95 Theses of Geek Activism
by Devanshu Mehta
Geek activism has not taken off yet, but it should. With the gamers recognizing the need for a louder voice, EFF gaining momentum and Linux taking on the mainstream on the one hand and recent severe losses in privacy, freedom of speech and intellectual property rights on the other, now seems to be the best time to rally around the cause.
Geeks are not known to be political or highly vocal (outside of our own circles)- this must change if we want things to improve. So here is my list of things people of all shapes, sizes and sides of the debate need to know. Some of these are obvious, others may not be meant for you. But hopefully, some of these will inspire you to do the right thing and others will help you frame the next discussion, debate or argument you have on these topics.
# *Reclaim the term ‘hacker’*. If you tinker with electronics, you are a hacker. If you use things in more ways than intended by the manufacturer, you are a hacker. If you build things out of strange, unexpected parts, you are a hacker. Reclaim the term.
# Violating a license agreement is not theft.
# All corporations are not on your side.
# Keep in touch with everyone you can vote for and make sure you know where they stand on the issues you care about.
# More importantly, make sure they know where you stand on the issues you care about.
# Everything will enter the *public domain* some day- even Mickey Mouse.
# Read the original 95 theses. Yes, they are irrelevant to these causes. Yes, they are religious- and not even close to my religion. And yes, they are 500 years old. But they do demonstrate how stating your beliefs clearly, effectively and publicly to *challenge the status quo* can change the world. Of course, I have no delusions of grandeur!
# Use TOR for privacy and anonymity.
# Trusted computers must not be trusted.
# Democrats may seem to be on your side, but keep an eye on them. They may only be the lesser of two evils.
# Republicans may seem to be the enemy, but that is only because they are in power now. The true enemy is a lack of accountability.
# Read Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar.
# Why do I have to jump through hoops just to get video off my own home movie DVDs?
# Know the DMCA so you know what you are up against.
# The true enemy is the line: “If you haven’t done anything wrong, what do you fear?” The problem with that line, as Schneier has said, is that it assumes that the desire for privacy implies wrong-doing.
# Proprietary data formats must never store public information.
# Some corporations are on your side- find them and reward them.
# No one has ever told me where I could play my 45 RPMs. Why are my MP3s any different?
# The _analog hole_ is not a hole. The world is analog.
# If you are in the US, let your Senator know what you feel.
# Treating your customers like criminals- or potential criminals- will turn customers away.
# This bears repeating, treating paying customers as potential criminals is a losing strategy.
# Some corporations may seem to be on your side, but are not.
# Fair use is a good thing.
# *Use multiple operating systems* regularly so you truly understand interoperability.
# Write to your local newspaper- they can shape the opinions of the people do not understand the issues we care about.
# Do not follow the Electronic Frontier Foundation, *participate in it*.
# Read of Thoreau’s words on civil disobedience.
# Data mining will not stop terror.
# *Express your opinion in public*.
# The GPL is not gospel, but it comes close.
# Use multiple MP3/music players so you truly understand interoperability.
# If you are in the US, let your house representative know how you feel.
# Those in favor of suspending some liberties for security, answer this: “Who watches the watchers?”
# Except for extreme cases, the *government* should not be in the business of *parenting our children*.
# When arguing with people who disagree, *be polite*, but not condescending.
# RFID is just a technology- its existence does not make us more secure.
# Now and in the future, presence of encryption implies *nothing*. In fact, whatever it does imply is *none of your business*. Without any other probable cause, the user must not bear the burden of explaining reasons for use of encryption.
# Flame wars help the other side.
# New technologies to promote and develop media will prosper because of computers and the Internet, *not inspite of it*.
# Security is a trade-off- what are you willing to give up?
# Calling Microsoft evil buys you nothing- it only polarizes the argument.
# Holding Google to its “Don’t do evil” mantra buys us a lot.
# Read of Gandhi’s actions in civil disobedience. Discover Satyagraha.
# Use Creative Commons.
# Understand the difference between civil disobedience and breaking the law.
# Can’t find anything to watch on network TV? Watch Democracy TV.
# Frame the argument in terms of the average person, not the edge-case geek. These problems affect geeks first, but *will affect everyone in the future*.
