[Air-L] FW: [MEA] WkiLeaks - Technology now advances crabwise

Alex Kuskis alex.kuskis at sympatico.ca
Mon Dec 6 14:11:39 PST 2010

Forwarded from the media ecology list, further to the WikiLeaks discussion:
some interesting speculations from Umberto Eco. Recall as well the William
Gibson short story "Johnny Mnemonic (text available here
http://project.cyberpunk.ru/lib/johnny_mnemonic/ ) in which couriers must
carry sensitive data in brain implants between contracting parties, because
regular computer networks are not secure. This dystopian view no longer
seems far-fetched, if it ever was.....Alex Kuskis

Umberto Eco on Wikileaks. Enjoy!


Technology now advances crabwise

What will be the consequences of this wound inflicted on a very mighty
power? It's obvious that in future, states won't be able to put any
restricted information on line anymore: that would be tantamount to posting
it on a street corner. But it is equally clear that, given today's
technologies, it is pointless to hope to have confidential dealings over the
phone. Nothing is easier than finding out whether a head of state flew in or
out or contacted one of his counterparts. So how can privy matters be
conducted in future? Now I know that for the time being, my forecast is
still science fiction and therefore fantastic, but I can't help imagining
state agents riding discreetly in stagecoaches along untrackable routes,
bearing only memorised messages or, at most, the occasional document
concealed in the heel of a shoe. Only a single copy thereof will be kept -
in locked drawers. Ultimately,  the attempted Watergate break-in was less
successful than WikiLeaks.

I once had occasion to observe that technology now advances crabwise, i.e.
backwards. A century after the wireless telegraph revolutionised
communications, the Internet has re-established a telegraph that runs on
(telephone) wires. (Analog) video cassettes enabled film buffs to peruse a
movie frame by frame, by fast-forwarding and rewinding to lay bare all the
secrets of the editing process, but (digital) CDs now only allow us quantum
leaps from one chapter to another. High-speed trains take us from Rome to
Milan in three hours, but flying there, if you include transfers to and from
the airports, takes three and a half hours. So it wouldn't be extraordinary
if politics and communications technologies were to revert to the
horse-drawn carriage.

One last observation: In days of yore, the press would try to figure out
what was hatching sub rosa inside the embassies. Nowadays, it's the
embassies that are asking the press for the inside story.

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