The Spectator has just run my review of Gabriella Coleman's Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous , an anthropological recounting of the glories and disasters of Anonymous.
Coleman's previous book, Coding Freedom, was a sprightly but scholarly anthropological study of the free/open software movement. In Hacker, Hoaxer, Coleman's narrative voice is in full throat, telling a story that is as exciting as any spy-thriller:
Real hacker work looks like secretarial work. A person sits at a keyboard, looking, mostly, at text. That person types commands (sometimes arcane ones, though to the untutored eye no more mysterious than the commands typed by an airport check-in clerk), and squints and frowns at the screen, and types some more, and then, sometimes, feels very happy about some more text the computer is displaying. There can be very long waits. A TV show about hacking would be duller than one about fishing — at least fishing has the odd moment of a human-animal death struggle. (Combine the two and you’d have a winner: call it Pier to Pier, and film it in a rowing boat with a fishing rod at one end and a wireless laptop at the other.)
But hacking of every kind, from writing free software, to breaking into computers you don’t own, to jailbreaking devices that you do, is exciting. It’s thrilling. It’s the most marvellous sort of satisfying mental work there is — solving puzzles of enormous complexity through an impossible-to-systematise combination of rational method and intuitive leaps.
And the kind of hacking that Anonymous does — by means of the fluid, structureless norms of the group, half macho posturing, half uber-savvy media prankstership — is doubly exciting. Or exciting squared. It is filled with drama — betrayals, police informants, intimidation, brinksmanship, insane risk-taking and impassioned speeches from the battlements.
The Anonymous ghost in the machine [Spectator]
Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous
Big Tech companies -- like all the apex predators of all the world's concentrated industries -- is swimming in cash; but unlike those other firms, Big Tech is not using the cash merely for financial engineering; it's doing actual engineering, sinking $80B this year into capital expenditures that will form a wall around the industry's […]
A research team from Imperial College London have published promising results of an experiment in which Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes -- responsible for the spread of malaria -- were genetically modified with a stable, gene-drive-based CRISPR modification that caused them to go extinct in the lab.
Machine learning image classifiers use context clues to help understand the contents of a room, for example, if they manage to identify a dining-room table with a high degree of confidence, that can help resolve ambiguity about other objects nearby, identifying them as chairs.
Whether you’re heading for a career as a web developer or designer, the road is wide open. Careers in tech won’t be slowing down anytime soon, but it’s important that you keep up. Enter the Complete Learn to Code Masterclass Bundle. An invaluable resource for beginners or budding pros, the bundle teaches must-know development and […]
Sipping on whiskey is already a sophisticated experience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t kick it up a notch. A perfect addition to your desk or home bar, the Eravino Whiskey Globe Decanter features a beautifully etched map on the surface and an eye-catching glass ship inside, bringing an entirely new level of class to […]
Gone are the days when you needed to pore over a 400-page physics textbook to learn about weight ratios, aerodynamics, and all of those other STEM concepts that let us take to the skies. Thanks to Force Flyers’ DIY Building Block Drones, you can foster your STEM knowledge as you build and fly your own functional […]