# Privacy, civil liberties and civil rights are a slippery slope. The reason we continuously fight for them is not that we all seek a utopian society where doves fly free- in fact, I seek a perpetual ‘tug-of-war’ where the rope gradually slips in the direction of my beliefs.
# Users do not want the permission to use digital media; they want to *own* digital media. This means using them as they choose, where they choose, in the device of their choice without fear of litigation or sudden inactivity. These users are customers- treat them with respect.
# Support the free, public domain archives of information.
# *Undermine censorship* by publishing information censored in oppressive countries.
# And then, there is the 12-step plan for the games industry.
# Corporations and producers of digital media _must_ trust their own consumers. Sales will reward trust.
# Breaking the law because you disagree with the current law is not the way to solve the problem in a democratic society.
# *ID cards* do not make us more secure.
# Voicing your views in a Slashdot comment thread is good, in your own blog is better, but in places that non-geeks frequent is best.
# DRM does not work because the customer/user has the key, cipher and ciphertext in the player. (thanks Cory Doctorow)
# Bloggers have rights– be aware of them.
# Find out why electronic voting machines are regulated less than casino gaming machines.
# Find out about Spimes– they are in your future if things go well.
# Have a global perspective in ideas of geek civil liberties, intellectual property rights and so forth. Do you like your country’s policies in this respect? Can you help people from another country?
# Geek activism is not all about extreme positions. There is a gradient- find your position on it.
# Read the PATRIOT ACT– know what you are _really_ up against.
# In the US, put a few technologists in power in Washington. Abroad, do the same for your own seat of government.
# Write to mainstream media- they have more mindshare than they are given credit for.
# Read what your founding fathers said before taking someone’s word for it. Quote the founding fathers back at them- there were so many of them, and they said and wrote so much, that you will find a quote for each situation. Try this one for starters, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – _Benjamin Franklin_. Read more Bejamin Franklin. Read “more cool quotes”:http://www.scienceaddiction.com/2006/04/25/outrage/
# Read more.
# Mixed tapes are legal. Time-shifting TV is legal. Regardless of the media.
# Decide what is offensive for yourself- don’t let the government decide it for you. If you do not, pretty soon, you may only see one side of every argument.
# Music purchases should not be governed by determining which seller has the most clout among the player manufacturers.
# We do not lock the door to our bedrooms or bathrooms because we have something to hide. We do not secure our networks, conversations, emails and files because we have something to hide.
# Make sure that if a vendor locks you in, you lock them out.
# 80% of games are *not rated M*.
# You may agree with Richard Stallman, but make sure you understand the opposing point of view.
# An email tax to certify that it is “legitimate” is an awful idea.
# Know your rights and be prepared to defend them.
# *Open source is not free*.
# *Free is open source*.
# The ESRB game rating system exists for a reason- so that parents can be parents and the government can get on with more important stuff.
# Do not allow corporations to get away with assisting oppressive regimes. Let your voice be heard.
# *Linux is no longer a philosophy*- it is a good piece of software. Use it if it fits your needs.
# There are reasons based in mathematics that establish the NSA wiretaps and other similar brute data mining ideas do not work.
# Multiple nag screens that warn us of possible insecurity do not make us more secure.
# More information available to the most number of people is a *good thing*.
# There are DRM free alternatives for music you can play anywhere.
# Free as in free lunch is good. Free as in a free people is even better. For software and for everything else.
# Quoting Schneier’s blog: Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.” Watch someone long enough, and you’ll find something to arrest — or just blackmail — with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies — whoever they happen to be at the time.
# Read our modern geek philosophers- read Bruce Perens, Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling and even Richard Stallman. Read Schneier to find practical reasons why stupid security mechanisms are stupid. Read them even if you disagree with them- it will help frame your point of view.
# DRM only keeps *an honest user honest*.
# You have the right to anonymity on the internet.
# *Be proud of being a geek*, a gamer, a privacy advocate, promoter of free speech and an innovator without fear of litigation, of government or restrictions on liberties- a geek activist.
# Most of all- have fun.
If you disagree with any or all of what I have said- good for you. Let me know how. Let me know why. Let us argue, let us debate. But, in the end, let us get stuff done.
UPDATE: Thanks to BoingBoing and so many others for the inbound links. And keep the comments below coming.
