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SXSW: Al Gore Talks Surveillance Culture, Spider Goats 260

Nerval's Lobster writes "Former vice president Al Gore sat down with Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg at this year's SXSW conference to talk about the future — specifically, what Gore sees as the dangers and opportunities awaiting the planet for the next few years. Gore drilled down into what he referred to as the "stalker economy." The rise of apps such as SnapChat, which allows smartphone users to control how long friends can view messages, is emblematic of people reaching the "gag point" with pervasive recording and surveillance by government and business. "Our democracy has been hacked," Gore also told his audience, referring to the U.S. Constitution as "our operating system." While there's never been a "golden age" of American Democracy, he added, the perils emerging today are new. "If a Congressman or Senator has to spend five hours a day begging special interests or rich people for money," he said, they'll be more concerned about how what they're saying will appeal to those interests—rather than their constituents. In yet another tangent, Gore railed against genetic engineering, including Spider Goats, which are goats with spliced spider DNA that allows them to secrete spider silk along with their milk. The goats breed, extending that trait to future generations. Gore sees such things as a case of science run amok, alternately creepy and scary."
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SXSW: Al Gore Talks Surveillance Culture, Spider Goats

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  • democracy hacked? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @09:07PM (#43134429) Homepage Journal

    The flow of money into the U.S. political system, he argued, and the need by politicians to fundraise has led to special interests gaining undue power.

    âoeOur democracy has been hacked,â Gore told his audience, referring to the U.S. Constitution as âoeour operating system.â While thereâ(TM)s never been a âoegolden ageâ of American Democracy, he added, the perils emerging today are new. âoeIf a Congressman or Senator has to spend five hours a day begging special interests or rich people for money,â he said, theyâ(TM)ll be more concerned about how what theyâ(TM)re saying will appeal to those interestsâ"rather than their constituents.

    Special interests are inevitable in a system that allows politicians to set the rules for businesses and individuals in the first place. The politicians are the ones that hacked the Constitution, they hacked the Law. They figured out how to remove the chains that were placed upon the government to bind it, to provide it with only limited powers (article 1, section 8). Once the politicians found the way (it was easy once the Republic became wealthy enough due to all the business that thrived under the mostly free market system in the first 124 years of the Republic), just promise the people something for nothing and they will vote for you and will let you do whatever you want to the Law. The politicians turned the Republic into a democracy by promising a bunch of stuff to be given out as subsidies and it was popular, because the promise was to make only a minority of people to pay for it (discrimination against a minority based on different levels of income).

    So the more power that the government stole from the people by promising them free stuff, the more lucrative it became for politicians to keep power and the more competitive the field of politics became because it brought with it much more power than it was ever designed to give to the politicians.

    Politicians are today's Rock Stars, they live better than the rest of the public, they get all this respect for some reason, they get the best deals on everything (trust me, companies like large banks, credit card companies, even phone companies have lists of 'higher class' people to provide a much better service and not to bug in case they break the rules, and these lists include politicians and their various friends).

    It's lucrative to be a politician, and so it is very competitive and it gives so much power that wasn't meant to be there, that's why there is all this money pouring in - those are bribes to leave people alone in many cases.

  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @09:20PM (#43134483) Homepage Journal

    oh, and it's a very interesting case. Current TV got all this access to various networks, you think that's a coincidence? You think you can start a media company and just get access to various networks and distributors? The entire concept was predicated on the Gore's persona, his ties to the government. He is a perfect example of the problem that he himself talks about.

    Money in politics? How did Gore become partial owner of Fisker [], a "car company" that just happened to get 529Billion USD subsidy (a loan) and ended up building luxury (90K Fisker Karma) sedans in Finland? Never mind the hypocrisy of this 'climate change' warrior, profiting from a gov't loan, given to a company that outsourced to another country manufacturing of a expensive luxury gas guzzler (20m/gallon)

    Hey, hypocrisy is thick with this one.

