The Coming Century of War Against Your Computer


Read this short post on Intel Processors to Become OS Locked, then listen to Cory Doctorow's The Coming Century of War Against Your Computer. Cory's actual talk is about 45 minutes followed by another 45 minutes of question and answer.

As Cory points out, computers exercise a particular intersection of property and human rights that makes for some interesting societal questions. Sometimes, the questions are ones for which we've already got a meatspace precedent that we choose to ignore when computers are involved. For example, can your employer spy on what you put in email because they own the network and computer? Many find nothing wrong with that. After all, they own the computer and the network. But we'd come to different conclusions about a plan to spy on all the conversations in the lunchroom even though they own the building.

In other cases we are faced with entirely new situations. Can I decide what software runs on my cochlear implants or does the manufacturer control that? What if a competitor comes out a much better algorithm that is compatible with my implants? Who controls the code? The owner? The user (who many not be the same person)? The manufacturer? Who has what property rights and when do human rights trump them?

I'm a big fan of Cory's. I like his books and I think he's eminently well-spoken. His novels raise these issues and tell great stories at the same time. In a similar vein, I just had my class of Computer Science seniors read Rainbows End (by Venor Vinge), a book that's full of technology that raises these kinds of questions inside the vehicle of a fun story.