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De-evolution and the Politics of Technology

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At ToorCon 2K, I gave the keynote talk entitled "The Future of Hacking". In it I included a lot of what you might call non-technical information, touching on politics and hacker motivations.

After seeing a talk by RFP at Black Hat Asia that had a lot of nice graphics, for DefCon 9 I decided to prepare something a little different than my usual technical discussion. There were ideas and theories that had been bouncing around in my head for quite a while. I wouldn't call them controversial, but the talk was somewhat of a departure from my usual discussions, and basically took off from the Toorcon talk.

For one thing, I wasn't presenting anything technical, but political. To summarize, I did a talk regarding the relationship between the fall of the nation state, the rise of the transnational state, the assault on the fragile online freedoms we have via knee-jerk legislation, and the ever-evolving role of the hacker. Thrown in for good measure was a good dose of religious symbolism (drawn from my Wiccan beliefs), a musical soundtrack that played during the entire talk, and better-than-my-usual-boring-powerpoint graphics -- all designed to allow for a presentation that tried to evoke much more than depict.

For ToorCon 2001, my keynote was an expanded version of the DefCon talk with a fairly humorous story about a confrontation I had with the NSA at DefCon after that talk.

Reactions From DefCon:

The reaction far exceeded my expectations. I was prepared to have people walk out, yell obscenities, and explain to me in no uncertain terms that I was completely off base and totally nuts. Instead I got a receptive audience who was willing to listen and be challenged by a more cerebral than technical talk than they expected.

Of course, not all of the comments I received were positive, and in fact if I had received nothing but positive comments I would have been worried. But the comments from people were honest, and at least presented to me in a very positive manner.

One person told me I was unduly paranoid, and should relax. That's fine. I'll accept that any day. But I'd rather be paranoid and wrong than ignorant, happy, and right. Based upon some conversations with several NSA employees at the con I'd say I was right on the money on the more paranoid parts anyway.

Another person suggested that because I am such a part of the machine (I work for a commercial security software company who benefits from "cybersteria", a phrase coined by Lewis Koch), I was not the best choice to deliver the message I delivered. I did offer a disclaimer during my talk regarding this, but the best way I can explain it is that I have a "day job", but personal political convictions that are at odds with my employers'. However, that is not unusual, and my employer is at least understanding enough to know and recognize that difference in its employees.

Yet another sugested I use "class", as in the differences between the rich and the poor, or better yet between the ruling elite and the working classes. I actually had material on that, but to do that subject justice I would have had to lengthen the talk substantially.

Reactions From ToorCon:

Again reactions from ToorCon were very positive. One of the most interesting comments I received from someone was that a year ago they would have thought the entire thing paraniod delusional bullshit, but now they realize it is possibly true, particularly the parts involving ongoing intrusion by the government into our online rights.


Credits, Research, and Shoutz:

There are a lot of people to thank and give credit for. This was not the work of an individual. I received support and help from peers who need to be thanked for their work. Thanks for direct help with the talks:

And thanks for inspiration and help:

Related Links:

...if we were priests, we would hack the mind of god..

Simple Nomad
Update 26Nov2001