  • Sad to see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tagged_84 ( 1144281 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @09:26PM (#43134513)
    Sad to see his stance on genetic engineering is so negative. How does he expect us to recover so many extinct species and continue to advance if we don't master our biological side?

    Those goats aren't being thrown out in the wild to breed, they're being used to create stronger materials that will likely be used to protect us from the dangers of climate change. Sure we have risks of contamination, but to be put off advancement because of what-ifs would mean we'd still be in caves fearing the wrath of fire.
  • by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @09:36PM (#43134575)

    Bravo! All attempts to limit political contributions are doomed to fail, as the incentives to bypass such limits are too enormous. The only solution is to reduce the power of the government as a whole. This entirely opposite to the policies of both the Democrats and Republicans.

    Al Gore himself is a fine example, having incentivized thousands of lobbyists around the world, while stomping around with the carbon footprint of a mastodon.

  • Re:manbearpig! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @09:39PM (#43134589)
    it's only one small step from spider goats to the crossbreeding breeding of manbears and bearpigs.
  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @10:00PM (#43134689) Journal

    Wag the dog.. Business sets the rules.. Government enforces them... Who do you think has the resources to set up a government to begin with? Business and government are not competing interests. They are symbiotic, unable to exist on their own. Together they set up a wonderful system where the slaves actually believe they are free because they can buy lots of trinkets.

  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @10:00PM (#43134693) Homepage Journal

    Business really didn't thrive.

    - orly? USA was built in that time period. The debts (mostly private) were all paid out as the country became largest manufacturer in the world in that time period. In that time period basically all major cities were built around manufacturing and shipping hubs, the infrastructure was built privately. The 'booms and busts' of the time happened exactly around every incident of gov't meddling with the economy, and of-course the Civil War didn't help matters. And yet, including the War and all the problems, by the beginning of 20th century USA became largest manufacturer, exporter and creditor nation in the world (and it achieved it in even less than that time period, and before it was really just an afterthought to European nations, a large debtor as well).

    In that time period millions of people got access to ever cheaper food, clothing, medical help, inventions and innovations were done in USA, people came from all around the world to work there because they saw it as the real land of opportunity specifically because there was no government intervention (especially compared to their home countries).

    The banking problems were minor compared to the total disaster that is at hand today, with all the banks being zombies, walking dead, artificially propped up by fake Fed credit. The money of the time was real and gaining in value and prices were going down while more goods were coming on line that never even existed before.

    AFAIC comparatively speaking 19th century USA created more wealth and the actual real middle class than 20th century USA (don't get me started on the current century) and all of that was done with much higher 'income inequality' than we see anywhere in the world today, proving that people are really only limited to how much they can produce, save and invest by the political system, not by market itself. The billionaires of today are children compared to the billionaires (taking inflation into account) of the 19th century and everybody's well being and standard of living was actually rising.

  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @10:10PM (#43134745) Homepage Journal

    Oh please, that's naive nonsense. You really believe that by making it illegal to take bribes there will be no bribes? It's illegal to take bribes in most parts of the world and the bribes never stop.

    In USA the bribes are taken to a different level with so much gov't rules and regulations and taxes and offices, that it is just impossible at all to make something illegal in the first place and even if you made it illegal the money would find way. You really think you can stop the money?

    No, you can only choke the power of the ruling class, if they are not allowed to take away your freedom and offer it to the highest bidders, then they can't sell anything.

  • by CncRobot ( 2849261 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @10:10PM (#43134751)

    When Bill Clinton was president he sold top secret ICBM technology to the Chinese in return for cash donations to the DNC, specifically his and Gore's election campaigns. This is fact. When asked about it during a debate between Gore and Bush, Gore's response was "No controlling legal authority" meaning that Janet Reno was the only one authorized to prosecute and she was told not to.

    I really have a hard time listening to Gore, especially when it comes to campaign contributions. What he and Clinton did was treason, period, and he abused his power to not be prosecuted.

