nettime's avid reader on Fri, 28 Oct 2016 11:20:12 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Promises (2600 Editorial, Fall 2016)

[Tx to Emmanuel Goldstein for providing it to nettime.]


In this election season, we all know a thing or two about promises.
They are what the politicians feed us in order to get elected.
They almost never are fulfilled and most of us aren’t the least
bit surprised by that. Yet the cycle continues time after time.
But there’s a different kind of promise out there, one that was
exemplified at The Eleventh HOPE this past July. That promise actually
does come to fruition with enough support and nurturing. We call it
the hacker promise.

Oddly enough, and perhaps appropriately so, those involved in
political campaigns are scared to death of the potential of hackers.
Why? It’s painfully simple - they fear the truth. And nothing is
more honest than someone who reveals that all is not well when we’re
constantly told over and over again that it is.

We’ve all read “The Emperor’s New Clothes” (and if not, we
all should) where an honest child does what no other dares do and
says out loud that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes at all
when everyone else was too scared not to play along with the charade.
Whenever we demonstrate a lack of security, obtain documents that
aren’t supposed to exist, challenge the status quo, or reveal a lie,
we’re embarrassing an emperor of one sort or another. And this is
why, however deeply hidden, the general public cheers when it occurs.
The hacker promise once again shows what is true and what is not.
There is no bigger threat for those addicts of power.

You could not have found a more diverse and freethinking group of
people than the attendees and participants at The Eleventh HOPE this
summer in New York City. If there had been a single theme, it would
have been that of questioning assumptions. Every system imaginable was
subject to being challenged with something better designed to take its
place. That is what hackers do and we’re inspired beyond words to
see so many people who clearly get this. Here are just a few instances
of our promise and the threat it poses:

1 Designing and using strong encryption to protect our privacy is a
recurring topic in the hacker world. Encryption in the hands of the
populace is seen as a threat by those in power.

2 Taking back access and control to everything from automobile repair
to music recordings to food to pharmaceuticals - all currently in the
hands of big business with a level of manipulation unprecedented in
our history. Hackers are the ones who will figure out how to either
bypass these systems or make them irrelevant. Again, a huge threat to
the system as it stands.

3 Demonstrating how almost any lock can be defeated, any key copied.
Our lockpicking talks were among the most popular this year and the
techniques displayed were imaginative and scientific. It may make a
lot of companies, governments, and people uncomfortable. But it’s
the truth.

4 Civil liberties issues have always been at the forefront of the
hacker world and the many campaigns and projects that groups like
the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties
Union are involved in could fill an entire conference on their own.
But the truth here is that, when mixed with the spirit of rebellion
and challenge that already exists in the hacker world, the amount of
inspiration gained from their talks was extremely contagious. It all
leads to continued and ever-expanding discussions that those in power
would rather not have happen.

We can go on and on with examples, but looking at the HOPE program
guide would basically make the same point. What comes out of a
conference like this isn’t something as innocuous as a conversation
about building better security. This is about changing the way we
think and the way we do just about everything. Whether it’s coming
up with a new digital currency, bypassing drug companies and their
artificial price controls, coming up with alternative fuels, figuring
out a new way to broadcast or receive material that otherwise would be
inaccessible, there is no element of our society that isn’t in the
crosshairs of change. Yes, designing better security is in there too.
But it’s so much bigger than just that.

This is a train that cannot be stopped; there is simply too much
momentum at this point. With every hysterical report of what hackers
could be doing to our privacy, with every Congressional hearing
about the threat of “cyberterrorists,” and with every political
campaign claiming they’re being targeted by the digital underground,
what you’re actually seeing is unbridled fear and panic. Because
deep down, all of these people know that if they haven’t already
lost control, they will fairly soon. Their system and systems are
very powerful and omnipresent. They too get better, faster, and more
encompassing with every year. But, whether it’s today, next year, or
a decade from now, they will become unsustainable. Human ingenuity and
the desire for freedom and self-determination always come back up to
the surface, regardless of how long they’ve been forcibly submerged.
What’s different now is that we have more tools and platforms than
ever before to accomplish this. What’s different is that we’re all
different, and yet united in this desire. That means thousands or even
millions of ways to achieve a goal rather than just one set of rules
handed down from the castle.

This is what the hacker promise represents and, while we’re
confident and optimistic about the future, it doesn’t mean that some
very dark days don’t lie ahead. When coming up against such powerful
entities on such fundamental issues, it’s inevitable that we will be
demonized, targeted, and punished for daring to be different. This is
how we know that we’re winning.

And we win when we’re diverse, when we debate, and when we respect
one another. No political party can ever represent us beyond an issue
or two. We will always think outside the box and come up with ways
of doing things that don’t follow the rules. If the emperor has no
clothes, if there’s a way to defeat security, if there’s damning
evidence to leak, we will never remain silent, regardless of the
political price. That’s the promise of the hacker world that we can
never break.

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