Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You will be watched...

Following up on last weekend's review of the anti-transparency novel, The Circle, let's continue to the real world -- starting with cogent thoughts about reciprocal vision by artificial intelligence scholar Ben Goertzel in H+:  "We're Watching Sousveillance gradually emerge and expose abuses of power." 

== Lessons from the Central Kingdom ==


Throngs of pro-democracy protesters continue to gather in Hong Kong's central business district, despite government actions to limit access to both cell phone and Wifi,  They are doing this using self-organizing “mesh networks”… the kind of technology I’ve been berating everyone from Google to the US Government to Qualcomm to get behind, for twenty years.  

To be clear, systems like FireChat rely upon bluetooth, which has short range. There’s also a critical mass issue and it is not proof against being tracked by authorities or even, in theory, jammed.  Still, according to the FireChat makers: "Once you build a mesh network ... now you have a network that is resilient, self-healing, cannot be controlled by any central organization, cannot be shut down and is always working.”

That's optimistically utopian.  In fact, it is an important step, but any one such approach is vulnerable, which is why Qualcomm’s cellular peer-to-peer capability, built into their next LTE systems, will also be vital — assuming we can coerce the cell-cos like Verizon and ATT to turn it on.

These alternatives are not only vital to freedom in transition states, but also to resilience in developed and democratic nations. When we have mesh and peer-to-peer backups, the resulting inherent robustness will help civilization stay connected, even if (when) some disaster strikes.  It will also help to deter terror-sabotage, since systems capable of resilience, self-repair and fail-operational continuity are just no darn fun to attack.

== Watching the watchers of the watchers ==
WATCHING-WATCHERSLet's get back to this year's huge topic: the spreading use of cameras, by citizens, during their interactions with police -- and police response with cameras of their own.  One of you out there, Matthew Reed Bailey, wrote in, suggesting that the solution to citizen-police tension is not only to record authority, but to “layer” these recordings so that there will never be a way for cops to avoid it:
“One person directly films/videos the Authorities. Another person (or two or three) films/videos the interaction (from varying distances if possible) of the interaction between the first camera and the Authorities. And, then have several "Backups”…”
Indeed, reiterating a point that must be repeated, what he describes is the absolutely necessary next step, after last year's fantastic victory -- the 2013 declaration -- by both the courts and the administration -- that citizens have an absolute right to record their interactions with police... the most important civil liberties decision in 30 years. Yes, it was vital! And pardon a plug, but there was a chapter predicting every phase of this, in The Transparent Society (1997).
Of course, the next phase was obvious -- a plague of cell phones and cameras "accidentally" broken by police, etc.
What I also predicted in The Transparent Society was that this phase would be short lived, as a layering of recordings would take effect, with cameras at increasing distance from the action watching the watchers of the watchers. What I did NOT expect was how swiftly this transition would happen. Before 2013 was over, we got to see a man in an orange jail-jumpsuit being sentenced to a couple of years in prison, for breaking the camera-phone of the man he was arresting. Because someone further away caught him in the act.
police-shutdownThis is why we must resist attempts to give police the power to shut down all phones in an area. At minimum, we must demand that our cameras still work, in such a shut-down!
You "get" the idea. This is not so much anti-police as anti-bully. We have a right to insist, via accountability, that our police departments hire calm, professional adults.
An sf'nal aside: Take a look at What Battlestar Galactics can teach us about the Militarization of Police: A fascinating… if flawed… rumination about what several thoughtful science fiction films illustrate about the balance of powers among citizens and their protectors, the military and police.

== and each other! ==


'In February, TMZ posted a video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging his apparently unconscious then-fiancĂ©e Janay Palmer (now his wife Janay Rice) from an elevator at the Revel casino in Atlantic City.”  This article  raises a fascinating point about the depth of transparency. That first video allowed Palmer to claim “partial blame” implying she had started a fight with Rice. That's no excuse for a huge athlete knocking her unconscious, but mitigation in some folks’ eyes.

Then came the second video… “from inside the casino elevator. It shows Rice punching Palmer — and makes it clear that what happened wasn't a "fight," but an attack. The outrage over the new video led the Ravens to terminate Rice's contract, likely ending his NFL career.”

surveillance-cameraIn this excellent perspective, Dara Lind makes several key points about the depth and layering effects of our increasingly transparent world: “But the new Rice video is an illustration of what happens when the person who has the video decides not to release it. For whatever reason, someone who had access to the surveillance footage from outside the casino elevator — which caught Rice dragging Palmer's apparently unconscious body — decided in February that it was something the public needed to see. But whoever had access to the footage from inside the elevator, which showed Rice punching Palmer out, made the opposite choice. … If no one had decided to release either video, it's extremely unlikely the case would have generated the kind of outrage it did — much less gotten NFL commissioner Goodell to change league policy. But if both videos had been released at once, it would have been much harder for the Ravens and their fans to assume for months that Janay Rice was to blame.”

