Cory Doctorow recently spoke on The Coming War on General Computation, which I think will be one of the most important issues of the coming ten years: more important even than the impact of dwindling oil or water, because what’s at stake is corporate control over what we as citizens are able to do and not do, what we are able to make or not make, what we can invent or not invent.
Here is the full text of The Coming War on General Computation speech by Cory Doctorow, transcribed by Joshua Wise.
Here’s a small excerpt from near the end of the speech:
And personally, I can see that there will be programs that run on general purpose computers and peripherals that will even freak me out. So I can believe that people who advocate for limiting general purpose computers will find receptive audience for their positions. But just as we saw with the copyright wars, banning certain instructions, or protocols, or messages, will be wholly ineffective as a means of prevention and remedy; and as we saw in the copyright wars, all attempts at controlling PCs will converge on rootkits; all attempts at controlling the Internet will converge on surveillance and censorship, which is why all this stuff matters. Because we’ve spent the last 10+ years as a body sending our best players out to fight what we thought was the final boss at the end of the game, but it turns out it’s just been the mini-boss at the end of the level, and the stakes are only going to get higher.
As a member of the Walkman generation, I have made peace with the fact that I will require a hearing aid long before I die, and of course, it won’t be a hearing aid, it will be a computer I put in my body. So when I get into a car – a computer I put my body into – with my hearing aid – a computer I put inside my body – I want to know that these technologies are not designed to keep secrets from me, and to prevent me from terminating processes on them that work against my interests. [vigorous applause from audience] Thank you.
Thank you. So, last year, the Lower Merion School District, in a middle-class, affluent suburb of Philadelphia found itself in a great deal of trouble, because it was caught distributing PCs to its students, equipped with rootkits that allowed for remote covert surveillance through the computer’s camera and network connection. It transpired that they had been photographing students thousands of times, at home and at school, awake and asleep, dressed and naked. Meanwhile, the latest generation of lawful intercept technology can covertly operate cameras, mics, and GPSes on PCs, tablets, and mobile devices.
Freedom in the future will require us to have the capacity to monitor our devices and set meaningful policy on them, to examine and terminate the processes that run on them, to maintain them as honest servants to our will, and not as traitors and spies working for criminals, thugs, and control freaks.
If you care about these issues, please donate to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).