperative." It indicates noncompliance, without moral judgement, and being uncooperative can be either positive or negative.

QMay 9, 2011 1:42 PM

I've read most of your books and follow your blog. While I appreciate reading about your take on security and societal implications, I urge you to stay away from evolutionary psychology and evolutionary sociology.

These two fields are virtually pseudo-science: they present hypotheses that aren't subject to scientific exploration. By relying on these fields, you taint the credibility of the rest of your words. And, I doubt they are even necessary. I bet the book would be just as powerful without any discussion of evolutionary psychology/sociology.

Phil BrassMay 9, 2011 1:46 PM

I like "disobedient" more than "dishonest," but it's a bit less powerful. Here are some synonyms from dictionary.com:
insubordinate, contumacious, defiant, rebellious, unsubmissive, uncompliant.

How about "The Defiant Minority"? That's what we're talking about, people who defy the various cooperative rules that support the social order. I think "defiant" is even more powerful than "dishonest" as well.

Dishonest isn't a bad choice, but it sounds like they are mainly liars. If you think about what it means to be honest a bit, it does start to make more sense.

Anyhow, I look forward to reading this book, whatever it ends up being called. As a technical security assessment practitioner, I often wonder about the larger social context of my work.

notimportantMay 9, 2011 1:59 PM

Bruce has defined "honest" and "dishonest" as those that follow given ruling laws and those that do not follow these laws [simplified]. I see that already the intrinsic meaning of the two words create some confusion. For most people moral is a set truth, and words describe this truth. Save yourself some trouble, Mr. Schneier, and define the categories like you would do to a child. Keep the words, they are perfect, just make it more clear you do not talk about a Constant Given Moral (as if such a thing could exist).

There are no values connected to either word. Honest, dishonest, it's just an attribute. The dishonest must by definition be the minority, since it is the majority that maintain honesty. People have a hard time "thinking outside the box" of their pre-defined language. This is one reason why we often invent new words in social sciences. I think you should keep yours. I look forward to the finished result.

Davi OttenheimerMay 9, 2011 2:03 PM

@Bruce

"I'm used to math, where someone figures out the answer and then everyone moves on. In psychology, anthropology, political science, philosophy, and all the other social sciences, there's always some residual uncertainty and a minority of scholars who don't believe in the majority view. "

Wittgenstein would probably disagree.

You describe why I left math but I was happy to find a new home in philosophy (logic), which works well for chasing certainties even in the relativity of anthropology. As the esteemed anthropologist and mathematician (Martin Ottenheimer) once said "time zones show how a concept can be both relative and absolute"

JurMay 9, 2011 2:47 PM

But why stick with the misguiding and misleading name? Why not the Deviant Minority? That is not value loaded and can include both the dishonest and the rebels who fight for freedom.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 2:50 PM

"...there's a terrific new book called SuperCooperators, by Martin Nowak and Roger Highfield, just out from Free Press."

Thanks. I've read a bunch of academic papers, and one book, by Nowak. I'll put this one on my list.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 2:53 PM

"...I urge you to stay away from evolutionary psychology and evolutionary sociology. These two fields are virtually pseudo-science: they present hypotheses that aren't subject to scientific exploration."

They're not "virtually pseudo-science"; not by any reasonable definition of the term pseudo-science. They might not be universally accepted, but I can't find any reasonable explanation for why brain physiology should be excepted from the natural selection rules that govern every other physiology.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 2:55 PM

@ Phil Brass

"The Defiant Minority" is an interesting suggestion. The opposite would be "the compliant majority."

Maybe.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 2:58 PM

"But why stick with the misguiding and misleading name? Why not the Deviant Minority? That is not value loaded and can include both the dishonest and the rebels who fight for freedom."

What's the opposite of "deviant"?

time flies like a bananaMay 9, 2011 3:01 PM

J.G. Ballard wrote a number of novels (e.g. "cocaine nights", "Super Cannes") suggesting that criminality in the kind of human societies we have today, is perhaps a societal, or psychological, need - it somehow energises, and would have to be invented if it didn't exist.

I live in an area where a lot of people certainly "identify" with criminal or parasitic philosophies. They don't appear to benefit materially through this, but, as an attitude, it seems to energise them to confront a largely hostile or callous world, as they perceive it. They despise honest people, not as schmucks exactly, but as people who run to the police for protection rather than defending themselves.

For my own part, I'm not sure that the "complexity" of our society is the only relevant characterisation - complexity may overwhelm some people leading them to paranoia, and thence to anti social attitudes, but we do tend to forget that in evolutionary terms we live in unusually affluent times. Whereas in prehistory, the natural environment provided both the danger and the relatively scarce resources needed to survive - both serving to promote co-operation within groups - now our society itself has for many people essentially replaced nature, and has become the main source both of threat and of bounty.

Or it's a kind of sublimated cannibalism perhaps?

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 3:02 PM

"But why stick with the misguiding and misleading name?"

If I do, it will be because I don't think it is misguiding and misleading, and that I like it better than any of the alternatives.

Davi OttenheimerMay 9, 2011 3:10 PM

Reference for Wittgenstein's "On Certainty"

http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/...

"The difference between the concept of 'knowing' and the concept of 'being certain' isn't of any great importance at all, except where "I know" is meant to mean: I can't be wrong. In a law-court, for example, "I am certain" could replace "I know" in every piece of testimony. We might even imagine its being forbidden to say "I know" there. [A passage in "Wilhelm Meister", where "You know" or "You knew" is used in the sense "You were certain", the facts being different from what he knew.]"

ShaneMay 9, 2011 3:20 PM

@Bruce, Phil

"Defiant" really seems to romanticize the elements that I believe you are hoping to antagonize, so I would steer far from that. Conversely, "compliant" majority sounds an awful lot like saying 'slaves' or 'sheeple', which is certainly not going to frame them as the protagonists in the metaphor.

I'd stick to what you had, it works. Dishonest is something everyone is at some time or another, and can be related to as a human trait. It is a side of a coin of human experience, not a side of a battle, or ideology (as I believe defiant vs. compliant frames things as).

Moreover, I think the broader idea is simply survival. For some, it is sufficient to rely on the 'system' as it were, to survive. For others, despite bleeding heart liberals or blind-eyed conservatives and all the legislation they push, the 'system' does not allow for their survival, and hence must be circumvented.

Why they ultimately must be called 'parasites' or 'dishonest' seems like, yes, psuedo-science and/or speculation/ideology to me... fit only for an ethics course (ie - is it wrong to steal bread to save your starving family?) I personally don't believe that any form of life can be held in moral contempt for attempting to preserve itself.

I also don't believe that a system (explicit or implicit) created BY humans FOR humans can somehow be so pure and all-inclusive that those who cannot survive in the system are then deemed parasites, dishonest, defiant, et al.

It's easy to forget that those who created the system itself are just as likely to be dishonest and self-serving as your average individual/dishonest parasite/et al.

My 2 cents.

ShaneMay 9, 2011 3:53 PM

Or put another way...

Crime is all about incentives.
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
Society is all about controlling incentives.
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
If society cannot provide you with incentives...
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
You will find something that will.

tzsMay 9, 2011 3:57 PM

It's interesting how well that description could be applied to intellectual property law and IP piracy. We have a socially developed cooperative behavior of pretending that IP acts like physical property, so that we can use a free market to control its production. We have a minority that chooses to not cooperate (the pirates). The minority is tolerated as long as they are not too widespread and effective. We've evolved both DRM and methods of anonymous piracy, just as your first paragraph predicts.

ShaneMay 9, 2011 4:00 PM

Lastly, let's not forget that many of the most horrendous crimes against humanity were committed under full protection of (someone's) law, and that our country would not exist today if it weren't for a few folks who were tired of the society they were ruled by, and decided that the only course of action that could safeguard their humanity was to dissent.

John CampbellMay 9, 2011 4:10 PM

I recall one SciFi author using the "cooperation" versus "competition" meme some years ago. Sadly, I cannot recall the author's name though David Brin comes to mind.

In any case, the real problem with the two sides of this coin, is that the dreamers and non-conformists (the folks who actually have pulled humanity out of the trees) will, in a world where stability is of paramount importance and requiring a high degree of conformity, kill off future innovation and stall humanity's progress.

Yes, for the good of the species you MUST have some folks who don't function quite like the sheeple.

That being said, some of the non-conformists will extend the boundaries or knowledge-- and, perhaps, normalcy-- while others will prey on the sheeple.

Consider the "War on Terror" and Bruce's observation on the "War against the different": both kinds of non-conformists are considered equally dangerous and "security" applied to both.

Too much security means that people don't take care of themselves whilst too little encourages anarchy...

There is no "good" line to be drawn, it will always be a "gray" area where each of our lines form a continuum.

ShaneMay 9, 2011 4:14 PM

@tzs Re: "interesting"

Hrm, not to speak for Bruce, because I cannot, but I'd wager that the similarities are quite intentional ;-)

JeremyMay 9, 2011 4:15 PM

This sounds like an interesting read. I've read through most (but not all) of the comments. I'm not sure if anyone has touched on this, but will you be drawing parrallels between the macro and micro "dishonest minority". i.e. the dishonest minority in society and the dishonest minority in ourselves? We all do "some" dishonest things, but once we broach a certain threshold (I would say less than 50%) of dishonest behaviors we become "dishonest people". Society as a whole mirrors this: when there is a small number of dishonest people, society is for the most part, stable, but when that percentage increases, societal collapes is imminent.

Just a thought.

Dishonest certainly does carry some negative connotation, but, correct me if I'm wrong, the people and behaviors you're focusing on are actually dishonest and not simply non-confromist. Thieves are dishonest; heavily tattooed individuals are deviant. To assume that dishonest behavior and deviant behavior are the same, is to insult a large group of people, and quite frankly, make yourself look silly (not saying you're doing this, but many of the comments here are stuck on this point). Conformists are not necessarily honest, they simply follow the rules when people are looking.

aikimarkMay 9, 2011 4:22 PM

If you're considering alternative titles, how about:
* "Opportunist Minority"
* "Sociopath Minority"
* "Narcissist Minority"

=====
This might make a good contest, similar to your movie-plot threat contests.

Petréa MitchellMay 9, 2011 4:22 PM

tzs:

"It's interesting how well that description could be applied to intellectual property law and IP piracy. [...] We have a minority that chooses to not cooperate (the pirates)."

IP law is a great example of an area where people who are normally honest, upstanding citizens engage in criminal behavior.

For instance: singing "Happy Birthday" in a public place (at home is fine) means you are supposed to pay royalties to a music publisher that owns the rights to it. Who actually does that?

It's similar if you play a radio in a public place. (There are occasional attempts by publisher groups to collect money from businesses that leave a radio playing where customers can hear it.) Or if you upload a home video to YouTube where there happens to be part of a copyrighted song audible in the background.

Speaking of YouTube, ever seen a clip from a TV show there? Was it posted by the company that owns or distributes the show? If not, congratulations, you're a pirate!

All this and lots more happens, of course, because everyone does it and none of it feels instinctively wrong. The notion that you could be liable for thousands of dollars just for leaving your radio on makes no sense to most people. (Even many who are aware of how IP law works.)

Phil BrassMay 9, 2011 4:28 PM

@Shane, that is a very good point. Defiance is often romanticized and a common connotation is "a valid response to oppression".

I still like "The Defiant Minority", for a title, but that is probably just "Invented Here" syndrome.

I also agree that calling the majority "honest" or even "compliant" is also wrong. Not because it makes them sound like "sheeple" - I have no problem calling them that. Rather, my understanding is that the majority are opportunists with varying levels of risk acceptance that limit their willingness to pursue anti-social activities.

In effect, we have a dishonest majority. That might be a more interesting title:
The Dishonest Majority: The Role of Security in Modern Society

And perhaps it suggests the role that security technology plays - it helps construct a social organism from a collection of individuals from species that is not fully socialized.

This also suggests what it is about this "minority" that differentiates them - they have a higher tolerance for the risk of reprisals than the general population, or they may use a different risk calculus.