Indeed, there are layering effects.  Get used to it.
==Transparency Apps==
Transparency-AppsBoycott and BuyPartisan are downloadable apps that let you scan product barcodes and find out if the company… or its officers… have actively supported some cause that you like… or loathe. One would hope that people use these things in moderation… except when it comes to Koch companies. At which point stringent ferocity is called for, lest the Confederacy win this round of the ongoing American Civil War.
Worried about emergency response times? The Peacekeeper App allows you to call upon neighbors in case of an emergency, sending an alert for crises Medical, Fire, Intruder, or Abduction. You can join an Emergency Response Group (ERG) or set up your own alliance of neighbors. The web site has a slightly redolent political aroma... but if it does what it claims, who cares?
Meanwhile the FTC declares that many mobile shopping apps lack sufficient transparency on privacy policies for consumers' rights.
==Overseeing the Government==
transparency-governmentForty-seven U.S. federal Inspectors General signed a letter this month highlighting problems with access to federal records — problems they say slow their investigations and threaten their independence. In fact, the current use of IGs is scandalous — with many of them forced into conflict-of-interest, owing their appointments to the very officials they are charged to scrutinize.
I have long proposed sets of reforms that might improve the effectiveness of civil servants while simultaneously reassuring citizens that bureaucrats ARE “servants,” accountable and obeying the law. Foremost among these proposals has been IGUS — creating the office of Inspector General of the United States.   
The notion of a separate “inspectorate” dates back to Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Chinese Republic, in 1911. If all departmental and agency IGs reported to a truly independent IGUS, the shift could be so simple that the bill might fit on one page. Yet citizen confidence and trust could be multiplied several-fold.
Finally...  a very interesting analysis of censorship in China. Researchers find that "Criticisms of the state, its leaders, and their policies are routinely published, whereas posts with collective action potential are much more likely to be censored," because these create "actionable information" for the authorities.
Seventeen fake cellphone towers were discovered across the U.S. last week. Owned by mysterious entities, they look like Verizon or ATandT towers etc, but sift and steal messages, texts… anything they want. Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated. One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found eight different interceptors on that trip.
Rumor check: a partial “debunking” or clarification of the fake cell tower story….

...as the core drama of our era continues.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

"The Circle?" - Watching the Watchers of the Watchers

I will get to the recent, anti-transparency best-seller - The Circle - in a moment.  But first --

People think that because I am "moderate" that means I am tepid.  I am a MILITANT moderate! I do not need to blind government... civil servants must do their jobs.  But I am fierce in demanding they be supervised.  Mostly by open transparency but at very least by auditors they cannot control. 

 Fortunately there is good news. I have called it the most important civil liberties matter in our lifetimes -- certainly 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.

No single matter could have been more important because it established the most basic right of "sousveillance" or looking-back at power, that The Transparent Society is all about. It is also fundamental to freedom, for in altercations with authority, what other recourse can a citizen turn to, than the Truth?


transparent-coveillanceKevin Kelly's Why You Should Embrace Surveillance, not Fight it, in WIRED, prescribed “transparent coveillance” as the best practical solution in a world where information sloshes and duplicates and flows. I’ve known Kevin for decades as one of the sharp guys who “got” the notions in The Transparent Society long before most did.

smile-video-cameraAlso, in Smile, You're on Video Camera, Futurist Virginia Postrel offers an interesting little thought experiment about the future spread of cameras and omni-veillance in our lives. The upside potential is vast... providing we remain calmly reasonable about negotiating carve-outs and exceptions. 

And - above all - if we demand that the light spread "upward" - at least as much as downward.

== Manipulative polemics about transparency == 

In contrast, Dave Eggers's novel The Circle expresses dread toward the spreading encroachment, everywhere, of light, portraying a near future internet giant that manifests all of the best -- and all the very worst -- traits of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, combined. In so doing, he creates a vivid, strawman version of coveillance for his virtuous characters to rebel-against and knock down.  
TheCircle
Eggers does this effectively, first by portraying an all-controlling, information-voracious monopoly -- a hackle-raiser, all by itself -- a behemoth whose unctuous-preachy utopianism just has to conceal a deeply insidious agenda. The author of this best-seller also utilizes an expert array of well-delivered literary techniques -- for instance, by having both his omniscient narrator-voice and the story's smarmy-nosy oppressors lecture the reader -- ad tedious infinitum -- about the advantages  of reciprocal transparency. 

