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#rC3 - Cory Doctorow – Fireside Chat

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    rC3 preroll music
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    Cory Doctorow: Oh, I just got...
    Jinxx5: Please, I just wanted to say Hi
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    Chris...no...Bye Chris and Hi Cory
    laughs We just had a little chat before
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    and, as I know, you will be reading
    from your new book in a minute, as I just
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    stop talking and afterwards, there will be
    lots of time for all your questions. And
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    we're really curious already.
    C D: Great, Yeah. And I do have these
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    questions from the talk earlier and I'm
    going to try and get to those too. I'm
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    going to do a shorter reading, so we can do
    more interactive stuff. You can watch
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    videos of me on YouTube if you want to.
    It's more fun to interact. So the passage
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    I'm going to read comes from Attack
    Surface. Attack Surface is a standalone
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    Little Brother novel. And it's intended
    for adults. And it stars Masha who's a
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    young woman, who is at the beginning and
    the end of the other two books working as
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    a surveillance contractor. And by this
    third book, she's like a full-on cyber
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    mercenary working for a company a lot
    like, say, the NSO Group or Hacking Team.
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    Any other kind of hack for hire
    companies helping post-Soviet dictators
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    crush rebellions. And the way that she
    goes to sleep at night and still manages
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    to, like, square up her conscience is by
    helping the people, that she spies on. So
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    during the day, she installs surveillance
    appliances in the national data centers.
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    And at night, she meets with the
    protesters who are being spied on using
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    this technology and tells them what
    countermeasures work for it. And so, this
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    is very early in the novel. And Masha and
    Kriztina - who's one of these local
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    protesters - are walking through the
    square and the fictional, post-Soviet
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    Republic of Slovstakia during the
    beginnings of a protest that is shaping up
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    to be a very serious one.
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    starts reading from book
    The square buzzed with good energy. There was a line
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    of grannies who brought out pots and
    wooden spoons and were whanging away at
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    them, chanting something in Boris that
    made everyone understand. Kriztina tried
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    to translate it, but it was all tangled up
    with some Baba-Yaga story that every
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    Slovstakian learned with their mother's
    borscht recipes. We stopped at a barrel
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    fire and distributed the last couple of
    kebabs to the people there. A girl
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    I'd seen around, emerged from the crowd
    and stole Kriztina away to hold a muttered
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    conference that I followed by watching the
    body language out of the corner of my eye.
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    I decided that some of Kriztina's contacts
    had someone on the inside of the neo-Nazi
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    camp. And judging from her reaction, the
    news was very bad. What? I asked. She
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    shook her head. What? 10 p.m., she said,
    they charge. Supposedly some of the cops
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    will go over to their side. There's been
    money changing hands. That was one of the
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    problems with putting your cops on half
    pay. Someone might pay the other half. The
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    Slovstakian police had developed a keen
    instinct for staying one jump ahead of
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    purges and turnovers. The ones that didn't
    develop that instinct ended up in their
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    own cells or dead at their own colleagues'
    hands. How many? Borises are world class
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    shruggers, even adorable Pixie's like
    Kriztina. If the English have 200
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    words for passive aggressive and the Inuit
    have 200 words for snow, then
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    Borises can convey 200 gradations
    of emotions with their shoulders. And I
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    read this one as: Some, enough, too many.
    We are fucked. No murders, Kriztina. If
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    it's that bad we can come back another
    night. If it's that bad, there might not
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    be another night. Oh that fatalism. Fine,
    I said, then we do something about it.
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    Like what? Like you got me a place to sit
    and keep everyone else away from me for an
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    hour. The crash barricades around the
    square had been long colonized by tarps
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    and turned into shelters where protesters
    could get away from the lines when they
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    needed a break. Kriztina returned after a
    few minutes to lead me to an empty corner
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    of the warren. It smelled of B.O. and
    cabbage farts, but it was in the lee of
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    the wind and private enough. Doubling my
    long coats tails under my butt for
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    insulation, I sat down cross-legged and
    tethered my laptop. A few minutes later, I
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    was staring at Commander Litvinchuk's
    email spool. I had a remote desktop on his
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    computer and could have used his own
    webmail interface, but it was faster to
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    just slither into the mail server itself.
    Thankfully, one of his first edicts after
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    taking over the ministry had been to
    migrate everyone off Gmail - which was
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    secured by 24/7 ninja hackers who'd eat me
    for breakfast - and on to a hosted mail
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    server in the same datacenter that I had
    spent 16 hours in, which was secured by
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    wishful thinking, bubble gum, and spit.
    That meant that if the US State Department
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    wanted to pwn the Slovstakian government,
    it would have to engage in a trivial hack
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    against that machine, rather than facing
    Google's notoriously vicious lawyers. The
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    guiding light of Boris politics was: Trust
    no one. Which meant, they had to do it all
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    for themselves. Litvinchuk's cell-site
    simulators all fed into a big analytics
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    system, that maps social graphs and
    compiled dossiers. He demanded, that the
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    chiefs of police and military gather the
    identifiers of all their personnels, so they
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    could be white-listed in the system. It
    wouldn't do to have every riot cop placed
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    under suspicion, because they were present
    at every riot. The file was in a saved
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    email. I tabbed over to a different
    interface, tunneled into the Xoth
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    appliance. It quickly digested the file
    and spat out all the SMS messages sent to
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    or from any cops since I switched it on. I
    called Kriztina over. She hunkered down
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    next to me, passed me a thermos of coffee
    she'd acquired somewhere. It was terrible
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    and it reminded me of Marcus. Marcus and
    his precious coffee. He wouldn't last 10
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    minutes in a real radical uprising,
    because he wouldn't be able to find
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    artisanal coffee roasters in the melee.
    Kriztina, help me search these texts for -
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    ... - help me search these for texts about
    letting the Nazis get past the lines. She
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    looked at my screen, the long scrolling
    list of texts from cops' phones. What is
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    that? It's what it looks like. Every
    message sent to or from a cop's phone in
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    the last ten hours or so. I can't read it,
    though, which is why I need your help. She
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    boggled, all cheekbones and tilted eyes
    and sensuous lips. Then she started
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    mousing the scroll up and down to read
    through them. Holy shit, she said in
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    Slovstakian, which was one of the few
    phrases I knew. Then, to her credit, she
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    seemed to get past her surprise and dug
    into the messages themselves. How do I
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    search? Here. I opened the search dialog.
    Let me know if you need help with
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    wildcards. Kriztina wasn't a hacker, but I
    taught her a little regular expression-foo,
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    to help her with an earlier project. Regex
    are one of the secret weapons of
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    hackerdom. Compact search strings that
    pass through huge files for incredibly
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    specific patterns. If you didn't fuck them
    up, which most people did. She tried a few
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    tentative searches. Am I looking for
    names, passwords? Something that would
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    freak out the interior ministry. We're
    going to forward a bunch of these. She
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    stopped and stared at me, all eyelashes.
    It's a joke? It won't look like it came
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    from us. It'll look like it came from a
    source inside the ministry. She stared
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    some more of the hamsters running around
    on their wheels, behind her eyes. Masha,
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    how do you do this? We had a deal. I'd
    help you and you wouldn't ask me
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    questions. I'd struck that deal with her
    after our first night on the barricades
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    together, when I showed her how to flash
    her phone with Paranoid Android. And we
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    watched the stingrays bounce off of it as
    she moved around the square. She knew I
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    did something for an American security
    contractor and had googled my connection
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    with "M1k3y", whom she worshiped
    naturally. I'd read the messages she'd
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    sent to her cell's chat channel sticking
    up for me as a trusty sidekick..
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    trustworthy sidekick to their Americanski-
    Hero. A couple of the others had wisely
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    and almost correctly assumed, that I was a
    police informant. It looked like maybe she
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    was regretting not listening to them. I
    waited. Talking first would surrender the
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    initiative, make me look weak. If we can't
    trust you, we're already dead, she said,
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    finally. That's true. Luckily, you can
    trust me. Search. We worked through some
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    queries together and I showed her how to
    use wildcards to expand her searches
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    without having them spill over the whole
    mountain of short messages. It would have
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    gone faster if I could have read the
    Cyrillic characters, but I had to rely on
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    Kriztina for that. When we had a good
    representative sample - a round 100,
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    enough to be convincing, not so many that
    Litvinchuk wouldn't be able to digest them
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    - I composed an email to him in English.