Of course, I have no idea how to sum that up in a catchy adjective for a book title. The Gambling Minority? The Desperate Minority? The Criminal Minority? The Antisocial Minority?

Regardless, the evidence on this comment roll suggests that "Dishonest" in the title doesn't work for everyone. My initial reaction to the title was "But everybody lies?!"

Also, I'd like to point out that while reputation is a security technology in some ways, and an ancient one, modern, portable reputational systems such as money are complicated enough to have lost some of their security utility and have instead driven the creation many other security technologies.

All part of the arms race, I guess. The more useful a system of technology, the more society will rely on it, and the more the system will be a target of subversion and exploitation. This is as true of security technologies as any other sort.

Fast FluxMay 9, 2011 4:40 PM

we always learn new thoughts whenever we visit this blog(community). its beyond compare. (what about wiley india publication?).

Dr. TMay 9, 2011 4:54 PM

"The Dishonest Minority" doesn't convey the correct meaning, since, as you noted, the members of this group sometimes act for the betterment of an immoral society. "The Disobedient Minority" seems more appropriate. For example, jury nullification decisions often provide a fairer outcome than obeying the letter of the law. The jurors were disobedient, but not dishonest.

JeremyMay 9, 2011 5:06 PM

Just wondering, a "dishonest" person breaks laws, norms? If that person doesn't submit to said laws and norms, is he/she being dishonest? Where does the selection of what you deem to be acceptable yokes to put on yourself fit into this discussion? What laws/norms you submit to or not due to moral or ethical concerns?

I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.

R.A. Heinlein

SkukkukMay 9, 2011 5:29 PM

I can't believe it's being seriously suggested that "deviant" is not a value-laden term.

Phil BrassMay 9, 2011 5:34 PM

How about "cooperative" instead of "compliant"? The Cooperative Majority versus the Defiant Minority.

AlMay 9, 2011 5:55 PM

Axelrod's "The Evolution of Cooperation" is a great book on this topic. It focuses on the strategies of cooperating/uncooperating agents in a computer simulation of the Prisoner's Dilemma

Dirk PraetMay 9, 2011 6:10 PM

I think honest majority and dishonest minority works great in this context. Both however are snapshot judgements of an underlying dynamic of compliant versus evasive behaviour.

FridzMay 9, 2011 6:13 PM

Why does a minority of people break the rules and the majority abide by the rules? An economist would probably say that the cost of breaking or following the rules is the main factor. Of course, the cost is usually dependent on some probabilities, whether or not you will get away with breaking the rules at a reduced cost compared to breaking them. It could be argued that this "cost" is the only factor, but the precise calculation of those costs can be complex (taking conscience, morality, damage to reputation, probability of getting caught, and a range of other factors).

It is also relevant who set the rule and what regard you have to that entity, but again all this could be modeled in to the complex cost calculation.

By the way, perhaps the term "rule-breaking minority" and "rule-abiding majority" might be less value-laden terms?

ScottMay 9, 2011 6:46 PM

I see the opposite as the actual reality. The society parasites off the work of the few that actually contribute, and their reward is to obey and comply or be destroyed.

The idea of a benevolent society that takes care of the common good and is plagued by a few miscreants is a myth. The opposite is the truth: the parasites control the society and manipulate it and promote their own definition of "common good" as a propaganda tactic to get the rest of the non-contributing populace to support police power and control over the contributors in order to benefit the power and interests of the parasites at the top.

ThomasMay 9, 2011 7:16 PM

@Bruce
"One of the things that is annoying me is that, in the social sciences, nothing seems ever settled. I'm used to math, where someone figures out the answer and then everyone moves on."

http://xkcd.com/435/

Phil BrassMay 9, 2011 7:18 PM

@Fridz
Those may be good terms, but they could be too boring for the title of a popular book.

Also, any author willing to say that "many societal norms are in fact immoral" is willing to use value-laden terms.

On the other hand, maybe something like "The Rule Breakers: The Role of Security in Modern Society" would work? That way we don't have any nonsense about majorities or minorities. It's only got a little bit of imbued value-laden-ness.

If you want to get more exciting, how about "Cheaters: The Role of Security in Modern Society". Cheating is supposed to be an inherently interesting and exciting topic.

As far as avoiding "pop evolutionary psychology/sociology", the common complaint among the scientifically minded is that they are used primarily as the bases for explanatory stories about why people are the way they are. Critics maintain that pop evolutionary psychologists rarely make any predictions that can actually be tested, especially not about people (wasps, on the other hand...)

Because of this lack of predictive utility and overabundance of explanatory use, critics assert that Pop Evolutionary Psychology is scientific to the same extent that Freudian Psychology is scientific. By which they mean, not at all scientific.

Freud could explain almost any kind of behavior, and in a way that made lots of sense to those who believed his theories. But in the end, his theories were tested and found wanting, and Freudian Psychology was relegated to the realm of pseudo-science. Critics of Pop Evolutionary Psychology see the same kind of compelling explanations coming from this field, lots of narratives about the human condition that make perfect sense, couched in "evolutionary" terms, but which are difficult or impossible to test, and so should not bear the name of science.

These critics would agree with you that there is no reason why brain physiology would have been left out of human evolution. But they would warn you against using this as a basis for explaining arbitrary aspects of human social behavior.

That's my understanding of the debate, anyway. Personally, I think it's just psychologists trying to defend their academic territory from "cognitive scientists" and other interlopers. But one should probably still be careful about throwing evolutionary explanations for social behavior around. Just because it makes sense doesn't mean it has any bearing in reality...

tommyMay 9, 2011 7:26 PM

Good dishonesty: Alcoholic beverages were legal in the US until Prohibition was passed. Then, formerly law-abiding citizens were turned into criminals overnight, without changing their actions at all (drinking). They instead had to become dishonest to do what they formerly did honestly.

Then, Prohibition was repealed, precisely because of the massive "dishonesty". So the non-compliant did the society as a whole a great favor. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done -- organized crime strengthened, etc.

"Dishonest" citizens were responsible for the passage of humane medical-cannabis laws. What any society views as "honest" or "dishonest" changes over time, often by such civil disobedience.

Many other examples, but I think the point is clear. Feel free to incorporate any of that.

Next point:

"So co-operation between individuals lifts everybodies (sic) boats and will always do so."

Then why does socialism almost always fail, viz: the USSR, which has far more oil, gold, diamonds, platinum, and arable land than the USA? A few tiny, homogeneous groups, usually united by religion, (Amish?) have worked that way, but most don't last long, historically speaking.

Going back to Adam Smith and the invisible hand, a metaphor that's been widely attacked by those who don't understand it, if each individual does what's best for itself, within a framework of laws prohibiting deceit, theft, violence, etc., *then* the effect will be to lift most boats, and the society as a whole. (Some people will never care to row.)

Unfortunately, it seems that no matter how well-intended the framers are (the Founding Fathers in the US), those lusting for power will always find some way to subvert the framework, so that the government becomes the parasite, and its contributors/favor-swappers become beneficiaries. Cf. Lord Acton's aphorism on power.

Which is why it's good to have an armed populace. The American Colonies rebelled against Great Britain when the perception of oppression reached a certain point, and many warning signs are being given out now that the US populace is becoming more and more disenchanted with those in power, regardless of to which faction they belong. One hopes that that may stimulate change before rebellion becomes necessary.

I will probably email for the draft.

tommyMay 9, 2011 7:42 PM

Do you have either a Hushmail account, or can you post your PGP public key and associated address, in case some of us seeking the draft might want to trust you with details of our backgrounds that we would prefer not to send via postcard e-mail to the whole world?

Paul RenaultMay 9, 2011 7:49 PM

@Bruce: "What is the opposite of 'deviant'?"

I looked it up: it's 'standard'.

Which begs the question: What is the opposite of 'standard deviation'?

But seriously: After rereading all the comments, I'm warming up to the tentative title as it stands. But since rewriting the title of your book seems to be de rugueur, here's my suggestion: "The Dishonest Minority, Security, and their Roles in Modern Society."

Taking a cue from the third paragraph:
I'd guess that reputation is the more basic/earliest-evolved security system. I've read descriptions of the three 'basic fears': choking, falling, and public embarrassment. As with choking and falling, loss of public face or reputation can have real-world effects: loss of priviledge, choice of mates, opportunity, etc. In a cooperative group, a bad reputation can negate cooperation from and the protection afforded by the group.

Instinctual/reflexive protection of reputation would be a good trait to evolve in cooperative animals.

Onkel BobMay 9, 2011 8:36 PM

Skimmed through the comments, and the book piques my interest. A bit surprised no one mentioned Social Capital, namely the role of trust in propelling markets and its value therein. Investors rely on trust, they lend money because they _trust_ the inventor or developer will build the new product or s/w as promised and will not run away to a place where they have no way of getting the money or the product. Countries - societies with high trust correlation (where you don't need to bribe people to get licenses, or to start a business you do not need to take on undesired "investors") are the most successful. OTOH, where you must bribe or take on expenses outside of "normal" business, these societies are stagnant.
Also beware of Nowak, his theories are not well supported in biological systems and his evidence relies on a great deal of hand-waving. The just so stories are pleasant to hear and emotionally satisfying, but in the end it's hypothesis, experimentation and evidence that rules the roost. (Cowbirds! there's your dishonest minority.)

Paul RenaultMay 9, 2011 8:43 PM

You reread, reread, and reread. And they still get by you...

That should have been 'de rigueur'.
Sorry if 'de rugueur' rubbed anyone the wrong way.

/I'm here till next Tuesday, try the veal.

asdMay 9, 2011 8:57 PM

Awhile ago the person who invented the flying wing, gave a talk about a new system that didn't use money. The theory was that if you worked you got a card saying you were a worker, and you could walk into any shop and buy something, no matter what the price used to. That person shop that you brought something in could go to your shop and buy what ever they wanted,etc.
Say you could flick a switch and that would come into effect tomorrow, how many people would go to a car yard and buy a ferrei instead of a Toyota?. I don't think we are hard wired for flash cars, but society has created the frame for that outcome.
Type of like cops/criminals they both think what they do is right, but they are opposites.

RobertTMay 9, 2011 9:04 PM

Wow! a book on Honesty and dishonesty.
That's way too difficult a concept for me to reflect on, I'll stick with more tractable problems like secure computing, at least I can maintain a glimmer of hope, that I'm on the right track.

James Joe AragonMay 9, 2011 9:12 PM

"But if everyone defects, society falls apart."

This presumes much. Do you address what a stable society is and why disintergration into multiple stable societies is not acceptable?

Richard Steven HackMay 9, 2011 9:25 PM

Bruce: Your thesis about cooperative vs uncooperative strategies is similar to how I explain human behavior in terms of economics.

Economics is based on human behavior. People invest resources they value less to achieve a result they value more, i.e., a "profit". In general economics, the first person to invest in a goal achieves a "monopoly profit" - a higher rate of return than others will who invest later. But eventually the rate of return on investing in that behavior drops to what is called the "General Rate of Return" which is much lower, historically around 1-3% IIRC.

This applies to the concept of coercion. People will invest in coercion precisely to the degree that they suffer no ill affects or poor return from doing so. The more people invest in coercion, the more everyone must defend themselves from the coercion of these investors, until theoretically ultimately the entire society - including those coercing - is spending more effort on protection of resources than on production of resouces, which results in a zero-sum failed society.

This is the only "morality" one really needs to understand. It's not economically viable in the long run to invest in coercion.

In reality, societies fluctuate between the ideal of a completely cooperative society and a completely coercive society.

The problem lies in human nature. Humans adhere to a primate hierarchical social structure and conduct virtually all their behavior under an overwhelming fear of death, and specifically the fear of death at the hands of their own species.

This overwhelming conceptual consciousness of and fear of death leads to irrational decision making which limits the possibility of achieving a fully cooperative society.

This situation - being as it is based on human evolution - operates at a lower level than "morals" or "reputation".

I also disagree that "morals" evolved in a pre-human context. I think that's a misuse of the term "morals" as opposed to "economic behavior" - but that may be a quibble.

Many people like to think of morals as "heuristics intended to enable efficient socially conscious choice" - but in fact in almost every society "morals" reduces to "a set of rules enforced by fear".