I respect skillful polemic and Eggers deploys cleverness to make his anti-transparency argument, knowing that  generations of Hollywood films have taught us... it's always villains who give long, rationalizing speeches.   And boy, do the pro-transparency villains in The Circle give speeches!

The novel is at its most-fun while skewering the cliches of Silicon Valley. Eggers portrays The Circle as the perfect place to work... in fact too perfect with free gourmet restaurants, 24 hour health spa, free (indeed mandatory) massages, and employees encouraged to begin living on-campus. As pep rallies gather momentum, you cannot help picking up the vibe of a cult -- even down to oblique references to the new Apple headquarters, a spaceship-like behemoth that will be shaped like -- a circle.  Eggers's loathing for all this is seldom expressed in criticism, but rather in grandiose, utopian paeans that pour not only from the cult's boosters, but also the unctuously supportive, omniscient narrator.

Indeed, it took me a while to realize where I had seen this method before -- mocking your foe by relentlessly delivering silly-exaggerated versions of the enemy point of view.  Then I realized. Of course. Stephen Colbert! Colbert's faux-conservative schtick is probably the most original, consistent and brilliant comedic innovation since Groucho Marx. Eggers does the same thing (alas without Colbert's humor or charm), delivering every possible argument for transparency, in extreme versions that are tuned to repel.


In the world of The Circle, cameras proliferate everywhere -- as I predicted in EARTH and in The Transparent Society -- only these do not become part of an ecology of human-style reciprocal-self-restraint. Rather, they unleash a tsunami of voyeurism and exhibitionism, encouraged -- even socially enforced -- by a corporate titan that is paternalistically "well-intentioned," but untethered from regulation or social or even market forces. (Circle employees are so busy 'zinging' and engaging in online interaction that they get very little actual work done.)

Alas, Eggers goes for the standard cliche...that his fellow citizens are fools who would actually buy into his all-controlling corporation's blatant zero-sum game. That, in order to get transparency's advantages, you must thereupon completely sell-out and surrender your humanity, or any core-safe-inner zone of personal space or privacy, or the right to eccentricity or even stark-but-beautiful loneliness. 

"Secrets are lies. Sharing is Caring. Privacy is Theft," reads the Circle's deliberately Orwellian mantra. Well, sure, borrow from the master! Indeed, Eggers intends to warn us off from what he deems to be transparency's pitiless glare. He aims for Orwell's achievement: the self preventing prophecy.

Alas for his scenario, in real life, average men and women would refuse the simplistic, zero-sum bargain offered by The Circle. Those citizens are, as we speak, adapting to a more transparent world by picking and choosing. By deciding which most-vital intimacies or solitary ways to keep within a protected curtilage, and which to trade for the benefits of reciprocal accountability. 

cameras-smallerLike all transparency luddites, Eggers shrugs off his obligation to suggest plausible alternatives. Given that cameras get smaller, cheaper, more numerous, better and more mobile at a rate faster than Moore's Law -- (one pundit called it Brin's Corollary) -- what's your plan, then? To ban them? That will certainly guarantee Big Brother. 

The one alternative presented in the book -- unplugging and dropping out, Kaczynski-style -- seems likely to be a non-starter. Moreover, it goes very badly for one drop-out, in The Circle, poignantly reminding me of that hapless character, The Savage, in Brave New World. Did Eggers truly mean to make it so blatantly clear that hiding cannot possibly work?  In which case... what's your suggested alternative?

Perhaps the choices being made by today's teens (for example) are not to the liking of folks like Dave Eggers. Indeed, he is welcome to disagree. But is it fair to call citizens inactive in this evolution? As I portray in Existence, their activity can be assertive, not the sheeplike acquiescence that he depicts (contemptuously) in The Circle.

The possibility that light might be a weapon any person can use to enforce MYOB (Mind Your Own Business) or GOOMFYNBALMA (Get Out Of My Face You Nosy Bastard And Leave Me Alone) never occurs to Mr. Eggers, even though it is how we got freedom and privacy, in the first place. Nor the blatant fact that transparency and sousveillance are solutions to hierarchy and intimidation, not their friends

Indeed, the novel's plot revolves around a predictable premise, that The Circle's rulers do not abide by the bargain they have offered, that the new-lord information-oligarchs betray it, and their hypocrisy would for certain be brought down... by light! If only it truly did shine both ways.