    This wasn't as weird as it might seem. He
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    had recruited senior staff from all over
    Europe and a couple of South African
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    mercs, and they all use a kind of pidgin
    English among themselves with generous
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    pastings from Google Translate, because
    OPSEC, right? Fractured English was a lot
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    easier to fake than native speech. Even
    so, I wasn't going to leave this to
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    chance. I grabbed a couple 1000 emails
    from mid-level bureaucrat I was planning
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    on impersonating and threw them in a cloud
    machine where I kept a fork of Anonymouth,
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    a plagiarism detector that used stylometry
    to profile the grammar, syntax, and
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    vocabulary from a training set, then
    evaluated new text to see if they seemed
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    by the same author. I trained my
    Anonymouth on several thousand individual
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    profiles from journalists and bloggers to
    every one of my bosses, which was
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    sometimes handy in figuring out when
    someone was using a ghostwriter or
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    delegated to a subordinate. Mainly,
    though, I used it for my own
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    impersonations. I'm sure that other people
    have thought about using stylometry to
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    fine tune impersonations, but no one's
    talking about it that I can find. It
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    didn't take much work for me to tweak
    Anonymouth to give me a ranked order list
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    of suggestions to make my forgery less
    detectable to Anonymouth. Shorten this
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    sentence, find a synonym for that word,
    add a couple of commas. After a few passes
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    through, my forgeries could fool humans
    and robots every time. I had a guy in mind
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    for my whistleblower: one of the South
    Africans, Nicholas Van Dijk. I'd seen him
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    in action in a bunch of flame wars with
    his Slovstakian counterparts. Friction
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    that would make him a believable rat. I
    played it up. Giving Nicholas some thinly
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    veiled grievances about how much dough his
    enemies were raking in for their treachery
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    and fishing for a little finder's fee for
    his being such a straight arrow.
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    Verisimilitude. Litvinchuk would go
    predictably apeshit when he learned that
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    his corps was riddled with traitors. But
    even he'd noticed something was off of a
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    dickhead like Van Dijk, who'd knock out
    his teammates without trying to get
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    something for himself in the deal. A
    couple of passes through Anonymouth, and I
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    had a candidate text along with the URL
    for a pastebin that I put the SMSes into.
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    No one at the Interior Ministry used PGP
    for email, because no normal human being
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    does. And so it was simplicity itself to
    manufacture an email and in Litvinchuk's
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    inbox that was indistinguishable from the
    real thing. I even forged the headers for
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    the same reason that a dollhouse builder
    paints tiny titles on the spines of the
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    books in the living room. Even though no
    one will ever see them, there's a
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    professional pride in getting the details
    right. Also, I had a script that did it for me.
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    stops reading from book
    Well, there we go.
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    J: Woohoo, I think you should...we all
    think the big applause right now.
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    C D: I just realized, that I found out
    about Anonymouth at 25C3.
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    J: Really?
    C D: I completely, like when I chose the
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    reading, I wasn't thinking about that. And
    as I was reading, I was like, didn't I
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    learn about this at a CCC? And I did.
    J: And now you're writing about it.
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    C D: Yeah. Yeah. That's why I write off my
    trips to hacker cons.
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    J: Huh. Do you actually use all those
    things for your research?
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    C D: Uh, many of them. I can't say, that I
    use Anonymouth, because I don't have to
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    forge many things, nor do I have to
    puncture forgeries. But I mean, the thing
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    that immediately struck me during the
    Anonymouth presentation was, if you
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    were like a fanfic writer, who wanted to
    find all the ways that your Harry Potter
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    story was not quite like a J.K. Rowling
    Harry Potter story, you could then tweak
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    your story to Rowling-ify it using
    Anonymouth. Right. Using this
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    plagiarism detectors, that are, you see,
    an adversarial stylometry tool. Of course,
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    today, if you just wanted to make it seem
    like J.K. Rowling, you'd throw in some
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    transphobic stuff. So, that would that
    would be the clincher.
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    J: Probably, yes.
    C D: Yeah.
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    J: But there's a pretty interesting
    discussion of that. Because lots of
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    authors and actually publishers are so
    freaking out about text AIs, that can
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    generate texts, that are pretty good
    already. Not like human yet, but pretty
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    good.
    C D: Aha.
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    J: Umm...
    C D:Yeah.
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    J: I think there's something behind that
    already.
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    C D: I used a GPT3 composition tool, that
    some people I know built and played around
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    with it. And it is really far from doing
    the kind of work I do. I don't know. I
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    won't say that it's really far from
    automating some tasks. Obviously it
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    automates some tasks. But I think, that the
    state of GPT3 is such that, if you are
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    worried about losing your job to GPT3, you
    probably have a really boring, terrible
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    job. Because it's not producing anything
    that...I mean, apart from kind of text art.
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    It's fun text art. I mean, I think maybe
    you could, like, replace Internet trolls
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    with it, you know. Every now and again,
    I'll write about, like, you know,
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    criticism of Modi and these huge,
    like, Hindu nationalist troll armies will
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    come after me and that the messages are so
    self similar that they're really easy to
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    identify and block. You don't even like a
    second word. It's just like, you know,
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    block report and away you go. But, if they
    had, like, a good GPT3 package, they could
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    probably make a whole series of harassing
    messages that would be harder to detect.
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    But again, like, I'm not worried about
    those people losing their jobs. I am
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    worried about, you know, the possibility
    of like vast disinformation campaigns, that
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    are harder to block or detect, but not
    about the, you know, technology driven
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    automation unemployment as a result of all
    of the Internet trolls being replaced.
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    laughs
    J: Yeah, I'm totally with you at that
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    point, because there will always be the
    love for human generated text, for the art
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    of or behind it.
    And there are somehow, yeah...
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    C D: A lot of the most remarkable
    GPT3 blocks, that have appeared, right,
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    where people of like use GPT3 to make
    something, turn out to be straight up
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    copy-pastes of actual texts written by
    humans, because GPT3 sometimes will just
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    regurgitate, like, half paragraphs, whole
    paragraphs that are part of its training
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    data. And so, again, like that is a very
    impressive task, right, finding the, like,
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    the best paragraph from a bunch of pre-
    written paragraphs by humans. That is
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    impressive and it amounts to something,
    but it's not the same as composing it.
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    J: Yeah, that's totally right. And it was
    pretty depressing I think, that when we put
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    some legal texts into a Markov chain
    and made a game, ok, which is the real
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    legal text and which is the Markov chain,
    and we made 3 or 4 rounds and
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    people always failed.
    C D: Yeah, I'm not surprised. I mean, it's
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    an open secret that like it was several
    months after Twitter's launch that someone
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    noticed that Twitter's terms of service
    represent repeatedly mentioned Flickr,
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    because they copied and pasted Flickr's
    terms of service to make them Twitter's
  • 16:01 - 16:07
    terms of service. And, like, no one, not
    even Twitter's lawyers had read the terms
  • 16:07 - 16:11
    of service to notice that, it didn't
    mention Twitter. So, you know, I'm not
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    surprised. Like literally nobody reads
    those, right? Those are like self-
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    reproducing text viruses.
    J: Yeah, actually they are. Shall we have
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    a look into the questions we still have?
    C D: Yeah
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    J: So, we do have 2 parts I think!?
    C:D: Right, I only have one of them.
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    J: I think you have the one from the...
    your previous talk.
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    C D: So, I can... One of my answer, one or two of
    these and then you can think about the
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    rest of these. Right. So. What's the one
    that I liked here, oh, was ... We can't
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    use Antimonopoly. It's not like you can
    dissolve Facebook overnight,
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    realistically, what's the roadmap to a
    more sustainable environment? So I think
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    that misunderstands the benefits of a
    protracted antitrust action. That, you
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    know, if we were to say to Facebook,
    all right, we're going to break out
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    WhatsApp and Insta. Which I think we could
    do even without invoking antimonopoly law.
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    I think you could say that, especially in
    the EU, their merger was was contingent on
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    them not merging the backends of Facebook,
    Instagram and WhatsApp. And then they
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    later merged the backends of Facebook,
    Instagram and WhatsApp. And I think if you
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    are given regulatory forbearance, if
    you're given an exemption to a regulation
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    on promise of certain conduct, then if you
    engage in that conduct, then we should
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    just revoke it. Right? We should just
    revoke the forbearance. I
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    think that's a pretty straightforward
    lift. But even if it were to take a long
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    time, even if we spent a decade trying to
    make Google spin out its ad tech stack,
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    which I think we should do. That 10 years
    would really like dramatically alter the
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    way that investors and corporate
    executives thought about anti-competitive
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    conduct. Right? It would get all
    of the the people who are currently, when
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    they balance out, you know, the upside of
    a monopoly and the downside of monopoly,
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    it would weight the downside much more
    heavily. And you would get the kind of
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    forbearance you got, say from IBM, when
    they didn't go after Tom Jennings,
  • 18:30 - 18:36
    when he was making the Phoenix ROM. And
    you would then see things like investment.
