Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cory Doctorow's AV Club Interview

The Onion's A.V.Club has an interview with Cory Doctorow up, and it's really, really interesting. You should read it. :-)

Some excerpts:

I was going through a season of summer blockbusters, and as a science-fiction prose writer, I go see a lot of science-fiction movies so I can feel bad about the fact that those movies make much more money than I do. So I would go see these techno-thrillers, and the technology was totally wrong. You wouldn't make a movie about ancient Rome in which people were driving hot rods, unless you're Mel Brooks or something. It just doesn't make any sense, right? If the movie is a historical film about Victorian England, you wouldn't egregiously stick a bunch of televisions in the background. But there are all of these movies that are putatively about the technology we all use. In all those Tom Cruise Mission Impossible movies and so on, there's technology that we all use. And presumably, from the last word of the screenplay being written to the last cut of the edit being made, hundreds and hundreds of people look at this film who use computers every day. And none of them seem to know that computers actually don't emit a soft chime every time you type.

I was reading some golden-age science fiction, and a recurring theme in golden-age science fiction is lifeboat rules. It's nice to be democratic and all, but eventually, you find yourself in a lifeboat, and you're floating in the middle of the ocean, and someone has to be captain. And the person who goes crazy and decides that the lifeboat would be better off if he stabbed it with his penknife, that person needs to be thrown overboard. And you can't give that person a trial—the captain just needs to do it. ... The problem with this is, you end up in the land of 24, where you contrive these scenarios in which something morally unthinkable is required, and once you admit that there are situations in which morally unthinkable deeds are not only permissible but necessary, then it becomes really easy to just start shoveling inconvenient situations into the "desperate" category. ... And it seems okay on its face—obviously, if there's someone chasing a guy who's planning on blowing up the city with a dirty nuke, we wouldn't want a cop to have to go to a judge to get a warrant to find the information. But when we actually give people those powers, they end up using them for totally trivial things. In the UK, here, we have RIPA ... that's supposed to be exactly that, for catching terrorists. And it turns out that the number-one use of RIPA powers is local councils who use it to acquire the video-camera feed from private video cameras, to catch people who let their dogs crap on the sidewalk.

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