It is the avoidance of reciprocality of transparency that underlies every bad aspect that Eggers rails against. The corporation frames and blackmails opponents and stifles its own defectors. One of those top defectors even avows, near the end, that the one solution to every problem raised in the book will be to inform the sheep out there what's really going on, and he asks the protagonist for help in doing this. 

But the protagonist -- a strawman exhibitionist who has spent 300 pages proclaiming devotion to fetishistic-openness -- suddenly refuses to share, deciding instead to help the oligarchs conceal their schemes.

Seriously.  The top failure mode revealed in the book consists of characters following Mr. Eggers's advice. 

(Side note: when you finish The Circle, ask: why didn't the defector guy -- a billionaire genius with instant access to all the world -- just blow the whistle, himself, instead of trusting a flakey and openly-avowed foe?) 

== The Circle... comes full circle ==


Consider those Hollywood memes.  I've asserted already that Eggers skillfully deploys several. Again, monopolies are dangerous. Villains give long lectures. And our neighbors would all fall for this simplistic plot because they (unlike me) are all sheep.  

Those are great old crowd-pleasers.

What Eggers never acknowledges is that generations of those same films (and novels and songs) also portray individualism and eccentricity and diversity as paramount virtues.  Wait... I take that back.  Eggers portrays all of those things under threat by an ominous Big Brother, even though he does not trust commonfolk to defend them. Okay. I get it. The Colbert thing again. He does not miss a beat.


To be clear, I share all of those values, except one. I refuse (despite Fox News and its pallid imitators on the left) to perceive my fellow citizens as herd beasts. I am betting they will negotiate an assertive course, one that brings individualism and eccentricity and MYOB into a world filled with light. Using light to catch and deter those who invade their inner privacy.
RECIPROCAL-ACCOUNTABILITY
Will we see this active assertion start to take shape with the emergence of ELLO?  The new social network that - while somewhat bare bones - promises NOT to collect your data or sell it, and to have no advertising? Will fed-up millions vote with their feet? 

The Ello experiment will not make or break my arguments from The Transparent Society.  But in the extremum, any surge from Facebook to Ello would be a blow to those who portray our fellow citizens as cattle.

== A circle has no point ==

Again, when the entire plot revolves around a top-down conspiracy for power that would be solved by engaging a fully informed public's capacity for judgement and balance, and the author makes clear that upward-shining sousveillance light is the only conceivable answer, one has to ask: what was your point, again?

To be fair, there is a level at which Mr. Eggers does in The Circle what I always attempt to do -- present arguments for all sides (albeit in this case as grotesque caricatures) in a passionately important controversy over where all the technological and social trends might be taking us.  If I did not consider his contribution to the debate to be intelligent and interesting - though polemical-biased - I would not be driving sales his way, right now!  

Alas, though, intelligence and cleverness do not prevent the sins of blatant exaggeration, oversimplification, strawmanning, contempt for the masses and pressing the scales with a heavy, authorial thumb.

But you be the judge. It's what citizens will do, with balance and proportion, as we seek the positive sum, win-win for us all.

== Transparency Miscellany ==

DATA-BREACHNow it’s Home Depot reporting a massive hack-leak of customer information. A couple months ago it was Target and 110 million files. Before that? Open SSL, a critical security backbone. And before that? Shall I go on? Read this article about “Data Breach Fatigue” and how people are starting to shrug in resignation, rather than shout in outrage.
"We are in the trough of disillusionment," says Gartner security analyst Avivah Litan. "Over 1,000 retailers have been hit; it's not limited to Home Depot. There are 999 others that no one's talking about."
When will it sink in that Everything Leaks and that our best security measure will be to stop assuming there’s some solution out there, and instead adapt so that we will not be harmed — and can thrive — in a world where most information simply flows, like water. 