  • 18:36 - 18:42
    So, you know, the thing, that market
    believers say about markets is, that they
  • 18:42 - 18:47
    respond very quickly and regulators
    respond slowly. And that's true. The
  • 18:47 - 18:51
    markets are very quick. You can
    see that in the growth of technologies
  • 18:51 - 18:57
    over the crisis. Right? Like think of how
    quickly markets turned Zoom into the thing
  • 18:57 - 19:02
    that we all use. Right. It was, you know,
    if you tried to regulate a video
  • 19:02 - 19:06
    conferencing system, though, by the time
    the consultations were done and so on, it
  • 19:06 - 19:10
    would have been years later. And markets
    are actually pretty good at fighting
  • 19:10 - 19:15
    monopolies, if they're well regulated.
    Right. You know, the reason, that venture
  • 19:15 - 19:22
    capitalists don't fund Facebook
    competitors is not because they, you know,
  • 19:22 - 19:25
    love Facebook and they wouldn't
    want to see Facebook in trouble. It's
  • 19:25 - 19:29
    because, they think that, if they tried to
    fight Facebook, Facebook would destroy
  • 19:29 - 19:35
    them. And so, if we were to put Facebook on
    notice that everything it did from now on
  • 19:35 - 19:38
    was going to be part of this ongoing
    antitrust action, which I think just
  • 19:38 - 19:43
    happened right just before Christmas with
    the new slate of anti-trust suits against
  • 19:43 - 19:49
    them. Then, if you can make that, if you
    can make an investor understand that you
  • 19:49 - 19:54
    could get capital to start a competitor to
    Facebook. Now, in terms of what we can do
  • 19:54 - 20:01
    that fits between antitrust action and
    nothing, what we can do to get like jam
  • 20:01 - 20:08
    today instead of jam tomorrow, there's two
    courses involving interoperability. So one
  • 20:08 - 20:12
    of them is is already in the Digital
    Services Act. It was in the Access Act
  • 20:12 - 20:20
    that was proposed in the US last year. And
    the DSA and the Access Act
  • 20:20 - 20:24
    both have these mandatory interoperability
    components where they say, you know,
  • 20:24 - 20:28
    Facebook must produce an interface that
    third parties can log into. And they have
  • 20:28 - 20:31
    different ways of trying to make sure that
    that third party isn't Cambridge
  • 20:31 - 20:36
    Analytica. And it's going to be, it's
    hard, but it will open some
  • 20:36 - 20:42
    regulatory space in concert with these
    antitrust enforcement actions. But even
  • 20:42 - 20:51
    more exciting would be an interoperator's
    defense, a law or a regulation that said,
  • 20:51 - 20:57
    if you devise a way to interface a new
    product with an existing product for a
  • 20:57 - 21:03
    legitimate purpose, including increased
    consumer freedom, security auditing,
  • 21:03 - 21:08
    accessibility for people with disabilities
    and you know independent repair and so on,
  • 21:08 - 21:12
    that notwithstanding any law, software
    patents, copyrights, terms of service,
  • 21:12 - 21:18
    trade secrecy, non-compete, you have an
    absolute defense. And obviously passing
  • 21:18 - 21:21
    that law would be really hard, but it
    wouldn't have to come legislatively, like
  • 21:21 - 21:28
    you could imagine bits and pieces of it
    emerging. Like maybe we say to Facebook
  • 21:28 - 21:33
    that the remedy for it's unlawful and
    deceptive merger with Instagram and
  • 21:33 - 21:38
    WhatsApp is that they have to sign a
    consent decree saying they won't punish
  • 21:38 - 21:42
    people who build interoperable services on
    this basis. And so they have to act as
  • 21:42 - 21:45
    though that were the law, even if it
    wasn't the law. Or we might see things
  • 21:45 - 21:49
    like a procurement guideline where you
    know we might have educational
  • 21:49 - 21:54
    authorities who say to Google, yeah, we're
    going to buy Google classroom site
  • 21:54 - 21:59
    licenses for all of our locked down kids,
    but as a condition of that, you have to
  • 21:59 - 22:05
    promise that you will not seek any kind of
    vengeance against people who do the
  • 22:05 - 22:10
    following things. Or we might say to
    Apple, as a procurement matter, if we're
  • 22:10 - 22:14
    going to buy fifty thousand iPads for our
    school district, you have to promise not
  • 22:14 - 22:18
    to sue people who produce side loading
    tools, because we have apps that our
  • 22:18 - 22:22
    district depends on, and we can't, you
    know, we can't be dependent on you guys
  • 22:22 - 22:27
    deciding that you don't want to lock that
    app out. And so you get this kind of like
  • 22:27 - 22:32
    multilayered stack where you have
    antitrust enforcement that is like 'pour
  • 22:32 - 22:36
    encourager les autres'. You know,
    sometimes you have to execute an admiral
  • 22:36 - 22:40
    to encourage the rest of them. And that
    just ripples out through the whole sector.
  • 22:40 - 22:44
    And then you have interoperability
    mandates, through regulation that are slow
  • 22:44 - 22:49
    moving, but not as slow moving as
    lawsuits. You have new market
  • 22:49 - 22:53
    opportunities that are much faster moving
    that will depend on both the lawsuits and
  • 22:53 - 22:58
    the regulation. And then you have
    unilateral actions that governments can
  • 22:58 - 23:01
    take with very little consultation
    without having to get things
  • 23:01 - 23:05
    through parliament where they can just
    bind over technology companies to behave
  • 23:05 - 23:10
    in certain ways so that, you know, they
    must do it. Like imagine if the remedy for
  • 23:10 - 23:15
    Dieselgate was that the German state said
    to Volkswagen and other giant German
  • 23:15 - 23:20
    automakers, you are no longer allowed to
    block any independent auditing service,
  • 23:20 - 23:25
    repair or manufacture of parts for any of
    your vehicles. It's a natural remedy,
  • 23:25 - 23:29
    right? Like it directly addresses the bad
    conduct, but it also creates right to
  • 23:29 - 23:33
    repair, interoperability, independent
    security auditing, all of that stuff out
  • 23:33 - 23:37
    of the gate. And like you could get it
    just as part of a consent decree. You
  • 23:37 - 23:41
    could get it just with the German
    regulator talking to the lawyers for Audi
  • 23:41 - 23:46
    and saying, if you don't want your CEO to
    go to jail, you have to sign this paper.
  • 23:46 - 23:49
    Right? And then then you get actual, like
    fast moving action. And so I think it's
  • 23:49 - 23:56
    that kind of holistic thinking about how
    technology, markets, law and norms all
  • 23:56 - 24:00
    work together that gets us to a solution.
    And then as against this backdrop,
  • 24:00 - 24:06
    remember, that there are people who are
    worried about monopolies in beer who are
  • 24:06 - 24:09
    going to be fighting your corner. And
    there's people are going to be upset that
  • 24:09 - 24:14
    all glasses are made by one company,
    Luxottica in Italy, who've raised prices a
  • 24:14 - 24:17
    thousand percent over the last decade, who
    are also going to be fighting your corner
  • 24:17 - 24:22
    on this. And so, you know, as opposed to
    being a war on a thousand fronts, this is
  • 24:22 - 24:27
    going to be a battle with a thousand
    allies. And that's going to make that
  • 24:27 - 24:32
    antitrust stuff move a lot faster than it
    did with Microsoft, because this won't be
  • 24:32 - 24:38
    just a one off assault on Microsoft, or on
    Google, or on Facebook. This is going to be
  • 24:38 - 24:43
    like a global movement to it to attack
    monopolism itself.
  • 24:43 - 24:51
    J: As I just said, markets, ecosystems.
    There was another pretty interesting
  • 24:51 - 24:56
    question about, by the way,
    interoperability and free and open source
  • 24:56 - 25:06
    ecosystems and things like probably the
    fattyverse or so, that just rise and come
  • 25:06 - 25:15
    up as a yeah as a real alternative to the
    solutions we've had over the last 10 or 15
  • 25:15 - 25:20
    years? What do you see in those?
    C D: So I think the thing that's missing,
  • 25:20 - 25:23
    I mean, I like them. I use them. I have a
    Mastodon account. I'm actually trying to
  • 25:23 - 25:32
    stand up a Mastodon server right now. And
    but the problem with Diaspora, Mastodon
  • 25:32 - 25:37
    and other, like federated answers to
    Facebook is not centralization
  • 25:37 - 25:42
    versus decentralization or features versus
    non-features. It's interoperability.
