Imagine if Winston Smith from Nineteen Eighty-Four had been a
modern-day hacker, as rebellious and defiant as Tyler Durden from
Fight Club and V from V for Vendetta, but without the penchant for
blowing things up - just a belief in the right to privacy and freedom.
As far as novels go, I'd wholeheartedly recommend Little Brother.
Much like Nineteen Eighty-Four, "fun" doesn't seem like the right
word to describe the experience of living vicariously through the
protagonist's eyes, but "thrilling" is about right. I don't want
to spoil too much because I sincerely hope you decide to read it,
but it's refreshing to read a story in which the hero is fighting
for freedom, yet is hip enough to recommend Wikipedia articles and
Google searches to the reader.
This book is more than just a novel, however. It's a warning, and
it's a manifesto. It's set in the near future, painting a chilling
picture of the direction the Department of Homeland Security would
head in given the chance. What makes it so scary is that it's easy
to imagine it coming true, given the history of their ADVISE project.
It's important for young readers to realise how much power they have
to make the world a better place if they just work together, and
this book may just help them do that. Conversely, older readers
will understand the politics and hopefully learn a bit more about
the hacker mindset.
If you're a hacker, you probably want to explain to your friends and
family why you read 2600 Magazine and take things apart to understand
how they work, but more than that, you want them to be able to get
a sense of the thrill of learning for themselves how things work.
Lending them this book might well be a good place to start. Cory
Doctorow clearly understands the political and social importance of
modern technology, but unlike far too many hackers, he can also
explain the concepts of things like public key cryptography and
Bayesian maths simply and clearly - and explain why they're important.
Take blogging, for example. Many people have probably overlooked
the importance of decentralised publishing, but it's a truly democratic
medium. The author clearly demonstrates why it's harder for bad
people to continue doing bad things if anyone passing by can tell
the whole world about it.
Don't take my word for it, though. You can download and read as
much of the Creative Commons licensed eBook as you like, and make
up your own mind whether you want to buy a copy for yourself, or for
anyone else for that matter. The author recommends that anyone who
enjoyed the eBook but doesn't want to buy themselves the real thing
can instead donate a copy of it to a school. In my opinion, this
is a much better strategy than suing fans.
So please, download this book, but don't stop there. It's a call
to arms. Try out some of the projects mentioned in the novel, and
experience for yourself the joy of figuring out how technology works.
If we work together, we can make technology continue to work in the
interests of the people, not just the governments and corporations.