The Future of Authority  

Jesse Hirsh‘s excellent TEDx talk on “hacking reality” deserves your attention in light of the ongoing NSA PRISM scandal.

What I like about Jesse’s eerily prescient statements is that he attempts to provoke a subtle, non-partisan activism in his audience. His words compel the listener to visualize their own legacy inside a future in which they do not act against authority.

Absent is the patronizing and smug “I told you so” attitude common in tech media; instead, Jesse points out that the predictable trajectory of centralized power does not make it right or desirable.

Jesse reminds us that on the Internet, even being an observer has an impact. In doing so, he cunningly teaches what Emma Goldman said: “The most violent element in society is ignorance.”

“That first impression that comes from a Google search result is sadly far more powerful and authoritative than who you are as a physical human being.”

— Jesse Hirsh

I’m reminded of white-walling, the clever hack some teens employ when using Facebook: each night before bed, they erase everything they’ve posted in an attempt to prevent future accountability.

The problem is that the data is not deleted so much as hidden from view. There’s no reason to believe that Facebook ever deletes anything posted to their site. A pattern of routine content deletion might only get you on a list of people who exhibit suspicious behaviour.

Greenwald: “Why should people care about surveillance?”

Snowden: “Because even if you’re not doing anything wrong you’re being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call. And then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.”

These are dark times. Our best hope is to use our influence to make apathy impossible.


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