[cryptography] motivation, research ethics & organizational criminality (Re: Forward Secrecy Extensions for OpenPGP: Is this still a good proposal?)

Adam Back adam at cypherspace.org
Fri Sep 13 08:10:07 EDT 2013

I suspect there may be some positive correlation between brilliant minds and
consideration of human rights & ability to think independently and
critically including in the area of uncritical acceptance authoritarian
dictates.  We're not talking about random grunt - we're talking about gifted
end of PhD mathematicians or equivalent to be much use to NSA for
surrepticiously cracking or backdooring ciphers in the face of public
analysis.  (Well the DRBG one was pretty ham-fisted, but maybe they have
some better ones we hvent found yet, or at least tried).

Take a look eg at this washington monthly article, there is a history of top
US universities having to divest themselves of direct involvment with
classified research due to protestations of their academic staff about the
ethical considerations.


> “In the 1960s students at MIT protested strongly against having a
> classified research laboratory on the campus and MIT said we will divest
> it, so it won’t be part of MIT anymore,” said Leslie.  “It still exists in
> Cambridge, but it’s not officially connected.” Leslie also points to
> Stanford, where they made the decision for their Stanford Research
> Institute to disaffiliate and become an independent non-profit.

Psychopaths are a minority, and people on the top end of crypto/maths skills
are sought after enough to easily move jobs even in a down market - so the
"must collect pay-check" argument seems unlikely.  So I stand by my argument
that they probably scored an own goal on the retention and motivation front. 
I think for the majority of people - they wont like to go to work, or will
feel demotivated, feeling the world is sneering at their employer as a
quasi-criminal org.


On Tue, Sep 10, 2013 at 11:05:58PM +0200, David D wrote:
>Quote, " You've got to think (NSA claims to be the biggest employer of
>mathematicians) that seeing the illegal activities the US has been getting
>up to with the fruits of their labour that they may have a mathematician
>retention or motivation problem on their hands."
>You mean like the principled mathematicians working on cluster bombs,
>drones, and other "cool shit"?
>Everyone at the NSA knows exactly what they are doing.
>I suspect, like most that suck off the military-industrial complex tit,
>there is surprising low turnover.
>Paychecks only go so far with the principled, but spineless will collect a
>check forever and do whatever it takes to keep it coming.

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