The mechanisms by which human society have attempted to control coercion - or in your phase, "uncooperative behavior" - namely, the state and religion and moral philosophy - in fact have increased the profitability of coercion in the species eyes and in fact the actual amount and social impact of coercion throughout human history.

This is because human nature sees these mechanisms as a means for asserting superiority over and thus defense from the rest of the species. And thus the mechanisms, far from being useful in constraining coercion, become the mechanisms for IMPOSING coercion.

And that situation seems only to be getting worse. The rise of technology is both accelerating that worsening situation and permitting a great degree of resistance to that situation.

Ultimately only the technological development of an alternative to current human nature is going to break that Gordian knot. This is the essence of radical Transhumanism.

I also agree with those who don't think the term "dishonest" really fits what you're looking for. The term "dishonest" implies a falsification of reality in words or behavior. I don't see how that fits here. If anything, the social norms that you seem to take for granted are more "dishonest" than the non-cooperative behaviors opposing them.

Also presupposing the existing human social norms (in whatever culture) as being "moral" and thus oppositional forces as "non-moral" is completely wrong - unless one assumes that "moral" simply means "majority view". Since in historical fact, that IS usually what "moral" means - as the Marquis de Sade argued cogently in many of his works - that might be technically correct, but it obscures the more important issues of coercion and the sources of coercion in human nature as well as the negative impact on human development of wide spread "morality" which is in fact irrational.

I adhere to no morals or ethics whatsoever. What I adhere to is one simple economic rule: it is not economically correct to coerce someone in the absence of someone else (either oneself or another) having been coerced by that someone. And given the current state of human society, I attach caveats even to that rule.

I also think emphasizing the term "parasite" is not useful to the discussion. While an entity engaged in opposing a society by definition is existing within that society and probably deriving resources from that society while attempting to damage that society, calling that entity a "parasite" is nothing to the purpose. It doesn't really explain anything because the biological comparison is not exact. Worse, it presumes once again some sort of "superior status" for the society over the "parasite" - which has yet to be established - whereas in nature a parasite is - as far as evolution is concerned - precisely of the same "status" as the host. Neither is "right" or "wrong", they just are symbiotically.

A better distinction, as I indicated above, is determining who and what is economically disruptive via coercion. In that respect, what are normally thought of as "criminals" (e.g, thugs, robbers) are engaged in incorrect behavior, whereas those who engage in anti-societal behavior may or may not be depending on whether their actions are directed toward reducing coercion in society - including the organized coercion of the state or other entities such as corporations - or increasing it.

pen testerMay 9, 2011 9:29 PM

Also hope you can cover the value provided by an honest minority masquerading as a dishonest minority at the request of an honest majority wanting to test test their defenses against the real dishonest minority!

asdMay 9, 2011 10:24 PM

You could look at hate which i believe all humans want in some way, whether its against another country or a insect/bug destroying wheat crops.
Using hate you can increase the speed down a path society wants to go, but the people at the start of the path weather in/out of the group might not be in those areas at the end of the path.

Balance might help, say if all the world is even, or just even in one part(less violent but more chaos abilty(to get back to balance)), or one strong and one weak(stable/in a rut/ can't change)

This probable will sound stupid , but to remove humans groups and judge what might be of benefit, create a situation of a inventing a alien race and work out what the out comes would be if they attack.(How long the war goes for/strength of aliens/technology level of humans/what attribute of aliens will remove human to human problems or increase them). A more overview type.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:25 PM

"Axelrod's 'The Evolution of Cooperation' is a great book on this topic."

It's already one of my sources.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:31 PM

"'But if everyone defects, society falls apart.' This presumes much. Do you address what a stable society is and why disintergration into multiple stable societies is not acceptable?"

I guess I thought it was obvious. Would it be really acceptable if we were all small family groups not interacting with each other except to kill? I kind of like the things that a stable society gets me: computers, airplanes, cell phones, food without having to catch/grow it myself, and so on.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:32 PM

"Why does a minority of people break the rules and the majority abide by the rules? An economist would probably say that the cost of breaking or following the rules is the main factor. Of course, the cost is usually dependent on some probabilities, whether or not you will get away with breaking the rules at a reduced cost compared to breaking them. It could be argued that this 'cost' is the only factor, but the precise calculation of those costs can be complex (taking conscience, morality, damage to reputation, probability of getting caught, and a range of other factors)."

...including emotions.

But yes.

Bruce SchneierMay 9, 2011 10:35 PM

"Going back to Adam Smith and the invisible hand, a metaphor that's been widely attacked by those who don't understand it, if each individual does what's best for itself, within a framework of laws prohibiting deceit, theft, violence, etc., *then* the effect will be to lift most boats, and the society as a whole."

It's the "...within a framework of laws prohibiting deceit, theft, violence, etc." that makes this work. Otherwise the system fails to solve collective action problems, and everyone's boat sinks.

AC2May 10, 2011 1:14 AM

A bit late in the day I guess but

- Why 'technical security systems' and not just 'security systems'. If I understood your target market correctly they may misinterpret the 'technical' part of it

- "What these security systems do, effectively, is give individuals incentives to act in the group interest". Isn't it that they provide disincentives to act against the group interest?

- As someone has pointed out above the 'steal my stuff I'll bash your brains out' security system likely existed in pre-history.

- Lastly I wanted to know which sources you use as guides to the craft of writing. Zinsser? Strunk & White?

tommyMay 10, 2011 1:32 AM

"... if each individual does what's best for itself, within a framework of laws prohibiting deceit, theft, violence, etc., *then* the effect will be to lift most boats, and the society as a whole."
*****************
It's the "...within a framework of laws prohibiting deceit, theft, violence, etc." that makes this work. Otherwise the system fails to solve collective action problems, and everyone's boat sinks.

Posted by: Bruce Schneier at May 9, 2011 10:35 PM
*******************
Absolutely. But when it works properly, those individuals are often *seen* to be competing, rather than cooperating, with each other. Which is why true capitalism works best: individual interest coincides with societal interest in the Big Picture.

"Individuals" may include non-natural entities such as corporations, when they also observe a properly-structured framework. "Cooperation" among the eleven original cartelized US trunk airlines led to high fares. After deregulation, competition gives you fares that even with the recent increases are still lower in inflation-adjusted dollars than 40 years ago. So we hope your book helps us to get that framework right and make it work.

(COUGH) Any chance of getting that PGP public key and address to send resumés to request the draft copy, as requested in this writer's post of 9 May 7:42pm? (COUGH) ... a tiny bit of moi's writings on economics, incentives, and what power does to them, are in the signature link, in a form hoped to be somewhat more enjoyable than the usual thesis style.

Nick CoghlanMay 10, 2011 1:50 AM

FWIW, you've convinced me on the Dishonest/Honest terminology, particularly if the fact that even such simple terms have an "it depends on your point of view" element to their meaning is discussed in the book.

I'll echo the concerns about the "technical" in technical security systems ("mechanical" might be better, since it expands up into electronic security better than "technical" expands downwards into physical security).

I'll also echo the questions regarding where vengeance and the threat of violence fit in with the view expressed in this extract. As part of the "reputation" system? (I suspect it's a bit more elemental than that, though - "might makes right" is really the *precursor* to the kind of security systems you are discussing)

Martin MacKerelMay 10, 2011 2:58 AM

I see some pitfalls in the initial thesis - the (mis-) application of a layman's view of evolutionary biology to a more complicated sociological system.

In addition, it has elements of "common sense" criminology. Jock Young has written well about the dangers there.

But the biggest problem is the lack of a class component. Far from "group interest" devolving into "the king's interest", police and security forces should be considered as instruments of ruling class power and even today their primary focus, particularly in times of stress, is to maintain the state, not the laws or "public safety". Historically, for example, policing in the US South started with slave patrols.

I would also add that the ruling class are really the parasites par excellence.

Admittedly these complaints are about the thesis quoted above and may or may not be reflected in the current or future state of this work.

Bruce SchneierMay 10, 2011 3:16 AM

"Why 'technical security systems' and not just 'security systems'. If I understood your target market correctly they may misinterpret the 'technical' part of it."

Yes, this is a concern. I'm more careful in the book.

"'What these security systems do, effectively, is give individuals incentives to act in the group interest.' Isn't it that they provide disincentives to act against the group interest?"

They can do either, or they can do both. Think bonuses vs fines, for example.

"As someone has pointed out above the 'steal my stuff I'll bash your brains out' security system likely existed in pre-history."

Agreed.

"Lastly I wanted to know which sources you use as guides to the craft of writing. Zinsser? Strunk & White?"

I don't use any of those.

Bruce SchneierMay 10, 2011 3:19 AM

"I'll also echo the questions regarding where vengeance and the threat of violence fit in with the view expressed in this extract. As part of the 'reputation' system?"

That's where I currently have it. There are a bunch of things, all around the general concept of credible commitment. It's a way to increase trust past what you can get with personal reputation, or a way to enhance personal reputation.

Bruce SchneierMay 10, 2011 3:20 AM

"In addition, it has elements of 'common sense' criminology. Jock Young has written well about the dangers there."

References would be appreciated.

GreenSquirrelMay 10, 2011 4:20 AM

I like the idea of you sending the book out to interested commenters to review - I would throw my name into the hat but I am a crap reviewer and am probably better off waiting until the book is on the shelf :-) (I dont want to spoil the ending..)

On a related note, I think the use of language here is pretty good - "deviant minority" is very appropriate - and the fact people have (incorrectly?) assumed deviant means bad can only add to the marketability of the book.

The number of comments here shows that even this brief excerpt can inflame discussion, so I cant wait to see the effects the book has.

Is it worth considering the effect a deviant minority can have in rigidly controlled groups? As an example, a police force (or military group) where a deviant minority establish a position of power to the point that their deviance becomes "acceptable" while still not being representative of the majority behaviour? I find this a fascinating effect as things like "institutional racism" frequently do not describe the actions of the majority but instead a deviant minority who go without punishment because of apathy / acquiescence (or whatever) in the majority.

JanMay 10, 2011 4:21 AM

Regarding "Two of these systems evolved in prehistory: morals and reputation. Two others evolved as our social groups became larger and more formal: laws and technical security systems."
I guess religion--as probably the most successful control mechanism in human history--is worth to be mentioned. Initially it was a kind of law but became more and more reduced to a moral character.

Also together with "societal evolution" it is worth to mention "innovations" which are the evolution's initiators.

Martin MacKerelMay 10, 2011 5:59 AM

Re: References for Jock Young

A lot of his work has explored how common-sense ideas of crime control are wrong and showed some counter-intuitive effects: that more police might increase rather than decrease crime because of "deviancy amplification", for example. In http://www.malcolmread.co.uk/JockYoung/jock1.htm he criticizes New Labour's policies and shows how traditional "common-sense" ideas - like more police = less crime, or more prisons = less crime, are not borne out by the evidence.

If you're looking at crime/deviancy, I'd recommend reading his review paper, "Thinking Seriously About Crime: Some Models of Criminology", which provides a great introduction to the various schools of criminological thought:

http://www.malcolmread.co.uk/JockYoung/...

BF SkinnerMay 10, 2011 6:54 AM

@John Campbell "recall one SciFi author using the "cooperation" versus "competition" meme some years ago"

I think the classic work is kropotkin's 'Mutual Aid'. No great literature but a telling argument against the hairy chested social darwinists.

MattMay 10, 2011 7:26 AM

@Bruce:

I wonder if you've read the following:

http://www.techdirt.com/blog/casestudies/...


While I don't know what the details of your particular book deal are, you seem to be one of the authors who could easily make more money self-publishing digitally than going through a traditional publisher. Just a few points I see here:

* you already have an established "advertising channel" (your blog) to promote your book. I don't see any publisher giving you much benefit in terms of advertising

* your readers are unlikely to just accidentally come across your book in a bookstore. They will usually find it (and purchase it) online. So a traditional publisher's connections to brick'n'mortar stores don't give you much benefit.

