what is killing PKI?

Mark H. Wood mwood at IUPUI.Edu
Thu Aug 30 16:20:10 CEST 2012

On Thu, Aug 30, 2012 at 02:12:50PM +0200, Stan Tobias wrote:
> MFPA <expires2012 at rocketmail.com> wrote:
> > > What I should have added here, is that it's a symmetric
> > > relation, and people normally don't like to exclude
> > > others, as well.  Avoiding others is not a trait of
> > > _usual_ _social_ behaviour,
> >
> > There are innumerable clubs that require membership in order to
> > participate. This indicates that avoiding/excluding others *is* a
> > well-established usual social behaviour.
> We don't have All People Haters' clubs.  :-)

This is why jokes about anti-social networks are so much fun.

> Well, I cannot explain how the whole society works.  But I would like
> to add just a few points.
> Clubs can be divided into  common interest (inclusive), and elitist
> (exclusive), or mix thereof.

I would argue that this division cannot be done.  Associations always
include some and exclude others.

>  The former ones (like ours, gnupg-users)
> accept anybody, but may need to defend themselves against trouble makers;
  ^ inclusive  ^                  ^ exclusive                            ^
> some may require membership, but anyone can have it if he sticks to
           ^ inclusive                              ^ ^ exclusive
> the rules.  If someone from outside, or a member, starts attacking other
> members, only then he's punished by exclusion.

The NSDAP or the Ku Klux Klan were quite inclusive of anyone who
believed that certain racial and ethnic groups should be excluded from
society.  The difference (aside from methods of exclusion!) lies in
the nature of the discriminator function.

> In the latter case - I can't say too much, I haven't belonged to any,
> but I can imagine such a conversation:
>   - "Hello Fred, I'm so glad I'm here with you, you're so elite!"
>   - "Oh, Barney, you always exaggerate, our club would be nothing 
>     without you!"
> The point is you cannot be an elite alone, you need a little society
> of other elite persons around you, and you need to care for them; 
> IOW you need to be social within an otherwise unsocial group.

Indeed:  all purely exclusive clubs' memberships are identical to the
null set. :-)

> Last, but not least, I wouldn't call elitism a usual behaviour (like
> people normally behave in my village, or in yours), and definitely
> not social.  On YT there used to be an interview with R. Feynman in
> which he tells how much he hated one "elite" students' club he once
> fell into.  Excluding others is considered so anti-social, that it is
> plainly illegal in some countries to set up an openly "men-only club",
> or "women-only cafe" (they'll fall into anti-discrimination laws).

Certain elitisms are usual, accepted, and beneficial.  I would not be
at all surprised to find that I am barred from membership in the
American College of Physicians and Surgeons, since I am not and never
have been either a physician or a surgeon.  I couldn't just walk into
the NSA, take a seat, and ask for some interesting crypto work to do;
there are qualities they would expect me to possess before I would be
accepted, and I would think they were doing a poor job if they did not
enforce those requirements.

No, it's only anti-social to exclude people for particular kinds of
reasons.  If someone joined your chess club, but never played chess
and always wanted to talk about nothing but soccer at the meetings,
sooner or later someone would ask him to leave.  Excluding someone
because he doesn't share the interest or aims of the group is
accepted; excluding someone because he doesn't share the race,
ethnicity, gender, etc. is (widely, but not universally) unaccepted.

Often it comes down to whether or not *anyone* could make himself
acceptable to the discriminator function if he wished.  Yes: function
is acceptable; no: function is not acceptable.  Within that there are
degrees of acceptability depending on the cost of the changes that
might be required, so requiring certain body piercings or religious
affiliations makes us more uneasy than requiring that someone show a
genuine interest in the topic of the group.  This is not a perfect
fit; the issue is quite complex.  But I think it's a usable first

To draw this back toward security and privacy through crypto: I think
it's natural and usual to want to exclude some from our
communications.  I want to exclude thieves from the set of people
having access to my banking credentials, for obvious reasons.  I want
to exclude just about everyone from my more intimate conversations
with my wife -- we feel comfortable being vulnerable in the presence
of those who love us, but uncomfortable showing that same
vulnerability to others.  In every society there are questions it
would be highly improper for a stranger to ask, often for good
reasons, and it is legitimate for us to employ appropriate tools to
protect our propriety.

Mark H. Wood, Lead System Programmer   mwood at IUPUI.Edu
Asking whether markets are efficient is like asking whether people are smart.
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