Digital Dark Age Ahead?

Digital Dark Age Ahead?

By Matt


The Analogue Counter-Revolution, Part 5
Part 1: Step Away from the

Part 2: iPad,
Therefore I Am

Part 3: Life between the Cracks
4: The Tyranny of

Scholars from the Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt once
roamed the world to locate, copy, and catalogue the literary masterpieces of
antiquity — works of poetry, science, history, and religion — so that the
accumulated wisdom of the ancients would pass safely to future

It was not to be.  The Great Library, founded in the
3rd century B.C. by the Greek-speaking Ptolemaic dynasty, did not
survive the convulsions of history, nor did the bulk of its treasures.  No one
is really sure how or why — Julius Caesar’s army, accidental fire, and the
hordes of Muhammad have all been variously proposed.

We may never know
how exactly the library vanished, but we can be certain of the consequences — a
shocking dearth of the great intellectual and artistic works of deep antiquity
has come down to us.  Those works that have survived are known largely because
farsighted monks in the Dark Ages labored in the far corners of the West to
hand-copy those authors they knew and loved (see Thomas Cahill’s book How
the Irish Saved Civilization
for a thrilling account of this process).
Still, their efforts, while valiant, were insufficient to save the vast
majority of classical works from disappearing forever.

You may think that
digital technology will preclude such a catastrophic loss of culture ever
happening again.  In fact, our dependence on digitally stored information has
all but guaranteed a new informational Dark Age.

Digital information is
merely a collection of ones and zeros that requires software to be translated
for us.  As computer scientist Jeff Rothenberg has noted, “[m]ost people haven’t
recognized that digital stuff is encoded in some format that requires software
to render it in a form that humans can perceive. … Software that knows how to
render those bits becomes obsolete.  And it runs on computers that become

Indeed, the vast abundance of digital information showcases
its terrifyingly evanescent nature.  Computer software, essentially a
digital-to-human translation system, is updated on the average every year and a
half, and hardware more often than that.  New systems read only some of what was
encoded in older systems, and then often only in the most recent iterations.
Very quickly, the gulf between what is stored and what can be accessed becomes
unbridgeable.  Try slipping a floppy disk into your iPad to work on that novel
you started in college.

The danger is that as more and more of our lives
is committed to digital, only some portions of that data will be transferred to
new media, and the losses will compound with each successive generation.
Eventually you are left with a gaping hole in history, a vast ocean of
unrecoverable information rotting away in obsolete machines.

Of course,
if, instead of saving your college novel on a floppy disk, you had typed it out
on paper and stuck it in a drawer, you could easily pull it out again and start
working on it twenty years later — no translation software required.  It just
goes to show that the printed page, bound or rolled in traditional ways, is an
astonishingly durable medium.  Under the right conditions, it can last centuries
— or longer.

The correspondence of John and Abigail Adams, for example,
is now over two hundred years old.  It has become a testament to one of the
world’s great and enduring loves.  The letters themselves were saved and passed
on, and they are now housed in various private and scholarly collections.  The
paper and ink carried their love, then kept it safe, for them to read and
treasure — and now for us to read and treasure.

Now people write
e-mails, entirely disposable ephemera conveying utterly disposable thoughts.
Perhaps, unlike when the intellectual achievements of the Great Library of
Alexandria went up in smoke, when the Digital Dark Age arrives, we will not have
lost much that was worth keeping anyway.


Internet Access is Not a “Civil Right”

Internet Access is Not a “Civil Right”

December 22nd, 2010

Michelle Malkin,

When bureaucrats talk about increasing our “access” to x, y or z,   what they’re really talking about is increasing exponentially their   control over our lives. As it is with the government health care   takeover, so it is with the newly approved government plan to “increase”   Internet “access.” Call it Webcare.

By a vote of 3-2, the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday   adopted a controversial scheme to ensure “net neutrality” by turning   unaccountable Democratic appointees into meddling online traffic cops.   The panel will devise convoluted rules governing internet service   providers, bandwidth use, content, prices and even disclosure details on  internet speeds.

The “neutrality” is brazenly undermined by preferential treatment   toward wireless broadband networks. Moreover, the FCC’s scheme is widely   opposed by Congress — and has already been rejected once in the   courts. Demonized industry critics have warned that the regulations will   stifle innovation and result in less access, not more.

Sound familiar? The parallels with health care are striking. The architects of Obamacare promised to….

