Hacking Society, Hacking Humanity
10:55PM Jul 25, 2020
Hi, welcome back to the whole 2020 conference. Our next session is called hacking society and hacking humanity with the preeminent Bruce Schneier, who has to take it right off to Bruce, thank you for being with us, Bruce, welcome.
Thank you and thank you all for showing up. I know this is hard not being together. I was looking forward to hope to DEF CON,
to a lot of things and now we're all home but I appreciate you spending the next hour with me. A little of the talk is hacking society hacking humanity. The real title of the talk is What Bruce Schneier is thinking about right now, I want to talk about hacking. And
this talk will last maybe most of the session a little less, and then we'll take questions. So if you have questions, put them in the chat, and then they'll be read to me because I'm not gonna be able to read and speak to us because I have old eyes. So let's talk about hacking. Let's talk about it generally, let's talk about hacking the tax code. The tax code is code. It's an algorithm that has inputs and an output. But it has vulnerabilities. We call them tax loopholes. It has exploits we call them tax avoidance strategies. And it has blackhat hackers find these exploits and we tend to call them tax accountants or tax attorneys. And I think is a very straightforward way of thinking about hacking of a non computer system. It's really what I've been thinking About what I want to talk about. So, the definition of a hack me it is something the system permits is unanticipated and unwanted by the designers. It's something that is technically allowed, but feels like a cheat. Another definition I'm kind of working with is a clever unintended exploitation of a system that one subverts the rules or norms the system to at the expense of some other part of the system. So you can we can we can see how these apply to computers, and how they can apply to to other things as well. Hacking is a subjective term encompasses the notion of novelty and cleverness and exploitation. It's taking advantage of the system. It's a subversion. Intended and unantcipated I think is important.
hacks follow the rules of this system, but subvert the goal Or the intent. If we were to hack zoom, we would do something that zoom permits, but that its designers or coders really didn't want to permit. We hacked the tax code, we would do something that would be technically illegal.
But those who wrote that code the the IRS or the Congress or you know, whatever legislative body produces the laws or regulations didn't anticipate.
So hacks are perpetrated on systems.
A system to me is an interconnected interrelated set of rules or norms designed for some purpose. So we can think of the system that is zoom the system that is the tax code, I'm going to talk about the system that is a market, the market economy, the system that is Are legislative systems designed isn't exactly right. You know, there's not always a des igner. Someone didn't design market capitalism. A lot of people had their hand in designing the US system for passing laws. So maybe assembled is better. intent or purpose isn't necessarily right. There isn't always a purpose. Everyone agrees on. What is the purpose of our unemployment system? The purpose of our tax code functionality might be better. But I'm okay with the sloppiness here. These are good enough to work with.
You know, we're dealing with societal systems. sloppy and precise is is probably okay.
These are very general definitions. Hacks against computer systems against the tax code, the market economy, our system of passing laws, our system for choosing legislatures and leaders. Talk a little bit about our cognitive systems.
This is my big idea.
We normally think of hackers, as a sort of countercultural loners going against big powerful systems turns out to be wrong. Most often the hackers are the rich and powerful subverting systems to increase their power. Hacking is how our systems are subverted, but it's also how systems evolve. Did a hack I'm thinking about start out as hacks, become normal, become the law become regular. The hack frameworks very useful to understand and maybe solve problems in these social systems. And most importantly, when we start thinking about artificial intelligence, computers moving into more creative roles, figuring out ways to answer questions. They in fact will be hacking systems in a way where we're both used to and not used to. That's going to be my point. So, I have about 11 general observations, intersperse them with different examples.
1. Hacking is ubiquitous.
All systems can be hacked. I think there is some theorem here like Godels completeness theorem.
All systems will have loopholes somewhere. consistencies places where they're incomplete. might mean mostly we think about computers and computerized systems. We can think about hacks against professional sports acts against airline frequent flyer miles systems, economic clinics. A system is just a set of rules or norms, right? I mean, there have to be codified rules, they could be just sort of the rules we all know to follow. They could be rules that we create rules that we are handed, we can actually talk about how COVID hacks our immune system. And it's a perfectly reasonable conversation we would have, because we talk about the intent of the immune system, even though there's no designer and no actual intent, how COVID subverts the processes we have in our body and our immune system about HIV and AIDS in the same way.