* your readers are already used to reading your words digitally (e.g. I read your blog via RSS on my smartphone). While having a (print-on-demand) physical book offering is always a good idea, I don't see it as necessarily the main attraction for the majority of your readers. If the e-book were reasonably priced (i.e. at least as much cheaper as the cost of the paper and physical distribution) I think most of your readers would buy it digitally. A traditional publisher often stands in the way of this. Traditional publishers tend to vastly overprice e-books to support the traditional print business. This hurts the authors because the additional profit is not passed to them and because the higher price turns off many potential buyers.

Pierre LebeaupinMay 10, 2011 7:42 AM

I was about to remark that this problem is older than mankind itself. And in fact, older than primates, older than vertebrates, older then even the animal kind. If you think about it, it is at least as old as multicellular organisms: such an organism is a system made of individuals, who may have a short-term interest that goes counter to the group (think cancer, for instance, but I'm sure there are other examples). And there very much are "technical measures" in place in these organisms to keep this "dishonest minority" in check, this is one of the roles of the immune system, for instance, on top of recognizing self from the non-self.

But as Rakkhi remarked, "The Selfish Gene" puts this even older; as old as life itself, in fact. I find thinking of genes as each pushing its own agenda is pushing the reasoning a bit to the extreme (genes are not autonomous, while cells are, to an extent), but it's an interesting way to think about it and, at some level, this is how it works. At any rate, I'm sure life sciences have very interesting things to say on the "Dishonest Minority" subject.

Bruce SchneierMay 10, 2011 7:44 AM

"But the biggest problem is the lack of a class component. Far from 'group interest' devolving into 'the king's interest', police and security forces should be considered as instruments of ruling class power and even today their primary focus, particularly in times of stress, is to maintain the state, not the laws or 'public safety'. Historically, for example, policing in the US South started with slave patrols."

I have some of this, when I talk about the institutionalization of societal security. First we protect our own stuff, then we define the term "property" and create rules about everyone's stuff being protected, then we deputize a subset of us to enforce those rules, then we create rules about how to pay for those enforcers. The enforcers are our proxies, but they don't precisely share our own interests. They have an independent interest in their own viability and power. I use the TSA as an example, but would also like a more historical example.

I don't talk about class specifically, at least not yet. I hope I don't have to. (One of the hardest parts of this book is figuring out what *not* to include. It could easily grow too large.)

Bruce SchneierMay 10, 2011 7:46 AM

"I move my family into a cave to prevent plunder and put a club near my bedside to bludgeon intruders --- that's a pair of technical security systems that probably preceded morals and reputation in human development."

I've been thinking more about this. I am less interested in the things an individual does to protect his own security, and more interested in the things society does as a group to protect their security. So it's not you putting a club near your bed, it's the group buying a bulk order of clubs and organizing clubbing classes.

GuardianPenguinMay 10, 2011 7:47 AM

Bruce,

I agree with your use of honest/dishonest, but compliant/non-compliant or submissive/defiant could also work. I believe the honest/dishonest language works best since the book appears to be about both security and society together. In any organization (society, corporation, club, government, religion, faction, etc), being part of that organization implies that you accept the terms of what it means to be "one of us". Being the "dishonest minority" in this context means claiming to accept the terms while acting counter to the terms of being part of that organization. Regardless of morality - the "good" or "evil" intent of the minority - accepting terms and then acting counter to those terms is dishonest.

Bruce SchneierMay 10, 2011 7:47 AM

"I guess religion -- as probably the most successful control mechanism in human history -- is worth to be mentioned. Initially it was a kind of law but became more and more reduced to a moral character."

I do talk about religion, as both a moral and a reputational system.

Bruce SchneierMay 10, 2011 7:49 AM

@ Matt:

I thought long and hard about self-publishing, and decided that -- in this possibly last instance -- I will continue to go with a traditional publisher.

Nick CoghlanMay 10, 2011 8:31 AM

These may already have crossed your desk, but Freakonomics and its sequel are likely worth a look in this context, as are Stephen Pinker's books (especially "How the Mind Works").

I'm also curious if the topic of regulatory capture gets discussed, including recent cases like the revolving door between the SEC and the Wall St firms it is meant to be regulating, and the cosy relationship between the USTR and the movie and music companies that benefit from the ratcheting up of draconian copyright laws.

Bruce SchneierMay 10, 2011 8:48 AM

"Also hope you can cover the value provided by an honest minority masquerading as a dishonest minority at the request of an honest majority wanting to test test their defenses against the real dishonest minority!"

That seems a bit far afield from the main points of the book. We'll see.

Bruce SchneierMay 10, 2011 8:50 AM

"I'm also curious if the topic of regulatory capture gets discussed...."

Yes. I haven't written this part yet, but it seems really important to me when the dishonest minority takes control over the mechanisms designed to control the dishonest minority.

Petar MaymounkovMay 10, 2011 12:18 PM

I did a little research and I found a celebrated recent result of Pippenger and Livnat that tries to find a solid theoretical explanation of the co-existence of conflict (the honest-dishonest conflict) and evolution.

http://www.pnas.org/content/103/9/3198.abstract?...

There is a subtle difference between your thesis and theirs. Their trying to reconcile the apparent contradiction that if you have natural selection on the collective level, you can still see conflict inside the collective.

I think that in your case, you have natural selection on the individual level and observe conflict on the collective.

But this is worth pondering.

Fascinating anyway.

--Petar

Jony RosenneMay 10, 2011 12:24 PM

Let me suggest two quotations:

"And the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."

Genesis 6 5

"the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth"

Genesis 8 21

sklutchMay 10, 2011 2:25 PM

Heh, I guess I'm just shallow, but all I wanted to say was that my initial read of the article title was "Dishonest Mutiny". Made my brain hurt, so I had to reread it twice.

Lots of smart people posting here, glad to see that.

QMay 10, 2011 2:27 PM

"They might not be universally accepted, but I can't find any reasonable explanation for why brain physiology should be excepted from the natural selection rules that govern every other physiology."

Brain physiology is subject to natural selection. But you're taking it the next step, which is positing behavior based on natural selection. That step is beyond the realm of scientific exploration in humans. You can't perform any studies (even observational studies) that can verify human behavior based on natural selection.

Psychology grew up when it abandoned the pure theory driven approach (favored by people like Freud) and focused instead on science. Evolutionary psychology (ironically) is a step backwards, a step away from science.

Calling evolutionary psychology a science is like calling critical theory a science.

Nick PMay 10, 2011 3:35 PM

On the title

I'm also liking the suggesting to use A Defiant Minority. It seems more fitting and retains the emotional strength of the original title. Actually, I think it's a stronger title because more people can identify with defiance without sacrificing any positive view of their morality that they may have.

John CampbellMay 10, 2011 3:45 PM

Consider that human behavior fits within a bell curve ("THE bell curve was broken up by an Arkansas Judge into Seven "Baby bell curves" some years back) and, at one end, are the "cooperators" who have little or no ego (or id) and the other end where they're *all* Ego+ID and acting against others.

Consider also that laws must be wide enough to tolerate a fairly wide range of societal norms often driven by varying ethnic conditioning so that the baseline culture is not "too narrowly defined" and eliminates a degree of memetic diversity. (I wrote "Cyber Diversity", linked under my name at http://www.systemtoolbox.com/bfarticle.php?... some time ago.)

BTW, humans seem to still have pack/herd drives... when on the offensive (or predator) we tend to function in fairly small "packs"... but, when on the defensive, we can form some pretty large herds speeding along the highway.

I am concerned that works like this *may* be used by some idiots (i.e. "politicians") to justify persecution of the non-criminal non-conformists.

Remember, "old money" wants a static society so that their position at the top of the financial food-chain is not threatened; Innovations bring in disruptive technology that can change the financial food-chains in an instant. The DHS is already trying to lock down some of the forces of change (turning into the Copyright Police) so security mechanisms and thought are often about STOPPING changes.

I recall, in talking with a molecular biologist, that there's a school of thought that feels that our immune system originally evolved to combat and manage cancers and other changes and only incidentally turned out to be good at protecting the organism as a whole.

If our bodies had better genetic "security" evolution could be brought to a halt.

Nick PMay 10, 2011 3:55 PM

On "technical security systems" label

"why technical security systems?... if I understand your target market right they might misinterpret it" (AC2)

Bruce definitely needs a new term for this. News media, geeks, and books on the subject have entrained in most people's minds that the definition of technical security relates to physical devices, digital assets, PC's, etc. This term will at worst cause plenty of confusion and at best interfere with comprehension due to conflicting definitions that the reader must manage.

Maybe he should just drop the word "technical" leaving security systems. Or change it to say a variety of security systems were made, divided into categories: legal; psychological; physical. It seems a lot of categories might be needed, so perhaps we could focus on the effect. Some security systems prevent an action (mitigation), increase difficulty, or encourage an action. So, perhaps, we created security systems to incentivize, reduce and mitigate behaviors? Examples being fortresses, law, and subsidized educational loans.

David LeppikMay 10, 2011 4:04 PM

I, too, find "dishonest" to be confusing and distracting. Honesty has to do with truthfulness, not with conformity to social norms. Someone can be extremely dishonest and still conform to social expectations. Indeed, there are many cases where dishonesty is the social norm. ("I'm fine, how are you?" "You look fabulous!" "It's no trouble at all.")

Similarly, there are cases where honesty is considered immoral or even illegal. A few examples: a teacher required to teach evolution as truth, even if he thinks it's bunk, or a doctor required to make a state-mandated statement about abortion that's not backed by science. Or a government official asked about a top secret project in a context where a truthful evasion would reveal the secret.

Nick PMay 10, 2011 4:18 PM

On religion

"I guess religion--as probably the most successful control mechanism in human history--is worth to be mentioned. Initially it was a kind of law but became more and more reduced to a moral character."

It should definitely be included because it is one of the most power control and security mechanisms ever created. Religion is interesting in that, once a conversion happens, the individual is self-motivated to follow the security system. Individuals may also spread their religion (and hence the control) to others in a likewise self-motivating way. This is a rare trait as it doesn't seem to happen in other controls: civilians don't follow laws of other jurisdications; company B doesn't adhere to company A's security standards.

This seems to be caused by how tightly interwined religion and a culture/individual moral standards are. There's a strong dynamic there. Religion is kind of an external control rooted in doctrine/expectations and also an internal control rooted in one's sense of self and risk management. One could even say the purpose of the external aspects of religion is to create the internal version.

Either way, religion is unique, pervasive, and powerful enough that it should get it's own treatment in this book. Atheism should be included because a lack of religion has had a strong effect by itself, especially interacting with religion-inspired controls. Bruce must be careful though because approaching the subject the wrong way, especially appearing to criticize a specific belief, might rub many readers the wrong way. Best to be general, abstract and neutral when discussing it, except to give positive examples of the control in action. A good example is Hindu beliefs that cows are sacred. I've read in a sociology work that the belief was likely a societal security system invented to protect the cows, which were of tremendous importance to villiages if alive.

Bruce WayneMay 10, 2011 4:32 PM

I have to agree with the comment that a non-cooperating member of society is not necessarily dishonest. You really to identify your variable here. Are you talking about people who say one thing and do another (dishonest - hide the fact that they break laws and norms, whether for good or ill) or people who openly disagree with and do not adhere to norms/laws (deviant subculture, non-conformist). They are not the same thing.

If you lump these all in together, you will be picked apart, and you could be possibly giving ammunition to the small minded who think "being/thinking different = dangerous".

Rick ThomasMay 10, 2011 5:53 PM

Not only are "honest and dishonest are burdened with connotation", they denote and are directly descended from the sense "honorable" and "dishonorable" - definitely describing a moral axis. It's very important to shift to the sense "honorable dissent".

a long time fanMay 10, 2011 6:17 PM

Bruce,

My father was a career military officer who fought in WWII, Korea, an VN. Once when we were discussing the all volunteer army in the early '70's he said, I paraprase, the reason the country needs a draft is that the people that are forced into the service against their will, change the military to reflect the mores of society and, the experience that they have in the military changes their perspective of what the military does

Dirk PraetMay 10, 2011 6:48 PM

@ Nick P.