Believe it or not, we might be stronger and safer and even have more privacy, if we finally face that fact.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Will we uplift other species to sapience?

uplift-sapienceThis time, let's veer into an area wherein I actually know a thing or two!  The matter of whether humanity might someday... or even should... meddle in other creatures on this planet and bestow upon them the debatable "gift" of full sapience -- the ability to argue, ponder, store information, appraise, discuss, create, express and manipulate tools, so that they might join us in the problematic task of being worthy planetary managers.
These scribbles were created (as you might guess) as part of an interview.
What first inspired you to write about uplifting?
Some other authors (e.g. H.G. Wells, Pierre Boule, Mary Shelley, and Cordwainer Smith) dealt with this general concept before, but always by assuming the process would be abused -- that the humans bestowing this boon would spoil things by enslaving their clients of creations. Of course that is one possible (and despicable) outcome. Those were good "warning" stories with wholesome messages.
uplift-books
But that vein is overworked, so I wondered -- what if we someday begin modifying higher animals -- and I think we clearly will -- guided by the morality of modern liberal society?  Filled with hyper-tolerance and eager for diversity? My uplift novels portray a future in which sapient dolphins and apes serve on our councils, offer their own styles of wisdom, art and insight, enriching an Earth civilization that is no longer only human.  
It's an attractive outcome...
...but the path to get there is fraught with dangers and moral hazards.
How close do you think we genuinely are, scientifically, to being able to uplift certain species? And is there a scientific imperative to do so?
SCIENCE-UPLIFTWe are rapidly tracing the genetic mutations that empowered a sub-population of Homo erectus to transform into something theretofore never seen on Planet Earth - or possibly anywhere in the galaxy.  It appears that only a few dozen protein and regulatory genes made the crucial difference.  Already, some of these alterations are being tried in laboratory mice, so we can better understand some tragic human ailments.  

There are - at present - rules against doing such insertion experiments on higher creatures like apes. But when the prospect looms closer, can you doubt trials will begin? If it isn't allowed in the open, western scientific community, then it will happen in secret, elsewhere.  Frankly, I'd rather see this realm explored in the open, under relentless transparency and scrutiny, than let it turn into some secret, Michael-Crichton-style excuse for I-Told-You-so regrets.
MOUSE-SPEECH-GENEA recent article in Popular Mechanics: If You Give a Mouse a Human Speech Gene, It Learns Faster. Mice that receive a human version of a speech and language gene display accelerated learning! Don't expect these findings to lead to a rush of smarter, "uplifted" animals—though they might just reveal something new and fascinating about the evolution of human speech and language.
"What surprised me most was that the humanized gene actually improved the animal's behavior rather than messing up the system," says behavioral neuroscientist Kyle Smith. Science writer Charles Q. Choi notes,  “The gene for the protein called FOXP2 has been firmly linked to human speech and language. Humans with just one functional copy of this gene experience difficulties in learning and struggle with spoken and written language. The gene itself is not unique—chimps have a version of it. But because the human and chimpanzee lineages diverged roughly 6 million years ago, they don't have two key changes in amino acids that humans have evolved."
And so, it begins.

Will "uplift" include resurrecting ancient - extinct species?

I portray this happening with Neanderthals, in my recent novel EXISTENCE

Now that we have a Neanderthal genome, what's to stop someone from doing this?  Especially doing it in stages?  I am at this moment involved in a research group hoping to insert Neanderthal genes into tiny clusters of neurons to see how differently they behave.  It is a small step, but it might shed light on why our cousins were so conservative in their lifestyles and too change-resistant to adapt.

