Monday, May 7, 2007

Jonathan Swift on Security Theater

Recently I stumbled upon a passage in Gulliver's Travels where Gulliver visits the Academy of Projectors. In this Academy, projectors invent great projects, however there seem to be some practical downsides (aka, the plans don't work). After visiting a professor extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, a professor who tried to restore the original food from human excrements, a professor who decided it was better to build buildings top-down, since that was how spiders built them and several others, he came into the political department. Here he met another professor:

Another professor showed me a large paper of instructions for discovering plots and conspiracies against the government. He advised great statesmen to examine into the diet of all suspected persons; their times of eating; upon which side they lay in bed; with which hand they wipe their posteriors; take a strict view of their excrements, and, from the colour, the odour, the taste, the consistence, the crudeness or maturity of digestion, form a judgment of their thoughts and designs; because men are never so serious, thoughtful, and intent, as when they are at stool, which he found by frequent experiment; for, in such conjunctures, when he used, merely as a trial, to consider which was the best way of murdering the king, his ordure would have a tincture of green; but quite different, when he thought only of raising an insurrection, or burning the metropolis.

Which reminded me of a lot of posts on Security Theater and profiling in the aviation industry which I read on Schneiers blog recently, however, it reminded me the most on the report of the development of a new technology which registers wether someone on board of a plane is a terrorist by watching how they act. Maybe they should put technology in the toilets instead ;). I really like how a 300-year old satire still is so uptodate.

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