March 09, 2007

Cory Doctorow on The Totalitarian Urge

Science fiction writer and Internet and DRM activist Cory Doctorow spoke about The Totalitarian Urge: Total Information Awareness and the Cosmic Billiards at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby this afternoon.

MP3 files of two talks Doctorow gave at SFU are available here.

A few notes:

People are hard, technology is easy.

The Internet has stimulated amazing works of collaboration that arise spontaneously. Collaboration is now so cheap that you don't even know it is going on. Anyone who has ever linked to a web page has contributed to collaborating. And now we have tagging of blogs and images.

The Open Source movement built by volunteers is amazing, and has changed our notion of what can be done by loosely controlled groups of volunteers.

People will use technology for freedom faster than it can be walled off. Company employees treat systems administrators as damage and route around them.

The more control there is, the less efficient we become.

Net neutrality vs quality of service -- it is more efficient to simply provide more bandwidth.

The Internet is also open to adding more control. Total information awareness is the idea that if we have enough data we can understand the world. This is leading to black lists, no-fly lists. Yet when you're watching everyone, you are watching no one. The Stasi in East Germany had a file on everyone, yet they didn't know the Wall was coming down. We need to distinguish between technologies that track us for our own benefit, and those that track us to spy on us.

RFID (radio frequency identification tags that are increasingly embedded in products) are setting us on a course for non-stop identification and tracking. We are being conditioned to live in a surveillance state.

Forward valuing is hard to do, but we must learn how to do it both in regard to privacy issues and a sustainable environment.

Posted by Paul at March 9, 2007 07:07 PM