UPDATE #2: And now digg-pwnd too (just discovered that word). The site is dying under the weight of a thousand blog links, but we shall overcome. Some day. Expect a follow-up on the numerous comments below (thanks!), the numerous comments on Digg and the many dozen blogs around the Internet who have commented on this story. So far I have been told that I have inspired people to start blogs, to revive their blogs, to donate to the EFF, to write open letters and much more. This is all fantastic news, but it cannot stop here. It will not- stick around and we will make things happen.
UPDATE #3: This story was later picked up by Wired Magazine for the December ’06 issue (the one with lonelygirl15 on the cover). It also made its way in to many online editions of offline publications as well. I am about to start (July ’07) a series expanding on many of the thoughts from this original article and clarifying/amending things that have been questioned since.
Overall Id say I like this, although there were a few parts that seemed to make little sense. Those points just sort of turned me off to the whole thing.
“Breaking the law because you disagree with the current law is not the way to solve the problem in a democratic society.â€
…Perhaps not, but then again the US isnt a democracy, no matter how many time they tell us it is. We’re a democratic republic. Middle and lower class citizens have very little political power. Disobeying the law is certainly a way to solve problems in our society. I’ll be damned if i obey a law that i disagree with on moral grounds. (war on drugs, intellectual property law)
“Some corporations are on your side- find them and reward them.”
I strongly disagree. No corporation is on your side, ever. THey are on the side of money. Or more precisely, corporations are on the side of shareholders, and shareholders are on the side of money (they have to be, why else would they hold shares?). Sure, some corporations may make more money by pretending to back up the ‘little guy’ and ‘fight for your rights’ (its all PR) but if there was no money in it, it wouldnt happen. plain and simple.
The article that #84 links to is wrong. A surveillance system that pulls up as many false positives as it does positives would be extremely effective, and not at all as useless as “flipping a coin”. The cost of performing two police investigations (or three or ten) to find one plot is something a police force would gladly bear. It is only when the number of investigations that would be required becomes larger that the system becomes useless.
It’s unclear what the intentions of the author were, but the publisher (lewrockwell.com) was only interested in it as an anti-state propaganda piece. The author seems not to be familiar with detection problems, making no mention of the tradeoff between probablity of detection and probability of false alarm. One good way to define the problem is to suggest an amount of police effort to be used in tracking down leads. This will set the probability of false alarm. If, for this probablity of false alarm, the probability of detecting a terrorist and thus foiling a plot is large enough to justify the police effort, then the system may have merit as a detection method.
Likely, mass surveillance as a means to create leads would be close to useless, but the article fails to prove this point. Certainly such surveillance is odious.
“inspite” is not a word, it’s “in spite”
[…] 1 – 95 Theses of Geek Activism Geeks, nerds and hacktivists, unite! Your manifesto has arrived…and it is already being hacked. Link via BoingBoing. (tags: manifesto freedom censorship hacking security copyright privacy technology activism politics geek) […]
[…] 95 Theses of Geek Activism This is a great list. Making activists out of us instead of passive users of the net. (tags: geek activism blog scienceaddiction theses) […]
[…] Go read them – really, it doesn’t take as long as you think.Â There is a bit of video-game-related material there. 95 Theses of Geek Activism […]
[…] Vía Microsiervos, encuentro un post en el blog Science Addiction titulado 95 Theses of Geek Activism, en el cual se exponen, al estilo de las "95 tesis sobre la Iglesia Católica" de Martín Lutero (se aceptan correcciones si me equivoqué en el nombre exacto), una serie de pensamientos que las personas "de todas las formas, tamaños y lados del debate necesitan saber", la mayoría de los cuales hablan sobre la libertad y el derecho a la privacidad. Me ha parecido una lectura altamente interesante (y recomendable). Ahora que, como se comenta en el mismo post, por un lado los geeks y hackers van ganando popularidad (‘se ponen de moda’, por así decirlo) y que, por otra parte, se oyen muy a menudo noticias sobre invasión a la privacidad y problemas con la propiedad intelectual, es sobremanera útil contar con una guía para no solo quedarse en la opinión sino pasar a la acción. Y creo que estas 95 tesis hacen una buena guía. No necesariamente tiene uno que estar de totalmente de acuerdo con ella, pero aún así sirve de mucha inspiración. Repito, altamente recomendable, denle una leída de todos modos. […]
[…] This came to me via Cory. It’s worth a read. Gives you a flavour of some of the current emotion, particularly in the context of DRM. Some very interesting links, and some worthwhile assertions. […]
# 5k1ttl3 Says:
‘â€œBreaking the law because you disagree with the current law is not the way to solve the problem in a democratic society.â€
‘…Perhaps not, but then again the US isnt a democracy, no matter how many time they tell us it is.’