Read more.

Commander Obama “would require all communications, including ones over the Internet, to be built so as to enable the U.S. government to intercept and monitor them at any time when the law permits.”

Commander Obama “would require all communications, including ones over the Internet, to be built so as to enable the U.S. government to intercept and monitor them at any time when the law permits.”

Keep in mind that next year after the midterm elections, it will be Congress determining what the law is.

Witness the birth of self-government in this inspiring portrayal of the Constitution’s genesis, “A More Perfect Union”

If Obama’s lockstep Democrats are still in control next year, Glenn Greenwald continues, “Internet services could legally exist only insofar as there would be no such thing as truly private communications; all must contain a ‘back door’ to enable government officials to eavesdrop.”

Would this still be America?

Obama Wants Broader Internet Wiretap Authority

Obama Wants Broader Internet Wiretap Authority

An anonymous reader writes “The White House plans to deliver a bill to Congress next year that will require internet based communication services that use encryption to be capable of decrypting messages to comply with federal wiretap orders?. The bill will go beyond CALEA to apply to services such as Blackberry email. Even though RIM has stated that it does not currently have an ability to decrypt messages via a master key or back door, the bill may require them to. Regarding this development, James Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology commented on the proposal saying, ‘They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.





Bill would give president emergency control of Internet

Original article


Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.

They’re not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft of S.773 (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.

The new version would allow the president to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” relating to “non-governmental” computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for “cybersecurity professionals,” and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.

“I think the redraft, while improved, remains troubling due to its vagueness,” said Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance, which counts representatives of Verizon, Verisign, Nortel, and Carnegie Mellon University on its board. “It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill.”

Representatives of other large Internet and telecommunications companies expressed concerns about the bill in a teleconference with Rockefeller’s aides this week, but were not immediately available for interviews on Thursday.

A spokesman for Rockefeller also declined to comment on the record Thursday, saying that many people were unavailable because of the summer recess. A Senate source familiar with the bill compared the president’s power to take control of portions of the Internet to what President Bush did when grounding all aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001. The source said that one primary concern was the electrical grid, and what would happen if it were attacked from a broadband connection.

When Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced the original bill in April, they claimed it was vital to protect national cybersecurity. “We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs–from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records,” Rockefeller said.

The Rockefeller proposal plays out against a broader concern in Washington, D.C., about the government’s role in cybersecurity. In May, President Obama acknowledged that the government is “not as prepared” as it should be to respond to disruptions and announced that a new cybersecurity coordinator position would be created inside the White House staff. Three months later, that post remains empty, one top cybersecurity aide has quit, and some wags have begun to wonder why a government that receives failing marks on cybersecurity should be trusted to instruct the private sector what to do.

Rockefeller’s revised legislation seeks to reshuffle the way the federal government addresses the topic. It requires a “cybersecurity workforce plan” from every federal agency, a “dashboard” pilot project, measurements of hiring effectiveness, and the implementation of a “comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy” in six months–even though its mandatory legal review will take a year to complete.

The privacy implications of sweeping changes implemented before the legal review is finished worry Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. “As soon as you’re saying that the federal government is going to be exercising this kind of power over private networks, it’s going to be a really big issue,” he says.

Probably the most controversial language begins in Section 201, which permits the president to “direct the national response to the cyber threat” if necessary for “the national defense and security.” The White House is supposed to engage in “periodic mapping” of private networks deemed to be critical, and those companies “shall share” requested information with the federal government. (“Cyber” is defined as anything having to do with the Internet, telecommunications, computers, or computer networks.)

“The language has changed but it doesn’t contain any real additional limits,” EFF’s Tien says. “It simply switches the more direct and obvious language they had originally to the more ambiguous (version)…The designation of what is a critical infrastructure system or network as far as I can tell has no specific process. There’s no provision for any administrative process or review. That’s where the problems seem to start. And then you have the amorphous powers that go along with it.”

Translation: If your company is deemed “critical,” a new set of regulations kick in involving who you can hire, what information you must disclose, and when the government would exercise control over your computers or network.

The Internet Security Alliance’s Clinton adds that his group is “supportive of increased federal involvement to enhance cyber security, but we believe that the wrong approach, as embodied in this bill as introduced, will be counterproductive both from an national economic and national secuity perspective.”


Internet Censorship

Internet providers deciding what you can receive