DAVID BRIN's transparency page

David Brin's best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed in 1997) plus explorations of our near-future in Earth and Existence. His award-winning novels and short stories explore vividly speculative ideas through a hard-science lens. His nonfiction book, The Transparent Society, won the American Library Association's Freedom of Speech Award for exploring 21st Century concerns about security, secrecy, accountability and privacy.

Here are David Brin's net-accessible articles, interviews, and essays analyzing the issues surrounding transparency, security, privacy, and openness.

more articles about transparency

In these essays (and in all his writings), Brin emphasizes openness as a good general policy for the era ahead, when a myriad pitfalls and unexpected dangers may loom suddenly out of the future. Above all, openness is freedom's best defense.

Trump & Putin

are we chasing shadows or ghosts?

The dichotomy of "security versus freedom" becomes stark whenever the public feels nervous over threats like terrorism, as earnest "protectors" pose our choice in stark terms, portraying our Professional Protector Caste as eager to demolish our last protections.

John Hurt in 1984

surveillance's reading list

Stephen W. Potts, co-editor of Chasing Shadows, recommends five books about surviving surveillance. "This, of course, is the quandary we confront in the age of social networks and smart phones that communicate our wants, needs, and locations to everyone, voluntarily or not."

World of Watson

innovation talks — but do we listen?

Watch David's speech, "Privacy vs Omniveillance: A look at Big Picture AI," for IBM's World of Watson, Las Vegas, October 2016.

evidence sketch of police shooting

perceptive and myopic views of our transparent future

Brin called it the most important civil liberties victory of this century so far — perhaps in thirty years — even though it was hardly covered by the press. In 2013 both the U.S. courts and the Obama Administration declared it to be "settled law" that a citizen has the right to record his or her interactions with police in public places. So how to we responsibly exercise this right?

Little Brother at work

we are all watchers, we are all watched

The cameras are getting smaller, faster, cheaper, better and more mobile at rates far faster than Moore’s Law. If you find a clever way to evade them now, will it work next year, when there are four times as many of them and harder to spot? Hiding won’t work. It cannot. Nor will shouting "don’t look at me!" Only one thing has ever worked. Only one thing possibly can work.

who do you surveil?

letting others have their say

The Light of Other Days, by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter

The Traveler, by John Twelve Hawks

We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin

The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester

Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood

Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, by Stanislaw Lem

I Am No One, by Patrick Flanery

Surveillance, by Jonathan Raban

A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick

the owner corp

a transparent "ownership" treaty?

So many problems in the world can be attributed to murky title, from peasants abused by a nearby lord to an oil tanker that befouled beaches in Brittany with no owner ever held accountable, because of deeply nested shell companies. What does "ownership" mean, if you are unwilling to state, openly, "I own that"? Any property that has not been claimed by a human being, family, or clearly tracked group of humans within three years will revert to the state and be re-sold to pay down the public debt.

film the police

your right to record police: the underappreciated sixth amendment

In 2012 top U.S. courts (Glik v. Cunniffe) ruled that citizens have an absolute right to record their interactions with police in public places. I went on to say that the matter would continue to be at issue, at the level of the streets, with many cameras and cell phones "accidentally" broken... until that phase of resistance ends the way it must, with more bystander-cams catching — then deterring — the breaking of cameras.

faces we recognize

the arrival of facial recognition apps

Face-recognition has reached your smart phone, bringing science fiction closer and also (I expect) a storm of controversy. In this article, we learn of progress in some nations, while others cling tenaciously to old, corruption-prone ways.

sousveillance now, surveillance then

Snowden, Sousveillance, and Social T-Cells

To be clear: we need these 'T Cells' as we rush into a technological future. There are so many pitfalls, snake pits, quicksand pools, mine fields and failure modes that the only conceivable way that we can evade the killer errors is by unleashing millions of avid, immune-system "cells" to sniff and hunt down every possible mistake. Even when they prove wrong — or to be exaggerating — the light they shine is cleansing.

David Brin writing in European Magazine

fighting fire with fire

Most of our vexing Information Age problems revolve around a central matter of secrecy: who should use it and who gets to penetrate the veils of others. Almost daily some elite — of government, wealth, criminal or corporate — is outed for snooping, from the National Security Agency (NSA) and FBI to Microsoft and Apple, to British and French intelligence, to news media harassing celebrities, to "private bankers" and Latin American blackmail rings. Corporations swap our information for profit. Businesses and researchers suffer a hemorrhage of lost intellectual property, stolen by predatory regimes. The greatest flood of all? Vast troves of information that we willingly — or unwittingly — reveal about ourselves through online searches, purchases and postings on social media.

Robert Heinlein quote

Brin's Corollary to Moore's Law

We are in for a time of major decisions as the Moore's Law of Cameras — sometimes called "Brin’s Corollary to Moore’s Law" — takes hold and elites of all kinds are tempted to utilize surveillance in Orwellian-controlling ways... often with rationalized good intentions. Alas, many "champions of privacy and freedom" push the nebulous notion that dark outcomes can be prevented by passing laws against this or that elite looking at this or that kind of information. In other words, by restricting information flows.

Brin at Arizona State University

the internet and credibility collide

This well-written article summarized ideas exchanged during an interesting panel discussion at Arizona State University. Topics ranged from reputation systems and surveillance technologies to the future of the Internet as a problem-solving tool.

"The thing to compare to is the far more mature arenas that we use to solve problems today: competitive markets, which compete over products and goods and services; democracy, in which competition supposedly gets the rough edges off of policy; science, which still works; courts; and the press, supposedly."

the declining half-life of secrets

have we been misdirected to a false "transparency threat"?

In this analysis of recent cybersecurity warnings Brin questions their underlying motive: "I never deemed it likely the government needs backdoors in order to see. Or rather, I would take odds that they already exist. The real purpose of such lavish public jeremiads by Comey and others — demanding physical back doors and crypto keys that they'll never, realistically, be given — may be to make others think there is a 'going dark problem.'"

David Brin video

inside the privacy maelstrom

"How do we protect privacy and empower citizens when cameras become smaller and proliferate daily, when the threat of global terrorism tempts us into passing hyper-privacy legislation so our governments and corporations can keep even more secrets, yet the proliferation of social networking sites and 'whistleblower' clades may indicate people are perhaps ready to accept more transparency in our personal and public lives?" On the tenth anniversary of the release of The Transparent Society David Brin taped two YouTube videos discussing that question and more.

In Part 1, he speaks about issues of transparency and accountability in an age of increasing surveillance. In Part 2, he discusses what the future will bring in regards to transparency.

For better or worse, the changes in transparency have meant the return to the village of old — where everyone knows everyone — but will it be the village that's tolerant and accepting of its citizenry, or the suspicious, oppressive village?

Continue reading more articles about transparency, security and privacy.

a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

To learn more, visit his books page, or see his "about me" page or detailed biography.



David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More

shorter fiction

Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More

Contrary Brin blog

Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More

social media influencer

Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More

DAVID BRIN scientist


David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More

transparency expert

Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More

speaker & consultant

Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 300 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings. Learn More

future/tech advisor

Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More

Contacting BRIN

All the Ways in the World to Reach David Brin

an ornery, contrary BLOG, and other insightful wormholes!

Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's incendiary posts on science, sci-fi and politics and its engaged, opinionated community poke at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate — and infuriate. See for yourself, and if you like — subscribe for more.

Questions? Concerns? Email DAVID BRIN at mail@davidbrin.com


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