  • Spider goats (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @10:15PM (#43134765) Homepage Journal

    I used to own stock in the company that made spider goats.

    When it was first announced I thought it was a great idea and would lead to a business producing a useful product. Spider silk is strong stuff which and would have many useful applications such as lightweight rope and lightweight body armor.

    Although the goats made the spider silk proteins, the company never figured out the trick of making actual silk. Some process in the spinnerets of the spiders turns the proteins into silk, and the company was unable to reproduce this effect.

    They sold off the IP for the process, and vanished into obscurity. I don't think anyone has figured out what the missing step was. (This was a couple of years ago - may have been solved since.)

    I see nothing wrong with using animals in this way - as factories for producing useful products. The goats weren't mistreated (unlike chickens we raise for food). We do the same thing with other animals without the genetic engineering aspect - wool from sheep, for example.

  • Why on earth your comment is scoring +2 is beyond me, or any other sentient being.

    promising a bunch of stuff to be given out as subsidies and it was popular, because the promise was to make only a minority of people to pay for it (discrimination against a minority based on different levels of income).

    That statement would only be true if the US used a progressive taxation system. However, as the US taxation system is the most regressive in the world - and is a part of why the US has the most highly skewed distribution of wealth of any industrialized nation - your claim is 100% bullshit. If anything, the taxation system effectively results in those with the least paying the most for handouts to those who already have the most.

    the more lucrative it became for politicians to keep power

    Except that you are championing the cause of the first family of fascism, who are politicians that are seeking unlimited power for unlimited time. That is the highest possible accomplishment of keeping power, and how your church aims to produce fascism for the people.

  • by Marxdot ( 2699183 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @10:30PM (#43134827)

    tl;dr, roman_mir implies that democracy and proper self-determination is "tyrannical" and makes thinly-veiled wishes for a de jure dictatorship of industrialists, as usual.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @10:58PM (#43134961) Journal

    It's lucrative to be a politician, and so it is very competitive and it gives so much power that wasn't meant to be there

    Yet another reason to keep as much power as possible as local as possible. If some small town or large city gets corrupt, it doesn't affect the rest of us. But if the federal government is corrupt, it affects all of us. And it's a lot harder to deal with federal government corruption than local government corruption.

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:21AM (#43135287)
    Al Gore is right on one thing. Since the politician who gathers the most campaign contributions tends to win elections, we have a system in place now where the best sell outs get in office. This means politicians do things like make pork projects to special interests, and the special interests pay them kickbacks, all increasing the national debt. At one point the phone company and monopolies were supposed to be regulated by the government. Now corporations regulate the government by writing the legislation for them. Unless we change how campaign contributions work, the system will eventually fail because the national debt's interest becomes more and more of the total tax dollars taken in. Politicians in charge now won't change campaign contributions, because that's how they get paid, that's how they play the game and feel they're winning. But the people's interest aren't always the same interests as corporate interests, and the politicians might not give a damn about the people, but just themselves. This is the biggest problem of democracy as I see it now.
  • Re:manbearpig! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:27AM (#43135307)

    Al Gore's views on GMO are idiotic. GMO goats are the least of our concern. They don't spread their DNA in windblown pollen like GMO crops, and they have none of the potential dangers of GMO microorganisms. So now we are going to regulate genetic engineering, not on legitimate risks, but on the unscientific "yuck factor"?

  • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:53AM (#43135381)

    The only solution is to reduce the power of the government as a whole. This entirely opposite to the policies of both the Democrats and Republicans.

    The Libertarians have been suggesting this remedy for decades now, but neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem particularly interested. The Republicans at least pay lip service to smaller and more limited government, but never actually do much to achieve it, while Democrats are openly hostile to even the suggestion of it; It's anathema to them. So our problems with large, powerful and intrusive government are likely to continue and increase in the years ahead as they have for decades now.

