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More from Bruce Sterling

Extending the public right-to-know into cyberspace will be a mighty battle. It’s an old war, a war librarians are used to, and I honor you for the free-expression battles you have won in the past. But the terrain of cyberspace is new terrain. I think that ground will have to be won all over again, megabyte by megabyte. - 1992

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Computer networks worldwide will feature 3-D animated graphics, radio and cellular phone-links to portable computers, as well as fax, voice, and high-definition television. A multimedia global circus! Or so it's hoped - and planned. The real Internet of the future may bear very little resemblance to today's plans. Planning has never seemed to have much to do with the seething, fungal development of the Internet. After all, today's Internet bears little resemblance to those original grim plans for RAND's post-holocaust command grid. It's a fine and happy irony. - 1993
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The whole massive, lethal superpower infrastructure comes unfolding out of 21st-century cyberspace like some impossible fluid origami trick. The Reserve guys from the bowling leagues suddenly reveal themselves to be digitally assisted Top Gun veterans from a hundred weekend cyberspace campaigns. And they go to some godforsaken place that doesn't possess Virtual Reality As A Strategic Asset, and they bracket that army in their rangefinder screens, and then they cut it off, and then they kill it. Blood and burning flesh splashes the far side of the glass. But it can't get through the screen. - 1993
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"Simulate before you build." They want to make that a basic military principle. Not just simulated weapons. Entire simulated defense plants. Factories that exist only in digital form, designed and prepared to build weapons that don't even exist yet either, and have never existed, and may become obsolete and be replaced by better ones, before a nail is ever hammered. Nevertheless, these nonexistent weapons will have entire battalions of real people who are expert in their use, people who helped design them and improve them hands-on, in the fields of virtual war. - 1993
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Can governments really exercise national military power - kick ass, kill people - merely by using some big amps and some color monitors and some keyboards, and a bunch of other namby-pamby sci-fi "holodeck" stuff? The answer is yes. Yes, this technology is lethal. Yes, it is a real strategic asset. - 1993
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The rise of computer networking, of the Information Society, is doing strange and disruptive things to the processes by which power and knowledge are currently distributed. Knowledge and information, supplied through these new conduits, are highly corrosive to the status quo. People living in the midst of technological revolution are living outside the law: not necessarily because they mean to break laws, but because the laws are vague, obsolete, overbroad, draconian, or unenforceable. - 1994
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There's something direly mean spirited and ungenerous about inventing a language and then renting it out to other people to speak. There's something unprecedented and sinister in this process of creeping commodification of data and knowledge. A computer is something too close to the human brain for me to rest entirely content with someone patenting or copyrighting the process of its thought ... I don't think democracy will thrive in a milieu where vast empires of data are encrypted, restricted, proprietary, confidential, top-secret, and sensitive. I fear for the stability of a society that builds sand castles out of databits and tries to stop a real-world tide with royal commands. - 1994
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FBI people ... your idea of Digital Telephony is a scarcely mitigated disaster ... you're going to be filling out your paperwork in quintuplicate to get a tap, just like you always do ... In the meantime, you will have armed the enemies of the United States around the world with a terrible weapon ... raw and tyrannical Digital Telephony. You're gonna be using it to round up wise guys in street gangs, and people like Saddam Hussein are gonna be using it to round up democratic activists ...You're going to strengthen the hand of despotism around the world, and then you're going to have to deal with the hordes of state-supported truck bombers these rogue governments are sending our way after annihilating their own internal opposition by using your tools. - 1994
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Encrypted networks worry the hell out of me ... The effects are scary and unpredictable and could be very destabilizing. But even the Four Horsemen of Kidporn, Dope Dealers, Mafia, and Terrorists don't worry me as much as totalitarian governments ... Our battle this century against totalitarianism has left terrible scars all over our body politic, and the threat these people pose to us is entirely and utterly predictable. You can say that the devil we know is better than the devil we don't, but the devils we knew were ready to commit genocide, litter the earth with dead, and blow up the world. How much worse can that get? Let's not build chips and wiring for our police and spies when only their police and spies can reap the full benefit of them. - 1994
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You want an example of a communication system that doesn't charge for transport? The English language. Think of the Internet as a language rather than a machine, and most of your questions [about charging people to use it] become irrelevant. I think the Internet is tougher than you give it credit for. From now on, the struggle will not be over mechanical control of the means of information, but over spin- control of the zeitgeist. - 1994
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Computers don't make any ... old free-expression problems go away; on the contrary, they intensify them, and they introduce a bunch of new problems ... They're out there. They're out there now. In the future, they're only going to get worse. And there's going to be a bunch of new problems that nobody's even imagined. - 1995
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Countries that have offshore money laundries are gonna have offshore data laundries. Countries that now have lousy oppressive governments and smart, determined terrorist revolutionaries are gonna have lousy oppressive governments and smart determined terrorist revolutionaries with computers. Not too long after that, they're going to have tyrannical revolutionary governments run by zealots with computers; then we're likely to see just how close to Big Brother a government can really get. Dealing with these people is going to be a big problem for us. - 1995
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Current trends in communications are leading toward a head-on collision between global networking and national governmental authority. At the moment a "twilight of sovereignty" scenario looks plausible and the situation definitely does not favor governments. Given current political instability worldwide, it's going to be a lot easier to make governments look like computer networks than it is to make the computer revolution the handmaiden of traditional governments. I make no judgment as to whether this is good or bad. After the revolution things will be different - not better, just different. - 1995

 

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