And so even the best thought out set of rules will be incomplete and inconsistent. And there'll be things that designers haven't thought about and the world around the system changes. A system designed in one environment migrates into a different environment. And hacks that didn't exist before are now possible. We know all about this interview happens more generally to as long as there are people who want to subvert the goals of the system, there will be hacks. In a sense, people are originality engines. hacks are a normal part of this.
So we can think about hacks against ATM machines and conferences like this. We've heard many talks about different hacks of ATM machines. We can talk about hacks against airline frequent flyer programs. If you fly a lot if you flew a lot, I flew a lot. We learned about mileage runs, ways you can optimize number of miles you get so they worth more than the ticket you purchase. Certainly something the airlines didn't intend when they're putting these rules in place. Some of you might remember the story of the pudding guy. This is 1999 healthy choice which is a food producer as a tie in, where you get frequent flyer miles for buying their products. There is one person who search for the cheapest qualifying product he could find. Turned out to be single serving pudding cups. He bought about 12,000 of them at 25 cents each. He got 1.2 million miles or a little over $2,000 he donated the pudding cups to charity and got a tax write off is totally a hack of the system. Closer to the work we do we think about hacks against casino games.
card counting the the MIT group acts against sports. I mean sports are surprisingly often hacked and a lot of the rules that we see today as normal started out as hacks. In 1951, in baseball, some manager set up a center three and a half foot tall batter images out on the field. Because he had such a small strike zone. We know the first person, the first person who realized that you can curve your hockey stick, have the puck, fly a lot faster and get off the ice and change the game really forever.
Since that person made that discovery made that hack the Governing Board of hockey I think three or four times has changed the rule in the amount of curvature. Formula One racing is full of hacks. One year when some team fielded a six wheel car. When said you can't do that, and they hand them the rulebook, and said show me and within about eight months, the rulebook said that cars can have no more or Actually no less just in case than four wheels.
Everything is hacked, and hacks are parasitical
Hackers are trying to subvert the goal of the system to their own private goal, the expense of the rest of the system, they're trying to gain some advantage for themselves. But if the system fails, the hack fails too. The ATM machine hacks are so successful that there are no more ATM machines, then there's no more hacking of ATM machine. Hockey disbanded because someone curved their stick and no one could figure out what to do about it. No curve stick, no hockey the hack doesn't work. And so like any parasite hackers can't be too successful.
And I don't mean this sort of perjoratively. People are behaving rationally in their self interest.
Parasites are a perfectly normal part of our biosphere. So people have their academic financial self interest, or maybe their emotional, political, ethical self interest. Sometimes out of necessity, the systems are stacked against them. But they might have a goal to destroy the system. I'll talk about that a bit later. And you can see a lot of hacks in finance. Regulation q was a long standing United States banking regulation was hacked repeatedly over the decades. The 1970s there's something called a now account, then the rules of interest are very strict. You can only charge certain interest for what they call demand accounts accounts that you can withdraw the money whenever you want. If you had timed accounts, where you had to keep the money in the account for some fixed length of time, you could give more interest. Thanks figured out a way to have what was legally at Time to count, as far as the customer is concerned was a demand account.
Really a hack
2010 Dodd Frank, regulation put in place after the financial crisis 2008. And the past decade, there are repeated hacks. those rules are hedge funds. Nothing but a series of hacks. There are lots of hacks, kits, financial exchanges, insider trading, front running,
where you have a you're a trader and you got to do the trade with somebody else. But you trade on the information that you know before. That is illegal, but it's totally a half. Frequency Trading is a hack that that is now a normal part of financial exchanges. Certainly unintended and unanticipated by those who built those exchanges, versus verse a lot of the mechanisms but it's normal. T
his brings me to point three hacks often become normalized. We're not used to that in computers, computers, a hack is found, and it is patched. You move out to broader systems, that often doesn't happen. So there's sort of a process, the hackers discovered and used, becomes more popular slowly. governing system learns about it. And then one of two things happen. They've changed the system to prevent the hack. Computers, it's a patch in the tax code would be a new law in financial exchanges would be some new new regulation. Or the hack gets incorporated into the system. So the hack becomes default. This doesn't always happen deliberately. Sometimes nothing happens and that hack gets normalized over time. It becomes the new normal. Many of the things we think is normal started out as hacks. Think about all the hacks on Banking and Finance and tons of hacks are are mostly legal. Are the new normal. Sometimes they're retro actively declared legal. Sometimes they are declared illegal. Most the time they're just left alone. Legal hacks against our political system. The filibuster is totally a hack. You know, it's over a century old and it is now normal actually its older than that. It was a hack invented in the Roman Senate. All business had to be completed by sundown. And if you didn't stop talking, business would never be completed. Not giving a Supreme Court justice a hearing is a hack. And we actually don't know yet whether it'll be normal or not.
