Monday, March 7, 2011

A little bit pregnant.

In one of the highlights of my time at the iSchool, Canadian-born, England-based science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger, Cory Doctorow (boingboing.net, craphound.com) headlined a University of Toronto student conference, Boundaries, Frontiers & Gatekeepers, on March 5, 2011.

Want to hear it? Listen to A Little Bit Pregnant by Corey Doctorow

A little Bit Pregnant

(Below from iSchool website.)

In the keynote speech, Doctorow discussed the dangers that overzealous regulation of computers pose to our future.

The March 4 to 6 conference was organized by U of T’s Faculty of Information (also known as the iSchool) for students from both its own graduate program and those of other universities, among others.

The Saturday night keynote was highly anticipated as Canadian-born Doctorow is well respected and revered as the co-editor of Boing Boing (boingboing.net) and the author of Tor Teens/HarperCollins UK novels like FOR THE WIN and the bestselling LITTLE BROTHER. He is the former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group. Born in Toronto and is now based in London, England.

The concepts of Boundaries, Frontiers & Gatekeepers was, in the content of the conference, related back to information studies. Papers, posters and talks ranged from Collaborative Consumption: Loyalty Cards, Surveillance and Social Sorting, to Evidence and Memory into the Future of Archives.

Here are some key points from Doctorow’s speech:

“Designing general purpose computers that sneak around their owners’ backs is a terrible idea. We’ve already seen what happens when you add just a little bit of control to networks and computers – most recently we saw Iran’s and Egypt’s secret police mining Facebook to figure out whom to arrest. Virus writers and identity thieves have already figured out that when there is a technology, that is supposed to prevent copying, running on a computer, that prevents certain programs from being seen or modified by users, that those are the programs you’d want to infect with your viruses because they also cannot be seen by the user of the computer.

[...]

Once we create the facility to lawfully intercept terrorist communications, or to speedily take down copy-right-infringement or to interdict pirate software, or to remotely prevent bad radios from running, we create the tools by which tyrants, crooks, snoops and jerks will spy on and control us, even if for the best of reasons.

[...]

Building a general purpose PC that is just a little bit locked down is like finding a woman who is just a little bit pregnant. Once the facility can be used for a legitimate purpose, it can also be used for illegitimate purpose…”

Highlights and above audio (from Singularity Blog)

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