In an ideological utopia, one can discern a decentralized community with the perfect technology for creating virtual reality, in which really only technology, communication, the legal system, and food production has to be state regulated. (Everything else can be synthesized in artificial reality). What the individual engages in in his or her virtual reality - like electronic dreams - should be protected from all governmental control. Perversions and aggressions can be realized without putting other people in danger. Therefore, it is suggested that people would become more harmonious creatures, with a mind free from the oppressive norms of society, finding their way back to the real values. (Whatever they may be). It's about disconnecting the individual consciousness from the collective consciousness - for better and for worse.
In such a cyber-utopia, the real reality and nature have lost their meaning, since you can experience an artificial one that's much better. In a cyber-utopia, people are driven by group fellowship to explore the world. Small interest groups can research their areas and communicate over the networks. All boring, dangerous and monotonous work is conducted by robots. "Humankind should concern itself with love, science, and art", to cite a famous Swedish rock band.
In a cyber-utopia, you can meet people all over the world and still be at home, physically speaking. Humanity is just a keystroke away. This utopia (like all others) naturally has obvious drawbacks, but this is the way it is. (Myself, I think it's horrible). For example, one could debate the wisdom of letting pedophiles, for example, live out their dreams in a virtual reality. Totally new political issues are raised in such a community: should we regulate people's actions, or is it - terrible thought - actually their thoughts that we want to regulate?
The cyberpunks want you to be able to think and enact anything without harming others, and technology might give us this possibility - but do we really want everyone to be able to realize their fantasies, even if it doesn't harm anyone? Several philosophers have pointed out the risk of living in a society without stable norms. Is the repression of thought necessary to protect humankind? Can technology aid us in finding those functions that connect our individual consciousnesses with the collective by giving us the opportunity to "disconnect"? Can today's outsiders find their way into society with the assistance of technology?
People who like monotonous work, who think that intellectual exercises are boring, or who would rather engage in sports or hunting, wouldn't have a place in a cybernetic society. On the other hand - if you had grown up in such a society - what's suggesting that you would put any value on such trivial matters? A lot of our current society would seem inhuman and despicable to a person originating in the 1700s.
And as for the artificial intelligence that has to exist in order to create this partially artificial world we already live in - does it have any rights? Do we really have the right to use artificial intelligences as slaves, as we currently use social hierarchies to make other people work for us? Machines are actually already part of the collective consciousness I call superindividuals - they're already thinking along with us. The information age focuses on these new ethical issues and forces us to consider them.
If you're frightened by cyberpunk and the information revolution, I'm afraid I'll have to say that they're not so easy to stop. What you can do is learning more and helping to control the development of society towards a desirable state. If you're passive, you leave decision making up to others. Begin by understanding that which you criticize, and only then can you start influencing things. Reprimands and threats have very little effect on my generation. If someone complains enough to bother us, we just switch the channel. (Zap!). Don't think that we're not interested in your views, however. We listen - if you know what you're talking about. The suggested literature section at the end of this book is a good start if you want to learn more.
One thing that radically distinguished the information revolution from the industrial revolution is that many people have been prepared and have had time to become learned in the ways of technology. The development of society is questioned in broad circles, and isn't left up to politicians and corporations. People in general, and especially young people, question and critique. Hackers, cyberpunks, ravers, and others are the most questioning - they want to be part of creating their own future, and refuse to passively meld into the pattern. They have optimism and a belief in the future, and they rush to meet it. This youth movement is sometimes referred to as the New Edge. These children of the information age don't see only threats, but possibilities.
I'm not a doomsayer, and this is not a dark book. As wise as I am, I've saved the most important point for last. There's been a lot of complaining lately. Many contemporary philosophers have suggested that humankind has locked itself into a pattern of progression, in which consumption has to constantly increase until people just can't consume anymore. This is probably true. We will consume more. Further, they think that this will lead to environmental decay and global segregation, which will eradicate all of humanity. This, however, probably isn't true. It's not true because those who speak in these pessimistic terms have been incapable of noticing a very important contemporary detail: the entrance of the information society. More precisely, the mistake has been to presume that a constantly increased level of consumption necessarily requires an increased consumption of natural resources. There is no such relationship in the information society. (I might add that I'm perhaps a little too optimistic in reference to the connection between information society and environmental concerns; environmental problems won't go away, but the continuing damage will decrease).
