Cypherpunks are activists who advocate the widespread use of strong cryptography (writing in code) as a route to progressive change. Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of and visionary behind WikiLeaks, has been a leading voice in the cypherpunk movement since its inception in the 1980s. Now, in what is sure to be a wave-making new book, Assange brings together a small group of cutting-edge thinkers and activists from the front line of the battle for cyber-space to discuss whether electronic communications will emancipate or enslave us. Among the topics addressed are: Do Facebook and Google constitute "the greatest surveillance machine that ever existed," perpetually tracking our location, our contacts and our lives? Far from being victims of that surveillance, are most of us willing collaborators? Are there legitimate forms of surveillance, for instance in relation to the "Four Horsemen of the Infopocalypse" (money laundering, drugs, terrorism and pornography)? And do we have the ability, through conscious action and technological savvy, to resist this tide and secure a world where freedom is something which the Internet helps bring about? The harassment of WikiLeaks and other Internet activists, together with attempts to introduce anti-file sharing legislation such as SOPA and ACTA, indicate that the politics of the Internet have reached a crossroads. In one direction lies a future that guarantees, in the watchwords of the cypherpunks, "privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful"; in the other lies an Internet that allows government and large corporations to discover ever more about internet users whilehiding their own activities. Assange and his co-discussants unpick the complex issues surrounding this crucial choice with clarity and engaging enthusiasm.
Cyperpunks is formed as a conversation between Assange and his copatriots Jakob Appelbaum and Andy Muller-Maguhn and picks up on the same theme, but also the promise that cryptography may hold as a defence against the erosion of privacy (the title is a wordplay on this). Some of the stuff about cryptography was new to me and very interesting, however I often lost attention throughout the book due to its talkative style. I ended up a bit disappointed, but the topic is one of our age's most important, and it is always good to hear what those that are in the middle of the issues have to say.
The end-notes of the book were really helpful in some cases. Still, there were some topics in the conversation where some background information might be helpful. It is not a literary piece of art work but a transcript of a discussion amongst four technocrats. Still a recommended read for anyone who is exploring this side of the technology.
Plagiarism has been the flashpoint on GR this weekend. I thought about the controversy when copyright law is called into question
For me, that's fine. I
I picked this book up on sale for $1, which it is definitely worth. I am not sure how much more I would be willing to pay for it, though, simply because I basically already knew pretty much everything they are talking about. If you, however, are looking for an introduction into the world view of these people, by all means, give it a read.