Science Fiction-författaren Vernor Vinge talade häromveckan på en konferens om Computers, Freedom, and Privacy i Washington, DC. Här är några citat:

Big Brother takes a controlling interest in chips

Vinge makes two opening assumptions: no grand physical disaster occurs, and today’s computing and communications trends continue.

He added a third trend: “The great conspiracy against human freedom.” As novelist Doris Lessing has observed, barons on opposite sides of the river don’t need to be in cahoots if their interests coincide. In our case, defence, homeland security, financial crime enforcement, police, tax collectors and intellectual property rights holders offer reasons to want to control the hardware we use. Then there are geeks, who can be tempted to forget the consequences if the technology is cool enough.

Försvaret, terroristbekämpningen, ekobrottsmyndigheterna, polisen, skattemyndigheten och IP-rättighetskämparna. Addera till dessa alla hackers som utnyttjar tekniken just bara för att det är en häftig teknologi och du har en lista på organisationer som kommer att utnyttja övervakningsmöjligheterna till max.

Angående statligt finansierad forskning har Vinge detta att säga:

“The ideal job to have in government is something everybody is convinced is essential to be done successfully that cannot be done successfully and the government is the only entity that can do it. Every time you fail, you say, ‘The problem is much larger than we imagined, give us some more money.'”

Vinge var en av de första SF-författarna att ta upp singulariteten, alltså den punkt i tiden då utvecklingen accelererar så snabbt att det blir omöjligt att förutspå vad som händer därefter. Denna idé har sedan dess blivit omöjlig att inte ta hänsyn till i en SF-berättelse:

Charlie Stross, whose novel Accelerando attempts to depict living through the Singularity, has called it “the turd in the punchbowl of near-future SF – you may politely pretend it isn’t there, but everyone has to deal with it.”

Kort sagt, den accelererande utvecklingen är så uppenbar att alla som skriver om framtiden måste ta hänsyn till dess konsekvenser. Det är inte längre rymden eller kärnvapen-vintern som hägrar bortom horisonten utan den singularitetiska väggen av utveckling.

Vinge är positiv om framtiden och tror att insikten att ekonomisk makt är bättre än militär makt börjar sprida sig.

“The leaders of most powerful countries are coming to realise that the most important natural resources are not factories or the size of armies. Economic power is in the size of the population that is well-educated, creative and generally happy enough to be optimistic enough to want to do something creative.

Han avslutar med en näsknäpp mot statsmakterna:

“The illusion of freedom becomes a strange thing when a government is dealing with … thousands of people who are as bright as the smartest people running the government. Together, they outclass the people running the show. The turning point is the notion that to provide this illusion of freedom for such a group would wind up being more like real freedom than anything in human history.”

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