"A good example is Hindu beliefs that cows are sacred. I've read in a sociology work that the belief was likely a societal security system invented to protect the cows, which were of tremendous importance to villages if alive. "

Same thing goes for pork in Islam. Back in the days, eating pork in that specific region of the world potentially was just as lethal as preparing your own fugu is today. Therefor, pigs were declared haram and this rule integrated into the religious belief system as to give it more weight.
Had Islam developed in Japan, muslims could now eat pork without a problem whereas blowfish would have been outlawed. The fact that many hindus are vegetarian again has little to do with religion, but everything with the fact that eating any sort of meat for centuries in India health-wise was ill-advised. And it still is today. Restaurants even need a special beef license if they want to put steak on the menu, just as a liquor license over here.

As to the origins of religion, I'm still going with Rudolf Otto's concept of the numinosum, the fascinosum and the tremendum, also refered to in the works of Carl Jung. Once the basic reference frame established, religion, its moral and reputational system has always been used and abused by those in power and those aspiring to get there.

tommyMay 10, 2011 7:34 PM

@ BRUCE:

"The enforcers are our proxies, but they don't precisely share our own interests. They have an independent interest in their own viability and power. I use the TSA as an example, but would also like a more historical example."
**
The Catholic Church? It's supposed to govern the behavior of its members, and also has been the civil ruler of some societies, but history is rife with it putting its own interests ahead of those of its members. Simony; building elaborate palaces for their ruling class when their iconic Savior preached simplicity; abusing trust by abusing children entrusted to them.... the list spans centuries and dozens of forms of those historical abuses you seek. And of enforcing their own viability and power: Spanish Inquisition, etc.

I would add that most politicians today, certainly US Congresspersons and POTUS, show regularly by their behavior that they are more interested in remaining in office and in gaining benefits for themselves at the expense of those for whom they proxy.

E. g., huge pensions after only a short term of service; exempting themselves from Social Security (glaring example there: their interests in getting their pensions far outweigh their responsibility to see that we get ours), enacting special-benefit legislation for special-interest groups who donate to their campaigns or hold large blocs of votes, etc. This far predates the TSA.

And the virtual crisis situation of the national debt, caused by buying votes with pork projects at the expense of all of us.

One last, classic, example: The establishment of the Roman Republic, which was another great idea, but devolved into the Roman Empire, a totalitarian dictatorship. There were a few benevolent emperors, e. g.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

"Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus, and Marcus had no need of praetorian cohorts, or of countless legions to guard them, but were defended by their own good lives, the good-will of their subjects, and the attachment of the senate."

But contrast those with the many others who abused their power, sometimes horribly. I think this vein would be a rich one to mine for your thesis on the difference of interests of the citizenry and of its proxies/enforcers.

asdMay 10, 2011 8:11 PM

@Bruce ,The Dishonest Minority might play on peoples expectations that its the minority fault. Using wrong keywords, can cause more trouble than its worth

AC2May 11, 2011 2:06 AM

+1 for 'Defiant'!

@Matt

"I think most of your readers would buy it digitally."

Count me out. Can read blog entries online, but not a 75K word book.

VlesMay 11, 2011 7:18 AM

Bring back the letters of marque!
It would turn a dishonest enterprise (piracy, socio-morally detestable) into an honest one (privateering, socio-morally honorable)

Like Churchill who was mentioned previously, there's another fine example of another prima donna of that time (American) by the name of G.S. Patton jr. who I believe was an expert in walking the axis honest/dishonest to seek the WINS or fairness he craved, respected and revered.

Thomas B.May 11, 2011 9:06 AM

> They're not "virtually pseudo-science"... I can't find any reasonable explanation for why brain physiology should be excepted from ... natural selection...

The concern is not that the brain is immune from selective pressures, but with the methodology of the area's proponents, who often rely on 'just so' stories that are plausible but impossible to verify. Compare evo psychologist E. O. Wilson's work with Aiello and Wheeler's seminal piece on the expensive tissue hypothesis. As you move away from 'everyone hates lizards so it must be genetic,' to comparative analysis of measurable values between different populations, the gap in rigor becomes obvious.

I think this actually cuts to the heart of your research. One of the reasons deception is actually valuable to a community is that it develops ever more robust ways to test incoming data. So, for example, I know that many hucksters might claim that the people who buy their goblin repellent have never been attacked by goblins. Eventually I'll realize that no one is attacked by goblins. After hearing enough claims that are deceptive in a similar way, I will refine when I'm influenced by incoming information. Specifically, I will discount incoming information which is not checked against a control group, like most claims about how any given widespread behavior *must* be the result of genes, rather than coincidence or game theory or rationality or social development or any other of the random detritus that influences who we all are and how we all behave.

So when you say:
> It is in our collective group interest for everyone to cooperate.

I don't think that's accurate. I think when my neighbors lie to me, they train me to see through nature's lies. The magician's mirrors help me build a better telescope.

paulMay 11, 2011 10:29 AM

One of the reasons that at least some social-science results keep getting revisited is that they initially appear context-independent, but really aren't. In the worst (?) case you can get perfectly good empirical results that render themselves obsolete. (For example, the so-called leading economic indicators, which used to be quite good at predicting recession or inflation, but in the past couple decades have become useful only for predicting central-bank activity intended to moderate recession or inflation, to the point where their statistical significance applied to ongoing economic data has decline to near zero...)

The big abstract results may remain solid, but any result that's immediate and specific enough for people to get an advantage from is almost bound to be transitory.

UshMay 11, 2011 10:48 AM

I hope you're going to be talking about Nowak and Sigmund's work on reputation[1]. Sober and Wilson's "Unto Others" is also pretty essential when you start to think about group selection mechanisms, altruism and selfishness.

1. Nowak, Martin A. & Karl Sigmund. "The Evolution of indirect reciprocity" Nature 437: 1291-1298 (2005)
http://www.unil.ch/webdav/site/dee/shared/textes/...

Doug CoulterMay 11, 2011 11:58 AM

Wow, this got so long so fast I didn't read it all.
Bodes well for book sales -- go Bruce!

I think a good thing to call dishonest would the the case where someone presents as a contributer, a positive to those around them, but is really a parasite. That's dishonest. They do it as an adaptation, as if their parasitic nature was known, it would fail, no one would "host" the parasite. So, they dishonestly conceal it.

Value judgments on which word is "loaded" are often in the eye of the beholder. I've met a few people who were proud of being judged deviant, but some people equate that automatically with something universally loathed, like child porn, and can't understand this.

To paraphrase George Carlin -- look at the norm, then realize half are worse yet. Pretty disgusting, and I'd rather be a deviant than "normal" any day.
It's possible to deviate from the mean in either direction, you know.

I myself would make a rather large distinction between those who "don't go along with the norms" and aren't dishonest about it -- they need not be parasitic either, not by a long shot, and those who *pretend* to go along only to find a way to take more than they give from those who are productive -- which is just plain dishonest.

And honesty and honor are where the security theme come in, not politics or psych classifications per se. Though as one slashdotter had as a sig -- I prefer to spell that Honour as the "U" is missing in so many these days.

As a theme for the book, I'd suggest looking at how excess wealth (eg above survival requirements) creates more opportunities for that sort of dishonesty. Seems to me when everyone is just barely making it -- those who are parasites are eliminated (or behavior altered) a lot quicker than when times are good and we can "afford" them. In fact, I think recent financial events are a very good example of it. And now we have real high unemployment -- the parasites are having trouble finding work "for some reason". Could it be that companies were smart about who they cut?
And who they're not going to hire again?

I'm sure some babies got tossed with the bathwater, so don't take me wrong -- but that was some dirty bathwater, good that it's gone most likely. And now we have all these unemployed people who in good times, never had to and never did learn how to be either honest or productive -- no easy way to fix it now.

Bruce WayneMay 11, 2011 12:51 PM

@Doug

"I'd suggest looking at how excess wealth (eg above survival requirements) creates more opportunities for that sort of dishonesty"

This made me think of Bernie Madoff, which, in turn, makes me question the validity of the idea of a dishonest minority that is acceptable when it is below a certain size. Madoff, just one dishonest man, did an incredible amount of damage. How many Bernie Madoffs can the world support?

StevenMay 11, 2011 11:15 PM

I tend to be in the "ask forgiveness" instead of "ask permission" camp. Does that make me dishonest? Dishonest implies that there is a comprehensive guide to proper behavior. As the number of laws or rules approaches infinity the number of "honest people" must approach zero -- would you agree? Who wrote the "comprehensive proper behavior guide" anyway? Moses and God got it down to Ten Commandments. Jesus got it down to one: [effectively] do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

Paul Charles LeddyMay 12, 2011 9:18 AM

Great topic.

The world needs new thinking in this regard. And application. See neo-cons.

mcbMay 12, 2011 6:22 PM

BTW Bruce did a nice job explicating the concept in his keynote at Secure360 yesterday.

Bruce SchneierMay 13, 2011 2:02 PM

"'why technical security systems?... if I understand your target market right they might misinterpret it' (AC2)

Bruce definitely needs a new term for this. News media, geeks, and books on the subject have entrained in most people's minds that the definition of technical security relates to physical devices, digital assets, PC's, etc. This term will at worst cause plenty of confusion and at best interfere with comprehension due to conflicting definitions that the reader must manage.

Maybe he should just drop the word "technical" leaving security systems. Or change it to say a variety of security systems were made, divided into categories: legal; psychological; physical. It seems a lot of categories might be needed, so perhaps we could focus on the effect. Some security systems prevent an action (mitigation), increase difficulty, or encourage an action. So, perhaps, we created security systems to incentivize, reduce and mitigate behaviors? Examples being fortresses, law, and subsidized educational loans."

Agreed. I need a new term for this. It can't be "security systems," though, because I'm already using that term one conceptual level higher. We have four basic security systems: morals, reputation, rules/laws, and "technical security systems."

Okay: what should I rename that fourth type of security system?

Bruce SchneierMay 13, 2011 2:03 PM

"The Catholic Church? It's supposed to govern the behavior of its members, and also has been the civil ruler of some societies, but history is rife with it putting its own interests ahead of those of its members."

They're already an example. Specifically, the pedophilia scandal.

Bruce SchneierMay 13, 2011 2:07 PM

"Sober and Wilson's "Unto Others" is also pretty essential when you start to think about group selection mechanisms, altruism and selfishness."

I have it.

GordonMay 15, 2011 12:29 AM

Hey, I am a sucker for good books. I have bought most of yours. Here are some important issues for your new manuscript.

"Evolution" is the prominent word in the preview on your recent Crypto-Gram. Don't get caught up in the knee jerk evolution theorizing. Read "Signature in the Cell" and other books that discuss the alternative of an intelligent creator. A book of the magnitude that you are writing deserves a well founded approach.

Some of the clear discussions of right vs. wrong and origins of choices come from Chuck Colson. Earlier authors like Yochelson and Samenow made some pretty interesting discoveries about why people choose crime.

Fraser ThomasMay 15, 2011 4:21 AM

Fascinating. As mentioned by a few people above, I would love to see a chapter on moral and ordered societies prior to the creation of judeo-christian faith two millennia ago. I'm a non-theist, and one who is fed up with persons of faith ascribing morality to religion.

Eric FergusonMay 15, 2011 4:21 AM

An excellent initiative, I am looking forward to reading the book. But it is misleading to call that minority "dishonest", and even more so to use that term in the title. That word implies a moral value judgement. You are writing a social analysis, and "morals" are just one of the values that play a role. The "minority" is "non-abiding", "opts out", "does not play the game", "exploits the system", "are profiteers", "are non-cooperative", and so on; there are many ways of describing their behaviour without implying a moral stigma. As some commentators have said, the "minority" may, in some cases, actually be very morally justified, and help to transform an "immoral" or "dishonest" system to a more "moral" one. I suggest that you look for a word without a moral value judgement , both for the title and for use in the book. Why not ask us bloggers for suggestions?

Just MeMay 15, 2011 4:27 AM

Yes, please use "deviant" and "dishonest" in appropriate contexts.