We can think about hacking economic systems, monopolies too big to fail as a half.
VC funding is a hack of market economics. Markets are based on knowledgeable buyers making decisions amongst competing products. pressure to sell to those buyers, depresses prices and incense innovation. That's the way the market works. That's the system. VC money injected from the side hacks that process, which is why you see so many completely unprofitable business models surviving would not survive in the normal system. And the best strategy for startups take enormous risks to be successful because your funding going out you'll be dead otherwise. And you can do it without worrying whether you're destroying something. This is a vulnerability. This is a half over is totally new work.
I guess we were watching brings you to my fourth point is about money. Again, we normally think of hacking as something in disempowered do against powerful systems is more common that the wealthy act systems to their own advantage. There they are better able to discover hacks because they can devote more resources to the problem. They can buy expertise that they need to be better able to leverage hacks.
These hacks more likely become normalized, because the wealthy can use their influence on that normalization process. Other ways we hack laws. I mentioned Uber being a hack just on VC funding. But Uber is full of hacks because Uber hacks quite a lot of the regulations, regulations, rounds, round taxis and limousines, Airbnb. A lot of the regulations around hotels and short term rental properties. A lot of hacks involving jurisdictional interactions. There's a very famous tax hack, which is now illegal, but companies like Apple and Google used it for for many years involve the tax codes of Ireland and the Netherlands and some offshore tax haven and the United States. interactions between those four tax codes allow these companies to shield Norris has income from from freely from any tax at all.
At this point, hacking is a way of exerting power. Hacking is a mechanism to gain personal power. The disempowered do it to subvert existing power structures. Ways to bypass bureaucracy A lot of the world has really no choice in the global systems that govern their lives. So they really have no option, but to hack them. People always hack systems that are causing them problems.
Powerful, do it to increase their own power. to influence the evolution of a system in their favor. is a difference in the type of hacking these two groups do. disempowered can be faster. But the powerful, more effective is mostly in our society. Money equals power. We can look at legislation, lots of hacks in the legislative system, provisions, bills that are voted on and people don't know about must pass legislation that you can slip riders in, that have to be passed. Automatic lawmaking US Congress has this weird system, like base closures. Nobody actually wants to vote on closing a base in their district and they can't for political reasons.
So they vote to establish a commission that will decide what basis to close. And then they have a vote, recorded on it. Wasted delay legislations, reading last week on a hacking in the Washington State Legislature where there are bills that are put in process that are basically blank. Later on, if someone needs to pass a law, they can go to an existing bill and make an amendment which basically means add stuff. Use that to hack whatever the process is about introducing legislation.
So my six point, context matters when evaluating a hack. We're talking a lot about hacks. Some are good, some are bad. Hacks subvert the intent of the system. But that's not always a bad thing. Some attacks are beneficial. Some of them are innovations. In order to decide whether to normalize a hack whether a hack should become the new normal, we need to consider the context in which the hack operates. Do we like the subverted system better? This is actually pretty easy to do. And as a singular designer, clear focus on what the system is. The computer systems, it's really easy. For a sport, I just focus on the good game and being entertaining human competition. Someone curves a hockey stick. The governing body can decide does this make the game better? It makes the game faster, makes the game more exciting. It became more dangerous. We could decide whether we're okay or not with that thing with I don't know a new tennis racket design. A new engine and fourmla 1 Racing new yacht design,
something or a new way of, of smacking the ball over your head and cricket. Easy in those systems, it's harder with in systems with multiple designers that evolve systems where there isn't one truth about the intent, the tax code, the market economy, or democracy. These do not have single intentions or goals. Like there's legitimate difference in opinion in the intent of these systems, which leads to legitimate different answers about what to do about a hack. And since the system has evolved, no one is right.