  • 25:42 - 25:48
    Specifically, it's both the lack of a
    standardized interoperable means of
  • 25:48 - 25:52
    connecting to these services, which, to
    its credit, Twitter is actually like
  • 25:52 - 25:56
    trying to do something about Twitter's
    Project Blue Sky. I think they have
  • 25:56 - 26:01
    like, they've sat down and they've gone
    like, well, having absolute control of our
  • 26:01 - 26:06
    users is worth this much. Not being
    responsible for moderating content is
  • 26:06 - 26:10
    worth this much. The only way we get out
    from not moderating content is by not
  • 26:10 - 26:14
    owning the content, not having the
    capacity to moderate the content
  • 26:14 - 26:18
    and just being like a federator or a
    central node and a federator. And so
  • 26:18 - 26:22
    they're kind of moving towards it. And
    they want to provide like a managed
  • 26:22 - 26:27
    interface. Right. They want to have, like,
    you know, a standardized API that everyone
  • 26:27 - 26:30
    accesses. The problem with those
    standardized APIs is that Twitter used to
  • 26:30 - 26:35
    have them and then they took them away. So
    you know the thing that produces an
  • 26:35 - 26:41
    equilibrium where those standardized APIs
    are both good and durable is competitive
  • 26:41 - 26:46
    compatibility. If you know, that the day
    you withdraw the standardized API, hackers
  • 26:46 - 26:51
    all over the world are going to write bots
    that just replace the API with scrapers,
  • 26:51 - 26:55
    that you're going to have to fight like
    this, it's like marching on
  • 26:55 - 26:59
    Stalingrad, right? Like you're just going
    to have, like, this kind of endless
  • 26:59 - 27:06
    grinding trench warfare with with hackers
    who will be legally immunized from your
  • 27:06 - 27:12
    from any legal tool you have to shut them
    down. And all you'll be able to do is just
  • 27:12 - 27:17
    tweak intrusion detection system rules and
    try in a system with hundreds of millions
  • 27:17 - 27:23
    of users to distinguish users who are just
    weird from bots. Right. Because like, when
  • 27:23 - 27:27
    you have, like think about Facebook, right.
    Facebook's got 2.6 billion users
  • 27:27 - 27:31
    and has 2.6 million, one in a
    million use cases or 2.6
  • 27:31 - 27:35
    thousand one in a million use cases every
    single day. Right. So distinguishing the
  • 27:35 - 27:40
    dolphins from the tuna in your tuna net is
    going to be really hard when you're
  • 27:40 - 27:44
    operating at that scale. And so,
    you know, when you're like in the
  • 27:44 - 27:48
    meeting with the head of, the CTO and the
    CSO and the chief marketing officer and
  • 27:48 - 27:52
    the CFO and the shareholders and
    the board, and they're like "We need more
  • 27:52 - 27:55
    revenue. We're going to shut down the API,
    we're going to nerf the API". The
  • 27:55 - 27:59
    technologists in the room can say this is
    what the bill for that is going to look
  • 27:59 - 28:04
    like and it's going to exceed the excess
    capital we get from blocking the API. And
  • 28:04 - 28:10
    so, you know, this idea that, like, we can
    just like all of us, decide that next
  • 28:10 - 28:14
    Wednesday we're going to shut down our
    Twitter accounts and reopen them on
  • 28:14 - 28:18
    Mastodon. It's crazy. It's not how
    technology has ever worked, right? The way
  • 28:18 - 28:24
    that we got Keynote as like a standard for
    a lot of people's PowerPoint presentations
  • 28:24 - 28:29
    or conference presentations was not by
    everyone saying, like: On Thursday, the
  • 28:29 - 28:33
    21st we stop using PowerPoint, we
    start using Keynote. It was by iWorks
  • 28:33 - 28:37
    Suite being able to read and write
    PowerPoint files. And by having this kind
  • 28:37 - 28:42
    of this, this kind of protracted period
    where it was not binary. Right? Like
  • 28:42 - 28:46
    you can have one foot in one camp, one
    foot in the other, you know, I analogize it
  • 28:46 - 28:51
    sometimes to my family's migration
    history, where my grandmother was a Soviet
  • 28:51 - 28:56
    refugee. She came to Canada and she lost
    touch with her family for 15 years. Right?
  • 28:56 - 29:01
    She couldn't phone them. She couldn't
    write to them, like they exchanged
  • 29:01 - 29:04
    messages. Sometimes if someone got a visa
    to go to Leningrad, they she would tell
  • 29:04 - 29:09
    them what to tell her mother if they could
    find her mother. And, you know,
  • 29:09 - 29:13
    obviously, like leaving the Soviet Union
    was really hard for my family. It was a
  • 29:13 - 29:18
    really hard choice, even though Canada was
    a better place to be for them because of
  • 29:18 - 29:22
    the very high costs that came with it. And
    they have family members. I have family
  • 29:22 - 29:26
    members in St. Petersburg who never came,
    because the cost was too high. So five
  • 29:26 - 29:30
    years ago, I left London and moved to Los
    Angeles. And here I am in my office in Los
  • 29:30 - 29:34
    Angeles. Not only did all of my books come
    with me, but let me see if I can get it in
  • 29:34 - 29:38
    the frame over there is my theremin. OK,
    that's the theremin that I bought that
  • 29:38 - 29:43
    runs on British voltage that has a little
    mains adapter. We just got off a zoom call
  • 29:43 - 29:48
    with my relatives in London and we talk to
    my family in Canada every week. So for us,
  • 29:48 - 29:51
    the switching costs were really low
    because if we changed our mind, we could
  • 29:51 - 29:55
    go back. And in fact, this is the third
    time I've moved to Los Angeles so I could
  • 29:55 - 29:59
    I could try Los Angeles, see how it
    worked, go back to London, come back. It
  • 29:59 - 30:03
    was expensive, right? But it wasn't
    leaving the Soviet Union in the forties
  • 30:03 - 30:08
    expensive. And so, you know, by all means,
    build the place that people who want to
  • 30:08 - 30:13
    escape Mark Zuckerberg's Iron Curtain will
    find as a happy home. But give them the
  • 30:13 - 30:17
    ability to have one foot in one, one foot
    in the other. And, you know, the other
  • 30:17 - 30:22
    piece of this is every time Zuckerberg
    says, oh, I'm blocking Interop tools to
  • 30:22 - 30:27
    keep my users safe. Remember that in the
    DDR they said the Berlin Wall isn't to
  • 30:27 - 30:33
    keep East Germans in, it's to keep West
    Germans out of the workers paradise. And
  • 30:33 - 30:42
    it's the same fucking excuse.
    J: It always is. I just got in a message
  • 30:42 - 30:50
    here and probably an interesting question,
    by the way, or actually two, linking
  • 30:50 - 30:59
    together. Coming back to the monopolies,
    you did not say much about Amazon on your
  • 30:59 - 31:06
    talk before. And we'll have another
    question for the fireside chat here with
  • 31:06 - 31:14
    your book. That the person asked why you
    actually went away from publishing under
  • 31:14 - 31:22
    the CC licenses and went to bigger
    publishing houses. Would you like to
  • 31:22 - 31:26
    explain probably why, also the Amazon part
    then...
  • 31:26 - 31:30
    C D: I didn't work Amazon in just because
    of time pressure, but all of this stuff
  • 31:30 - 31:34
    applies to Amazon. I mean, I think the
    most interesting thing about Amazon is in
  • 31:34 - 31:39
    terms of its worker uprising, where
    there's been an explicit, so remember that
  • 31:39 - 31:43
    all tech companies are split into some of
    the highest paid workers on Earth and some
  • 31:43 - 31:46
    of the lowest paid workers on Earth.
    Right. And so in Amazon's case, that's
  • 31:46 - 31:50
    like the warehouse workers who have some
    of the worst working conditions and so on.
  • 31:50 - 31:56
    And explicitly, the tech worker uprising
    in Amazon was in solidarity with the
  • 31:56 - 32:00
    warehouse workers. And that's really
    interesting, right, because it's crossing
  • 32:00 - 32:05
    these class boundaries and it's crossing
    these divisions that the firms themselves
  • 32:05 - 32:10
    deliberately created to prevent
    solidarity. You know, in the same way that
  • 32:10 - 32:15
    in the early days of the trade union
    movement in the US, if the Italian auto
  • 32:15 - 32:19
    workers were on strike, they'd bring in
    German auto workers to break the strike
  • 32:19 - 32:23
    and they would try to make it about
    Germans and Italians, not workers. In the
  • 32:23 - 32:27
    same way, you have this kind of, you divide
    up the workplace into contractors and non-
  • 32:27 - 32:33
    contractors, green badges and blue badges.
    And it it works to drive a fracture line
  • 32:33 - 32:39
    between different people who actually have
    shared interests. In terms of publishing.