Morality is objective in this sense - when enough time and object lessons teach the principle of the rule is "heads I/we win, tails you/you all lose", its game-over, because of dishonesty. As opposed to an "average" westerner or Asian's propensity for tolerance and deviancy from expected norms.

Any non-linear dynamics? Groups constantly fission and fuse. Chunks of uranium are simple Newtonian bodies before critical mass. I hope you'll discuss the leading role of diminishing and negative marginal returns on investments regarding security in the collapse of civilizations and empires, as Jim Rickards, Nial Ferguson and Isabel Paterson have. All too relevant, hurry.

>Currency, that paper stuff that's deliberately made hard to counterfeit, wouldn't be necessary, as people could just keep track of how much money they had.

Don't anger the Austrians! Price discovery!

Jay Libove, CISSP, CIPP, CISMMay 15, 2011 4:53 AM

Hi Bruce. When I read the thesis in the current issue of CRYPTO-GRAM, like a few others I got a bit stuck on the word "dishonest". I fully understand what you mean by it, and I think I have an inkling of why you chose and are leaning towards keeping the word, despite its potential for misinterpretation.

How about just adding quote marks?

"The 'Dishonest' Minority: Security and its Role in Modern Society."

That puts the emphasis on the word dishonest instead of on the word minority, which hopefully will help with the mis-parse implying something ethnic; and 'any time' an apparently common word or phrase is put in quotes it cues the reader to think that maybe the writer/ speaker intends the word to be taken thought-provikingly instead of entirely literally.

Good luck with the writing, and I'm looking forward to future excerpts and lectures on the topic, and of course the book itself!

Daniel MintzMay 15, 2011 5:36 AM

Look forward to the book, a number of subjects being covered which will be of interest.

One concern I would have from your description is exactly what you are trying to achieve. Your original question as to why security exists in human society is almost at some level unimportant.

Even if you came to no conclusion regarding the nature of human behavior and the basis of human interaction, shear power of numbers would indicate that some number of individuals will act in a way contrary to the interests of some other individuals. One or the other group will act to stop the behavior of the other - in a broad sense this is an example of security.

However coming to a conclusion about broad human behavior I suspect will be difficult to do without taking short-cuts in terms of economic theory and philosophy of the individual and society.

Having said all that, the reason I find your columns and writing in general interesting is your willingness to take contrarian perspectives on issues that 'common wisdom' have already drawn (often incorrect) conclusions about, so I am sure the book will be interesting.

If you are then going to write another, I recommend considering the impact of information 'ownership' and availability on security (in my opinion the question of what is a society is currently on the table, a more interesting question to me than why is security needed in a society). AND what can you do about security in an inherently insecure structure.

Good luck, you have bitten off a pretty big topic.

- Dan

Roland SassenMay 15, 2011 5:45 AM

"The Dishonest Minority" is a dishonest title,
a dishonest majority would be better,
and also incorrect,
dishonesty is a behaviour and not a characteristic.
Maybe you can call your book
"Our Honest Thieve".

NegbyMay 15, 2011 7:21 AM

It would seem that the physical security is what there is in terms of stopping the dishonest minority, which might not obey morality or law, from achieving certain goals.

Say someone completely (yes completely) disregards morals, reputation, and the law: threatens, kidnaps, kills, mutilates, both people who can provide him access or their loved ones.

Wouldn't 99.9999% of all physical access systems fail? I.e. are we not usually asuming that the dishonest minority has its limits as well?

JohnMay 15, 2011 8:05 AM

I enjoy reading well written theory / textbooks. On one side I take pleasure in highly technical works with good code examples that allow me to become a better analyst and design better computer base systems. On the other end of the spectrum, in the philosophical realm, I like to learn reasons and opinions why we develop software. The thesis of the book you are working appears to be a perfect fit on the latter. Have read several of your books. Looking forward to add it to my library.

Bruce SchneierMay 15, 2011 8:22 AM

"Say someone completely (yes completely) disregards morals, reputation, and the law: threatens, kidnaps, kills, mutilates, both people who can provide him access or their loved ones. Wouldn't 99.9999% of all physical access systems fail? I.e. are we not usually asuming that the dishonest minority has its limits as well?"

We are. We do it when we walk around town every day, not wearing our bullet-proof vests and not constantly testing our food for poison.

GauteMay 15, 2011 9:36 AM

I have for some time found it useful to distinguish between actions that will be attributed to a legal entity (corporation or nation) and actions that will be attributed to a physical person. Causing someones death may be used as a good example. Attributed to a physical person it results in jail, attributed to a nation it leads to a medal, and attributed to a corporation it leads to damages paid. Attributed to legal entities there are no personal consequences.

I have lately realized that it may be useful to expand from two to three main types of actors, and the new group is the IP-adress. An action that de facto only can be attributed to an IP-adress establish a climate for behavior that is perhaps close to what you find in other situations of anonymity, like in crowds or individuals in military units stepping over the line.

Margaret BartleyMay 15, 2011 10:12 AM

Richard Steven Hack, 2/16/11 wrote:

..the more the state increases its power, the more coercive it becomes and the more people invest in coercion to compete.

This continues until the state oppression and social coercion causes a completely dysfunctional society, at which point a revolution occurs, and things recalibrate to a lower level of state and social coercion...

Another possible outcome is that the confiscatory activities of the ruling oligarchy vacuum up so much of the productive wealth of society that economic and technical development ceases. The concentrated wealth at the top results in a civilization increasingly attractive to attack from outsiders and less capable of defending itself.

This could be the Chinese Mandarins facing attack from the west at the end of the 19th century, the Romans facing attack by the Vandals and the Goths, the Catholic Church facing attack by the Reformation, the Carthaginians facing attack by the Romans, etc.

I can't think of an example where the citizens, fed up with the dysfunctional society, revolted, except in those situations where the citizens were the unwitting tools of a secretive group trying to replace (not remove) the ruling oligarchy, i.e. The American revolution, the Russian Revolution, the French Revolution. This latter sentence may be too controversial a topic, since the roles that secret agencies had in those revolutions is not generally acknowledged publicly yet.

I question whether there is an internal mechanism to counter the increasing concentration of coercive power and economic wealth within a society.

A major policy directive of security agencies is to prevent exactly those forces from forming within the society.

Part of what makes the whole issue of security so complex is that protecting social trust is a cover story; the real function is to protect the security of the ruling elite, who do not care about the well-being of their subjects. In fact, it is the suspicion that their subjects are plotting against them that is the motivation for most of the security measures!

This results in a pubic discourse that is discordant and ultimately dissatisfying and arcanely academic.

It creeps me out to speculate what happens if globalization wins, and there is no outside enemy to topple a corrupt and decadent government, so I try to avoid thinking about it.

Lon ThomasMay 15, 2011 11:17 AM

Consider the findings in behavioural economics and particularly the work of Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational). His findings on the differences in honest with respect to cash, cash tokens and non-cash transactions might be interesting and relevant to your thesis.

tom van vleckMay 15, 2011 1:04 PM

"If individuals within a species have the ability to switch strategies, the dishonest minority will never be reduced to zero."

The late Paul Karger pointed out that this switch is mostly one-way. He worked for a cell phone company for a while, and found that after expensive countermeasures to cellphone "cloning" were deployed, the bad guys switched to "tumbling." I call this Karger's Law: when a new security measure is put in place, the bad guys don't say, "shucks, guess I better get an honest job." They look for a new way to continue illegal activity.

Blacha JanMay 15, 2011 2:15 PM

Well, an interesting book to be. I have been working on this theory myself but not in the form of a book but in the form of a theory, rules of the game of sorts. It applies to all facets of life. The decisions to comply or not to comply is directly ralated to the amount of personal interest is affected by the side that you choose to be on. A model from the Russians, it's not personal it;s just business.
Janek

Jim HuttnerMay 15, 2011 4:34 PM

If societal security becomes too expensive, will vigilantism become the economical alternative?

Blacha JanMay 15, 2011 5:26 PM

The rules of the majority are meant to keep those who are in dissent out of power and those in power create rules to keep themselves in power. It is a very simple formula.
Janek

jMay 15, 2011 7:14 PM

Curious as to what support for the stated claims will look like and how rigorous it will be.

asdMay 16, 2011 12:45 AM

@j,"Curious as to what support for the stated claims will look like and how rigorous it will be."(taken it politician are corrupt)

The system is capitalism, you sell something to someone who sells it to someone else. If they then pass it thought a loop say 1 million long back to the start, if one person try to stuff the system, it will create a feedback and increase.
Compare that to Communism(50 years) capitalism will probable last to 2070.(if its right :)
Based on that you could form that if a criminal stuffs the system a politician will as well.

If people are trying to solve problems, based on weather they dislike/anger/hate it, will be the level they have to reach to bet it. Based on that, if criminals can bend the laws to make the system not work, the people at the top has to break the laws or create them to stop the effect.
As the new laws was to stop criminals are they accurate enough to stop law abidden citizens from then break old laws?

:) :(

TerhoMay 16, 2011 1:20 AM

Your book draft sounds great - keep on writing! I can find similar concepts elsewhere. Similar "alternate view" approach is utilised also in e.g. technology development (my profession) where mainstream solutions (majority) should allways be challenged with novel ideas (minority), that is ideas which might grow and become the next generation of mainstream implemetation. Typically, lack of doing this leads eventually to low business performance of a company. Similarly, corporate strategists try to challenge existing management paradigmas and the best optimization systems utilise counterforces that limit the synthesis. As management is also about people and social practices it comes close to the topic of your book. I think you could find interesting analogies in this area.

MichaelMay 16, 2011 6:03 AM

Your thesis caused quite an argument in our office. I think I get it: you are exploring, in a value-free way, the fundamental importance of trust in human society and the inevitable evolution of complex mechanisms to validate and manipulate trust relationships. I think you're saying that most people most of the time are honest (which should not be confused with being "good") but that all people some of the time and some people most of the time are dishonest. Therefore, human beings have evolved to lie and cheat and to detect lying and cheating but also to manipulate the inherent human need for individual and societal security. And that all of this has a bearing on how security and government operate in modern society.

However, there was criticism that you are using the terms honest and dishonest with different spins and that you are trying to explore a complex field using too simple a model. That there are too many inherent contradictions and paradoxes to resolve using the notion of a dishonest minority as the central thrust of the argument.

On reflection, I agree that you are possibly in danger of conflating the basic notion of dishonesty with that of dissent or indeed with that of exploitation. To dissent against the norm is not dishonest per se, nor is it necessarily dishonest to exploit and rule a group, no matter how ruthlessly. However, I think you are using honest/dishonest as adjectives for trust/antitrust. Is the dissenter/exploiter trying to promote and safeguard trust or undermine and use it for gain at others' expense?

I look forward to reading the book.

RobMay 16, 2011 7:56 AM

The new book sounds great; can't wait to read it. I would like to tentatively throw an idea into the ring to mirror the concept of the 'dishonest minority'. It is of an honest but nevertheless damaging minority. This would be a group which through skill, power or ruthless absence of cooperative motivation is able to 'legally' exploit the laws and security systems to their own extreme advantage but to the potential damage of the ecosystem. Clearly my thoughts were triggered by the current financial mayhem and our apparent inability to restructure the system to make it secure against what might be described as self-destruction by localised excess success. I have a loose visual metaphor that involves attractors in non-linear dynamical systems ('black holes' as it were). Unfortunately I don't have the skill to formulate it more usefully in mathematical or complex system terms.

However the following quote, which is taken out of context from the recent blog post by Golem XIV (May 15) describes it quite nicely as a 'parasitic sub-set' of our complex societal system:

"The new system horrifies me because it has put finance above democracy, markets over governments, and it appals free-marketeers because it sets up an untouchable aristocracy within the markets who are not allowed to lose and who can therefore take what they want, when they want, from whomever they want and the law will not touch them. Neither the law of the land nor the law of the markets. Free marketeers and those on the left like me find ourselves in the unlikely position of sharing an abhorrence for what the super elite are doing."

