- The contents and ideas within this essay are my own and do not reflect the views of this site or my employer…
** Edits may take place for grammatical issues or lines missed due to author’s learning disability, but any factual issues that are ever deleted will be noted at the bottom of text
Atari is a term used in Go for a situation where a stone or chain of stones has only one liberty,and may be captured on the next move if not given one or more additional liberties.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Go_terms#Atari)
I believe this is an apt definition for the position we find ourselves in.
We are The Midnight Eye; unlike Goku’s Midnight Eye, we may not control every computer terminal on Earth, but we control more than enough terminals to do what must be done,
Cyberpunk is by definition, low life and high tech.
If allowances for common human decency and freedoms on the part of the majority of Earth’s corporate, financial, religious or political authorities are any indicator, than a huge majority of Earth’s population are low life.
Many of the unjust authorities in our present age (and past ages) originate from the interests of religious, corporate and political institutions; the interests of these institutions most often place a premium on money, power and influence rather than humans, common freedoms and our planet.
These interests are most often representative of financial equity that dwarf our own: in comparing the financial/material resources of a great percentage of Earth’s population to the corporate/political/religious factions ruining this world, the great majority of us are low life.
However, the unjust authorities of our world must live, act, plot, scheme and hoard their wealth in a high tech, highly digitized world that hacking, cybersecurity and computer science can rule, contest, change or pervade.
Technologies such as wireless internet. 3G/4G, IoT devices and Bluetooth mean the computerized world has (and continues to) spread. Almost anywhere you go, from the trivial to the critical, the machinery that supports human civilization grows ever more dependent on the resources of an every growing, digital phantom space.
Right now, knowledge is paramount to manipulating this digital phantom space that the world (and ruinous authorities) depend on.
Thanks to the Internet, the means to understand, and thus, mend, bend, break and create within this space are readily available. You may become adept regardless of who or what you are, and many of the contemporary masters of this space rose from the outcasts, the poor and the disenfranchised.
On so many levels that will be discussed in greater detail, skill in digital disciplines (especially hacking, programming and cybersecurity) is now a form of liberation and the great equalizer of the common majority.
Those of us living low life high tech have an advantage that no community amongst the common populace is likely to have ever had. If necessary, we can force positive change and awareness for the benefit of the great majority, as the ability to manipulate the digital spaces are largely a labor of interest and passion leading to skillfulness.
Imagine if even 10% of the attendance of any recent CCC decided to pick one target doing the world grievous harm an act upon it within the digital spaces.
Even if this percentage did not coordinate their operations, as long as they chose one target, they could make a statement for the ages, one that an apathetic populace could not ignore.
Hacking is one of the most transformative and potent arts of our (or any age. Regardless of anyone’s opinions of who was involved or why, America’s 2016 Presidential Elections make it difficult to doubt that hacking can change the course of human history.
This is what those who write the checks for the US Intelligence agencies fear, and that is why they inflate their victories over the hacker community. This is why they spread paranoia as to their real capacity to stop us; they need to keep us fractured, because there is little they could do if we worked together.
Current day, intelligence agencies enforce the interests of unjust authority through unethical, illegal means that are hugely ineffective at “defeating terror”, but are fantastic at terrorizing the populace.
For this they mangle the constitunional principals they are sworn to protect to pieces, ravaging the basic freedoms of the citizens they are sworn to protect.
Yet the US intelligence machine is a continual failure in stopping the mass shootings becoming ever more commonplace; however, it is incredibly effective where social/political critics, dissidents, activists, Muslims or journalists are concerned.
It is a shame that the EFF or ACLU does not have the wallet or influence of the NRA.
If these surveillance technologies existed in the mid to late 18th century, the British would be attempting to set implants in the systems of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Thomas Paine.
If corporations like Google existed, they would play the part of Benedict Arnold, turning over the data of our founding fathers with little defiance, all part of a mutually beneficial business arrangement.