  • 32:39 - 32:42
    Well, it's about monopolies. There's five
    publishers left and in fact, there's about
  • 32:42 - 32:46
    to be four because Bertelsmann is buying
    Simon and Schuster, assuming the DOJ lets
  • 32:46 - 32:50
    them do it, which, you know, this is kind
    of like the first litmus test of whether
  • 32:50 - 32:57
    Biden's DOJ has got like any real serious
    commitment to blocking monopolistic
  • 32:57 - 33:01
    mergers, because the idea that we should
    go from five companies to four in
  • 33:01 - 33:08
    publishing is outrageous. There's just no
    reason for it. So the, you know, with five
  • 33:08 - 33:14
    publishers, there's exactly one that lets
    me go DRM free, and that's Tor. And Tor
  • 33:14 - 33:20
    was also the only one that would let me go
    Creative Commons. And they change their
  • 33:20 - 33:26
    mind. And so the choice was try and self
    publish, which frankly, like I've done it,
  • 33:26 - 33:31
    it's hard work. I would get one tenth as
    many books written and I would go to my
  • 33:31 - 33:38
    deathbed with dozens of unwritten books
    but a better Creative Commons track record
  • 33:38 - 33:43
    or suck it up and I sucked it up. I don't
    like it and they know I don't like it. I
  • 33:43 - 33:48
    like Tor. They're the smallest, most,
    they're owned by McMillan, which is owned
  • 33:48 - 33:55
    by von Holtzbrink and you know they're the
    smallest, they're most ethical. They're the
  • 33:55 - 34:00
    ones that I like the best. But they didn't
    like the Creative Commons licenses in the
  • 34:00 - 34:07
    end. And so that was where I ended up. It
    sucks now you know, I can still cc license
  • 34:07 - 34:10
    the other stuff that I do. And if
    anything, I've become more permissive in
  • 34:10 - 34:15
    that. And I left Boing Boing almost a year
    ago, a year minus a week and a half ago.
  • 34:15 - 34:20
    And when I left, I started this new thing
    called Pluralistic. And Boing Boing was
  • 34:20 - 34:25
    licensed under a very restrictive cc
    license. This is cc-by. It's as close as
  • 34:25 - 34:30
    you get to a public domain without going
    cc-zero, it just requires attribution. And
  • 34:30 - 34:35
    so pluralistic is a pretty significant
    piece of writing. I am taking a break from
  • 34:35 - 34:39
    it this week, but I write three or four
    substantial articles every day that are
  • 34:39 - 34:46
    cc-zero or cc-by and that I think like,
    you know, if you're interested in my work,
  • 34:46 - 34:50
    like there's a lot of it out there under
    extremely generous, far more generous than
  • 34:50 - 34:54
    my novels' cc licenses. I wish I could do
    the cc licenses to. I mean, if nothing
  • 34:54 - 34:58
    else, I mean, this is a little inside
    baseball, but given that it's a German
  • 34:58 - 35:03
    audience and it's relevant to Germany. So
    the Germans that I meet who've read Little
  • 35:03 - 35:06
    Brother and my other books inevitably
    found them through Creative Commons
  • 35:06 - 35:11
    licenses. In part, I think because English
    works in Germany are still pretty
  • 35:11 - 35:14
    expensive relative to the German
    translations. And Germans have a high
  • 35:14 - 35:19
    enough literacy in English that they like
    to read original English texts. And so
  • 35:19 - 35:24
    before there were e-book markets that
    served Germany with English language text,
  • 35:24 - 35:27
    the only way to get an English language
    ebook was to pirate it or get a
  • 35:27 - 35:31
    cc one, and mine was the only cc one. So
    what's interesting about that is now,
  • 35:31 - 35:35
    thanks to Tor books, I'm able to run my
    own eBook store if you go to craphound.com
  • 35:35 - 35:41
    slash shop, I have an eBook store, it's DRM
    Free, EULA free books, and the way the
  • 35:41 - 35:45
    publishing contracts work is my British
    publisher has rights in British
  • 35:45 - 35:49
    territories except Canada, like former
    British Empire territories, except
  • 35:49 - 35:57
    Canada. India, Australia, Canada, New
    Zealand, the UK and so on. And my American
  • 35:57 - 36:03
    publisher has rights in the US and Canada.
    And then nobody has the exclusive right to
  • 36:03 - 36:09
    non English speaking territories, like
    Germany. And about 10 to 15 percent of my
  • 36:09 - 36:14
    ebook sales come from Germany. And I get
    all the money from those, right. When I
  • 36:14 - 36:19
    sell an ebook in the UK, I give 70 percent
    of the money to my publisher and then they
  • 36:19 - 36:23
    give me twenty five percent back as my
    royalty. When I sell a book in the US, I
  • 36:23 - 36:26
    give seventy percent to my US publisher
    and they give me back twenty five percent
  • 36:26 - 36:31
    as my royalty. When I sell a book in
    Germany, I keep all of it. I get twice as
  • 36:31 - 36:36
    much money. And so 10 to 15 percent of my
    readership are in Germany and they account
  • 36:36 - 36:41
    for 30 percent of my gross receipts from
    the website. And so that is like super
  • 36:41 - 36:45
    cool. And you know I understand that my
    publisher is not neither here nor there on
  • 36:45 - 36:49
    that one because they don't get a dime
    from it. But for me, my German audience is
  • 36:49 - 36:53
    super important. My German, English
    speaking audience, is super important.
  • 36:53 - 37:05
    J: And, would have self-publishing ever
    be a way for you in the largest scale,
  • 37:05 - 37:14
    so like Joanna Penn is doing in the UK?
    C D: It's just a lot of work. I mean, it
  • 37:14 - 37:21
    is like like I work at 16 to 18 hour day,
    most days. Like I did the - so writing
  • 37:21 - 37:26
    Pluralistic, doing EFF and working on
    novels during the crisis, the first day I
  • 37:26 - 37:34
    took off between March 19th, after March
    19th was December the 17th. So I didn't
  • 37:34 - 37:39
    have a weekend off, I didn't have a day
    off. So and I wrote a book. I wrote a book
  • 37:39 - 37:44
    during the crisis and I self published an
    audio book and I had four books come out.
  • 37:44 - 37:52
    And - you know, I if - if I were doing
    more, if I were doing the stuff that my
  • 37:52 - 37:55
    publisher does, I wouldn't have written
    that book. I would have written maybe half
  • 37:55 - 38:02
    that book. And so it's just a matter
    of how much time I have. And, you know, I
  • 38:02 - 38:05
    have done an experiment. I did a self
    publish short story collection and made a
  • 38:05 - 38:09
    bunch of money, like relative to how short
    story - short story collections
  • 38:09 - 38:12
    don't make a lot of money usually. So it
    made about three times as much, four times
  • 38:12 - 38:17
    as much. But the amount of the actual
    gross dollars that it made was
  • 38:17 - 38:22
    significantly less than I would get for
    going through a publisher. And you know
  • 38:22 - 38:30
    that the amount of extra work was a
    novel's worth of work. And so I just, you
  • 38:30 - 38:35
    know, back to, like what I want to be
    worried about on my deathbed. And I would
  • 38:35 - 38:44
    much rather have published all of these
    books without EULAs, without DRM and, you
  • 38:44 - 38:49
    know, argued for a more robust set of fair
    dealing and fair use rules that would
  • 38:49 - 38:53
    allow people to use them widely than
    having written half as many books, but
  • 38:53 - 38:56
    gotten them all out under CC to a much
    smaller audience.
  • 38:56 - 38:59
    J: Yeah, it's a [balances with
    hands], yeah.
  • 38:59 - 39:04
    C D: It's not, I mean, I'm not thrilled
    about it. It's like and maybe it's the
  • 39:04 - 39:09
    wrong call - I don't know. But it's like,
    you know. It's the call I made for now.
  • 39:09 - 39:13
    You know, if we see massive de-
    monopolization, maybe it'll get easier.
  • 39:13 - 39:22
    J: Hmm. I see in the chat. We do have a
    question. So, do we want to try to have
  • 39:22 - 39:27
    someone free the microphone and ask the
    question here in the room?
  • 39:27 - 39:30
    Guest-sir#3: I think I'm now unmuted.
    J: Yes, you're.
  • 39:30 - 39:34
    Guest: Hi Cory, just a quick question. So
    as the readers, is there anything we can
  • 39:34 - 39:39
    do about this? It seems like the business
    of publishing is pretty in, let's say, a
  • 39:39 - 39:42
    bit of a difficult situation. Is there
    anything we can do?