The point being that this 'antisocial' activity is not dishonest (in the sense that I think you are using it above) but can be regarded nevertheless as against the interests of the 'honest'/compliant majority and the integrity of the entire system. I hope I am not being too cynical in saying that the defense mechanisms of morals and reputation are weak against such a threat, perhaps because the rules are not being broken but excessively exploited - nothing illegal here - and there is inadequate self-control on the part of the perpetrators. Does such a group really exist in the same way that the 'dishonest minority' so clearly does?

KGroundMay 16, 2011 9:27 AM

So, what happens to a society when the 'dishonest minority' gains control of political power through indifference or lack of discrimination on the part of the 'honest majority' ?

And more importantly how does a society then correct the matter and get rid of these parasites ?

PGMay 16, 2011 9:57 AM

Sounds great. The only thing that didn't sit well with me was that you start out calling them the "dishonest minority", which is all well and good, but then you go on to state "Since many societal norms are in fact immoral, sometimes the dishonest minority serves as a catalyst for social change."

Several issues here:

1) Morality is relative to the individual, so to say "many societal norms are in fact immoral" is completely subjective and a point of opinion. What's moral to one person might be immoral to the next.

2) I think you're blurring the line between "dishonest" and "non-conformist". Your statement implies that people like Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Susan B. Anthony, etc. were "dishonest" rather than "non-conformist". I think it's an important distinction to make if you don't want your premise to be quickly dismissed by astute readers.

Other than that, I look forward to reading it!

HMay 16, 2011 12:53 PM


For the purpose of your analysis, is it important distinquish between people who are purposefully dishonest and those who have a more provisional relationship w/ reality, say, those with mental illnesses ?

Dick SwensonMay 16, 2011 1:13 PM

Just one more of your books that I must buy and read. Thanks.

It sounds as if you are actually following an idea popularized by Dawkins in the Selfish Gene. Using ideas of game theory to explain aspects of complex systems is a neat way to focus on otherwise seemingly impenetrable concepts and shows that these concepts have both good and bad aspects, e.g., dishonesty.

BTW, there is a good sociology book (very old) masquerading as SciFi, UK LeGuin's "The Dispossesed." It treats the problem of communalism vs propertarianism (sic) and shows that the exclusive preference for one or the other has problems.

MihaiMay 16, 2011 1:52 PM

As some of the other comments pointed out, the evolutionary pov is departing from the individualistic nature of the theory.
Implied in the first sentences of the book thesis is that we live in a system of "cooperative behaviors" which is something that needs deeper analysis. The western society sees no cooperation for a common and higher goal, but rather a set of ad-hoc cooperation (employee-employer, customer-business) for fulfilling confined (in scope/timeframe) material goals.

Now, in a system that is not omogenous/cooperative towards a unified goal, the notion of parasite == those that derive value by contributing little/nothing/hurting, this notion is also lacking a clear definition.
Are the 1 million lawyers in US parasites or are they part of the "good system"? How about the marketing industry? Are the 40 million kids on food stamps the parasites in US economy, or are the Forbes 500 that own 95% of the wealth in this country?

With no clear boundary or definition for "organism" and no clear boundary or definition for "parasite", the thesis that a security system could keep the two apart is strange.
"Minority" is also a quantitative attribute that has no bearing on the qualitative aspect of the question.

The fact that you can write a book that will get readers doesn't mean you should write it for topics remote from your domain of expertise, which is computer security.
You risk being a parasite in the field of knowledge in that you will derive profit from not only not adding value to this area, but adding confusion to what "behaving as a human" means.

Clive RobinsonMay 16, 2011 3:51 PM

@ KGround,

"So, what happens to a society when the 'dishonest minority' gains control of political power through indifference or lack of discrimination on the part of the 'honest majority'?"

As an outsider to the US voter system looking in, the voting system you have tends to make me think your question has been answered.

Aside from the darn odd system, historical manipulation in various ways that gave rise to the word "Gerrymander" indicates a long history of dishonest behaviour on behalf of US politicians. And with what has been reported internationaly fairly recently with some states baring those who have names similar to convicted criminals at a time when it is to late for those effected to sort it out... Many outside of the US who look at it are amazed the US has the gaul to call it's self a democracy.

Even to this day people are fighting and dying for "One Person One Vote"...

With regards to your second point,

"And more importantly how does a society then correct the matter and get rid of these parasites ?"

American history shows that no matter how good the intentions of those who put into place rules to stop the political system becoming corrupt it still happens "for the sake of the children" or whatever other stupidity the voters can be fobbed of with.

As has been noted by others in the past there is only one answer "change the regime" either peacefully or by civil war. Which method often depends on how deaply the current parasites are entrenched and how urgent the people feel change should be.

However we never seem to arive at the answer of how do we get rid of Politicians and their ilk once and for all whilst having true democracy, not the current "monkey in a suit" system of "representational democracy" that is anything but.

Having been witness to civil war and it's effects I am most definatly keen that we look at resolving the problem long before it gets to the point of bloodshed. And I suspect that we can make major ground with minimal changes.

Thus In the past I have made a couple of suggestions, the first being "none of the above" on voting papers, the second being every law and statute has a sunset clause and must be brought back infront of the politicos every few years for the three R's ( Revisit / Revise / Repeal ).

The first sugestion might appear as a recipe for disaster but as we are seeing with some countries not having Politicos in charge does not stop the country running (and in atleast one case some of the voters have commented it's an improvment).

What it does however stop is endless law making which brings me onto my second suggestion, which is an attempt to "take the car keys from teenagers with a quart of whiskey".

Politicians are in theory there to guide the country by the will of the voters, and make the necessary changes to the engine of state to ensure smooth running.

A small part of this is to be "law makers", however most politicians appear to think that this is the sole purpose of their existance.

Thus as they "have to be seen" to be doing something they make law after endless law at such a rate that crooks and other naredowells can have a field day. Hence we have the "pork fest" of lobbying and patronage that stinks of corruption.

Making the politicos go back and revise / revisit / repeal existing legislation on a regular basis will hopefully give them less time to come up with inane and corrupt legislation.

PackagedBlueMay 16, 2011 4:12 PM

I would be interested in how some aspect of Jewish law might apply for this book.

Political survival, especially with Israel, might fit in well for this book, although some subjects are touchy these days.

Lastly, the concept of Aliyah, and the issue of the big picture of exile, seems very important what I'd like to read in this book.

Actually, I think Bruce to be very well qualified to write this book, although having enough time to get it done, might be another matter. I'd bet that some have amazing research about this subject, that they are keeping such crosswords to themselves.

While a book can teach, a TV series can influence the people, far more than a book. My best regards to Mr. Schneier for taking on such a project, in these Zebra like days.

Tony MayoMay 16, 2011 7:06 PM

Please drop the term dishonest. Use non-compliant or some other term that preserves the possible value of evading security systems. Besides, evading security may not be dishonest; one can be openly, avowedly, and honestly non-compliant. Otherwise, you seem to fall into error, e.g., the people who would use the DMCA to prosecute academic demonstrations of security flaws.

soothsayerMay 16, 2011 9:17 PM

What you can dishonest are in fact the "system testers" of the society to make sure the system builds mechanisms to protect itself :-))

Frank4DDMay 16, 2011 9:56 PM

Is dishonesty still the minority? We all hope so. Lately it looks as if dishonesty takes root in society in a big numbers although on a small personal scale, enabling to spread the gigantic frauds across many individuals. Personal responsibility, guilt and moral obligation is reduced to small fractions, making it easy for individuals to overcome the threshold and participation is almost guaranteed. Group pressure adds to imoral behaviour - everyone does it, so it seems OK. There is no single person to blame for financial crisis, corporate missbehaviour, governments abusing power or endangering populations by implementing nuclear power cheaply for profit.

To come back to the topic of IT's role in that process: having people to interact less direct, using more and more technical proxies also lowers the moral threshold. It is much more difficult to cheat while looking someone into the eye then it is to fraud through a impersonal system.

CarlMay 17, 2011 2:55 AM

The Dishonest Minority is a highly interesting subject and I look forward to reading the book.

Have you also considered adding a chapter on the societal impact from the Dishonest Majority?

I live in a third world country with rampant corruption, i.e. a Dishonest Majority. Elected officials, military, police, leading business families, government workers, private businesses - everybody is a thief, or worse.

For instance, what happens to a society when the law and individual rights are for sale, freedom of speech is used to jail political and business opponents, conflicts are settled with guns, police and government workers extort both businesses and individuals, and military conducts people and drug smuggling?

While the majority busily fill their offshore bank accounts and in the process destroys our society, the honest minority is struggling to make it to the next day without being hurt by the parasites.

May I humbly suggest that the Dishonest Majority is a serious issue in a majority of the developing countries.

What happens when the parasites rule?

Good luck with the book!

Viktor SteinerMay 17, 2011 5:00 AM

You say: "dishonest minority" is not a moral judgment; it simply describes the minority who does not follow societal norm.
If that's your meaning, why don't you say it? Call them "dissenting minority" or such like, since - as you say - they may be a force for good (e.g. William Wilberforce, MLK Jun., Desmond Tutu, etc.), disagreeing with the powers that be but not "dishonest". For the book title "dishonest" is OK.

MichaelMay 17, 2011 6:14 AM

Ongoing discussion in our office about this. Someone suggested that much of this subject has been covered in Mancur Olson's book "The Logic of Collective Action," in which Olson talks about the problem of "free-riders," the possibility of members within a community benefiting parasitically from the community's collective actions without contributing themselves, i.e., cheating the community by taking without giving. Olson's work is a combination of game theory and historical analysis, which he develops further in "Power and Prosperity" and "The Rise and Decline of Nations."

Olson covers security in his books, since security is an extension of law-making and ensuring that rules are followed in a property-owning society. He begins with primitive societies and traces the development of groups, states, and so on, including their various institutions. Whether or not the role of technology changes from society to society or indeed changes the structure and relationship between a society's institutions depends on how much one believes in technological determinism, I imagine. Perhaps the relationship is dialectical.

Bruce SchneierMay 17, 2011 8:29 AM

@ Michael

I don't know the writings of Mancur Olson. I just ordered "The Logic of Collective Action" from the library. Looking at the table of contents on Amazon, it's definitely related to what I'm writing.

vasiliy pupkinMay 17, 2011 10:55 AM

What is the criteria (litmus test) and who decides which societal norms are immoral?

Toby SpeightMay 17, 2011 11:49 AM

The use of the word 'dishonest' in the title seems to be still controversial, so here's my take on it (despite promising myself I wouldn't jump in):

Firstly, dishonesty is a behaviour, rather than an attribute. Like most people who consider themselves generally law-abiding, I'm sure I have acted subversively[*] from time to time. But I'm not a dishonest person (you'll have to take my word for that).

[*] Perhaps 'subversive' could be an alternative word for the title if 'dishonest' is deemed unsuitable...

Secondly, dishonesty is context-dependent - you can't act dishonestly in isolation, only to a person or a group of people. And, AIUI, that's what Bruce's book is about - claiming to act in accordance with the group's rules, but actually acting in self-interest.

My rule of thumb here is to always test generalities against an example with inverted morality - a Mafia supergrass is dishonest to his peer-group, whether or not you consider his behaviour to be moral. Some of the commenters here seem to think there's a single concept of "society", or that an individual belongs to only a single society - I expect that this multiplicity of societies is an important premise for the book.

Certainly, I don't consider the actions of Ghandi and Martin Luther King (who openly defied their respective authorities) to be dishonest. They would be dishonest were they to claim to represent disadvantaged people, but instead to exploit them for personal gain. (Again, here, we're seeing multiple societies at work - but I think Ghandi rejected the society of the British ruling class and behaved honestly within the society of the anti-colonialists).

My personal take is that the controversy over the title is a storm in a tea-cup - I expect that anyone who gets as far as the introduction will by then have at least a basic grasp of what it means here. And it seems to be a pretty effective hook to get people interested, as evinced by the mountain of posts in this thread!

KevinMay 17, 2011 1:22 PM

Bruce, the title Dishonest Minority is very catchy, but it is misleading and ultimately dishonest -- because you know that the sometimes the minority you speak of is not at all dishonest. Communicating is difficult enough without giving ordinary words new meaning. Honesty is a moral imperative: Thou shalt not lie. Yet, in order to use this catchy title you re-define "dishonesty" and claim it is not a moral judgment. Let's all stick with the same dictionary. There are plenty of other things to argue about.
For a title, how about this one: The Prick That's Good For Us: The Nail That Sticks Up. (A play on the Japanese proverb.)

