I have always been a huge fan of Cory Doctorow’s – I read his books, I listen to his podcast, I watch his numerous and always ground-breaking keynote speeches and I value his insights and expert opinion.
This time, however, Cory outdid even himself.
Below you can watch Doctorow’s seminal keynote speech given at the 28th Chaos Communication Congress in Germany.
In addition, since the original video recording was released under a creative commons licence and given the immense importance of the topic, I decided to post the audio via my Singularity 1 on 1 podcast.
So, you can listen to or download the audio file above or scroll down and watch the full video recording below. I hope you find it as inspiring, as enraging and as profound as I did.
“The last 20 years of Internet policy have been dominated by the copyright war, but the war turns out only to have been a skirmish. The coming century will be dominated by war against the general purpose computer, and the stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race.
The problem is twofold: first, there is no known general-purpose computer that can execute all the programs we can think of except the naughty ones; second, general-purpose computers have replaced every other device in our world. There are no airplanes, only computers that fly. There are no cars, only computers we sit in. There are no hearing aids, only computers we put in our ears. There are no 3D printers, only computers that drive peripherals. There are no radios, only computers with fast ADCs and DACs and phased-array antennas. Consequently anything you do to “secure” anything with a computer in it ends up undermining the capabilities and security of every other corner of modern human society.
And general purpose computers can cause harm — whether it’s printing out AR15 components, causing mid-air collisions, or snarling traffic. So the number of parties with legitimate grievances against computers are going to continue to multiply, as will the cries to regulate PCs.
The primary regulatory impulse is to use combinations of code-signing and other “trust” mechanisms to create computers that run programs that users can’t inspect or terminate, that run without users’ consent or knowledge, and that run even when users don’t want them to.
The upshot: a world of ubiquitous malware, where everything we do to make things better only makes it worse, where the tools of liberation become tools of oppression.
Our duty and challenge is to devise systems for mitigating the harm of general purpose computing without recourse to spyware, first to keep ourselves safe, and second to keep computers safe from the regulatory impulse.”
Cory Doctorow’s Interview with CBC’s Spark on the coming war on general-purpose computation
Video Update: Cory Doctorow at Google – The Coming Civil War over General-purpose Computing
Who governs digital trust?
Doctorow framed the question this way: “Computers are everywhere. They are now something we put our whole bodies into—airplanes, cars—and something we put into our bodies—pacemakers, cochlear implants. They HAVE to be trustworthy.”
Sometimes humans are not so trustworthy, and programs may override you: “I can’t let you do that, Dave.” (Reference to the self-protective insane computer Hal in Kubrick’s film “2001.” That time the human was more trustworthy than the computer.) Who decides who can override whom?
The core issues for Doctorow come down to Human Rights versus Property Rights, Lockdown versus Certainty, and Owners versus mere Users.
- Will 2012 Be 1984: DRM and SOPA are Breaking The Internet!
- Scroogled By Cory Doctorow (The Day Google Became Evil)
- Epoch by Cory Doctorow (With A Little Help Chapter 13)
- A Little Bit Pregnant: Cory Doctorow at Boundaries, Frontiers and Gatekeepers iSchool Conference