On the day I'm writing this, Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 95, has been released with much fanfare at the Globe in Stockholm. I have previously expressed my negative attitude toward this company. Still, it makes me happy to see that national media are reporting this massive marketing effort of a product that ten years ago no one could even imagine would be sold through galas at the Globe and on TV commercials. It would have been ridiculous. Windows 95 is software, a pure information product. Granted, you get some disks and a book when you buy the program, but those are not the actual product. It's perfectly possible to buy Windows 95 without the books or the disks if you buy a new computer where the program is pre-installed on the hard drive.
Thus, a product is being sold which, compared to a car, required almost no natural resources to produce, even though it cost thousands of hours of work to develop, and will cost billions of hours to consume. When I sit down with this software at home, wrestle with it, create with it and try to make it do my bidding - during this time, I'm not driving a car. I don't consume anything, save for a little electricity and maybe some coffee. I don't eat potato chips, because I don't want the computer to get greasy. (Translator's note: Habits vary. I drink beer, smoke cigarettes, and eat pizza in front of my computer. The main difference is that I probably have to switch keyboards more often.) I don't buy a lot of useless items from the shopping channels on TV that I later just throw away. I basically consume nothing but information. Not even a book is more environmentally friendly. The same phenomenon occurs in most of the rest of the information society - TV: an electronically transmitted product with low demands on natural resources, Multimedia: also primarily an information product, Telephony: an electrical signal from one place to another. Using virtual reality, we can even consume everything we usually do, offroad a four-wheel Jeep, and pilot a spaceship, with no notable wear on nature. There is hope. There is a hell of a lot of hope, even though it's combined with new dangers.
You can note that many of today's products satisfy artificial needs. You could ask whether we ever needed an operating system like Windows 95. Probably not. In a few years, however, we do. This is really not that important - more needs than we think are ultimately artificial. It's sort of like a premise for a market economy. Your mind reels at the thought of security companies that hire a team of hackers to build security systems for their customers, and then, at night, make sure that the same hackers "maintain market image". Or virus hackers that work half the time on creating virus killing software, and the other half on creating new viruses to create demand for the antivirus tools. Wouldn't you? Of course you would. So what? The gears are spinning, GNP goes up, everyone's happy. In the same way, we've created a dependency on criminal activity, administrative tasks, etc. to no end in this society. There are many such processes, whose only purpose is self-perpetuation and self-justification. Does it matter? No, probably not. It depends on whether or not you think humanity has a "purpose"; whether there is something we should strive towards. But that's philosophy.
We have moved from material bartering, with merchandise for merchandise, to an economy in which we trade money for goods and goods for money. Now, we're starting an infonomy, trading information for information without intermediary material transactions. The danger that still lurks behind the scenes of our system is a desire for power, in individuals at all levels: corporations, governments, and organizations. They're after power over you. Make sure you don't give up any of your freedom without first knowing what you get in exchange.
I've reached the slightly shocking conclusion that the mechanisms I previously identified as superindividuals, i. e. superior intelligent entities, have no need to produce material products or artifacts in order to control other intelligent entities. Instead, they simply employ exchanges of symbolic information, chunks of info transmitted through cables. Every such superindividual is characterized by the creation of internal chinks of information, secret documents, transmitted inside the individual outside the reach of the public or other superindividuals. That's why corporations, governments, and other organizations are paranoid about someone else reading their secrets, whether important or not. With information technology, the possibility of creating such structures is amplified by a factor of hundreds, and the exchange of information, the thoughts of the superindividual, its intelligence, is expanding at the speed of light. I've also discovered that the information-processing machines are part of these superindividuals, not some accessory of people to assist in their work. Somewhere around this point is where you have to start thinking for yourself.
If you have read this book on a computer, without printing it out on paper, you've consumed something. Or have you? Do I have to charge for this book before it can be called consumption? I'll leave that as an open question. I've certainly not made a dime from you reading this book, but maybe I've accomplished something that can't be measured in terms of money - maybe I've taught you to question the mechanisms of power. (Hmm if this book ever goes into print, I'll have to modify the above paragraph).
Let me finish with a timeless quote, from a man who belonged at the frontline of his generation:
mothers and fathers throughout the land
Translation by Daniel
Arnrup, Bergen, Norway, October 30, 1999.
And I refuse to say whether
the Dylan quote above was meant seriously or ironically.
