Technography

If you get the impression in the run-up to Q4’s end-of-calendar-year orgy of consumerism that the news is stuck in a rerun cycle, it’s because it is. Looks like we’re going to go in the hole to keep the uber-wealthy on the dole in exchange for extending unemployment benefits. Same EU countries at risk of economic collapse are getting play in the media (countdown to reveal of Goldman Sachs’ assistance in accomplishing this end in 3… 2… 1…).

But there probably isn’t any better example of the war on competence and rationality right now than general reaction to Wikileaks. And I have one word for the clueless: stuxnet.

Wikileaks seems more straightforward, on the face of it. An aggregate collection of electronic documents whose relevance derives from their political/diplomatic and security implications. What’s actually key to understanding the development is simply that the very existence of these documents made their aggregation inevitable. Nobody wants to accept this, yet we’ve started digging around in each other’s drawers in case they’re made out of explosives these days.

We’re not just continually watched, we live in dread of discovering that we’re not interesting enough to surveil.

The who, what, i-dots and t-crosses are irrelevant. You can’t stop the signal.

Yet naturally, the broad consensus is that somehow, the genie can be put back in the bottle.

Meanwhile, Stuxnet migrated to centrifuges in Iran. This serves as a relevant contrast, because most readers will see the word “virus” think “Peter Norton” and tune out.  This is like comparing Wikileaks to “hacking”. Wikileaks was copying files to a USB drive; Stuxnet was hardware-dependent software that targeted specific devices in a specific location and rendered them inoperable. This is weaponized software; it’s intended to attack non-computer hardware.

In this sense, we must acknowledge that there really isn’t anything that can be done to impose rule of law, any law, over emerging technology.

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  • Comments (2)
    • Laroquod
    • December 3rd, 2010

    Is the Stuxnet really eating its way deeper and deeper toward Iran’s nuclear equipment? How do they know this?

    P.S. Yeah it’s a weaponised virus. The first of what is likely to be an entire class of weapons complete with numerical designations and attack-surface calculations.

    P.P.S. Hack the planet! 8)

    • Max Bell
    • December 3rd, 2010

    You can’t keep people from copying files to a USB drive, but you’re going to regulate stuxnet?

    Ah, yes. We live in interesting times.

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