The Interview, Censorship, Terrorism, Dr. Evil, and Lots of Other Stuff

I’m gearing up for a long series of posts about the various books I read on my month off on Bora Bora. In the mean time, I read a bunch of stuff online this morning (from Friday through today) and thought I’d give you a taste of some of it in case you feel like digging in.

I started with How Reading Transforms Us. It’s a good frame setting piece about some new research on the impact of reading – both fiction and non-fiction – on humans. There is a pleasant surprise in there about how non-fiction influences us.

As with many of you, I’m deeply intrigued by what’s going on around the movie The Interview. Fred Wilson wrote a post titled The Interview Mess in which he expresses some opinions. I’m not in opinion mode yet as each day reveals more information, including some true stupidity on the part of various participants. Instead, I’m still enjoying The Meta Interview, which is how the real world is reacting to The Interview.

Let’s start with the FBI’s Update on Sony Investigation followed by Obama Vow[ing] a Response to Cyberattack on Sony. 2600 weighs in with a deliciously ironic offer to help Sony get distribution for The Interview. Sony’s lawyers unmuffle their CEO Michael Lynton who fires back at President Obama.

Now it starts getting really interesting. North Korea says huh, what, wait, it wasn’t us and seeks a joint probe with US on Sony hack (yeah – like that is going to happen.) After everyone worrying about not being able to see The Interview (which might now be the most interesting movie of 2014 before we’ve even seen it), Sony says Nope, we didn’t chicken out – you will get to see The Interview.

Apparently, Obama isn’t finished. Instead, he’s just getting started. He’s decided that the North Korea hack on Sony Pictures was not an act of war but is now trying to decide if it’s terrorism so he can put North Korea on the terrorism sponsors list to join Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. No wait, maybe it’s to replace Cuba which Obama has decided to restore full relations with.

Thankfully, Dr. Evil weighs in on this whole thing and makes sense of it (starting at 0:40).

At the same time we are struggling over North Korean’s cyber attack terrorism censorship thing, we are struggling with our own internal efforts by some very powerful companies to figure out how the Internet should work in the US. Hmmm – irony?

Let’s start with the cable industry’s darkest fears if the Internet becomes a utility. According to the Washington Post, Congress now wants to legislate net neutrality. And Verizon tells the FCC that what they do doesn’t really matter to them.

The FCC situation is so fucked up at this point that I don’t think anyone knows which way is up. Fortunately, we have the Silicon Flatirons Digital Broadband Migration Conference happening in February which I’m speaking at to clear this all up. Well, or at least watch some entertaining, very bifurcated arguments about First Principles for a Twenty First Century Innovation Policy.

If you are a little bummed by now about how humans behave, check out this article where MIT Computer Scientists Demonstrate the Hard Way That Gender Still Matters. For a taste:

The interactions in the AMA itself showed that gender does still matter. Many of the comments and questions illustrated how women are often treated in male-dominated STEM fields. Commenters interacted with us in a way they would not have interacted with men, asking us about our bra sizes, how often we “copy male classmates’ answers,” and even demanding we show our contributions “or GTFO [Get The **** Out]”. One redditor helpfully called out the double standard, saying, “Don’t worry guys – when the male dog groomer did his AMA (where he specifically identified as male), there were also dozens of comments asking why his sex mattered. Oh no, wait, there weren’t.”

But the fun doesn’t end with cyberterrorism, censorship, incumbent control, or gender bias. Our good friends at Google are expanding their presence in our lovely little town of Boulder from 300 employees to over 1,500 employees. I think this is awesome, but not everyone in Boulder agrees that more Googlers are a good thing. I wonder if they still use Lycos or Ask Jeeves as their search engine. And for those in Boulder hoping we municipalize our Internet net, consider FERC’s smackdown of the City of Boulder’s Municipalization position.

Oh, and did you realize the US government actually made a $15 billion profit on TARP?

  • Can Dr, Evil get rid of the FCC? I think the best thing for the corporate telcos, VCs, and the general public is to scrap the FCC. Paul Graham has a nice post today about seeing in the future. The bureaucrats can’t see into the future any better than anyone else. Corporations only want to see into their short term future and pad their stock options. Better to let individuals have freedom to decide, companies freedom to innovate and compete like hell. Better for all of us in the long run.

