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The Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award is annually
bestowed upon a respected scientist or public figure who has warned of a
future fraught with dangers and encouraged measures to prevent them.
The 2013 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award has been given to Edward
Snowden in recognition of his quest to get the U.S. government to be
transparent about the surveillance it is engaging of its citizens. It is
worth noting that no government is being transparent in how it does
surveillance so this issue is relevant to all countries.
While it is unusual to honor someone that the U.S. government has
targeted for life imprisonment (or worse), it is worth noting that
thanks to Snowden's revelations, many mainstream companies are now
concerned about surveillance being done in secret. For example, AOL,
Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo just
wrote an open letter to the U.S. President and members of Congress that
said, "We urge the U.S. to take the lead and make reforms that ensure
that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law,
proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent
As a large and diverse organization, the Lifeboat Foundation has taken
the middle ground in the surveillance debate believing that our balanced
SecurityPreserver program that includes both surveillance and
sousveillance is the best way to handle the threat of existential
threats that will soon be in the hands of small groups of people. Our
David Brin's "The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose
Between Privacy and Freedom?" is a good description of what we hope to
Of course, many of our members are against surveillance and some
probably think the U.S. government is not being invasive enough with its
surveillance. But without knowledge of what the U.S. government is
doing, it is *impossible* for its citizens to debate the best possible
course of action.
Learn about our SecurityPreserver program at
Learn about sousveillance at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sousveillance
Why is the surveillance debate important to the Lifeboat Foundation?
1) Surveillance could prevent serious dangers.
2004 Guardian Award winner Martin Rees said in his book "Our Final Hour:
A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster
Threaten Humankind's Future In This Century -- On Earth and Beyond":
"Science is advancing faster than ever, and on a broader front... But
there is a dark side: new science can have unintended consequences; it
empowers individuals to perpetrate acts of megaterror; even innocent
errors could be catastrophic. The 'downside' from twenty-first century
technology could be graver and more intractable than the threat of
nuclear devastation that we have faced for decades."
He went on to say "If there were millions of independent fingers on the
button of a Doomsday machine, then one person's act of irrationality, or
even one person's error, could do us all in."
2) No civilization seems to have survived these dangers.
In "The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology", 2005
Guardian Award Winner Ray Kurzweil devoted 25 pages to "On the
Intelligent Destiny of the Cosmos: Why We Are Probably Alone in the
Universe". (Pages 342-367.)
3) While surveillance in the U.S. is quite extensive, it seems to be
remarkably poor at stopping terrorism. The Fort Hood shooting, Boston
Marathon bombings, and Washington Navy Yard shooting are some recent
examples of this. Until we know how the U.S. does surveillance, we will
have no chance to fix this problem.
It is possible that since the U.S. government doesn't trust its citizens
to even know what surveillance is being used that this discourages
citizens from feeling like they are a valued part of society. Such
"unvalued" citizens may feel their input doesn't matter and therefore
are discouraged from reporting suspicious activities.
4) If all countries were transparent about what surveillance they
engaged in, then we could compare the outcomes to the surveillance being
done and then determine which balance of privacy works best.
5) Excessive surveillance could lead to a 1984-type society that would
not only be unpleasant but could give the government the power to do
terrible things that become existential threats. Secret surveillance can
easily become excessive surveillance.
About Lifeboat Foundation
The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization
dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity
survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful
technologies, including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and
robotics/AI, as we move towards the Singularity.
Learn about the world's first bitcoin endowment fund at
For more information, please click here
Lifeboat Foundation News office
1638 Esmeralda Avenue
Minden, NV 89423, USA
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