If you’ve ever heard me talk, in conference or via conference call, you know that I’m a huge, huge fan of Cory Doctorow. In addition to being one of the editors of boingboing, he’s a world-class, new-breed sci-fi writer, more focused on social issues and the socialization of technology (gotta love it) than on inventing science to forward his political agenda. Not that he doesn’t have a political agenda, of course, but you can see yourself fitting into his vision of the future without having to first wait for faster than light travel or parallel universes to appear.
“Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom,” his first book, is my basis for asserting that trust and reputation aren’t the same thing, and that we should re-evaluate how we build “secure systems” using that premise. “Eastern Standard Tribe,” book two, is the paradigm for how and why technology fractures us, or could unite us. It might have been written by Bono in 2018, except he’ll be on the U2 reunion tour. And “Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town,” Cory’s third book, is just something you have to experience. I’ve decided that it’s about families that suffer from stereotypes taken to the stereotypical extreme. Somewhat. But if you can envision the stereotypical Jewish mother as a washing machine, you’ll get it. If you can’t, well, read the book anyway.
Thanks to Tim Bray, a scheduling coincidence at ApacheCon, some mutual introductions and Cory’s trip east, I got to enjoy breakfast with him today. Big fun stuff on an otherwise rainy day in New York City.
We talked about collecting things that we don’t need, but like. We touched on teenagers and their use of technololgy. We spent most of our time talking about Digital Rights Management, licensing, GPLv3, and how ideas spread. And how rights protection may impair open source projects. Cory is insanely anti-DRM, which seems strange on the surface because he makes his entire living from content. But you can find all of his works covered by a Creative Commons license, creating a broader set of venues for their interpretation and appreciation. Ideas spread through means other than those controlled by rights management technology, which mostly serves to restrict flow rather than accelerate it.
One of my favorite games to play is “If PersonX was alive today, what would he (or she) be doing?” For example, if Mozart lived in the 21st century, he’d be more likely to be a kernel hacker than a professional musician, or maybe he’d do both. If Thomas Jefferson lived today, he’d be hacking hardware to eliminate DRM schemes. And if Cory Doctorow lived in the 18th century, he’d be Thomas Jefferson. A time warp worthy of good sci-fi. And a morning that left my brain with wings.