And while Intelligence agencies may have some elite personal (though they quickly lose them to the private sector), only their wallets could ever compete as a whole against any percentage of the hacker/cybersecurity community.
This is why they stopped targeting hackers with their exploits; does the hacker community really have to fear an intelligence machine whose members break OpSec through posting on LinkedIn?
Every person who gains competence in a digital discipline now has the potential to become a means to improve the world.
While they should never be spoon fed, encouragement and aid could be an investment in bettering your own world.
Whereas elitist attitudes may have been common in places that are the confines of these disciplines, this snobbery is bullshit we and the wider world can no longer afford.
Corporate/government domination of the Internet could lead to disaster
It seems that despite protests and the petitions, Net Neutrality is destined to die; yet again, the detriment of the great majority serves to benefit the few who already know abundance onto greed.
Right now, the low life high tech have an advantage that can change things, as the ability to manipulate the digital spaces are largely a labor of interest and passion leading to skillfulness.
How long before wealth can purchase or manufacture the means to dominate this space beyond our individual or combined abilities?
Current day, intelligence agencies enforce the interests of unjust authority through unethical, illegal means that are hugely ineffective at “defeating terror”, but are fantastic at terrorizing the populace.
But how long before these authorities can wield some automated terror that nullifies one of the few remaining advantages of the populace?
We have seen the fumbling, bumbling madness, shortsightedness and outright stupidity of government a bit too much lately; what happens if these fools with no true understanding of the Internet (except maybe how to profit from exploiting it) more fully dominate the Internet ( which so many gears of human civilization now depend) and do some damage to it that has an unforeseen, catastrophic effect on some facet of the Industrial or Energy Sector?
After all, recent world events have seen some pretty epic fails on behalf of influential people/entities allied with the current Republican authority in control of the US.
And these epic fails were within spheres they are supposed to be experts on: in the political sphere you have the invasion of Iraq, resulting in (by the measure of estimates that meet a global consensus of reliability) approx. 460,000 deaths, of which (by measure of the independent US/UK Iraq Body Count project between 2003-2011) 116,277 were civilian casualties (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War).
Some of the politicians who benefited from the corpses of American and Iraqi alike also voted against Net Neutrality; for example Republican Representative Jon Carter of Texas made between $1,000,001 and $5 million off of Defense Contracts during the Iraq War. (https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/some-members-congress-profit-iraq-war-contractor-stockso-wonder-we-cant-end-war, https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111126/15435216901/hypocrites-congress-who-voted-against-net-neutrality-sopapipa.shtml)
When our most ancient ancestors left their trees for the for the resources of the grasslands, their struggle to survive yielded knowledge that grew their minds, spurring an evolution toward the human species.
Millennia later (around 70,000 BC), an ecological cataclysm brought a sudden ice age that reduced our species to between 2k and 10k individuals total; the groups that improvised upon their skills and learned others were very likely the only survivors and saviors of our species.(https://www.npr.org/sections/krulwich/2012/10/22/163397584/how-human-beings-almost-vanished-from-earth-in-70-000-b-c)
Knowledge has carried our species through the ages; cooperation and communication have served as a multiplier that potentiates knowledge, hastening the growth of understanding and new knowledge.
In this way, in our more recent history, the baud is Buddha: a great teacher of nigh incomprehensible depth that we may meet at the Sangha (The Internet, our digital Library of the Ages). There he may lead us toward glimpsing enlightenment among the flashes of reason, absurdity, clarity and illusion cast like shadows by the vastness of our species collective knowledge.
The byproducts of the progress/innovation made possible by our species perpetual expansion of knowledge (war, greed, overpopulation and inequality amongst dwindling natural resources, an ecological cost that has amassed greatly since The Industrial Revolution)threaten to damn us , our planet and the innocent denizens with whom we share this Earth.
The institutional authorities who have benefited most by our dominance of this planet seem unwilling to meet these challenges while there is profit at hand. Look no further than the Republican led US (historically, the world’s socio-political course setters) , who since Trump’s election have gutted the EPA and environmental science agencies, gave business a free pass to pollute our ailing home, and have ranks teaming with climate deniers/fossil fuel profiteers.
Many of the wealthy, influential Republicans profiting from the ruining of our children’s natural inheritance appear to be well past middle age; they have already enjoyed a quality of past (free of seawalls, global water shortages, mass extinctions, a dying, jellyfish and plastic dominated ocean) that they would deny later generations any semblance of.
An evolution of knowledge spurred by freedoms of cooperation and communication among the great majority of this planet must meet the challenges of tomorrow if we are to save ourselves, our planet and the future the the youngest of our number deserve
An infrastructure that allows fast, free cooperation, communication and transfer of knowledge from all corners of our world must be protected, supported, improved and encouraged if we are to survive, let alone thrive.
Currently, the Internet is the paramount conductor of these processes.
Whether through more traditional use of its resources (such as HTTPS/HTTP) or through projects such as Tor, I2P and Tahoe Lafs (or any future privacy/anonymity projects that may evolve from them), the Internet represents a communications infrastructure with a incredible degree of pliable, programmable resources already in place.
And these resources can allow an oppressed population to hold congress in any manner of ways, thus allowing a system of communication to be unpredictable with a minimum of development time/preparation.
Also, while the Internet has become a staple resource of the public at large, a huge percentage of the general populace are not fully aware of the extent in which their freedoms are at risk.
Regardless of any groups best wishes for common majority, any movement against an oppressive authority must also fight a war against that authority for the minds and hearts of the general populace.
The empathy, outrage and awareness of the general population (and a tyrannical institution’s fear of losing control of the general population) is often the best means to curtail outright and blatant trespasses of an unjust authority.
The effectiveness of Breitbart’s dispersal of online propaganda during the 2016 US Presidential Campaign is just an omen of how the populace could be controlled and divided.
How much worse will it be if those of us those with the best capacity to fight for a free and neutral Internet fail to do so, therefore allowing the Breitbart’s of the world to (for all practical purposes) own the Internet and control the hearts and minds of population?
If the baud is Buddha, then we who are low life, high tech must become like his Nio protectors: enlightened devils whom out of compassion, bring wrath and ruin upon the enemies of sentient life.
The baud is Buddha and must be protected; The Library of Ages must not become The Breitbart Civil Auditorium.
A Cyberpunk movement could change the world, and it has in the past; many defining events in the history of computer science involve the classical elements of Cyberpunk: individuals with minimal financial/material resources utilize their wits and innovations in the technology of their aget to effect change in defiance of, or with little regard for, authority.:
• Stallman’s (love him or hate him) password hijinks at MIT’s LCS in 1977
• Alan Turing’s life, work and legacy; Alan’s personal life shared parallels with the Cyberpunk concepts of low life in ways that are tragic and insidious; may England should forever wear his death as a scarlet letter
• The founding philosophies and events leading to licenses/organizations such as the Free Software Foundation, GNU Project/GNU Public License, Open Source, The MIT License
• Initiatives such as Bruce Perens’ succesful No Code International.
• The history of the Homebrew Computer and the histories of many of its legendary members
• Linus creating (Freax) Linux out of frustration of Minix/Unix licensing issues/requirements
Then there are The Crypto Wars of the 1990s and The Cypherpunks…
Throughout the Crypto Wars of the 1990s, The Cypherpunk movement clashed with the United States government in what has come to be called The Crypto Wars.
Among the issues the Cypherpunk Movement had with the United States government were federal interests/attempts to weaken and restrict strong cryptographic/encryption technologies.
Then there was the Clipper Chip: An NSA built, backdoored communications chipset that would have allowed federal employees to eavesdrop on telephone communications via key escrow.
The United States government had meant for the Clipper Chip to be ubiquitous in the telecommunications industry by giving the chip the capacity to encode (and decode) communications…
By 1995 the Cypherpunks were on their way to winning the most decisive battle of The Crypto Wars: in Bernstein v. United States, legal representation provided by the EFF aided one of the Cryptopunks own (djb, also known as Daniel J. Bernstein)in suing The United States over federal laws governing cryptography.
In 1995, Bernstein (djb) had wanted to release a research paper and source code associated with his Shuffle encryption system. At that time, US federal law placed cryptography on The United States Munitions List (alongside grenades, mortars and flamethrowers) which also made exporting crypto outside of the country (or releasing the source code of cryptographic programs) illegal without an export license from the US State Department (as a munition, management of crypto was the State Department’s responsibility).
In 1999 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had heard the case and ruled that software source code was speech protected by the First Amendment; US regulations preventing its publication were unconstitutional,forcing the United States to gradually relax laws governing crypto until they finally met the legal standards of today in 2003.
For fighting and winning the battle for the freedoms of cryptography, the world owes the Cypherpunks (especially the founding fathers of the movement: Eric Hughes, Timothy C. May and John Gilmore) of the 1990s a huge debt.
The Cypherpunk have already designed the strategies for successful dissidence; they include acts of civil disobedience (example: Vince Cate’s international arms dealer webpage), widespread discussion (John Gilmore’s toad.com and mailing lists across numerous specialized mail servers) and innovation.
Innovation may have been the most important part of that dissidence; many privacy/anonymity, encryption and cryptography technologies were created or had their start with The Cypherpunks during The Crypto Wars.
As Jon Gimore stated: “We are literally in a race between our ability to build and deploy technology, and their ability to build and deploy laws and treaties. Neither side is likely to back down or wise up until it has definitively lost the race."
And Eric Hughes: “Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. … We cannot expect governments, corporations, or other large, faceless organizations to grant us privacy … We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any. … Cypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and … we’re going to write it.”
While techno-activism is huge in countering unjust authority and should be a huge part of a Cyberpunk Movement, there shouldn’t be any one path toward improving the lives of the populace. Cyberpunk is about being lowlife and using high tech to create positive change; it is a movement about saving the little guy and fucking up the gears that have sent everything to shit.
A movement provides an individual with the resources to teach themselves a skill such as Network Security or a programming language. Their joy of this skill leads them to proficiency, which eventually yields for them the means to break the grasp of abject poverty that held them and prior generations of their family, than this an example of the Cyberpunk Movement.
The individual citizen should be empowered to defend their own digital existence. Even a non-technical person can learn enough about cryptography, cybersecurity and privacy/anonymity programs to much improve their resistance against corporate/government spying/data collection online.
For the citizen concerned with self-defense/self-preservation, learning/applying cybersecurity basics are now just as relevant as training with the fists or firearm; a company like LifeLock will not protect the common citizen as effectively as they can themselves with a bit of knowledge.
In 2015, LifeLock was ordered to pay $100 million to settle Federal Trade Commission contempt charges. The Federal Trade Commission charged LifeLock for failing to protect consumer information and deceptive advertising, resulting in the largest monetary award obtained by the Commission for an enforcement action. (https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2015/12/lifelock-pay-100-million-consumers-settle-ftc-charges-it-violated)
The company is deceptive as well; LifeLock has focused recent advertising campaigns on the 9/17 Equifax breach, using scare tactics in an attempt to sell subscriptions to those effected.
What they are not telling consumers is that Equifax provides LifeLock’s credit reporting and monitoring service. (http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-lifelock-equifax-20170918-story.html)
And even after Equifax was breached, it recently signed a deal with the IRS worth at least $7million taxpayer dollars “to verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud”, (http://www.cbs46.com/story/36522073/irs-chooses-equifax-for-725-million-contract-to-help-against-identity-theft)
If an operation gives the populace a means to keep their digital existence safer, or better guard their privacy from exploitation by nations, an ISP or phishing, than that is techno-activismin in the tradition of Cyberpunk as a movement; it deprives the enemy of resources by depriving them of data (which many entities find quite lucrative).
