Re: Nightmares

From: William Overington (
Date: Thu Jun 26 2003 - 06:48:07 EDT

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    Tom Gewecke wrote as follows.

    > My personal idea of an Orwellian nightmare would to have a committee of
    "vigilant freedom protectors" evaluating the "political and social
    implications of encoding symbols" and passing judgement on whether
    particular characters should be encoded and what their names should not be.

    Yes, I agree that would be terrible.

    The difference of your personal idea of an Orwellian nightmare from what I
    am suggesting should take place is great. I am suggesting that everybody,
    as part of their activity in character encoding, be vigilant that what is
    encoded does not provide an infrastructure for an Orwellian nightmare to
    take place with computing systems such as databases. The difference is like
    a country having a special "riot police" force and having regular police who
    wear riot gear when the need arises. This distinction was stressed when
    police in riot gear were first seen on the streets in England, as the
    television news began by using the term "riot police". So I am not
    suggesting such a committee, just ordinary regular people who encode
    characters being vigilant about the political and social implications of
    what they are doing, lest by not concerning themselves with such an
    important aspect of their work, namely the potential for causing misery, the
    opportunity for such misery to occur is unthinkingly provided or is not
    prevented when it easily could be prevented.

    Hopefully this will clarify my thinking to you and hopefully be of interest
    to people involved in character encoding discussions.

    One of the great issues of the last century was as to whether scientists
    should consider the political and social implications of their work or just
    work as if somehow separate from society and leave the application of the
    things which they discovered and developed to politicians and business

    This issue has arisen because of my concern that a particular symbol has
    been labelled as HANDICAPPED SIGN. I hope that the name will be changed to

    Yet what if my concerns over the need for vigilance were now dismissed?
    What characters might be encoded in the future with what names? After all,
    if no one is willing to be vigilant because that very vigilance is regarded
    as an Orwellian nightmare, there would then be no constraints.

    I am very much someone who believes in the need for checks and balances. I
    feel that we need checks and balances in what is encoded and what names are
    applied to symbols. I also feel that we need checks and balances as to how
    those checks and balances are carried out.

    William Overington

    26 June 2003

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