Hearing Cory Doctorow (the science fiction writer and one of the main contributors to the best blog on the web, Boing Boing) speak was a blast: it’s the intellectual equivalent of a roller coaster at Disneyworld. He’d be pleased to hear that metaphor, I suspect, because as he mentioned “I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the Disney corporation.” (One of his early books, Down and out in the Magic Kingdom which you can get in text or audio book completely for free, deals with Disney in the future at some length)
His lecture, entitled “The Totalitarian Urge”, followed the themes of Control and Chaos, the Internet and explosion of knowledge sharing versus the constant attempts by those less enlightened who want to reach out and keep your computer, your thoughts, your ideas, creations and collaborations under their surveillance or worse yet, arrest you for having them. It’s a rare treat when a speaker is equal parts challenging and well informed, playful and scholarly, rueful and insightful. He threw out some wonderful verbal and thought-provoking fireworks like ‘The war on abstract nouns’, that Mark Twain’s original philosophical view of the world was that of a billiard table before the first shot is taken, and that if we knew everything about that first stroke of the cue ball, we could predict the future of the whole game (and how that view has eventually become less and less viable as we know more and the Internet enables such extraordinary degrees of non-linear sharing and collaboration). He spoke of how DRMs (Digital Rights Managements schemes) and government attempts at controlling the sharing of data is literally a return to the Dark Ages (when Alchemists were the Scientists, but just didn’t share their findings)
I saw a lot of friends there, and am pleased to see that one of them, Ianiv Schweber, has posted the audio of the talk at NowPublic, a grass-roots citizen-produced News Site. Listen for yourself.