Imagine your computer is designed to disobey you – even worse, to hide things from you. Arthur C. Clarke imagined such a computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The HAL 9000 “super computer” famously sabotages a deep space mission when it turns on the human crew. As one astronaut attempts to disconnect “Hal,” the machine with a human voice says calmly, “I can’t let you do that, Dave.”
In an essay for Publishers Weekly, Cory Doctorow uses that eerie phrase to connect fiction with fact. He decries the regime of DRM in publishing and other media that legitimizes spyware and criminalize efforts to evade it. “In my new novel, Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother, I explore what happens to people when their computers don’t listen to them anymore,” writes Doctorow, who recently spoke with CCC’s Chris Kenneally while on a U.S. tour promoting his latest novel.
“Embracing DRM means embracing a world in which your computer and other devices must be designed to disobey you,” Doctorow asserts. “Once we demand that our computers be designed to hide things from us, we invite a world where machines stop listening to our orders, and start issuing them.”
Cory Doctorow is author of the award-winning YA novel, Little Brother, which was a New York Times bestseller. Doctorow’s latest book – just out from Tor – is a sequel to Little Brother; the Wall Street Journal says Homeland “is as dead serious as 1984 [and] as potentially important a ‘novel of ideas.’” In addition to writing his novels, Doctor is a coeditor of Boing Boing, a group blog covering technology, futurism and science fiction, among other subjects, and he is a columnist for multiple publications including The Guardian, Locus, and Publishers Weekly. Doctorow was named one of the Web’s twenty-five ‘influencers’ by Forbes magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.