Dimitri DMay 18, 2011 7:18 PM

The word "dishonest" necessarily implies a moral judgement. Your attempt to argue otherwise in the last paragraph shows that even you are not convinced that it does not.

I do not think there is anything wrong is having this moral judgement exemplified in the title. It shows the readers how morality itself can be wrong.

On the other hand, if this is not the point you are trying to make, then the title reads like an empty headline that is not going to be substantiated in the book. In that case, I suggest you remove the word dishonest and use a boring term like "dissenting minority".

Even in this short statement, you felt the need to say that the term "Dishonest Minority" does not have a moral judgment.

believe this shows that the title If you think there is no moral judgment in the word "dishonest"is, in fact, misleading .

A think a term different from dishonest

I think also think that if you follow your argument further, it comes to a contradiction, as the word dishonest does have as moral judgement


implications. After all, morality evolved as one of the mechanisms you mentioned.

RonoMay 21, 2011 1:35 AM

Bruce, I think it would be a good idea to follow Occam's razor and go with your first, original gut feel for the book title. It says it all...otherwise you could be lured into writing a "book by commitee"...like trying to herd a dozen cats.

It seems that a few respondents may have lumped mores with ethics. Whereas mores could just be village laws , say, on not peeing in the well, and ethics would seem to be a multi valent system of making the best decision for a greater altruistic good on an un-level playing field... Secure decisions to fit the paradigm...at least that seems to be the wisdom of trade-offs in computer security.

RickMay 21, 2011 6:32 PM

I can't wait to get a copy. But the issue of "trust of non-kin" isn't all that difficult. As a society becomes more complex (law, technology, etc.) each individual knows less about what he needs to survive. Hence, we hire "experts."

When I look for an expert, how do I decide that they actually know what they're talking about? I can't evaluate well they're technical ability or I could do the job myself.

The more complicated the society, the more likely I am to "have to trust" somebody.

RonboMay 22, 2011 3:31 PM

Crimes for profit or lust are parasitic, can the same argument be made for politically or religiously motivated terrorists? Their intent is not to get a free ride, or to abscond with resources, but to change policy and/or behavior.

Thus it becomes not a criminal matter (by this argument), but more a matter of military defense.

Which goes to the heart of why we have fundamentally two types of security: military, and civil/criminal.

In turn, is security of, say, transportation systems military, or civil/criminal? It is aimed at both types of threats, and yet is constrained by the civil liberty restraints of the latter. Is this realistic, or even feasible?

I think much of the debate about the limits of screening, checkpoints, rights versus privileges, really turns on whether people perceive the basic function as defending against essentially philosophical enemies (terrorists), or parasitic ones.

VlesMay 23, 2011 2:56 AM

Writing a book on why security exists.. I figured I'd google "why does security exist?" and found this:

http://www.rexano.org/SecuritySuperstition.pdf

I'm musing:

Security is but a heavily inflated, artificially created value-laden man-made "bubble" (self sustaining?), a frame work if you will, used to safe guard its member individuals by way of providing them a safe/comfort zone. This comfort zone is in essence an illusion...!
An artificial environment (it is not natural) within a non-cooperative(hostile) system. This "bubble" employs multiple mechanisms, involving the basic 4 mentioned and not excluding others, to enable it to cope with - as well as in - a dynamic hostile environment, also keeps tabs on its own integrity. Multiple bubbles exists within our hostile aquarium and more so than ever these bubbles want to connect.
As mankind evolved, or should I offer: As our our increasingly global and connected world eroded, or made less important, the distinction offered by morals & reputation [*] in trapping deceit or establishing trust, the emphasis has shifted towards rules&laws and "technical security systems" to provide better truth validator mechanisms and reputation scoreboards. .. but these are not proving sufficient in controlling the "parasites"?
In an interconnected IT age, where your real reputation can be distributed, partially hidden or altered among multiple identities, where morality is just as "fleeting" and goverments have yet to come to grips with a set of rules and laws that can reliably enforced, there is a real problem in defining a true "code" of global interchange. Enter "technical security systems"?

[*] For example: Banking morals...trust scandals... and everyone's reputation on ebay approaches 5 stars...

Perhaps the parasites are the individuals who realize security is nothing but an illusion, at best a temporary safehouse, and are able to float in and out of this "safe bubble"? Are they on the outside, in the layer between the safe bubble / honest majority and the hostile environment or can they also be a major node within the framework of the bubble itself? Are they everywhere?

Maybe "parasites" are part of the security of the self-sustaining bubble? Constitute the bubble's immune system, such as our own internal white blood cells? (Someone mentioned system testers...)
...By being "somewhat" evil, therefore being able to recognise real/big evil? (evil foreign parasites?)

The honest majority has long decided that to live with a dishonest minority is worth the cost... Perhaps they help filter "Truth" and "Value".
For example, I hypothesise if there's a cost but no value, parasites will protect you.
Digital media pirates being in essence good "parasites" in highlighting a severe problem with what's value in the digital age? The switch to online streaming revenue models show it's no longer so much about the content as it is about the way of access (which holds value).... Soon optical discs will go the way of the dodo, and secure online streaming will make digital "piracy" less attractive...? Can one argue then that digital piracy/parasites instigates this change?

As Bruce stands at the extreme end within the technical field of security systems, he is able to offer us some unique insights and I find it fascincating to hear so many people discuss this phenomenon. Many books I haven't heard of and would like to read...

Furthermore, for Bruce, thanks for your blog. I read it with great interest :o)

We hear the man philosophise
He's grown older, he's grown wiser
We hear him explore: 'Why?'
And in the process, perhaps
rearviewmirror-checked his purpose,
explore the results of his passion
and his labours on this earth

For when young he entered on this path
To make for better security?
To hold at bay a 'dishonest' minority?
A struggle which never seems to end...

Over your shoulder, behind you
A vast field of numbers and numbers
Come time they prove never long lasting;
Always in flux... To what end?
Is there an end?

Travelling in a leaky boat
- in constant need of redesign -
we float on a rocky ocean
from Alice to Bob
We remain in motion forever.

asdMay 23, 2011 3:11 AM

If a traffic law(say right hand rule) is a pain, but there isn't strong enough motivation to change it, it will stay in effect until something makes it change for worse(cyclist) or better(car heads). If it changes to say the left hand rule, the problem will still be there for the future to then solve in different ways. Unless you close down all the paths that the right hand rule can lead to, you will never win, ie switch everything to public transport.

GlennMay 23, 2011 12:42 PM

I'm not sure Tragedy of the Commons (from your Feb/15 post on Societal Security) is a fallout of the dishonest minority. Rather, I think it (the tragedy) is a natural consequence of multiple individuals sharing a limited resource without feedback on the long-term state of that resource, without some governance of their shared interest in the Commons. Dishonest individuals will exacerbate this situation, but even if all uses of the Commons are honest, the long term tragedy will still play out.

Rick FMay 24, 2011 1:01 PM

So many interesting comments -- I wish I had time to read them all. My comment relates to the power struggle and king's interest paragraph of yout thesis. The fact that those in power want to stay in power does not seem to be inherently dishonest (althought the folks at PolitiFact.com are starting to change my mind about that). But your comment on those who are honest being those who follow the rules seems out of place. Following the rules does not make one honest or dishonest -- it makes one a conformist.

One the one hand, you are addressing the members of society who prey on society. Those in power are necessarily preying on all of society -- they are preying on their political opposition. This seems to be a different aspect from the thief/arsonist/cracker that you describe in your main paragraphs. Will it be a significant part of your book? If not, it might not need to be called out in your thesis statement / introduction.

uair01May 25, 2011 2:42 PM

I'm a big fan of Nasser Saber's blog "Dialectics of Finance". He gives many poignant examples of how the system is being played against the consumer and how dishonesty is not "minor" anymore but systemic. This might be a case against your implication that society is a "self regulating" system. One example from this blog:

----- If you live in the US, you are familiar with the Geico lizard. Thanks to saturation advertising on TV, Internet and in the print media, there is no escaping the talking reptile that pushes Geico car insurance with an Australian accent.

The hook is lower premium–music to ears of the mortgage-ridden US drivers in the age of high gasoline prices. But how could Geico charge less, spend millions on advertising and still make money? What gives?

Credit the company’s business model, most unorthodox for an insurance company but of the kind that these times simultaneously demand and create.

Geico refuses to pay the claims. Of course, it cannot do so openly and directly. So it opts for the next practicable solution: it discounts the claims with a vengeance. The damage to your car is $1000? Geico offers $150. If you refuse the offer and sue, the company fights through repeated appeals until the time and expenses of litigation wears you off. This is done openly. So the contingency-fee lawyers are also put on notice that taking on Geico would be prohibitively expensive. At the end, the discouraged drivers give in. Geico wins. ----

Links:
http://dialecticsoffinance.blogspot.com/2008/04/...
http://dialecticsoffinance.blogspot.com/

BTBMay 26, 2011 8:49 AM

Very interesting...I'm a generally good person and get frustrated when I see social systems reward those who abuse them. I've often said, "In a polite society, people who are impolite can easily take advantage of others because everyone's too polite to call them on it." Same principle here.

I consider the fact that people often call me 'too nice' to be a character flaw that needs work. :)

I'll also share something a favorite Anthropology professor once told me: "Good and Evil will always be relative terms. Typically, 'Good' means 'anything that I as an individual like' and 'Evil' means 'anything that I don't like or don't want'. Societies support these definitions by group consensus, but the degree always varies by the individual."

PackagedBlueMay 26, 2011 3:13 PM

Labyrinths of Reason: Paradox, Puzzles And The Frailty Of Knowledge, by William Poundstone, 1988.

A book that might help some with deal with uncertainty and decisions with "society" and "security."

The Twin Earth, and Searle's Chinese Room, are absolutely crazy freaking fun, for those starting out in the world.

PleasancoderJune 2, 2011 1:15 AM

Another good example of Societal Security (or Stability) is Wikipedia, with thousands of people editing and correcting each other. In most cases, the quality turns out to be good. There are some "dishonest minority", in case of wikipedia "disruptive editors", however, Wiki has an Arbitration Committee to police them. Here is a sample case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

So shall we say that societal security of wikipedia is well institutionalized?

El FarolJune 5, 2011 11:25 AM

Thoughts I had while scanning your book spec:

Game theory, minority games, it starts small, bottom-up vs. top-down, societal engineering, security maximization = risk minimization, public sector risk management, privacy vs. transparency, resilience, social immune systems, societal immune systems, power structures, power asymmetries, societal (control) models, societal (control) technologies, societal development...

Will you pre-publish new chapters online?

Patrick WestJune 24, 2011 5:43 AM

I'd suggest

"The Five Percent" or
"The ten Percent" or
"The Twenty Percent"

Whatever number you best feel reflects your "out of step" Minority.


Something to get you away from judgemental words, as you point out dishonest is a loaded word. Using it will without doubt cause reviewers to bash you.

Indeed trying to redefine a word to suit your purpose is by your own definition dishonest. If one believes "The idea behind the title is that "honesty" is defined by social convention, then those that don't follow the social conventions are by definition dishonest. "

I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses. We are banned in about 35 places in the world at this time. We would strongly object to being called "Dishonest" yet by redefining the term you would place all seven million of us into your "Dishonest" group.

Perhaps in the book you should coin a new term or resurrect one that has fallen out of common usage rather than using such a loaded word.


So title: "The Ten Percent"
Subtitle: "Security and its Role in Modern Society"

Patrick West
Portland, Oregon, USA

JWFJuly 3, 2011 3:06 PM

The builders of the 10000 year "Clock of Long Now are having to figure out how to keep the destructive minority (assuming it stays a minority), from plundering the clock over it's life.

Hopefully the book will cover their viewpoints, problems, and the security issues of protecting something long after all present laws and cultures have become OBE.

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