An article published in Wired about information and "intellectual property". So initiating and well considered that I've referred to it as a "paradigm".
Burroughs, William Seward: The Naked Lunch
Burroughs' breakthrough, unfortunately not as articulate a social critique as the subsequent Nova Express. Counted as a milepost within the literary tradition of cut-up.
Burroughs, William Seward: Nova Express
Run for your lives! The Nova Mafia has sent agents to the Earth to enslave human thought patterns through language, drugs and sex. Luckily, the Nova Police have sent out counteragents, including Burroughs himself, to stop the invasion. In this cut-up sci-fi novel, Burroughs develops the ideas form The Naked Lunch to an astronomical perspective. By affording the reader a solid sense of paranoia, he makes you question your surrounding reality. There's also a hint of ironic humor underneath it all.
Cornwall, Hugo: Datatheft
Heinemann Professional Publishing
Ltd, England, 1987.
One of the most in-depth books ever written about computer security. Cornwall brings up many common security flaws in computers and security systems in a general and broad perspective. Hackers are only mentioned occasionally, and the book is heavy and rather strictly scientific.
Cornwall, Hugo: Hacker's Handbook III
This is a handbook for network hackers. Nobody's learned to be a hacker by reading this book, but despite this it's quite interesting, and a given best-seller among people who think that the network hacking thing is the coolest thing around (i. e., wannabes). Additionally, the title seems "forbidden". However, it is a well-written book that points out the most common security holes in certain systems.
Yearly issues 1986-94
Dick, Philip K.: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Forrester, Tom & Morrison, Perry: Computer Ethics
Basil Blackwell Ltd, England,
One of the most interesting books written about computers and computing society. Many examples are based on English conditions, and uninteresting for Swedish readers. The purely ethical issues around hacking, artificial intelligence, databases etc. are fascinatingly treated.
Gibson, William: Neuromancer
Harper Collins Science Fiction
& Fantasy, 1993
If you're going to read any cyberpunk literature at all, read this one. It's a classic which defines the literary term of cyberpunk.
Green, Jesper 69 & Johansson, Sune: Cyberworld
Alfabeta Bokförlag AB
Many reviewers trashed this book when it came out. In some respects it was deserving of this, in others, not. All examples from the book are drawn from a Danish perspective, which may make it less interesting. On the other hand, the delusional predictions of the future of the cyberpunk author, Green, is something not to miss. There are many quotes from the Danish network hacker, Netrunner, and the Kraftwerk member Ralf Hütter, which elevate the book.
Hafner, Katie & Markoff, John: Cyberpunk - Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier
Corgi Books, England 1994
This book contains biographies of the most famous network hackers: Kevin Mitnick, Pengo, and Robert Tappan Morris. It's written in a typically American fashion, with many irrelevant details, and has the advantage of being relatively easy to read. You get a good view of the hacker's life and mind.
Harry, M: The Computer Underground
Loompanics Unlimited, Port
One of the first books about underground computer culture. Loompanics is one of those publishers that print just about anything and doesn't censor content for being politically incorrect. Among other things, they have wide range of Timothy Leary's books.
Hofstadter, Douglas R: Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Timeless classic and cult book among all computer science students. A thick, heavy book which explains why math is fun, and why the innermost essence of intelligence can be captured in a machine. To top it off, it's written with a good dose of distance and humor, with simple, easy-to-understand examples. People who have recently read the book for the first time often speak of it in an almost religious manner.
Illegal (edited by Jeff Smart)
"22 - "37
Probably the only significant European cracking zine. It's from this zine that cracking culture spread across Europe, primarily Germany, and then to the rest of the world, and it possibly for the first time defined the concept of "elite" among European home computer enthusiasts.
In Medias Res (edited by Zike), #1
Eskilstuna, Sweden, 1992
One of those surprisingly well done and thorough little zines which many refer to, but was never printed in a large run. And it's not in the national archives, either. But I have a copy
Kuhn, Thomas S: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Phoenix Books, USA1962
Kurzweil, Raymond: The Age of Intelligent Machines
This is an anthology of thoughts around artificial intelligence. If you want to know what AI is, and consider social and philosophical problems, then read this book. If you want to know how AI works, then read Hofstadter's Gödel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (see above) instead. Hofstadter and Sherry Turkle are also contributing writers in this book.
Landreth, Bill: Out of the Inner Circle
This is a classic among network hackers. It's written by a renegade from the Inner Circle hacking group, and it's pretty well-done. It has, however, lost some of its immediacy.
