Fun_People Archive
23 Jan

Date: Mon, 23 Jan 95 11:29:59 PST
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: AOTD

Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: (David C Lawrence)
Forwarded-by: (Michael Sattler, San Francisco)
From: Richard Crisp <>

There was once a far away land called Ruritania, and in Ruritania there was
a strange phenomenon -- all the trees that grew in Ruritainia were
transparent. Now, in the days when people had lived in mud huts, this had
not been a problem, but now high-tech wood construction had been developed,
and in the new age of wood, everyone in Ruritania found that their homes
were all 100% see through. Now, until this point, no one ever thought of
allowing the police to spy on someone's home, but the new technology made
this tempting. This being a civilized country, however, warrants were
required to use binoculars and watch someone in their home.  The police,
taking advantage of this, would get warrants to use binoculars and peer in
to see what was going on. Occasionally, they would use binoculars without a
warrant, but everyone pretended that this didn't happen.

One day, a smart man invented paint -- and if you painted your house,
suddenly the police couldn't watch all your actions at will. Things would
go back to the way they were in the old age -- completely private.

Indignant, the state decided to try to require that all homes have video
cameras installed in every nook and cranny. "After all", they said, "with
this new development crime could run rampant. Installing video cameras
doesn't mean that the police get any new capability -- they are just
keeping the old one."

A wise man pointed out that citizens were not obligated to make the lives
of the police easy, that the police had survived all through the mud hut
age without being able to watch the citizens at will, and that Ruritania
was a civilized country where not everything that was expedient was
permitted. For instance, in a neighboring country, it had been discovered
that torture was an extremely effective way to solve crimes. Ruritania had
banned this practice in spite of its expedience. Indeed, "why have warrants
at all", he asked, "if we are interested only in expedience?"

A famous paint technologist, Dorothy Quisling, intervened however. She
noted that people might take photographs of children masturbating should
the new paint technology be widely deployed without safeguards, and the law
was passed.

Soon it was discovered that some citizens would cover their mouths while
speaking to each other, thus preventing the police from reading their lips
through the video cameras. This had to be prevented, the police said. After
all, it was preventing them from conducting their lawful surveillance. The
wise man pointed out that the police had never before been allowed to
listen in on people's homes, but Dorothy Quisling pointed out that people
might use this new invention of covering their mouths with veils to discuss
the kidnapping and mutilation of children. No one in the legislature wanted
to be accused of being in favor of mutilating children, but then again, no
one wanted to interfere in people's rights to wear what they liked, so a
compromise was reached whereby all homes were installed with microphones in
each room to accompany the video cameras. The wise man lamented few if any
child mutilations had ever been solved by the old lip reading technology,
but it was too late -- the microphones were installed everywhere.

However, it was discovered that this was insufficient to prevent citizens
from hiding information from the authorities, because some of them would
cleverly speak in languages that the police could not understand. A new law
was proposed to force all citizens to speak at all times only in
Ruritanian, and, for good measure, to require that they speak clearly and
distinctly near the microphones. "After all", Dorothy Quisling pointed out,
"they might be using the opportunity to speak in private to mask terrorist
activities!" Terrorism struck terror into everyone's hearts, and they
rejoiced at the brilliance of this new law.

Meanwhile, the wise man talked one evening to his friends on how all of
this was making a sham of the constitution of Ruritania, of which all
Ruritanians were proud. "Why", he asked, "are we obligated to sacrifice all
our freedom and privacy to make the lives of the police easier?  There
isn't any real evidence that this makes any big dent in crime anyway! All
it does is make our privacy forfeit to the state!"

However, the wise man made the mistake of saying this, as the law required,
in Ruritanian, clearly and distinctly, and near a microphone. Soon, the
newly formed Ruritanian Secret Police arrived and took him off, and got him
to confess by torturing him. Torture was, after all, far more efficient
than the old methods, and had been recently instituted to stop the recent
wave of people thinking obscene thoughts about tomatoes, which Dorothy
Quisling noted was one of the major problems of the new age of plenty and

[=] © 1995 Peter Langston []