cyberoutlaw in the desert

On being a CyberOutlaw

Hi there!

CyberOutlaws hate trusting the Cloud with their information, they value stuff on their desktops and they can program and they can 'hack'. Routinely they adapt, configure and adjust the Internet, and their software and hardware devices, to protect their freedom of choice and expression ...

They follow Steve Jobs original vision of users of the Internet as creative people fulfilling their potential - not as consumers of mind-sapping trivia.
They get things to do what they want, when they want, and not when someone else offering a 'service' dictates.

In other words: CyberOutlaws drive the technology, it does not drive us. This is one of our principles!

Why 'CyberOutlaws' you ask? Because, increasingly, the norm is to conform and consume. To say you don't have the latest this or that is to be seen as odd. They say "But everybody uses that!" or "Like, wow, Charlie bit my finger was, like, epic, you know".

To say to these people that you understand technology and know how to use it competently is to be a threat to individuals.
To not permit your preferences to be profiled or your lifestyle analysed is to be a threat to commerce.
To stay dark ('offline'), to encrypt messages, and to maintain virtual personalities is to be a threat to government.

OK, so we are a threat to the trend-following masses, to corporations, to politicians - so be it. We are proud of it!

Maybe we will end up like the Outlanders in E. M. Forster's story "The Machine Stops" and be made 'Homeless' and sent out into the desert?

The story (written in the 1920s) is a wonderful premonition of where we are now. The Wikipedia plot summary is weak on one important point, that the Machine is exactly the Internet we know today. It says:

"Communication is made via a kind of instant messaging/video conferencing machine called the "speaking apparatus", with which people conduct their only activity: the sharing of ideas and what passes for knowledge." [my emphasis].

Everything is mediated by the Machine. People do not meet physically. They live in an increasingly abstract world where 3rd, 10th, even 50th-hand commentary is good and 'direct experience' is frowned upon as deviant.

However, a man called Kuno becomes dissatisfied with the Machine, he thinks it is failing and so he finds out how to get out of his room. He strays along the dusty remains of the forgotten city (underground stations, cafes and bars) and eventually reaches the planet's surface.

In time the Machine does fail and he greets the few refugees who also make it to the surface - to start anew.

There's more to the story than just the Machine as a Frankenstein's monster - it is about how the Machine (the Internet) has changed the very nature of what we are as humans - and has made us weaker, dependant on machines and less capable as individuals.

Famous CyberOutlaws in Literature and Film

I'll include some excellent ones from science fiction, such as E. M. Forster's. However, SciFi does have many weaker characters of the rather classic 'rage against the machine' types which are not included:

- To me, the best character is Alvin in Arthur C. Clark's "The City and the Stars". In this story the CyberOutlaw's intelligently maverick and playfully rebellious nature is essential to the future of humanity.

- Then there's "Logan's Run", which follows a rebel who breaks out of a City where everyone wears an embedded chip that controls them. In the end the City is destroyed - the message is not positive like Arthur C. Clarke's, but is one about the human right to be free and be true to yourself.

- A much quirkier character is Freeman Lowell in "Silent Running", a kind of space eco-fable with a brutal undertone. Lowell ends up nuking his crewmates to save wild nature. Here the motif is the much bigger picture than human lifespans.

- Probably the most alarming is the vision of the future presented in the film series 'The Matrix'. Here the majority of humanity do not even know that they have been made subservient. The CyberOutlaws have a moral dilemma - if they overturn the tyranny of the machine, what will happen when the rest of the people 'wake up'?

CyberOutlaws in Documentaries and Non-fiction

Here are some to start with:

- Adam Curtis' is one in his TV series "Machines of Loving Grace" which charts the rise of the cyberneticians and system modellers who think, wrongly, that the world can be modelled as numbers. The flaw is, 'where is the data for the models'?

- This is partly addressed in "Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow". Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari suggests that, in future, people who do not have an active Internet presence 24/7 will be considered traitors to the digital society (where everything from their minds and bodies to their devices should be uploading data to the Internet continuously). The data comes from us - but only if we submit to the apparent superiority of the machine's 'artificial intelligence' (more on this at a later date).

- The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (in the USA) is creatively sceptical about the capabilities of future software agents and Internet-enabled devices and robots. They take the view that it is for machines to adapt to people, not the other way round. In this they are supporting the CyberOutlaw principles.


Here are some of this year's predictions about our connected world (not difficult to think of!):

- The first death caused by driverless trucks will occur within one year of the start of the UK's trial on the M5 motorway.

- Security flaws in the Internet of Things (IoT) will lead to a landmark legal case where a device is held to be to blame.

- A major Internet failure will paralyse commerce and Cloud services leaving users unable to function. Trust in online services is diminished - but as few realise they have offline options they will stay engaged, and be even more dependant.

- There will be a sharp rise in the use of 'retro' hardware and software which will come to be seen as more secure and more capable.

- To refuse to authenticate your 'identity' via Amason, Disgus, Facbook, Gogle, Linkdn, Miscrosoft, Twerter and so on will be considered suspicious - as will wanting still to use cash. These behaviours will lead to people being branded as untrustworthy, anti-establishment and even potentially as subversives or 'terrorists'.

Let's see shall we?

Commentary about this page

Yes, I know I am using an online resource (wikipedia), but that is because it is an example of what people can achieve when they collaborate freely and thoughtfully via the Internet (as in open source computing too) for the greater good.



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Date: 28 Sep 2017