    • I expect the FCC is here to stay as long as ‘Merica exists.

      • agreed, but sometimes we have to think out of the box. just like they articulate in the book America 3.0! Happy Holidays to you.

  • Gregg M. Kennelly

    Hey Brad, curios to hear your thoughts on Sony’s response, which came in the form of massive DOS attacks on recode and others, or at least that’s what I read on a sony hack timeline. Are there many private/corporate cyber wars going on today? Is it the Wild West now? I feel a bit naive, but would still like to hear your thoughts…


    • This link is the best Timeline I’ve seen so far.

      Cyberattacks are going to rock our world over the next few – or many – years. We haven’t even begun to see the beginning of this, or figure out how to deal with it.

      I don’t have enough data to have a point of view on Sony’s response yet. I want to see a little more play out.

      • Gregg M. Kennelly

        It’s almost like we better just come to terms with the fact that nothing is private. And btw that gets much more intrusive when you think about wearables. If you ever assemble a group to discuss cutting edge security ideas, I have some ideas to kick around, but then again how long can any innovative security measures last? You’ve no doubt heard of password protection based on “how” you type your password as opposed to just verifying that the correct characters were entered and air gap technology, but I’m sure there are ways for systems to authenticate users based on user’s other online activity, but that’s a slippery slope too…

        • I’ve been saying for a long time that our definition of “privacy” needs to be rethought. I accepted lack of privacy a long time ago.

          • Gregg M. Kennelly

            Yeah I guess you did, but you’re a unique bird. The time between today and when businesses accept your philosophy of absolute transparency is going to be a rocky road my friend… And if that day ever comes big data is gonna reveal a lot of biases and preferences…

          • Yup!

          • Gregg M. Kennelly

            Hahaha you’re the man, endless props bfeld. I’ll meet you in like 10 years on a panel where I explain how guys like you made guys like me possible… Peace brotha

  • I am encouraged that you and the CEO of Sony Entertainment described what happened as a ‘cyberattack.’

    I am disturbed that so many have jumped to indiscriminately describe events as ‘cyberterrorism.’

    This may seem a purely semantic consideration, but it isn’t. The word ‘terrorism’ is constantly invoked, often completely inappropriately as in this case, to ratchet up the climate of fear and thereby legitimize policies which may well constitute an overreaction and which result in blowback from which we end up suffering.

    Modulating the tone of our responses to keep them in line with reality, rather than to serve sectional political interests who benefit from instigating precipitous actions, is increasingly important in a shrinking world.

    TLDR: words matter people!

    • I completely agree. I’m bummed that Obama immediately went to “terrorism.”

  • HistoryInAction

    Were you happy with the outcome of 2C? But more for allowing the development of a private gigabit network for local even if 2C opens the door for eventual municipalization of the network? Aka avoid the Boulder power grid situation?

    Looking forward to the Silicon Flatirons event in February though. Got dragged into this debate and very quickly realized the limits of my education in this space.

    • I’m not a fan of what happened on 2C. I don’t think people in Boulder knew what they were voting on.

  • Rick

    “It’s a good frame setting piece about some new research on the impact of reading – both fiction and non-fiction – on humans.”
    Which is one of the reasons I’ve moved to “objective based web usage” in this case what I read and where I read it on the web.

  • Large-scale organizations (of all kinds) appear more and more like big collections of entropic vagaries whose operational tools are over-confidence, short-term accounting, obfuscation, denial, deflection, disinformation and so on. These are old tools that cannot hope to be of any real use up against cyber-attacks. Limiting organizational growth would by definition limit the impact of a single cyber-attack. Of course this is blasphemy to all modern economic systems. Sigh.

  • Slim

    President Obama’s remarks about wanting Congress to work on “stronger cybersecurity laws” are reminiscent of one controversial bill that angered privacy groups. The real reason for the event.

  • Josh Colwell

    The best response to attempted censorship is to speak more loudly and in more venues. I was astonished that Sony caved. This video kind of sums it up. Kim Jong-Un Meets Muhammad (ORIGINAL)