Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Defending the world from telepathy

Given the numerous attack vectors available for an aspiring telepath, how do you defend the world? I don't have access to the full NATO report, so I can't tell you what they thought. I can speculate, so here goes.

First, nobody gets secrets any more. Nobody gets to memorize passwords for anything really secure. They have physical keys, USB thumb drives, whatever. A computer spits out a digital key and you have a device that tells the computers about that key.

Second, knowledge gets compartmentalized. This is a skill that's routinely practiced at places like the CIA, so now you need those guys to train everyone in government to do the same. You need oversight ensuring that it's really happening. And you can't let the oversight know too much either, so you have more levels of oversight on them. It becomes maddenly bureaucratic.

Third, anyone with any real authority has a "shadow" that monitors their major decisions and gets veto authority. The shadow can be one person or (better) a group of people, chosen either at random or from a large enough pool to avoid guessing who it is. The shadows need to know enough about the guy they're shadowing to evaluate his actions.

Even this extreme solution has some problems. First, someone has to take charge in emergencies. It's a human tendency to look to a leader, and that leader will naturally already know (or soon learn) more information than is "safe". Second, people are really bad at keeping secrets like this. It may sound weird, but I really do think people are basically decent trusting sorts by inclination, and get that crap knocked out of them if they grow up in any sort of hard circumstance. Third, all the parts that are technology-dependent are vulnerable when they break down. If the computer techs assigned to repair the systems are compromised, or know too much, the game is over.

An interesting theory (but one I don't subscribe to) is that endless government bureaucracy is an improvised telepathy defense already, they're just not obviously deliberately doing it because they don't want to give the game away. So it has to seem inefficient and Byzantine so a telepath doesn't suspect anything. Take that as you will.