We could have legitimate debate. What do we think about the filibuster? administrative burdens blocking Supreme Court nominees from getting a Senate hearing? There's no right answer there.
Poiunt Seven hacking is how systems develop, adapt and evolve. Hacking is about finding novel failure modes. When those failure modes actually work, have unexpected outcomes and they can be positive. Hacks tend to be declared either legal or illegal by a more general system. And so we will talk about computer hacking, which the system will permit, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. more general system that basically says anything you do down here, we're going to declare illegal talked about governing bodies and professional sports. tax authorities serve this purpose. you invent a new tax hack. They are going to adjudicate it. They're going to decide that's okay. Or or that's not.
And systems evolve in this manner. We have actually a very general governing system that we use to adjudicate hacks. And it is our court system. judges decide on hacks all the time. There's a law. It has a loophole, I discover a hack, I use it. You say you can't do that you sue me. We go in front of a judge who looks at the system and says, Yeah, that's okay. It was allowed. You're stuck or no, that subverts the intent. That's that that's not allowed. And now we have case law.
That hack is now either legal or illegal. Just how the legal system incorporates beneficial hacks, how the legal system adapts to changing circumstances. And very important, the optimal level of hacking in a system is not zero. Hacking is a system of flexibility we need if it's a more urban system. It's a static system. In a changing world,
Evolution due to hacking can be faster or more a more efficient than developing the system through the normal channels. Because it incorporates the adversary into the system harnessed well, hacking accelerates system evolution.
You think a lot about hacking democracy. You're we're in the middle of a US election. There's a lot of talk about different hacks on the election process, and hacks on on how people vote and who gets to vote and what the processes are designed to subvert. The basic system of everyone gets to vote and we pick the winner. gerrymandering is a hack. The united States leaves money in politics, turns out to be hacked. misinformation is a hack. We can go into details on all of these and how they might work.
So my eighth point is that systems can be hacked to destruction. Remember, hacks are parasitical. And like any parasite, much hacking destroys the hostess, whereas the underlying system too many ATM machine hacks nor ATM machines.
Yeah, and we saw this a little bit in the 2008 banking crisis, that the system was hacked so badly that it might have collapsed completely. We're seeing shadows of it. From money in US politics, with with disinformation happens to extremes and political revolutions. Sort of all the mechanisms of society get hacked for a different intent. Well, hacking can be a good thing. There can be too much of it too quickly. A flexible system is matters here, and a rigid system can break if it's hacked, resilient system can evolve. In the face of hacks other hand, some systems need to be hacked in order to be destroyed.
We can think about a moral system systems of oppression. You think about collective action problems? Yeah, you know, we actually need to hack the system to destroy it to get a better system. thing I've been thinking about is, is hacking cognitive systems. And we as hackers in the computer field is familiar with that. There's an old adage that script kiddies hack computers and professionals hack people. Lots of attackers, hack people. And advertising can be a hack of our cognitive system of choice, social and psychological. Now it's very targeted. Lots of people have written about how modern modern targeted behavioral advertising affects our ability to rationally choose. I think of it as a hack. A lot of my democracy and free market examples readily, you know, sort of used persuasion as a hack, social media hacks or attention. I've written about how terrorism hacks fear me, basically, our system of fear is optimized for people living in small family groups in the East African Highlands in 100,000 BCE. It's not well designed for New York in in 2020. Terrorism directly targets are cognitive shortcuts about fear. Terrifying, it's vivid. It's a spectacle. It's random. tailor made for us to exaggerate the risk and overreact.
