June 06, 2008

Finishing Little Brother

The text of Bruce Schneier's Afterword to Doctorow's Little Brother is well worth reading. Try this bit:

So when you're wandering through your day, take a moment to look at the security systems around you. Look at the cameras in the stores you shop at. (Do they prevent crime, or just move it next door?) See how a restaurant operates. (If you pay after you eat, why don't more people just leave without paying?) Pay attention at airport security. (How could you get a weapon onto an airplane?) Watch what the teller does at a bank. (Bank security is designed to prevent tellers from stealing just as much as it is to prevent you from stealing.) Stare at an anthill. (Insects are all about security.) Read the Constitution, and notice all the ways it provides people with security against government. Look at traffic lights and door locks and all the security systems on television and in the movies. Figure out how they work, what threats they protect against and what threats they don't, how they fail, and how they can be exploited.

Spend enough time doing this, and you'll find yourself thinking differently about the world. You'll start noticing that many of the security systems out there donít actually do what they claim to, and that much of our national security is a waste of money. You'll understand privacy as essential to security, not in opposition. You'll stop worrying about things other people worry about, and start worrying about things other people don't even think about.

And Andrew "bunnie" Huang's Afterwordcontribution is, if anything, even more remarkable. Like this:
Have the terrorists already won? Have we given in to fear, such that artists, hobbyists, hackers, iconoclasts, or perhaps an unassuming group of kids playing Harajuku Fun Madness, could be so trivially implicated as terrorists?

There is a term for this dysfunction--it is called an autoimmune disease, where an organism's defense system goes into overdrive so much that it fails to recognize itself and attacks its own cells. Ultimately, the organism self-destructs. Right now, America is on the verge of going into anaphylactic shock over its own freedoms, and we need to inoculate ourselves against this. Technology is no cure for this paranoia; in fact, it may enhance the paranoia: it turns us into prisoners of our own device. Coercing millions of people to strip off their outer garments and walk barefoot through metal detectors every day is no solution either. It only serves to remind the population every day that they have a reason to be afraid, while in practice providing only a flimsy barrier to a determined adversary.

Read 'em both here. They're short and to the point.

Posted by oook at June 6, 2008 04:58 PM