Likewise, I think we'll see mammoths restored in stages, with maybe just ten genes at a time inserted into elephant embryos.  There will be protests!  The work will be driven underground!  (As I portray in Existence.) But someone will do it.
You talk about how 'many other species on Earth appear to be stuck under a firm glass ceiling' - can you expand on this?  
uplift-barloweA while back, we were told that only humans used symbolic speech and tools.  Later, it was only dolphins and chimpanzees who could parse simple sentences.  In recent years, both rudimentary language skills and tool use have been documented in grey parrots, corvids (ravens), sea lions, elephants, every variety of ape, and even prairie dogs! Some people -- admirably empathic folks -- have declared that "this means we humans aren't so special, after all." And yes, in a sense it does mean that. Certainly, it is right that we expand our respect for Nature's other wonders and fight to preserve them.
But there is another way to look at this. If so many species -- all coming from different directions -- appear to have plateaued at about the same level, then it implies that both Darwin and Mother Nature are generous, but only up to a point. "This far, you may rise easily, many of you! But no higher.  There is a glass ceiling through which you may not pass!"
Think about it.  If so many species achieved rudimentary linguistics and tool use today, would it not have been equally likely for the top-brainy dinosaurs?  Were velociraptors equally endowed? Can we ever know? Alas, because none of them managed to put together a space program, all dinosaurs helplessly perished.
No, the lesson from all this is to be even more amazed that humanity pushed through this glass ceiling.  Smashed through it, actually, by orders of magnitude! Which then demands of us not to feel overweening pride, but a sense of duty and obligation.  To use our titanic brains to benefit the planet, not just ourselves.
But it goes beyond that. If getting past the barrier is rare, then don't we owe it to our neighbors and cousins to turn around and offer a helping hand?
What are your takes on ethical arguments against uplifting?  
uplift-word-cloudThose arguments are strong and persuasive and perhaps compelling!  For example, here's one: "Other species have their own honor and dignity and beauty and styles of intelligence!"
Yes, I agree on all counts.  And if commencing a program of uplift on, say, Tursiops dolphins would cause all of those things to vanish, then I would say stop.  But that is zero-sum thinking. And it is fallacious.
We must preserve and help the bright dolphins and elephants and parrots and sea lions foremost by restoring and expanding their habitats and natural populations.  But any uplift project would work only with a small, selected sub-population that would soon be a new and different species, on its own path of destiny. All the richness of the old root stock would be preserved. You can retain the old -- and everything worthy of respect -- while creating the new.
UPLIFT-UNIVERSE-BRINLikewise, the proclamations that uplift would be typical "human arrogance, playing god," seem easy to answer.  How about typical "human generosity"? Lending a hand to others across nature's chasm, so they might then join us building starships?
Or so their ingrate teenagers might eloquently blame us for their adolescent angst, sneering "Hey!  I didn't ASK to be this smart!"
The one argument against uplift that I find most compelling is the simplest. Yes, the goal is a beautiful one, to vastly expand the diversity of Earth's sapience, with dolphin and chimp and bonobo and gorilla and even elephant sages sitting on our councils and sharing unique insights? Great. I portray them having problems, in my novels, but the product is still a lovely dream. (To be clear, while artificial intelligence might be possible, uplifted sapience is demonstrably beyond plausible, even very likely.)
All of that sounds fine. Only... in order to get there, the chosen sub-populations will have to go through generations of awkward fits and starts. No matter how carefully and lovingly we move ahead, there will be some pain. And I can understand folks who declare that they would - on that account alone - oppose uplift, no matter how wondrous the final outcome might be.
Salk-Good-ancestorIn the end?  I (very) respectfully disagree. All generations are built for one purpose... the one fine goal that Jonas Salk spoke-of... to be good ancestors.  To suffer what we must, for our grandchildren. I can think of no greater function than to sow, so that those descendants may reap.
Dolphin parents make similar choices every day.  If they could envision what their heirs might become... the earthly and alien seas they might explore... I think they would volunteer.
 Aside from the ethical reasons you've presented, what would be the benefits - commercially or scientifically - in doing so?
StartideThe oceans of planet Earth are a vast mystery, filled with both physical wealth and unique treasures to preserve.  We are trying to learn to be good planetary managers (often stymied by other members of our own, short-sighted species.) But I doubt we could fill that role all by ourselves, anywhere near as well as if sapient dolphin partners (and critics) were by our side.  The same holds for countless other opportunities for both profit and wisdom.  (I believe that -- and portray in stories -- descendants of elephants might be the perfect living inhabitants of asteroidal colonies!)
Our biggest danger is not the one preached by Michael Crichton and so many others -- human ambition and hubristic pride.  No, our biggest danger comes from zero sum thinking. Proclaiming that we cannot seek - and sometimes achieve - the win-win. Doing well while doing good. 
What measures can be taken to protect the rights of animals if uplifting as a practice is pursued?  
SECRECY-NEWI've been a little unkind to Michael Crichton in this interview.  But in fact, every single one of his dire-danger scenarios preaches a single valuable lesson, and it is not "don't do new things."  If you read the books and watch the movies, you soon realize that the true lesson is: "don't do new things in SECRET."
The only possible way that uplift, or any other grand project, can be done well is if it is performed in the open, subjected to relentless criticism by opponents who seek out every flaw, every danger and mistake.  Only then, ironically, will the project move ahead with some strong chance of minimizing the pain... and maximizing the benefits for all.
Anything else you'd like to say on the matter? 
aficionadoI think you'll like my novella "Aficionado."  It takes a while to get to the uplift part.
Above all, let's not paint our kids in a corner, binding them to our vows, based on this generation's obsessions.  Those kids will be smarter and better than us.  If we make a civilization of decency, tolerance, maturity, thoughtfulness and fun... then they will answer all of these questions better than we slightly advanced cavemen ever could.