  • 39:42 - 39:47
    C D: Yeah, I mean, I think this is the
    problem with our consumerism more broadly
  • 39:47 - 39:51
    is that, you know, consumerism, the value
    of consumer rights movements - and there
  • 39:51 - 39:54
    are some very, you know EFF, have has its
    origins in consumer rights, groups like
  • 39:54 - 39:59
    BEUC and EDRI are fundamentally
    consumer rights groups - the value
  • 39:59 - 40:04
    of them is they work fast, right? Like
    consumer power is fast power, but
  • 40:04 - 40:15
    its limited power and citizen power is
    slow. But consumers can't, by definition, can't
  • 40:15 - 40:20
    shop their way out of a monopoly. Making
    better consumer choices, making better
  • 40:20 - 40:26
    individual choices will not solve
    monopolism because the whole point of
  • 40:26 - 40:30
    monopolism is that the meaningful choices
    have been taken off the table. That's
  • 40:30 - 40:34
    - that's the real problem of monopolism is
    the way that it distorts our public
  • 40:34 - 40:39
    policy. And so for that, you need to be
    involved in democracy. And so to be
  • 40:39 - 40:45
    involved in democracy is to not think of
    yourself primarily as an actor whose voice
  • 40:45 - 40:51
    is felt through purchase decisions, but
    rather through someone who's part of a
  • 40:51 - 41:00
    movement. And, you know, the good news is
    that there's a wide political spectrum of
  • 41:00 - 41:06
    mainstream political movements that are
    concerned with monopoly right now. And
  • 41:06 - 41:10
    it's not the exclusive purview of the
    left. I mean, the right for a long time,
  • 41:10 - 41:16
    we're universally cheerleaders for
    monopoly. But increasingly, you
  • 41:16 - 41:22
    know,they're like: Well, I was fine when
    Facebook was de platforming anti-pipeline
  • 41:22 - 41:27
    activists and trans-rights activists. But
    now that Alex Jones is gone, I'm you know,
  • 41:27 - 41:32
    where will AfD meet if not on Facebook?
    And so now suddenly they're all worried
  • 41:32 - 41:38
    about monopoly. And, you know, the risk is
    that they will structure their anti-
  • 41:38 - 41:42
    monopoly remedies in ways that actually
    just make the monopoly stronger. The big
  • 41:42 - 41:51
    one of those is arguing for more intense,
    more fine grained accountability for
  • 41:51 - 41:56
    moderation decisions. And the thing about
    that is, the reason that Facebook makes bad
  • 41:56 - 42:01
    moderation decisions is not merely because
    Mark Zuckerberg is not well suited to
  • 42:01 - 42:05
    being in charge of the lives of 2.6
    billion people. It's because, like no
  • 42:05 - 42:10
    one on Earth should have that job. And, if
    we say, all right, you've got to moderate
  • 42:10 - 42:14
    all the bad stuff or moderate better or
    not have more false positives or
  • 42:14 - 42:19
    whatever, stop harassment or anything
    else, all we do is we create this like
  • 42:19 - 42:24
    floor underneath which no one can afford
    to participate as an alternative to
  • 42:24 - 42:28
    Facebook. And that just makes Facebook the
    endless monopoly. And I fear that both the
  • 42:28 - 42:34
    right and the left - for their own reasons
    - are in their anti-monopoly energy going
  • 42:34 - 42:39
    down the wrong path here. And so this is
    where we need people in movements who are
  • 42:39 - 42:43
    technologists and understand the
    technology and can say - in the same way
  • 42:43 - 42:48
    that we've said now for decades,
    whenever someone says: Oh, we need to get
  • 42:48 - 42:54
    rid of cryptography and replace it with
    cryptography-with-lawful-access-back-doors
  • 42:54 - 42:58
    and that will only let the good guys in
    and won't let the bad guys in - and we say
  • 42:58 - 43:03
    to them, look, you know, I am here as your
    constituent, as a technologist, as someone
  • 43:03 - 43:07
    who works in the field and I'm going to
    explain to you what's at risk and why that
  • 43:07 - 43:11
    doesn't work. You know, in words that you
    can understand. We need to go in and have
  • 43:11 - 43:17
    those same conversations about moderation
    and about this idea that, like, it's not
  • 43:17 - 43:24
    too late for a dynamic Internet. That we
    can we can aspire to something better than
  • 43:24 - 43:29
    a slightly more responsible Facebook. That
    we can aspire to a more self determining
  • 43:29 - 43:34
    more pluralistic Internet where you don't
    have to hope that Facebook cleans up its
  • 43:34 - 43:40
    act. You can just go somewhere else. Whose
    policies you like better and still talk to
  • 43:40 - 43:46
    your Facebook friends.
    J: Hmm. And as you just said activists and
  • 43:46 - 43:51
    all the bad stuff. We have some more
    questions here. You also said
  • 43:51 - 43:59
    something about that dividing and fracture
    line before where workers were divided.
  • 43:59 - 44:10
    And I have a question: Why do all those,
    or most, or many left-wing communities
  • 44:10 - 44:17
    split up about fundamental discussions
    while right wing people just stick
  • 44:17 - 44:23
    together and, yeah, try to to work
    together for benefits?
  • 44:23 - 44:28
    C D: Well, I think that I mean, it's
    multifaceted and that characterization is
  • 44:28 - 44:33
    not entirely true, right? You know, the
    right wing movements do have really
  • 44:33 - 44:39
    serious fracture lines. In Canada, our
    conservative party was like many
  • 44:39 - 44:43
    conservative parties. One of these
    chimeras where you have, you know,
  • 44:43 - 44:47
    wealthy people and social conservatives
    and wealthy people say you vote for our
  • 44:47 - 44:52
    tax breaks and we'll punish women who have
    abortions and they fused this
  • 44:52 - 44:58
    coalition. And in Canada, after the
    Mulroney years - he was our Helmut Kohl
  • 44:58 - 45:04
    equivalent - the conservatives were in
    such bad odour that they pulled less than
  • 45:04 - 45:08
    12 percent in the election, didn't qualify
    for free office space on Parliament Hill.
  • 45:08 - 45:12
    And the party broke up and became two
    parties, the Conservative Party and the
  • 45:12 - 45:19
    Reform Party. And hilariously, later on,
    they reformed and they were at this all
  • 45:19 - 45:23
    party conference and the naming committee
    went into a closed room to figure out what
  • 45:23 - 45:26
    they were going to call the new party. And
    they came up with the Canadian
  • 45:26 - 45:32
    Conservative Reform Alliance Party - which
    is CRAP. And no one noticed until after
  • 45:32 - 45:37
    the press release. But conservative
    parties fracture all the time. They have
  • 45:37 - 45:42
    really serious, grotesque fracture lines.
    The Republican Party is in major
  • 45:42 - 45:46
    disarray at the moment and will probably
    be in worse disarray after the election.
  • 45:46 - 45:52
    The run off in Georgia in January if they
    lose control of the Senate because money
  • 45:52 - 45:55
    talks and bullshit walks. If you don't
    deliver, if your program doesn't deliver
  • 45:55 - 46:00
    the majority that allows you to enact the
    wider program, then you are discredited
  • 46:00 - 46:05
    and you lose your seat. I mean, the
    British Tories have undergone the same
  • 46:05 - 46:08
    thing. That's what Brexit was. It was a
    split in the British Tories. In terms of
  • 46:08 - 46:12
    the left, there are lots of reasons the
    left splinters. Some of it is what Freud
  • 46:12 - 46:16
    called the narcissism of small
    differences. You know, you call it free
  • 46:16 - 46:22
    software, i call it open source. We can't
    be friends anymore. Some of it is
  • 46:22 - 46:28
    legitimate differences, which, you know,
    there are real meaningful differences
  • 46:28 - 46:33
    between, say, liberals in the left. And
    there are lots of places where they agree.
  • 46:33 - 46:36
    But there are irreconcilable differences.
    And when it comes to those breaking
  • 46:36 - 46:42
    points, you just, the alliance is going to
    fall apart, right? It may, it may -
  • 46:42 - 46:46
    personal friendships may endure, but the
    wider questions are going to drive it
  • 46:46 - 46:52
    apart. And then I just watched a video
    with Boots Riley, you know, who is the guy
  • 46:52 - 46:58
    who made "Sorry to disturb you", he's a
    revolutionary rapper. And he talked about
  • 46:58 - 47:04
    the history of the protest movement in the
    US and the trade union movement. And one
  • 47:04 - 47:07
    thing that is really under reported,
    including to my shame by me in the last
  • 47:07 - 47:12
    nine months, is that the US had more
    wildcat strikes than at any time since
  • 47:12 - 47:16
    the 1940s. Strikes where there wasn't a
    union, that it was unsanctioned and they
  • 47:16 - 47:22
    were in support of the same issues as the
    protests that got all the coverage, Black
  • 47:22 - 47:28
    Lives Matter and so on. But they didn't
    draw the coverage. And Riley was on the
  • 47:28 - 47:36
    show talking about the way that the left -
    including the radical left in the US -
  • 47:36 - 47:42
    moved from strikes to protests. Where the
    primary mechanism for enacting a program
  • 47:42 - 47:46
    of change was protests and not strikes.