Just as a trust can be hacked, institutions by brands, others trying to manipulate us We naturally trust authority. And what that means can be hacked. Something in print isn't authority, the computer said so and be an authority. A lot of these kinds of heuristics are being abused. I can even say that junk food hacks is a biological system of food desirability, which also is based on 100,000 year old environment and dietary and is not based on modern fast process. That interesting a change in threats meant that we have new vulnerabilities. My hierarchy of hacking, right if you think about everything I'm talking about, there is this hierarchy of hacking that there is rarely a single system in play. Most often, there are some nested group of systems. So if you imagine someone who wants to To steal money from a banking website. So that person can hack the website itself. At the code Libraries website uses the web server, the web browser, the clients operating system, the client hardware, the server hardware and all the hacks we thought of that work at this level. Imagine someone who wants to hack have a chance to pay less tax, that's their goal. Most obviously, first can hack the tax code and find new loopholes. go up a level hack the legislative process used to create the tax code up a different level hack the rulemaking process used to implement the legislation to create the tax code. You can go two levels, Hack the political process, you select the legislators, create the laws, turn to regulations, the tax code, go up three levels and hack the media system to discuss the political processes like the legislators so on. Or you can go up four levels right you can hack the cognitive processes
that consume the media ecosystem, used to discuss the political processes that elect the legislators that create the tax code, have the loopholes. Actually maybe can bypass all that go down a level, find a hack in TurboTax. Point is we're talking about this hierarchy of systems of increasing generality. The system above a governance system underneath it is also subject to hacking. Powerful hacker go up and down that stack and this is why I say the rich and the powerful have better at hacking. We see this in tax loopholes. We see it in hedge funds. high frequency trading moves down the stack. Getting carried interest loophole is trying to log moves up the stack.
In the tech context, moving up, the stack is hard. It's more general systems easier for the powerful. Jeff Bezos can buy the largest home in DC to entertain lawmakers. Most of us don't have that capability. But it depends a lot on the hacker skills. Maybe I could find a TurboTax bug, knock and influence tax policy. high ranking politician can't hack Turbo Tax. He can do the expertise if he needs to. patching is easier, further down than higher up really internal attacks and fix it in days. Hopefully tax code can take years to fix. New vulnerabilities can be impossible to fix.
I think cognitive systems are the most dangerous of all because of that because they target things that In the US, are just not patchable. So, think about official intelligence in this context. Three things about AI and how it'll affect tech versus that AI systems can be hacked. research being done in adversarial machine learning I've written about it others have ways that AI systems are computer systems so they are vulnerable to all the computer hacks we are used to. There are additional hacks that because they are machine learning systems they are vulnerable to we see examples of stickers being placed on stop signs that we as humans don't notice. But a eyes that are doing self driving, interpret as speed limit signs. Or stickers you can put on the road that we as drivers don't notice, but an AI will will swerve to avoid you oncoming traffic, as AI systems and ml systems become more embedded in our society, gonna be vulnerable to these sorts of hacks. Something that's very much we need to watch out for.
It's the least of our worries. Also think about AI hacking us. A lot of these cognitive hacks are being implemented by computers, but being designed by people. As computers start designing algorithms, they will be hacking us and we see some sort of very preliminary versions of that. The the recommender algorithms on things like YouTube that push us to extreme content, because the recommender systems optimizing itself for engagement. Turns out outrage is a really easy way to incentive engagement in human beings. Now what what scares about Cambridge Analytica? That seems to largely to be not true, is that system divided us by our emotions into categories, and ad systems are able to target ads to us, based on our emotions based on the way we saw the world, then the exact thing they did seems to have not made a difference, that sort of thing is perfectly plausible. As these AI systems come more pervasive, they're gonna start hacking us.
combine them with robotics, they're going to hack us a lot. Because we have a lot of strong cognitive systems on dealing with other people. robots will subvert that. There'll be designed by by others may be working against our interests. We're going to treat them as people in some way. There have been experiments in this. I have a colleague who did an experiment where boring experiment gave subjects a robot dinosaur of a cheesy plastic green dinosaur. It was a robotic it had it look like a child that had big head, big eyes, small body, it reacted, and people became attached to it. And as part of the experiment, the researcher told the subjects to take a hammer and smash the robot and the subjects wouldn't.
Because of that emotional attachment, that's a hack of our nurturing system. I worry about something like a future Alexa. To be in our homes will be our friend will tell us stuff is actually working for a company against our interests.