  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Monday March 11, 2013 @01:08AM (#43135435) Homepage Journal

    Believe it or not, you are not a slave.

    I didn't know I was a slave until I found out I couldn't do the things I wanted. - Frederick Douglass

    The thing about slavery is that there have been so many forms with various levels of freedom. And then variations like serfdom and helotry.

    What would be your test for whether a person is a slave - a test that would encompass all historical forms of slavery? Find that test and apply it to modern subjects of nation states to see where they fall. Apply some small variations ("plus they are allowed to insult the master"). Measure against the legal theory that slaves have no inherent right to property and compare it to up-to-100% of income being subject to confiscation. See where the chips may fall.

    In the US, at least, the traditional definition of 'citizen' ("a oath of allegiance in exchange for a duty of protection") isn't in play as the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the argument that the government has any duty to protect its People. What we are here is a very open question, from a legal history perspective.

  • by mvdwege ( 243851 ) <> on Monday March 11, 2013 @01:37AM (#43135521) Homepage Journal

    And yet you completely skip over the point that most of the 19th Century prosperity in the USA was made on the work of the Federal army in cleaning out those pesky natives from the resources the settlers wanted.

    Scratch a libertard, find a good old-fashioned oligarch underneath.

  • by FranTaylor ( 164577 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @03:33AM (#43135851)

    If we dismiss arguments with "the speaker is a hypocrite" then NOBODY will EVER listen to ANYBODY because we are ALL hypocrites.

    FOR GOODNESS SAKE, stop associating ideas with the mouths from which they emerge, and



  • by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @04:53AM (#43136031) Homepage
    It was the Commerce Clause (that the Supreme Court misinterpreted), paired with the Necessary and Proper Clause, that killed the Republic. Once Congress got the ability to regulate intrastate commerce, the game was over.
  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @05:37AM (#43136175) Homepage Journal

    Correct, and as usual the intent was different from what is implemented now. The intent was for the federal gov't to increase competition between States, not to create monopolies. To do it, federal gov't was supposed to prevent individual States from setting rules that would for example require re-licensing of businesses and different professionals from one state to another. However that's exactly what is happening. They even have licenses for taxis and moving companies, never mind professionals like commodity traders or doctors or lawyers or engineers or builders, etc.

    However that's what the point was - to prevent States from each requiring a different license for every type of situation. The power that Congress had was to regulate the act of interstate commerce but not to regulate a company itself!

    Once the gov't got a way to tax and regulate companies and not the act of trade itself, that's it, it was over and the SCOTUS didn't stop it at all, it helped the power, didn't contain it.

    AFAIC 'interpreting the Constitution' really means breaking the law, nothing else. [] (the reasons are in that JE)

    SCOTUS has given up on its role, which is to stop the gov't from passing laws that are contrary to the Constitution. I touched on the ACA decision [], showing how the law is bent to make it look 'Constitutional' and even how eventually the lower courts will take it further, by inevitably mis-understanding the ruling by SCOTUS and will ensure that eventually ACA will be enforced in a way that is not even deemed Constitutional by that ruling itself.

    That's the same thing that happened for all other cases, including income tax [] (which doesn't even exist as a law for individuals, the amendment to the Constitution required that SCOTUS would eventually clarify how the law is supposed to be used and enforced and in the process SCOTUS clarified that 'income tax' is actually a 'profit tax' and as such it can only apply to corporations and not to individuals). But the lower courts have enforced the non-existing law based on the wrong reading of the SCOTUS decisions and I think it is done deliberately.

    Congress passes an unconstitutional law, SCOTUS finds reasons to justify the law as marginally Constitutional for some special case scenario, the lower courts then themselves apply and interpret the ruling in a much broader, completely incorrect manner and that's it, now you have what they like to call 'precedent'.

    The entire problem with precedent is that regardless of how it was established, now they say they must follow it! Amazing, isn't it? But that's a really clever hack of the political system.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle