building legal precedent on superficial similarities just because it’s easier for some people to grasp is no way to build the future
Because general purpose computers are, in fact, astounding — so astounding that our society is still struggling to come to grips with them: to figure out what they’re for, to figure out how to accommodate them, and how to cope with them. Which, unfortunately, brings me back to copyright.
In other words, an appliance is not a stripped-down computer — it is a fully functional computer with spyware on it out of the box. … Because we don’t know how to build the general purpose computer that is capable of running any program we can compile except for some program that we don’t like, or that we prohibit by law, or that loses us money. The closest approximation that we have to this is a computer with spyware — a computer on which remote parties set policies without the computer user’s knowledge, over the objection of the computer’s owner. And so it is that digital rights management always converges on malware. … And on the network side, attempts to make a network that can’t be used for copyright infringement always converges with the surveillance and control measures that we know from repressive governments.
Freedom in the future will require us to have the capacity to monitor our devices and set meaningful policy on them, to examine and terminate the processes that run on them, to maintain them as honest servants to our will, and not as traitors and spies working for criminals, thugs, and control freaks.
The hacktivist collective Anonymous is in the middle of a huge revenge spree after the Feds shut down popular filesharing site Megaupload today. But they’re using an evil new tactic that tricks people into helping their attack if they click an innocuous link.
This is completely evil and could lead to huge numbers of witless internet users inadvertently attacking, say, the Department of Justice by clicking a random link they stumble across on Twitter.
Mike Warnke was a con artist. He traveled the country for years, packing the pews of evangelical churches with his message of salvation from Satan, selling thousands of books and records while hauling in millions in donations for the children he had supposedly rescued from the clutches of Satan-worshipping abusers.
But that huge eager audience he tapped into is still there. The fascination or temptation or corruption that made so many evangelicals so enthusiastically gullible, so willing and eager to believe stories of imaginary monsters, is just as pervasive and popular as it was in Warnke’s heyday.
That demand-side aspect of the story is a much stranger phenomenon than the supply-side con game Mike Warnke was running. It’s not hard to understand what he was after or what he gained from selling his lies. He got rich and famous and lived the life of a rock star.
But what did his audience gain? What were they chasing after in choosing to believe his unbelievable and implausible tales?