Monday, February 29, 2016

Apple And The Limping Analogy

Early in the FBI vs Apple hoorah some Federal factotum used an analogy that he believed to make the government’s position unassailable.

He said “what if there were a safety deposit box that was thought to have vital evidence in it that would be of great use in apprehending some dastardly entity.  There could be no doubt about the right of the government to get the key to that little vault from the bank that was renting the box to the dastard; our request to Apple is identical.”

Between then and now I was certain that someone would have attacked and dismembered that analogy.

I thought that because like most, or perhaps all, analogies it limps.

This one doesn’t just limp; it is nearly crippled.

So I was sure someone would have pointed out that, as with most unassailable cases proffered as proof of viewpoint these days (“gay marriage will destroy the ancient institution of marriage” – that’s begging the question: offering as proof that which bears proof) using a limping analogy as proof of the proposition that Apple must break open just one iPhone for the government would be challenged.

By somebody.


Sooner than later.

But no one has.

Challenged the proof.

So I will.

A safety deposit box is a generic thing.

The key that opens the box is a unique thing.

If the unique thing is surrendered to a third party for use, the only violation of the uniqueness of that thing occurs with the use of that thing by the third party.  Unless the third party duplicates that unique thing and offers the duplicates for sale on eBay that unique thing has only been violated by one third party, in the case of this example that third party being the government which has presumably gotten legal orders to authorize that violation.

That is a neat open and shut case.

All other users of safety deposit boxes are free from concern about violation of their security because they each have unique keys; their only exposure is in the case of the government singling them out individually for violation of their unique security.


An iPhone is a generic device.

The security code of an iPhone is a unique device, conceived and implemented by the user of the iPhone.

If the terrorist who conceived and implemented the security code on the iPhone in the currently being discussed hoorah were alive the government could have ordered that terrorist to give them his security code.

But the terrorist is dead.

And that leaves Apple next in line for the fury of the government.

But Apple doesn’t know the security code so ordering Apple to give the government the security code wouldn’t accomplish much.

But the government could get around that.

The government could rig up some neat little electronic contrivance that would spew four digit codes at the iPhone until it cried “uncle” and opened up.

Except that Apple has thought of that.

If you hit an iPhone with more than 10 wrong codes it erases itself.

We call that security.

And Apple prides itself in selling security as a component of its products.

Not so fast, said the government:

“We want you – Apple – to one time only allow this third party – us (the government) – to open that iPhone. It’s just like a safety deposit box.  Who will be the wiser? Who can object? Who can get hurt? It’s just like a safety deposit box.”

But they are not asking for the unique key to the safety deposit box – the four digit security code.

The government is asking for the security of the iPhone.

That security is a generic thing.

It is not unique.

That security is the same across all iPhones.

Once surrendered to one third party that security is up for grabs to third parties of all and sundry stripes.

And therein lies the limp in the analogy in the case of the government vs Apple.

Friday, February 12, 2016

I Am Trying To Sort This Concept Out…

… into a novel.

I have a lot of ideas floating around but they don’t seem to congeal into anything resembling coherence.

I have tried the “just start keying and the Ouija will take over” approach, but the Ouja has been absent so far.

But here is what I have managed to lay down as – I guess – the concept.

The Awakening

I just was there.

The murmur of voices lay low, below the level at which I could distinguish words.

There may not have been words.

The sounds may not have been voices.

But years later, when this event became crucial, my best memory has been that they were voices.

The smell of wood smoke acridly dominated the first moment of my being there.

The source of the smoke was at my feet.

My feet were on the periphery of what one would have described as a circle: there were many other pairs of feet surrounding the source of the smoke.

The source was a fire.

It wasn’t big; it wasn’t small; it just was.

That in itself is odd, since fires, like all things finite, have size shape and dimension.

This one did not.

This one shimmered smokily at the feet which surrounded it.

And the feet came and went.

Sometimes there were more; sometimes there were less.

The fire waxed and waned to accommodate the number of feet: the more the feet the bigger the fire.

The converse was also true.

What the people, or creatures, to which those feet belonged were not revealed.

The flickering light of the ever changing fire did not extend upwards beyond what would have been described as the waists of the figures surrounding it, if those figures had been identified positively as humans.

In some cases there were more than two feet.

The First Speaker

The feet were four.

Or as best as I could see them that is what they were.

So I immediately knew, or immediately concluded, that the speaker was not one of “us”.

But the feet and the fire and the fluidity of the occasion had already made “us” and “them” meaningless words.

I made note of that.

That might be important I thought.

And then the feet had a voice.

But it was not a voice in the air; it was a voice in my head.

“We are as smart as we need to be.

We are as smart as we are able to be.

And that – how smart we are – is at least as good as you.”

In my head there rose a rumble of sound that, if it had been in the air, and if my ears had been hearing it, rather than my – whatever it is that doesn’t hear, but senses, feels, knows – had been its source, I would have said it was a sound of general approval.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I Finally Figured It Out

For a long time something has been lurking at the outer edges of my conscious thought.

It has finally come into focus as a clear realization.

The fact that it has come just now is probably because I watched Star Trek IV last evening.

It also may have something to do with the New Hampshire primary results, but I doubt that.

The realization is: Ted Cruz is a Klingon.