were the fears of big brother overstated? 02.27.2007, 11:44 AM
posted by bob stein
The NY Times published an article yesterday about Stewart Brand's embrace of nuclear energy and genetically engineered foods. Here is a quote:
He thinks the fears of genetically engineered bugs causing disaster are as overstated as the counterculture's fears of computers turning into Big Brother. "Starting in the 1960s, hackers turned computers from organizational control machines into individual freedom machines," he told Conservation magazine last year. "Where are the green biotech hackers?"
So what do you think. Were the fears of Big Brother overstated? Did hackers successfully turn computers into individual freedom machines?
Christian Wach on February 27, 2007 1:34 PM:
"Big Brother": It may be a truism, but I think it's too early to tell. Certainly computers and the Interweb have made controlling the spread of ideas more difficult, but they've also made surveillance and the integration of databases considerably easier. In my more optimistic moments, I suspect that there will always be an interplay between those who would wish to control a population and those who would resist that control - and that any technology can be used to further either cause.
"Green biotech hackers": When I hack my computer's OS or some piece of software, the consequences are relatively trivial in the (all too likely) event of a cock up. I'd definitely be hesitant about releasing my genetically-hacked, glow-in-the-dark dandelion into the garden, although the local skunkweed suppliers seem a lot less worried about the mutated herbal crack that they propagate and sell...
JoseAngel on February 27, 2007 2:51 PM:
Big brother is way too tame for the future. The protagonist was watched by just one camera when in a room at home. No round-the-clock GPS location, no compulsory cell phone, no Google search track... 1984? Let me laugh. Just wait for 2084.
James Aach on February 27, 2007 9:22 PM:
I don't claim to know much about computers, but thought you might care to know that Mr. Brand has also endorsed a free online novel about nuclear power at http://RadDecision.blogspot.com
Gary Frost on February 27, 2007 10:19 PM:
"The digital talent for short-term solutions was understood as itself a profound long-term problem." Stewart Brand, 1998
A discordance between cultural transformations paced in centuries and a churn of cutural transmission technologies with a backward compatibility of months produces the uncertain functionality of the screen based book. The book was invented, to begin with, to match the pace of cultural transformations. Once achieved it became an engine of those transformations and many new futures were engendered. I suspect the print book will surprise us again generations from now.
bowerbird on March 1, 2007 4:19 PM:
> Certainly computers and the Interweb have made
> controlling the spread of ideas more difficult,
> but they've also made surveillance and the
> integration of databases considerably easier.
once the government decides to deny your access
to the web, how will you spread your ideas then?
especially when the eyeballs are glued to youtube?
do you know they are recording every phone-call
that everyone makes, right now, "just in case"
they might want to check on you down the line?
almost everything you do is now being tracked...