If an operation aids someone in becoming a bit more informed about the boons of cryptography or cybersecurity, or if they learn something of the real costs of metadata or privatization/corporate overlording of the internet, then this is Cyberpunk techno-activism.
Volunteering time to secure the networks of a non-profit (who likely cannot afford regular cybersecurity services) serving the poor, civil rights, privacy or any other facet of the populace’s interest is also an example of Cyberpunk techno-activism.
Surfing Shodan and finding examples of insecure services/processes running on the network(s) of an organization serving the public trust and making them aware of the issue is another.
Even if an operation does not directly target an authority abusing power or influence, if the operation is effective in creating or changing a single person’s awareness, than that is a blow against all unjust authority.
The power of Cyberpunk myth on the real world
In the Cyberpunk movement there is always a place for Cyberpunk media of all type(literature, movies, anime, manga, etc.); these resources are the fables, realities, prophecies and mythology of this community.
Science fiction has had an incredible effect on the course of Science, especially rigid disciplines such as the various branches of Physics.
Cyberpunk has had the same effect on many facets of computer science (especially hacking and cybersecurity)in a similar way.
Even the basic application of cybersecurity skillsets involved in the defacing of a website in defiance of some unethical corporate entity shares a parallel with many themes found in Cyberpunk fiction.
Cyberpunk media helps us confront the human and socio-political/socio-economic/inherent ethical issues at the heart of our interactions with technology, especially the possible implications on our individual and collective humanity.
Artists like Bradbury, Asimov, Clarke, Kubrick and Lucas had an effect on generations of scientists, many of whom have been among the greatest thinkers of our species.
Scientists have advanced our civilization by introducing us to miracles and horrors; in their methods and experimentation, many have drawn from the creativity and humanity of the science fiction they loved.
Disciplines such as mathematics and physics can be the hammer and anvil that forge and shape their pursuits, but science fiction is the art that brought many to the forge and hinted at the shape.
HG Wells is considered the “Father of Science fiction”, and his works have been cited as a pivotal inspiration inthe development of many technologies.
In 1914, HG Wells booik “The World Set Free” was released; in the book, HG Wells imagined a world in which scientists had unlocked the power of atomic energy and used it \as a weapon of war.
In 1932, the physicist Leo Szilard read The World Set Free and became Wells inspired by by Well’s vision of atomic power.
By 1933 Hitler had come to power and Szilard, a Jewish Hungarian fled to London, England; that same year, the immigrant physicist had an epiphany while waiting at a traffic light: Szilard conceived the nuclear chain reaction, thus realizing the manner in which humankind could tap and unleash the immense power of the atomic nucleus.
By the end of 1933, he and Enrico Fermi (an italian-American physicist who would win The Nobel Prize in 1938, called “The architect of the Nuclear Age” and “The Architect of the Atomic Bomb”) would patent the idea of a nuclear reactor that same year.
Bythe end of 1939, Leon Szilard drafted the Einstein-Szilard Letter (signed by his friend Albert Einstein) warning US President Franklin Roosevelt of the potential for atomic weapons, which resulted in the Manhattan Project.
Cyberpunk has sometimes been described as an aesthetic; while aesthetics have their place, Cyberpunk being defined by an idea of aesthetic components is a disservice to the importance it could play in today’s society.
Given the realities/scope of state surveillance, any established aesthetic could also be dangerous, as it could become a means of control or quantification , while defined aesthetic is by itself unnecessary to illicit the change this world may need.
This is not Cyberpunk 2020 where everything should look cool over all else; this is Earth 2017, and if the little guy (low life) doesn’t start using technology to even the odds and build awareness (high tech) then we are likely fucked.
Wearing bomber jackets and sunglasses at night amongst rain, billowing steam and gothic, neon-drenched cityscapes won’t be enough to save the world.
Cyberpunk is now. History has its eyes on you…
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