You are currently browsing the daily archive for 29 May 2009.

Central Asia remains a strategic crux, where key contests are played out.  Fouad Ajami:

In the 1980s, Pakistan led to Afghanistan, and to the final battle of the Cold War. Nowadays, the struggle in Afghanistan leads back to Pakistan, and for a battle on behalf of Muslim modernity.

We should be thankful such battles are not closer to home while realising their importance to our own future and so play a part.

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Ken MacLeod on surveillance in science fiction:

… we can identify three phases: pressing down, spreading out, and hacking back. In the first phase, pervasive surveillance is a feature of dystopia. In the second, it becomes a default feature of most imagined future industrial societies. In the third, the emphasis is on ways in which citizens can subvert rather than evade surveillance (the perfect example being Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother – I can’t remember whether I put Paul McAuley’s Whole Wide World, perhaps the most thorough recent SF exploration of surveillance, in the second or the third group). 

In the course of the talk I mentioned some relevant bits of my own work, for instance the significance of small cheap video cameras, referred to in The Star Fraction as making torture difficult to keep secret. I hadn’t, however, predicted that the torturers would use the cameras to make their own home movies.

It was only after I’d finished the presentation that I realised that the three phases could be neatly mapped to the increasing cheapness and availability of the technology of surveillance and data processing: from being only available to states, to being available to large companies, to being mass consumer items. 

The Star Fraction is a great book.

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