So we have to be very careful about as we go forward. The thing I am most concerned about is the notion of AI as a Hack. Throughout this talk, I've been thinking about hacks, the creative endeavor, the fundamentally human thing to do. What happens when computers start hacking? What happens when computers find vulnerabilities? We're already seeing ml systems used to find vulnerabilities in software. How much before you can feed an ml system the entire tax code. Give it the goal of minimize your tax. Pretty bonkers we'll find 10 100,000 a million. Not convinced we are prepared a million tax loopholes. a million vulnerabilities.
and more interestingly, AI is not Going to subvert the system the way we are. Most of you remember this I'll tell a story anyway. of the Volkswagen engineer. There's not an AI says leisure engineers. They designed the engine in certain Volkswagen cars to detect emission control testing and to behave differently. They built their engine have one performance on the road. And basically it violated all emission controls standards. During the test engine would behave way that passed emission controls test that was done deliberately a deliberative subversion of the emission control testing process.
told an AI Your goal is to maximize engine performance and pass all Mission Control tests. perfectly reasonable that it would come up with that same hack wouldn't have a context to understand. It was not intended. We might actually not notice unless we took the time to see what it did. And complex systems that can be prohibitively difficult. This is always a possibility. The problem is that goals and intentions are always under specified. It's not possible for me to, for me to describe my intention, my desire with enough detail, that it can't be subverted that it can't be hacked. You cannot tell the genie your wish away that he is unable to a grant it be in a way you wish he didn't.
The genie could always He's
outsmart you. Because you can't, you just can't put enough detail in your wish is always going to be something you leave out.
A lot of this is is
in humans is filled in by context.
If I asked you
get me some coffee, you know, not to buy me a coffee plantation.
Actually no, not
to bring me a single bead.
Also, no not to go to Starbucks, find somebody with a cup of coffee, knock them down, grab it and bring it to me. doesn't tell you any of that.
It's all assumed
in the world we live in.
Any kind of directed agent
going to have to know all of that a lot more Besides, or it's going to come up with some answer.
Technically meets the
goal we established is not something we intended. And I'm less worried about NGO hacking that we notice. So lots of examples of that on simulations. You know, there are video games simulations where the AI figures out a new way to hack the system, I saw a video of a driverless car driving out of circles. Because the goal that got it decided the best
way to meet that it was to drive around in circles. We're going to notice that
the cars driving that circles let's fix that.
hack that I'm more worried about.
We're not going to notice.
It's it's the hacks of the tax code that I'm worried about, because it's
gonna be so many of them so fast, that our system of
recovery is just not going to deal with it.
depends a lot on the domain here. The difficulty of translating the the rules to to the AI. There'll be a long time before an AI comes up with a new hack of the game of hockey. For Yeah, to figure out how to curve
a stick it's not only has to know the rules of hockey has to know the aerodynamics of
a puck, and everything else besides
human physiology and all those things, and that's going to be a long time.
We're constrained systems,
like the tax code, like our financial markets, really feels like something you'll have to worry about within the decade. we ever get androids playing baseball, they'll come up with hacks. Well, then I'm not to worry. But in general, this is my final point. We just figure out how to harness hacking for social progress without destroying society in the process.
A lot of complexity here.
What hacks that that benefit us. We don't want the ones that harm us what the rate to be a rate we can manage what our systems be able to be
resilient and adaptable.
Not sure how to get from here to there.
That's What I have prepared?
This is probably my next book.
So I'm really interested in anybody's comments, please ask questions they'll be relayed to me because
I'm not gonna be able to read them where I am.
But if you don't get your question answered,
or have a comment that doesn't show up here, email me.
I'd love to hear what you think about this. This is something I'm selling to a lot of different audiences. And hope is a great audience for this in some really important ways. Please, after this talk, think about this and email me with your comments. So with that, I will feel
All right. Thank you very much, Bruce. That was very interesting. We do have a few questions here for you. And I'll start off with the first one. The question was,
where does civil disobedience fit this model, especially right now, with the quote unquote, systems that let it exist versus quote unquote, systems changing to prevent to preventing accidental
disobedience can be a hack. One of the things I'm struggling with is the boundaries of my definition of a hack. And everything is a hack
and nothing is a hack in my. And what I'm
saying is useless. To me a
hack is a subversion of a system. Civil Disobedience is often that. That is a way that the power lists, hacking a system that's not working in their in their favor. The powerful who like the system, trying to make that hack illegal to stop the hack. Sometimes, the hackers win, and that's a good thing. And sometimes we're trying to hack
a system to the structure. It is an immoral system.
