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Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks

"The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one." - Albert Einstein

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The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks

"How can you tell when you are the underdog versus when you are powerful? When you get that perception wrong, you can behave quite badly quite easily...

The ideology that drives a lot of the online world -- not just Wikileaks but also mainstream sites like Facebook -- is the idea that information in sufficiently large quantity automatically becomes Truth... The one exception to be carved out is that technically skilled programmers are celebrated for erecting digital privacy curtains around themselves. Thus we didn't necessarily get to know where Mr. Assange was at a given moment, before his detention on rape-related charges...

Openness in itself, as the prime driver of events, doesn't lead to achievement or creativity... A sufficiently copious flood of data creates an illusion of omniscience, and that illusion can make you stupid... Wikileaks and similar efforts could do for politics approximately what access to a lot of data did for finance in the run up to the recession...

American diplomacy... is often, if we are to believe the cables, both trickier and better intentioned then we might have feared...

[Assange] sees information as an abstract free-standing thing, so to him, differences in perspective and circumstance mean nothing. This is how nerd supremacists think...

Wikileaks isn't really a "wiki," but it is designed to look and feel like the Wikipedia. It aspires to emulate the practical philosophy of the wiki movement. The Wikipedia professes to get humanity as a whole to arrive at the one truest truth.

The Wikileaks design, by invoking Wikipedia, creates the impression that some universally negotiated, balanced unveiling of human affairs is being approximated; that what was formerly hidden is being fairly unhidden. But that is not true...

[In the US] personal information about abortion providers was posted online, and an "X" was drawn over the information about a specific provider once that provider was murdered...

Assange has stated that if there were deaths from leaks, it would be acceptable because of the bigger picture. The ideological framework and rationale for collateral damage has been made explicit.

To me, both right wing extremist leaks and Wikileaks are for the most part resurrections of old-fashioned vigilantism. Some of the targets of vigilantism in the Utah of the 19th century, say, might have unquestionably been "bastards," and yet there are, to say the least, some tremendously attractive things about the rule of law. Vigilantism has always eroded trust and civility, but what's new online is the sterile imprimatur of a digital ideology that claims to offer automatic betterment.

Vigilante information violation is a form of assault that degrades society for everyone...

We celebrate the masters of nonviolent activism, such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. All these figures displayed astounding courage, faced arrest, and suffered without hating their oppressors in order to demonstrate a common humanity. These remarkable people did not make "Crush the bastards" into their mantra...

Civil disobedience is fundamentally respectful of the shared project of having a civilization, but only when the protestor gets arrested voluntarily and without sneering at opponents. Instead, one hopes to raise consciousness with a flood of respect and compassion, even for those who disagree... The hacker idea has gotten meaner, less sensitive, more combative, and more reactive. This is what I mean by the problem of nerd supremacy...

I almost became one of the founders... What kept me out of EFF was a sudden feeling -- at that very meal -- that something was going wrong.

There was a fascination with using encryption to make hackers potentially as powerful as governments, and that disturbed me. I could feel the surge of ego: We hackers could change history. But if there's one lesson of history, it is that seeking power doesn't change the world. You need to change yourself along with the world. Civil disobedience is a spiritual discipline as much as anything else...

When you feel that urge to power within yourself- that is when you should be most careful. When I hear Julian Assange talk about "crushing bastards" I feel grateful that I avoided getting swept up back then...

If we want to understand all the sides of an argument, we have to do more than copy files...

Military, commercial, and diplomatic spheres sanction more secret keeping than we are used to in civilian life. If the distinctions between these spheres fail, then what we will lose is civilian life, since the others are ultimately indispensible. Then we'd turn into a closed society. In closed societies, like North Korea, everyday life is militarized...

Anarchy and dictatorship are entwined in eternal resonance. One never exists for long without turning to the other, and then back again. The only way out is structure, also known as democracy"
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