Archive for February, 2009

Archive for February, 2009

Surviving the Luddite Rebellion

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The Luddite Rebellion is coming. It may not come literally, and we may yet stop it, but we will not stop it by sitting idly by.

What is the Luddite Rebellion? Well, a Luddite is someone who stands opposed to technology and freedom, not because they are against them per se, but because they are afraid. They may have good reason to be afraid: malware, spam, privacy invasions, stalking, and all manner of danger can come from allowing technology to be used freely.

Hackers are on the other side of this struggle. Hackers stand for tinkering that leads to innovation. This tinkering and innovation cannot happen without free access to technology. Not all hackers agree on what "free" means, but the restrictions the Luddites would like to see are certainly the opposite of freedom. Hackers tend to form communities, and staying connected to one or more hacker communities may just be key to surviving the Luddite Rebellion.

What will an unfulfilled Luddite Rebellion look like? It will look like the end of net neutrality. It will look like the limitation of general purpose computing platforms. It will look like widespread computing with no hackability. It will look like education that teaches security through ignorance and through a lack of access to powerful tools.

What would a fulfilled Luddite Rebellion look like? Well, first it would look like an unfulfilled one. Then it would move to a purposeful oppression of hackers and technologists in general. A general anti-technology sentiment ultimately culminating in a forceful out-putting of technologists and technology of all kinds, possibly violent.

I don’t know if the Luddite Rebellion will ever be completely fulfilled, but the roots are starting now. The balance of this article will talk about ways hackers, sympathizers, and our society can survive.

Keep an Active Passport

This may seem to be the most obvious. I do this anyway, just as a general good practise. Never let your passport expire, or you may find yourself stuck where you’re at.

Libre Software

Sometimes also called "free software", this body of work by the BSD projects, GNU projects, and others is dedicated to hackable software. Software that is published in hackable form. No matter what happens regarding lock-downs in the Luddite Rebellion, this hackable form (usually the "source code") will be taken by hackers and preserved, it will not be locked down. Even non-hackers will be able to get access to the freedom-supporting versions of this software. If you run libre software now, you are contributing to this body of work and preparing yourself for a future where it may be the only software that respects your rights.


Backup your data! Not just your offline data, but your online data as well. You never know when access to it may be taken away. Store it in simple, hackable formats. No matter how "open" a format may be, it’s ability to survive the Luddite Rebellion really relies on it being simple and hackable. Open Office documents may be very "open", but they are much less hackable than (X)HTML, plain text or WikiText, (La)TeX, or RTF.

Backup your communications especially! Email, IM logs, Microblogging content, bookmarks, and other forms of online communication can all be backed up to simple, text-based formats.

Backup other people’s data as well. Data that you may find useful in the future, especially to survive the Luddite Rebellion. All that educational and reference material you can "just link to and find later"? Download it to your personal archive.

Keep your archive in more than one place. If you only have it on your laptop, and you lose that laptop, what good is it to you?

Personal Brand

Keep a strong personal brand. This brand may be anonymous (hard to tie to the "meatspace" you) or real. Being easy to get in touch with is crucial in surviving the communication crackdowns that the Luddite Rebellion may bring.

Thing may enter your person brand on purpose, or by accident. The trick is recognising them and keeping them there.

My brand:


PGP is a technology that allows people to communicate securely, and to be sure of who they are communicating with.

  • Have a PGP key (if you need help getting set up, give me a shout).
  • Make sure your PGP key is well published (I have mine on key servers, a link from the mail page of my site, and a link in the headers of every email I send).
  • Sign all emails (so people know it’s you, and get used to verifying).
  • Memorize and publicize your key id and/or fingerprint as well. There are different mnemonic programs out there to help. My key id is: nerve perfume pogo (or 913D04EB).
  • Understand the PGP Web of Trust and build yourself a trust network.


These are just a few key ways that hackers, technologists, sympathizers and others can prepare themselves to survive, and maybe prevent the complete fulfilment of, the Luddite Rebellion.

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