[CrackMonkey] Information Wants to Be Free

Mr. Bad mr.bad at pigdog.org
Mon Apr 24 14:40:01 PDT 2000


So, I've been thinking lately about the above subject -- how
"information wants to be free," as the hacker saying goes. It's a
personification of information, true, but it's no less valuable as an
observation for it. It's like saying "water seeks its own level;" a
rule that comes from observation of phenomena. Sure, water doesn't
really "seek" anything, but it behaves as if it were.

I think a better analogy for information is in terms of the
thermodynamic concept of "chemical potential." This is the principle
that areas of concentration of stuff will spread out to where there is
less stuff. Examples include when you put a sugar cube half-way into a
cup of coffee, and the coffee "climbs" up the cube. The coffee is
moving from an area of high concentration (the cup) to low
concentration (the sugar). 

I think information moves the same way. It's drawn to places that need
or want the information. You can put blocks on the information to stop
it, but if the pull is sufficient, the information will eventually
seep around the blocks and get to where it's wanted or needed. Just
like blocking water, blocking information is a -temporary- tactic. No
container is sufficient to hold information in forever.

I guess what got me worried was applying this idea to one of the most
powerful and dangerous pieces of information on Earth: the recipe for
making and deploying nuclear weapons. Obviously, if this information
were available freely around the globe, there would be huge damage and
human casualties (even if you factor in the need for significant
physical resources). 

For that reason -- among others -- this has been one of the most
guarded secrets in the world for the last 50 years. However,
information like this, which has INCREDIBLE potential for a lot of
human beings to achieve and wield power, is practically chomping at
the bit to be free.

The strategy so far has been to contain the information with all the
full force and power of the US government (and its nuclear state
enemies/allies, and signatories to various treaties). However,
information -wants- to be free, as we know. It WILL get out, and into
the hands of practically anyone who wants it. We've been in a nuclear
age for 50 years, and despite the best efforts of some of the smartest
and most ruthless people ever, the information has -still- snuck out
to about a dozen different nation-states.

So, information containment is a SHORT-TERM strategy. As our world and
society stand now, widespread use of tactical nuclear weapons would be
disastrous and maybe terminal. But I just dunno how long it will be
before the information trickles down to the level of individual
guerrilla cells and terrorist organizations. I'd be surprised if we go
another 50 years before that happens -- maybe 100 years tops.

My main worry is this: is there any LONG-TERM strategy to be ready for
the day when tactical nukes are available in every Afghani vegetable
market? I can only think of two possibilities:

        1) Some sort of technical advance that makes nukes
           obsolete. However, that's a local solution, and not a
           global solution. Even if you have a personal nuke shield or
           whatever, there's still gonna be kerjillions of other
           people throwing nuke grenades at each other all around the
           globe, and that will eventually make the world unliveable.

        2) A fundamental change in human nature and human society to
           make national, factional and religious warfare obsolete. In
           other words, don't change the nukes, but change people so
           they won't use nukes.

I don't know if either of these can happen. We might be completely
doomed. Goddamned information!!!

~Mr. Bad

[Re-post from pigdog-l]

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