    And he said that it came from the anti-
  • 47:46 - 47:51
    communist witch hunts of the 1950s and 60s
    and that the trade union movement - to
  • 47:51 - 47:58
    avoid the penalty of being tarred as
    communists by the witch hunters, by the
  • 47:58 - 48:04
    McCarthy hearings, they backed away from
    radical political agendas and they became
  • 48:04 - 48:10
    effectively part of the establishment. And
    that the radical left split off and they
  • 48:10 - 48:17
    declared that student movements were the
    future of political, radical political
  • 48:17 - 48:22
    change. And student movements, they can
    have symbolic strikes, but a student
  • 48:22 - 48:27
    strike is not a strike in the way that
    workers strike is, right? A worker strike
  • 48:27 - 48:31
    is really fundamental. Like at its core, a
    worker strike is the argument that who
  • 48:31 - 48:39
    gets to decide how things get made and who
    gets to own those things should be in a
  • 48:39 - 48:43
    different set of hands, should be
    differently organized. It is a
  • 48:43 - 48:50
    foundationally different project than a
    protest. A protest is about what the
  • 48:50 - 48:58
    people in charge should do and a strike is
    about who should be in charge. And he says
  • 48:58 - 49:05
    that the legacy of that today is that we
    focus our energies on the outcomes of our
  • 49:05 - 49:11
    political arrangements, which are
    structural racism, sexism, inequality and
  • 49:11 - 49:15
    so on. But we don't talk about the
    underlying structure anymore. We don't
  • 49:15 - 49:19
    address the underlying structure. We may
    talk about it in our protest, but we don't
  • 49:19 - 49:27
    address it with the most tried and true
    direct action tool we have for changing
  • 49:27 - 49:31
    those structural arrangements, which is
    striking. And I, you know, I just listened
  • 49:31 - 49:34
    to that yesterday and I've been thinking
    about it ever since. And I think that it
  • 49:34 - 49:41
    does reveal a really like, non-trivial
    distinction between different ways of
  • 49:41 - 49:46
    looking at theories of change. And it's
    not that kind of cartoony, like Marxist
  • 49:46 - 49:49
    can't care about class and everyone else,
    and they're all white dudes. And then
  • 49:49 - 49:56
    everyone else cares about gender and race.
    It's about understanding how anti-
  • 49:56 - 50:00
    communist witch hunts and how like a
    deliberate, like normative and political
  • 50:00 - 50:06
    project to discredit a certain kind of - a
    certain ideology, changed the way that we
  • 50:06 - 50:13
    talk about what our political aspirations
    might be. And it's a really important
  • 50:13 - 50:18
    distinction. It really matters. I'm still
    trying to digest it. But, you know, I'm
  • 50:18 - 50:28
    thinking about it ever since.
    J: Hmm, we have, as we said just before we
  • 50:28 - 50:35
    went online with the fireside chat here,
    by the way. And I'm really happy that
  • 50:35 - 50:46
    we're exploring this, yeah, for us new
    format of a talk/chat. I'm really happy to
  • 50:46 - 50:52
    have people here in the room with us. So
    this will be for all the other fireside
  • 50:52 - 51:00
    chat, another invitation to pop in and ask
    your questions directly and be here with
  • 51:00 - 51:08
    us in the room. And we have people in the
    audience who have a really big question
  • 51:08 - 51:19
    that probably all of us have. It's 2020
    for all of us and 2020 is somewhat
  • 51:19 - 51:31
    demanding. And how do you manage? To not
    get depressive over activism, so how can
  • 51:31 - 51:39
    you stay positive with all the stuff
    happening and all the opponents we face in
  • 51:39 - 51:43
    activism?
    C D: Yeah, you know, I would lie if I said
  • 51:43 - 51:50
    I hadn't felt a lot of despair this year.
    I mean, lucky for me, the way that I cope
  • 51:50 - 51:56
    with stress is by working. So, you know,
    it's not entirely great because when I
  • 51:56 - 52:02
    work without balance, you know, when when
    all you do is stick your face in your
  • 52:02 - 52:07
    computer and work, then your emotional
    health suffers and your physical health. I
  • 52:07 - 52:11
    have a chronic pain problem. And I hurt
    myself so badly a couple of weeks ago that
  • 52:11 - 52:16
    I was actually walking around on a cane.
    Literally just from sitting too much and
  • 52:16 - 52:20
    neglecting my physical welfare, not doing
    the self care that I need to manage my
  • 52:20 - 52:27
    disability. So, you know, it's
    not been great for anyone. I, you know,
  • 52:27 - 52:32
    I'm working on this utopian novel right
    now, "The Lost Cause", which is a novel
  • 52:32 - 52:41
    set after "Green New Deal" in which people
    have oriented themselves to the long
  • 52:41 - 52:46
    project of dealing with climate change.
    And so that includes things like a
  • 52:46 - 52:52
    300 year project to relocate all the
    world's cities 20 kilometers inland and
  • 52:52 - 52:56
    really big structural changes to cope with
    hundreds of millions of refugees that we
  • 52:56 - 53:03
    know will come and orienting our work
    around contingency plans for months at a
  • 53:03 - 53:09
    time when you can't leave your house
    because of wildfires. And it is
  • 53:09 - 53:14
    indistinguishable from an environmental
    dystopian novel, except for the fact that
  • 53:14 - 53:18
    the people in the book don't feel
    helpless. They know what's coming. They
  • 53:18 - 53:22
    know they can't stop it, but they know
    that they can prepare for it. They can do
  • 53:22 - 53:27
    stuff that will manage it. And so for me,
    that's like, you know, back to the theme
  • 53:27 - 53:31
    of my talk I just gave: Self-
    determination, right. The ability to have
  • 53:31 - 53:39
    like a say in how this stuff works out to
    know which parts are parameterized and
  • 53:39 - 53:45
    which parts are set in stone. That is, I
    think, the thing that keeps at least some
  • 53:45 - 53:52
    people sane and dedicated and acting. And
    so this is the upside of activism, right?
  • 53:52 - 53:57
    Is like doing something to try and make a
    difference may feel hopeless and
  • 53:57 - 54:03
    exhausting, but try doing nothing to make
    a difference and to just be like tempest
  • 54:03 - 54:11
    tossed, smashed around by the breaking
    down system, that's for me anyway, much,
  • 54:11 - 54:18
    much harder and more stressful. And, you
    know, ultimately, like my view of the
  • 54:18 - 54:25
    world is that we cannot operate a theory
    of change like a novelist, we have to
  • 54:25 - 54:30
    operate a theory of change, like a
    programmer. So novelists, you know, posit
  • 54:30 - 54:36
    this like reductionist, simplified way of
    getting from A to Z where you have an
  • 54:36 - 54:39
    ending, you have a beginning, and you work
    out the steps to take you up a dramatic
  • 54:39 - 54:45
    curve and then down and through your
    denouement, right? And programers, when
  • 54:45 - 54:51
    they work with, like, non-trivial data
    sets, they know that the terrain is
  • 54:51 - 54:56
    unknowably complex, that if you try to
    enumerate the whole terrain and find an
  • 54:56 - 55:02
    optimal path through it, the terrain would
    have like altered by the time you'd
  • 55:02 - 55:08
    finished. And also the moment during which
    you want to do the job would have passed.
  • 55:08 - 55:13
    So you can't figure out how to get from A
    to Z if you're writing code that you can't
  • 55:13 - 55:17
    find the optimal way, the one true way,
    the best way. Instead, what you have to do
  • 55:17 - 55:25
    is hill climb, right. You have to like
    ascend a gradient towards a better future,
  • 55:25 - 55:28
    like the victory condition you're looking
    for. And you might end up stuck in a local
  • 55:28 - 55:32
    maximum. You might have to do something
    like hill descent in order to do more hill
  • 55:32 - 55:38
    climbing. But in order to get from from A
    to Z in software, you assume that if you
  • 55:38 - 55:47
    can ascend the gradient to a new area of
    the terrain, that from that new area, new
  • 55:47 - 55:52
    terrain will be revealed that you can't
    see from where you are now and that the
  • 55:52 - 55:56
    best way to map the territory is to
    traverse it, and that even if you have
  • 55:56 - 55:59
    some reversals, even if you have to double
    back on yourself to get all the way
  • 55:59 - 56:06
    through it, you will still have done a
    better job than if you had tried to do it
  • 56:06 - 56:11
    perfectly all at once the way a novelist
    does. And so whatever things look shitty
  • 56:11 - 56:17
    and scary I just say, like, if I can think
    of one thing that I can do that improves
  • 56:17 - 56:24
    my situation, that I will find myself in a
    new zone from which I might have new
  • 56:24 - 56:29
    courses of action that I can't even
    imagine now. And that's what keeps me
  • 56:29 - 56:33
    going. It may not make me happy, but it's
    a reason to put one foot in front of the
  • 56:33 - 56:38
    other.
    J: Yeah, I think we all need that. We do
  • 56:38 - 56:45
    have two more questions in the chat or two
    and a half, and we have like three minutes
  • 56:45 - 56:53
    left. So can I can I get two short ones,
    probably? Ian you're first of them.
