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#588#589#590#591 Episode #592 - The Technology of Reunion
(Freedom Boxes and The Coming War on General Computation)


Eben Moglen shows off a freedom box

Sat 25 February 2012  Bill Hicks, Gary Webb, Cory Doctorow, Eben Moglen
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Download Hour1 Download Hour2This week we look at the possible future interactions between society and computing technologies. We start with Gary Webb's story of how he used the WWW to circumvent censorship of his revelations of CIA drug dealing. Then we hear Cory Doctorow on corporations increasing interest in limiting the ways in which users use computing devices. In our second hour, Eben Moglen describes his work on 'freedom boxes', to create securely encrypted connections between individuals.
The show this week asks whether computers will become a tool to shift power from large organizations to self-organized networks of individuals, or whether existing hierarchies will manage to place legal and technological controls on their use.

To understand the potential impact of technology, compare your use of computers now with a decade ago, before WWW rose to prominence. After some thoughts by Bill Hicks, our show opens with investigate journalist Gary Webb on how the WWW brought his local newspaper's exposure of the CIA dealing in drugs to international prominence. Commercially-controlled media was not ready for such a well documented allegation of drug dealing by the CIA, and whilst his newspaper editor eventually backed down under pressure, Webb himself stuck to the story, inspiring others such as Mike Ruppert to pursue the story (as explained in episode 23).

Our first hour concludes with a recording of Cory Doctorow from last December's Chaos Communication Congress. He begins The Coming War on General Computation by reviewing the history of file sharing and copy protection techniques, looking both at technological and legal measures attempted. This, he says, is but a foreshadowing of the 21st century's larger battle, which he refers to as 'the coming war on general computation'. He predicts that the interests of users will conflict ever more commonly with the interest of hierarchical organizations (such as corporations and governments). We conclude with an edited selection of the ensuing Q & A.

In our second hour we hear a 2009 presentation by Eben Moglen to DebConf10, How We Can Be the Silver Lining of the Cloud. He notes that the enthusiasm as regards 'cloud computing' should not be allowed to obscure the basic fact that they it requires individuals hand over custody of their data to commercial organizations. As an alternative he describes his plan of Freedom Boxes which implement in hardware a system to encrypt traffic between friends, guaranteeing privacy, strengthening resistance against botnets and control by centralized authorities.

We conclude with the soundtrack of a short video entitled 'The Grassroots Economy of 2018', offering one vision of how economic relationships might be changed (and hierarchies flattened) by use of WWW.
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