Leary, Timothy: Flashbacks - A Personal and Cultural History of an Era
Tarcher / Putnam Books, New
Tells of large parts of 60's hippie history that has later been covered up or stigmatized. Leary was feeling pretty good about life and society and himself when he wrote this self-biography, and you get the impression that he is an incurable optimist. He is a man of the arts, and well-read obviously a dangerous enemy to his opponents. Leary died in 1996, and ironically, the Harvard LSD experiments that started his career have been resumed.
Levy, Steven: Hackers - Heroes of the Computer Revolution
Penguin books, England 1994
(first printed 1984)
This is the best book ever written about hackers. It concerns the first hackers at MIT in the 60's, the home computer builder of the Altair, and the programmers at the Sierra On-Line gaming company. The first two parts are the most interesting. Read it.
Nietzsche, Friedrich: Thus Spake Zarathustra
It takes some courage to read Nietzsche. If you expect to find a fascistic manifesto, you're reading in vain. Those who can't get around Nietzsche's thinking will think that the book is "strange", and won't understand what Zarathustra is talking about. Zarathustra was a Persian philosopher, and Nietzsche resurrects him in this book to "revise" the earlier teachings of good and evil.
Petiska, Eduard: Golem
This is the myth of Rabbi Löw's Golem, created to protect the Jewish ghetto in Prague. I read it as part of the research on the section about artificial intelligence, and it doesn't have very much to do with the information society.
Pondsmith, Mike (ed.): Cyberpunk - The Roleplaying Game of the Dark Future (Version 22.214.171.124)
R. Talsorian Games Incorporated,
If you're not used to reading role-playing games, this book will probably confuse you. Role-playing game books contain little or no fictional material. At first glance it looks like an encyclopaedia full of facts - except everything is made-up. A role-playing game book contains descriptions of organizations, people, machines, weapons, and everything between Heaven and Earth to assist the players' imaginations. When you've read the book, the idea is to get together and develop the story using the book as a reference for the world. The result is something like a mix of authoring, theater, and boardgames.
Rubin, Jerry: Do It!
An instruction manual on how to become a yippie. A very sociopathic book by one of the leaders of the American yippie movement. On the cover page it says "Read this book high", and that's about as good as it gets. If your tastes are a bit morbid, you could see it as humor. Otherwise it's just plain horrible.
Shea, Robert & Wilson, Robert Anton: Illuminatus!
Consists of three novels:
The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple and Leviathan.
This book is mentioned in several places of my text, among others in connection with the hacker Karl Koch and the techno band KLF. It's also recommended as a suitable read for hackers at the end of The Jargon File (see below). The books are conspiracy theories about ourselves and our society, primarily inspired by William S. Burroughs and Timothy Leary. They're cult books in the US as well as Canada and the UK, and there's no good reason why they haven't been translated into Swedish. Actually, there's one: they're painfully politically incorrect. The narrative technique of these novels has been adopted by Douglas Adams, among others.
Sterling, Bruce: The Hacker Crackdown
Bantam Books, USA 1992
A book about hackers written by a complete outsider. Sterling normally writes cyberpunk novels. The book is available at no charge as a text file on the Internet via EFF. The most exciting and creative chapters are those about the American Secret Service and their fight against hacking and phreaking, and the story of how EFF was created.
Stoll, Clifford: The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage
A much-discussed book in which Stoll, with passion, recounts how he traced the hacker (Mattias Hess) who broke into his computer system and used it as a springboard to search for military secrets for the Warsaw Pact (the Russians, Reds or whatever you want to call them).
Turkle, Sherry: The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit
Sherry touches upon sociological and psychological aspects of the interplay between humans and computers. She interviews children and hackers as well as computer scientists, and draws conclusions about the computer community from a sociological standpoint. Towards the end of the book she also ventures into artificial intelligence.
Yourgrau, Palle: The Disappearance of Time - Kurt Gödel and the Idealistic Tradition in Philosophy
Cambridge university press
Phalcon / SKISM
Pretty well-written, treats most things related to virus manufacture and virus culture.
Bausson, Stephane: What You Need to Know About Electronic Telecards
V. 1.12. Last Revised 05/18/95
Described the inner workings of Telia's phone cards. Very embarrassing for Telia, since they thought this information was secret when I called and asked them. It's not.