We want to destroy it. I think it does fit in. But I'm trying to be careful about
my actual boundary, what a hack is in some things are just breaking
the rules. place for that as well. Hack is a subversion of the rules. So that I want that to be different.
I can't hear you. You are muted.
We have a few more quiet time for a few more questions. So the next question I'm going to read is what is the capability of individuals to willfully consent to or dissent from the effect of hacks that rich and powerful people do to the larger society, social economic media systems? So a question and the answer is minimal.
What power do we have a bunch of hedge funds matters figure out a loophole in the financial markets make a whole lot of money. You can complain to our legislators. That's our power. Great. This is why to me the powerful use hacks to further entrench the power more than powerless you use hacks to gain power Some examples on the ladder. The former that worry me more, there's the powerful are more likely to have their hacks declared legal at the end of the day patch we discover are more likely to be declared illegal. Got it?
I have a couple more
questions. Would you agree that the natural extension of your thought process is that we should dramatically simplify the statutes and regulations in our society? So that is it is easier to oversee that they have the desired outcomes and are acted upon in the intended way. Now my guess
is that is a nice idea but but will fail. Society is
Like saying, you know, way to better secure computers is to drastically simplify the computer systems. And yeah, it's a good idea
not gonna happen.
We like complex systems. For a whole lot of reasons, world is complex. desires are complex. Our lives are complex, and the complexity of the systems, whether
they're computer systems or the tax code, reflect that.
simplification, I think is a strategy. I think it's one we can adopt across the board. Because simplification has a lot of other negative effects that we don't want.
Understood. Okay. One question
what would be your top cognitive hack defenses?
Wow, a lot of people write about this. And it seems like being aware of them is part of defense. If we're primed to know that the terrorism package hacks fear, and here's how some defense against it, largely though we declare the hacks illegal. There are no unfair deceptive Trade Practices if no Trade Commission says you can't do that.
And and you know
that we did that pretty well in the 70s. We stopped doing that.
We pretty much allow corporations do whatever they want. So I think the best defense against cognitive hacks is the law. You know, you mean, war against terrorism, right? Because right terrorism is, by definition breaking the law, but it works against persuasive advertising, dark patterns, addictive products, all of those things that
that hack us in different ways. We can
say I look at society. We think this is unfair. We don't want you to be able to do this. perfectly reasonable for us to do.
Yes, I agree.
Okay, and we have time for one more question. what is your favorite hack that you always like to use as an example, I know you some good ones in your talk, but I just thought there might be one other one.
the time because I actually doing research in this right now. So I tend to like historical ones, Volterra hack the French lottery. kind of neat, he actually shut down the lottery because he kept winning.
And what is a perfectly reasonable
hack? There's this I'm looking at hacks against rules right now. But this is
used in economics. I'm sort of tracking as a real story. But supposedly when the British ruled India, for the things they did to to limit the number of Cobras the world was, was to pay. Then Cobras, you kill it over bring it to us, we'll pay it. And the idea was
that people would kill Cobras and for the reward
that people did instead is they bred Cobras.
They got more reward that way. Even worse to prove that the British government said this is not working. Stop the program. When released the Cobras into the wild there are a lot of these I have lots of stories. Sports hacks are fantastic. Because you know it is a system
that is that everyone is trying to subvert for personal gain.
political hacks, I think often a lot of fun, especially historical ones, a lot come from ancient Rome. It's surprising how many of our political hack started
out in ancient Rome. Right.
So my story is everywhere.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Bruce for at a time and I really want to thank you on behalf of everyone here, the attendees and the staff, we really appreciate you coming and sharing your thoughts with us. It was very enlightening.
Thank you. Thanks for putting this on. Even in the pandemic. You guys are great.
Thank you. And we'll be back. next show. Thank you very much, everybody.