Thoughts on Cory Doctorow’s Keynote at HOPE XI

This past weekend, I (finally!) got to check out the HOPE conference. I missed two years ago to various work nonsense (mostly being guilt-tripped about requesting funding for a “weird community conference” … whatever haters!). Totally worth it! Had an excellent time, met up with some Recursers, and frequently visited the Cinnamon Snail.

I took notes at a few sessions, but I knew I wanted to write about Cory’s keynote. It’s always so pleasant when someone who is a great writer is also a fantastic speaker, and that was definitely the case.

I wrote down some key terms from the talk, and will share my thoughts in general chunks … you can check out the video yourself (thanks for the tip Wai Lee!).

Peak indifference

I loved this as a phrase to describe how we feel about our data. “Regular” people are starting to realize how grave the situation is with how much data we hand over, and how it can be used or compromised, but eh, that’s the way things go. “Peak indifference” describes this so well.

The danger of peak indifference is that it leads to nihilism.

Nihilism

The step from peak indifference to nihilism is a short one. It’s from knowing something isn’t going so well to feeling like there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. It was an interesting point, because they really sound so close together. How do you turn back someone from the brink of nihilism?

Compromises

Recognizing that there are compromises is so key … I sometimes fall into this trap myself, that because I have some public data, who am I to use crypto tools (thanks to all my friends who use Signal for messaging; if we text, I would love if you would too!). As Cory said (paraphrased): “Sometimes you just want to be on Facebook and get invited to some parties.”

On cryptography

I love the way Cory put describing the importance of keeping backdoors out of systems in a simple way: that we can’t build systems to be awesome and resilient, and then expect to be able to break them utterly and completely one day but then work the next day. Things just don’t work that way.

In Q&A, he also suggested using a story from detective shows: when someone says “hey how are we going to get this information?” and someone says “oh, I’ll just buy $PERSON coffee” that’s pretty terrifying in so far as having backdoor keys to systems, when people are holding the keys.

Overall

Excellent talk, would recommend! The time was scheduled such that the talk was about an hour (I think! IDK it was good!) and then about 40 minutes of Q&A. It was great!

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