Brent, Doug: Oral knowledge, Typographic knowledge, Electronic knowledge: Speculations on the history of ownership
(Article in EJournal #3 Vol 1, ISSN 1054-1055)
This is a very important article which I used as a basis for the section on cybernetic society vs. copyright. Brent is active at Calgary university, and shows with all clarity why it's more difficult to own information in an information society.
Drummond, Bill & Cauty, Jimmy: The Manual - How to Have a Number One the Easy Way
KLF Communications 1988
In case you were wondering: it works. Everything in this book is completely true. Among those who have tried Drummond and Cauty's recipes for hit singles, we find the Austrian group Edelweis plus a hundred or so other artists who don't dare reveal that they've just followed the instructions in this book. Even Swedish talents like Denniz Pop or Pat Reiniz have, consciously or subconsciously, managed to follow this manual point for point. If you want to know how it's done, read this book. You need a certain distance to be able to grasp the contents - it's a thorn in the side to the entire pop industry. Copies of this book, and bootlegs of the same, are circulated under much hush-hush among the amateurs of the music world. This is unnecessary, since someone's "liberated" the text and put it on the Internet. KLF themselves presumably don't care one whit about this.
Gunzenbomz Pyro-Technologies / Chaos Industries: The Terrorists Handbook
Probably one or more printed books from the beginning. This very text file created a great deal of press attention when a couple of 15-year-olds got it off a BBS and showed it to Expressen (a Swedish daily). Too bad Expressen didn't review the book, because it has some comic value. I can't judge how useful or dangerous the descriptions in the book are, but it's obvious that you have to be a little crazy to even attempt to use the bomb recipes. And that's the problem: many parents apparently think that their 15-year-old sons are completely mad.
Jammer, the & Jack the Ripper (pseud.): The Official Phreaker's Manual V1.1
Last revised in 1987
Describes most of the technique and history of phreaking. Contains, among other things, the articles written by Ron Rosenbaum about the phreakers John Draper (Cap'n Crunch) and Joe Engrassia in Esquire in 1971.
Raymond, Eric S: The Jargon File 3.2.0
Last revised on 03/21/95
This is the same as The Hacker's Dictionary, only free an in electronic form. Unfortunately, the text gives a somewhat disparaging view of anyone who is not a "real" hacker, i.e. the intellectual elite at universities like MIT. This file is regularly updates, and attempts to include international hacker culture, which it hasn't been terribly successful with so far. The content is heavily adapted to American phenomena.
Reid, Elizabeth: Cultural Forms in Text-Based Realities
Cultural studies program ,Department of English, University of Melbourne, January 1994
Brotherhood of Warez # 1-4
One of the most entertaining phreaker publications, it is published by the Brotherhood of Warez (BoW) group. It's a constant mix of humor and seriousness, where it's hard to discern real statements from sarcastic lies written by bored pirates. If you like Generation X-humor, you'll probably like BoW. The leader of the group, U4EA, was sentenced to jail after driving the Gray Areas magazine crazy with rage. (I think - it could have been a sarcastic lie).
Infamous hacker/phreaker magazine which plays a large role in Bruce Sterling's The Hacker Crackdown (see above). Offers sensible as well as really sick opinions of the world and telephony. Has had a string of editors throughout the years. The article The Conscience of a Hacker in issue #7 is especially important. I've written an article about Swedish hackers that was published in issue #48 of this publication.
Skyhigh # 17
Camelot Productions 1995
An interesting article by The Mistress/Angry regarding women and hackers.
Surfpunk # 103 and 105
Cyberpunk magazine, full of excerpts from Usenet newsgroups and various publications. Behind the paper is a more militant group than the EFF, but with similar views on society. They distribute heavily cyber-slanted opinions.
Swedish Hackers Association (SHA) (ed.): Annual Year Protocol #3 & #4
Our favorite hackers' own
paper, SHA's insolent and somewhat arrogant "protocol" is a
refreshing breeze compared to the government's and the media's condemning
attitude towards the group. In these protocols, the SHA account for their
activities, and why and how they do what they do. Guest writers include
Knight Lightning from Legion of Doom, who was also one of the men
behind Phrack (see above). The English is of mixed quality - it is obvious
that Swedes wrote these "protocols". It's a required read for
anyone who wants to know what both sides have to say about the issues.
Design and formatting by Daniel Arnrup/Voodoo Systems