Given the names of two suspects and their associated meta data (phone calls in 2001, since that was pre Facebook), the NSA constructed this network:
As powerful as that map appears for reconstructing the crime, it does not provide the same power to prevent crimes before they happen. Take this example:
This is a social network constructed from 17th century records of who was a member of which colonial clubs, excerpted here:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Analyzing this network using NSA techniques would quickly reveal the ten people who were the central instigators in the early phase of the American Revolution:
And Paul Revere is suspect number one. Lets assume the British had NSA capabilities and eliminated Paul Revere with a personal drone strike, leaving Thomas Urann, Warren Joseph, Samuel Peck, Nathaniel Barber, and the rest.
Is the problem solved?
No, of course not. These other central members of the network will move up the chain and continue connecting the hundreds of American terrorist sympathizers together. The agent has been eliminated but the idea remains.
So what if the British remove (with another 17th century drone strike) all ten of these guys at the core — anyone with a score over 800? A small price to pay for liberty (as defined by King George), right?
How many rounds of this will it take before the network collapses? Now THIS is an interesting question, because it presupposes that the network WILL collapse if we hit it with enough cruise missiles and drone strikes. Unless you plan to eliminate the whole population of sympathizers their families, and any kids who would grow up to become sympathizers (also known as genocide), it won’t.
So if you refuse to commit genocide, wouldn’t total information about a person’s thinking allow you to only eliminate people who plotted the government’s overthrow? In other words, would the “mind police” win the war on terror?
Probably. But that is a high price to pay for “freedom.” Essentially you’ve won the freedom to exist so long as you threaten nobody in power.
But if genocide and ending free thought are off the table, I’m beginning to think that no amount of “ballistic thinking” will ever eliminate the threats posed by networks of “terrorists.” The real solution is to address the root causes of discontent — as copious documents from the 17th century confirm about the American Revolution. If King George had simply allowed Americans a few paltry representatives in Parliament, they would have accepted the inequality and burdens of the mercantilist system for centuries to come.
These are the types of questions I’m researching in my prosperity book.
Singer Mark Ereli sums up this predicament this way:
I could shut my windows
Bolt my doors
But if I don’t feel safe enough
To speak my mind anymore
Then what’s the use
I’ve nothing left to lose
And no farther to fall
It was a nightmare
No tongue can tell
The streets of New York city
Looked just like the gates of Hell
In a flash
The smoke and the ash
Falling down like rain
But they circled wagons
They gathered round
As they bravely pulled their brothers
And their sisters from the ground
And I know I owe them more than to be afraid
Why seek vengeance?
What comes of war?
I know freedom has a price
But it doesn’t keep score
It’s too much to swallow
It’s left me hollow
After all this time
So I’m gonna love
I’m gonna believe
I’m still gonna dream
But I’m gonna roll up my sleeves
Give everything until I’ve nothing left to give
That’s the only way that I know how to live