What I've Been Thinking About
I’m starting to think about my next book, which will be about power and the Internet — from the perspective of security. My objective will be to describe current trends, explain where those trends are leading us, and discuss alternatives for avoiding that outcome. Many of my recent essays have touched on various facets of this, although I’m still looking for synthesis. These facets include:
- The relationship between the Internet and power: how the Internet affects power, and how power affects the Internet. Increasingly, those in power are using information technology to increase their power.
- A feudal model of security that leaves users with little control over their data or computing platforms, forcing them to trust the companies that sell the hardware, software, and systems — and allowing those companies to abuse that trust.
- The rise of nationalism on the Internet and a cyberwar arms race, both of which play on our fears and which are resulting in increased military involvement in our information infrastructure.
- Ubiquitous surveillance for both government and corporate purposes — aided by cloud computing, social networking, and Internet-enabled everything — resulting in a world without any real privacy.
- The four tools of Internet oppression — surveillance, censorship, propaganda, and use control — have both government and corporate uses. And these are interrelated; often building tools to fight one as the side effect of facilitating another.
- Ill-conceived laws and regulations on behalf of either government or corporate power, either to prop up their business models (copyright protections), fight crime (increased police access to data), or control our actions in cyberspace.
- The need for leaks: both whistleblowers and FOIA suits. So much of what the government does to us is shrouded in secrecy, and leaks are the only we know what’s going on. This also applies to the corporate algorithms and systems and control much of our lives.
On the one hand, we need new regimes of trust in the information age. (I wrote about the extensively in my most recent book, Liars and Outliers.) On the other hand, the risks associated with increasing technology might mean that the fear of catastrophic attack will make us unable to create those new regimes.
I believe society is headed down a dangerous path, and that we — as members of society — need to make some hard choices about what sort of world we want to live in. If we maintain our current trajectory, the future does not look good. It’s not clear if we have the social or political will to address the intertwined issues of power, security, and technology, or even have the conversations necessary to understand the decisions we need to make. Writing about topics like this is what I do best, and I hope that a book on this topic will have a positive effect on the discourse.
The working title of the book is Power.com — although that might be too similar to the book Power, Inc. for the final title.
These thoughts are still in draft, and not yet part of a coherent whole. For me, the writing process is how I understand a topic, and the shape of this book will almost certainly change substantially as I write. I’m very interested in what people think about this, especially in terms of solutions. Please pass this around to interested people, and leave comments to this blog post.