EFF Chairman Templeton: Expect More Repression of Rights in 2008 (via audio transcript)

February 26 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: The Web   Year: 2008   Rating: 20

Brad Templeton, Chairman of the Board for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), warns that more censorship and curtailing of our civil liberties looms on the immediate horizon. Judging by the bright company he keeps, including Google’s bright co-founders and other notorious West Coast futurists, this is a man and message worth listening to.

Templeton is a rare bird. He’s a realist, idealist, futurist and comedian all wrapped into one influential persona. Oddly enough, it makes total sense that this jolly man has been chosen as the chief steward of our cherished cyber-liberties. This unique balance of characteristics allows Templeton to grock big business and government motives, visualize the digital playing of tomorrow, go about his stressful job with a smile and, in the end, hold out hope for an ultimately humanizing web.

We were fortunate to catch up with Brad for an in-depth Audio Interview (read the full transcript here), in which he offered some choice predictions concerning the future of the internet and the near-term state of our digitocracy.

When asked to provide a specific forecast for the year 2008, Templeton expressed concern about the slippery slope of digital rights erosion:

Templeton (audio transcript): I’m generally an optimist in the long term, although I am actually a little bit afraid for the short term. I think we’re going to see, unfortunately, a bit more repression in 2008, we’re going to see more efforts to curtail rights, both because of the war on terror, and because of those forces that are pushing for more and more ability to do censorship.

continued: It’s kind of a scary thing to talk about because they deliberately use this as a wedge issue, but there are these boogie men of the modern era, which are the child molesters, kiddie porn, that sort of people, and nobody thinks they’re not terrible people, and nobody thinks it’s not something that should be stopped, however, what happens is one side seems to always sort of portray that unless we do what they want to do in order to stop terrible things, that you must be therefore in favor of the terrible things, which is not how it works. That means we see proposals to do things like monitor the entire internet to make sure that nobody is sending the wrong images over it, and if you say you don’t like that, they think, why, do you want to help the kiddie pornographers? And obviously, no, we don’t want to help the kiddie pornographers, but you also don’t like the idea of putting that level of surveillance on the network, because it has so many terrible potential misuses. Unfortunately, I’m seeing some growing trends in that area. So, my short-term prediction is we’ll see a lot of efforts in that area by people to apply censorship, and my long-term prediction is then in the end we will defeat them.

Considering the current perception of global terrorism domestic political climate, it seems rather likely that Templeton’s near-term forecast will prove true. Hopefully his long-term vision will bear fruit as well, although some futurists contend that in order to counter advanced censorship we’re going to have to turn to a whole new level of transparency, which many folks would view as infringing on our traditional liberties.

Unfortunately, it seems that Templeton’s long-term is several decades out, as he remains a bit pessimistic about the next decade:

Templeton: By 2017, I think we’ll start seeing the beginnings of the tiny molecular machines, and I think we’ll also be seeing automatic vehicles driving the roads. I think we’ll see a whole bunch of new internet applications, but if I knew what they were, I’d be investing in them, I suppose. And I unfortunately think we’re going to see some more terrorist attacks which will as a result cause an erosion of civil liberties, but there’ll be a big fight against it.

Maybe some of those new internet applications will present solutions and provide some much needed middle ground to what looks to be an inevitable social conflict? Templeton thinks there’s a great deal of potential for the space:

Templeton: I think that the internet revolution is really just starting. Yes, there was a bubble in the 90s, and there was a pop, and a lot of things fell down, but that was really only the first wave. I think there is still going to be plenty of opportunity for people to come up with interesting innovations in how people interact with other people using digital and network intermediaries – there’s much more to happen there.

We here at MemeBox certainly can’t argue with that. :)

Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. Good prediction – we just saw Wikileaks.org, a site that allows whistle-blowers to anonymously post government and corporate documents taken offline in the US. I’d be curious to hear Brad’s thoughts about that…

    Posted by: Zora Styrian   February 26, 2008
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  2. It’ll be interesting to see how the conflicting visions inherent in Cascio’s Participatory Panopticon concept (that pervasive surveillance can be a good thing) and Big Brother (a human systems drive that centralizes and limits access to information) will reconcile. Brad is hopeful that after the darkness we’ll see the light. I too hope he’s right but think the answer could be far more muddled and less binary. Perhaps some pockets of systems will embrace The Force relatively quickly, while others wallow in the Dark Side for a very long time. I find that when looking out that far, the whole human system starts to look more like a body system, brain system or something else far more complex. No doubt Templeton sees the complexity and that’s why he wisely mentions tendencies rather than specific predictions. I just hope his intuition about that complex system is right. It really could suck if he’s wrong. :)

    Posted by: Alvis Brigis   February 26, 2008
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  3. I would argue that the Participatory Panopticon is not essentially different from Foucault’s panoptic regime in his Carceral. The idea that there is an essential us versus them is a fallacy. The immense complexity and numerous levels of “normalization” that are exercised within society create innumerable power struggles on every level. From the school room in which we “normalize” our children through coaxing, to Rudy’s cameras outside strip clubs, the panoptic regime will not fall neatly into a Marxist revolution of the oppressed. The outcome, methinks, will be a city in which we are all more so incarcerated, by a surveillance that is born from the will to power. The exponential growth in surveillance technologies will only make our will to power that much more petty, and build up new moralities and more stringent definitions of “normality.”

    Just a thought.

    Posted by: bibelnieks   February 26, 2008
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