Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

High mortal horse

Posted by Ron Coleman on October 25, 2007

Instapundit:

U.S.-MADE CENSORWARE sold to dicatators in Burma and elsewhere. This is a disgrace.

Free trade is a disgrace? We can barely institute and enforce export controls of technology to our outright enemies. Now we have to track the identity of the customers of private software vendors? And, I suppose, to their customers as well (for after all, circumventing such controls by the use of dummy purchasers should not be difficult)? And once we do, will Europe, Israel and other high-tech countries also decline to sell software that could end up in wicked hands?

I understood, and agreed with critics, when Google was found out to be working, hand in glove, with the Chicoms in the oppression of their people. IBM, too, is rightfully ashamed of its intimate involvement with the Nazis’ genocide machine. But off the shelf software? This is one of the prices of free trade: Money, and most of the things it buys, are both very fungible.

And in the long run, anyone with the gelt can buy what he wants, unless (we hope) like a nuclear bomb, it’s unusually well regulated, expensive and complex. This is software. Maybe by virtue of buying off the shelf software, circumvention by those familiar with it has a better shot than if the Burmese hire programmers from their own part of the world to custom design the software. Maybe, maybe not.

But in the long run, the oppressed of the world are better off with free trade than without it — trade is probably the only reason there’s any hope at all for China. How and when will it work on Burma? I have no idea — probably somewhere out there in the Long Run. And yes, I know that the man said about the long run. But there is no percentage in moral pronunciations about commerce, as self-satisfying as they are.

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One Response to “High mortal horse”

  1. Winged Hussar 1683 said

    It ought to be possible to circumvent censorware by, for example, embedding messages in images. If the Chinese or Burmese censorware can do optical character recognition, try breaking the message up into a rapid .gif animation–so that it looks like a single image to a person, but so that the censorware can’t identify the entire message (unless it also is capable of assembling the frames into a single message). I’m not an expert on this, but it sounds like a possible approach.

    Also, “human verification” images to prevent software from spamming blogs are supposedly not readable by OCR software. This might be another way to defeat Burmese and Chinese censorware.

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