  • 56:53 - 57:01
    Ian: Hi - Hi, Cory. Thanks for your work.
    Amazing. I love it so much and I read all
  • 57:01 - 57:09
    of it whenever you post something new. I
    want to ask about the book "For the Win".
  • 57:09 - 57:14
    And I love that much and it showed the
    world that games are actually a market, a
  • 57:14 - 57:19
    big financial market, and the environment,
    the setting of the scene feels a bit like
  • 57:19 - 57:23
    there could be more stuff happening at the
    end of the book, so it's a bit open. I
  • 57:23 - 57:28
    don't want to spoil it to anyone, but it
    felt a bit like there could be more. What
  • 57:28 - 57:31
    would it take for you to write a sequel to
    "For the Win"?
  • 57:31 - 57:37
    C D: Well, you know, I wrote "For the Win"
    when I was - as part of my reckoning with
  • 57:37 - 57:43
    great financial crisis and also as part of
    my marriage; because I'm married to a
  • 57:43 - 57:50
    former professional Quake player. And so I
    - she was at GDC when the first gold farmer came
  • 57:50 - 57:54
    forward. And so gold farming was like a
    thing that I was really interested in. I
  • 57:54 - 57:58
    was really interested in that burgeoning,
    you know, games economics world. Yanis
  • 57:58 - 58:05
    Varoufakis working for that Icelandic game
    company and so on. But today, I'm far more
  • 58:05 - 58:11
    interested in heterodox economics and
    particularly in modern monetary theory.
  • 58:11 - 58:15
    And I think that if I were ever to revisit
    this, I don't know that I would. But it
  • 58:15 - 58:18
    would be - what would be a really
    interesting way to revisit this would be
  • 58:18 - 58:24
    to to do an "MMT lens gold farming" novel.
    Ian: Yes, please. Sounds great.
  • 58:24 - 58:31
    J: OK, so we see a next novel coming up
    there. And we have one last question from
  • 58:31 - 58:37
    Caige please.
    Caige: Hi Cory, thank you for the talk,
  • 58:37 - 58:41
    really great to have you here.
    So, given everything that you've
  • 58:41 - 58:47
    said about monopolies, massive unchecked
    corporate power and so forth: What is one
  • 58:47 - 58:51
    realistic thing that we could all do to
    combat this that would actually have a
  • 58:51 - 58:56
    significant impact and actually have a
    second quick follow up on that: What's the
  • 58:56 - 58:59
    one thing that truly brings you hope in
    all of this?
  • 58:59 - 59:04
    C D: Well, so the one realistic thing is
    you can't do anything individually. You
  • 59:04 - 59:08
    have to do it collectively. Right. So you
    have to find a political movement. And
  • 59:08 - 59:11
    this is this is my point about the right
    and the left and different kinds of
  • 59:11 - 59:14
    parties and so on. You have to find a
    political movement that is orienting
  • 59:14 - 59:20
    itself towards monopoly and towards
    dealing with monopoly. You know, our
  • 59:20 - 59:24
    policymakers are even the ones that
    perceive a problem with monopoly, don't
  • 59:24 - 59:29
    perceive the political will to do anything
    about it yet. You know, I debated Vestager
  • 59:29 - 59:36
    from the audience last year at Reboot and
    in or not reboot - at re:publica in
  • 59:36 - 59:40
    Berlin, and she was like: "Oh, we can't do
    breakup's. They take 15 years and cost too
  • 59:40 - 59:47
    much money". She needs to have political
    and social movements who have her back,
  • 59:47 - 59:52
    who say: 15 years to break up Facebook
    sounds good to me! Let's spend the money
  • 59:52 - 59:57
    right and to get there, it's not an
    individual thing. It's a social thing. You
  • 59:57 - 60:02
    know, it's being involved in a political
    party, in a political movement that is
  • 60:02 - 60:07
    engaged with this. Larry Lessig talks
    about the world being regulated by code,
  • 60:07 - 60:10
    norms, markets and law, right? So, you
    know, you can have this normative
  • 60:10 - 60:15
    discussion with your friends. You can you
    can bring them along to the idea that, you
  • 60:15 - 60:19
    know, all of their problems have a common
    origin, that it's monopolies. If you have
  • 60:19 - 60:23
    a British friend who's local government
    collapsed last year because of
  • 60:23 - 60:26
    "Carillion", you can say, oh, yeah, the
    big four accounting firms which were
  • 60:26 - 60:30
    allowed to buy all of their competitors
    and merged with a bunch of consulting
  • 60:30 - 60:35
    services, they audit the books of all
    these companies, including Wirecard. They
  • 60:35 - 60:38
    forged the books for their customers and
    allowed them to steal from us, right? So,
  • 60:38 - 60:42
    that's not a problem of corruption in the
    accounting industry. That's a problem of
  • 60:42 - 60:47
    monopoly. And then you can get involved
    with your party, with your social
  • 60:47 - 60:52
    movement, if you're involved with, you
    know, with "netzpolitik" or if you're
  • 60:52 - 60:57
    involved with "EFF" or if you're involved
    with "Quadrature", you can say, look: This
  • 60:57 - 61:01
    is my priority too. You know, at EFF we
    have an anti-monopoly group now that's
  • 61:01 - 61:06
    been working for the last year and now
    that Anti-monopoly has come to Tech, you
  • 61:06 - 61:11
    know, EEFs job is gonna be for the next
    years to come, it's gonna be making sure
  • 61:11 - 61:15
    that anti-monopolists understand the
    technical dimension, that they don't
  • 61:15 - 61:18
    inadvertently create more durable
    monopolies by fighting it. We need those
  • 61:18 - 61:24
    technical experts. So, you know, like in
    the same way that the one thing that you
  • 61:24 - 61:28
    can do about climate change is to find a
    political party that cares about climate
  • 61:28 - 61:32
    change and then demand that they take
    meaningful action. The one thing you can
  • 61:32 - 61:38
    do about monopoly is to get involved with
    anti-monopoly movements because your
  • 61:38 - 61:43
    individual action isn't going to do enough
    there. It's it's too little. As to what
  • 61:43 - 61:49
    gives me hope? I mean, the thing that
    gives me hope is we have gone from anti-
  • 61:49 - 61:56
    monopolism being like a fringe thing that
    nobody cared about, and that was just
  • 61:56 - 62:02
    laughable to it being central in like
    literally less than a year. Like a year
  • 62:02 - 62:09
    ago, a year and a half ago, March 2019, I
    stood on a stage in Berlin and argued with
  • 62:09 - 62:13
    Europe's top anti-trust enforcer about
    whether we would ever break up Facebook.
  • 62:13 - 62:19
    And she said we wouldn't. And she's the
    most powerful, most active, most take no-
  • 62:19 - 62:24
    prisoners anti-trust enforcer in the world
    today. We're ready to break up Facebook.
  • 62:24 - 62:30
    It might take a decade, but we went from
    this is impossible to let's get doing it
  • 62:30 - 62:34
    in less than a year or just over a year,
    right? That is remarkable progress. It
  • 62:34 - 62:39
    might seem slow, but like it's a doubling
    curve. You know, it's got momentum. Like,
  • 62:39 - 62:45
    get behind it and push with whatever
    group, with whatever organization you're
  • 62:45 - 62:50
    involved with, push and push and push.
    What gives me hope? That's what gives me
  • 62:50 - 62:55
    hope.
    J: And this is a wonderful ending where
  • 62:55 - 63:02
    unfortunately out of time. People saying
    they like this format. And I think we'll
  • 63:02 - 63:09
    see a bit more of that over the rC3. And
    I'm really, really happy, Cory, that you
  • 63:09 - 63:16
    were the first of our authors doing a
    fireside chat and probably we'll have some
  • 63:16 - 63:21
    progress on turning over publishing
    industry at some point.
  • 63:21 - 63:27
    C D: So, for sure, and I have to say it is
    an honor and a privilege, as always, to
  • 63:27 - 63:32
    speak at CCC. And I'm really indebted
    to you volunteers and the people who make
  • 63:32 - 63:38
    it happen every year. It's a remarkable
    event and I'm looking forward to actually
  • 63:38 - 63:44
    seeing you folks in person again soon. I
    hope I can come to Leipzig for an in-
  • 63:44 - 63:48
    person one next year.
    J: Yes, please. That would be really
  • 63:48 - 63:50
    great. Thank you very much, Cory.
  • 63:50 - 63:54
    rC3 postroll music
  • 63:54 - 64:28
    Subtitles created by c3subtitles.de
    in the year 2020. Join, and help us!
Title:
#rC3 - Cory Doctorow – Fireside Chat
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Video Language:
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Duration:
01:04:30

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