Perhaps not, but then he didn’t say it was. He used the adjective form, just as you did. Meanwhile, freedoms are better championed by people who regard The Law, as a concept, with a little more respect, even if a specific law is incorrect; and opposition of DRM does not include a moral obligation to download your favorite pop tune.
‘â€œSome corporations are on your side- find them and reward them.â€
‘I strongly disagree. No corporation is on your side, ever.’
I strongly disagree. You’re confusing motivation with decision. Unless every idea you’ve ever had is a money-losing one, occasionally you might make the same decision a corporation does, even if money is their reason and isn’t yours. If we vote with our dollars to support the corporations whose decisions align with ours, smart corporations will decide that it’s in their fiscal interest to figure out how to maintain our loyalty: i.e., how to keep themselves and us on the same side.
FOSS is only part of a widening digital freedom movement. Another key part is open access to research in every field. Good geeks will support OA and ask their universities, libraries, professional societies, and governments to do so as well. To track new OA developments, see my blog, Open Access News.
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The DMCA is not pure evil. Some of it is quite good. It’s far too broad to say it’s the enemy.
Great LIST! The beginning of the e-revolution. I blogged about this, (click on my name above) in the hopes of spreading this list. There are also some good comments listed here.
[…] 95 Theses of Geek Activism, a must read. […]
I like the list; one change: #3, which currently reads “All corporations are not on your side,” should more properly be expressed as “Not all corporations are on your side.” Otherwise, the implication is that every single corporation is not on your side, and I’m sure you mean rather that we shouldn’t assume that every single corporation is on our side.
Doesn’t #53 (“Undermine censorship by publishing information censored in oppressive countries”) contradict #56 (“Breaking the law because you disagree with the current law is not the way to solve the problem in a democratic society”)?
Just because it’s not a law in your country doesn’t mean it’s not a law.
The term geek has lost all meaning. And it certainly doesn’t imply any kind of political likemindedness.
@lunchbox, I didn’t say I was going to be consistent- did I? I advocate civil disobedience and ‘Satyagraha’, which, if taken to their logical conclusion, may involve breaking the law. And yet I saw that breaking the law may not be the best solution. These “95 theses” are intended to provoke thought, discourse and action.
Re: #2. If it results in loss of revenue, yes, it is theft.
Then it’s good that it doesn’t result in loss of revenue. If and when software is pirated/infringed the company owning the copyright doesn’t lose any money, they are prevented from getting more money. In cannot be proven that it would have definitively been purchased either, so you can’t even argue that it is loss of POTENTIAL revenue, or loss of the chance to make money.
If the loss of the chance to make money is theft to you, then you are in serious need of a beating. That would mean that everytime a company puts in a bid for a contract, and loses to another company, it’s theft. Everytime you see someone pick up found money on the street that could’ve been yours, they stole it form you.
It can’t be taken away if you’re never in possesion of it first. It is infringement not theft.
And I’m not making the case that it’s legal. Many countries have different definitions of what constitutes copyright infringment. Of course, citizens should abide by them.
Thanks for sharing this. So many points ring true. This list forces me to take a second look at the power of speech.
@Mike- none of these are necessarily *political* views. They are things that affects people who spend a lot of time with and thinking about technology- long hand for Geek. I’m sure you disagree with some, or many, of my points- but it is hard to imagine that you disagree with all of them. I don’t expect anyone to agree with all of them- it would imply that geek society had evolved in to a very boring, likeminded suburbia.
NÂ° 28 is a little bit commie/anarchic
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To monitor the continued erosion of our fair use rights, visit http://www.FairUseLaw.com.
95 Theses of Geek Activism…
While I do not agree with all 95 of these points; I do believe that they must be heard….
“No one has ever told me where I could play my 45 RPMs. Why are my MP3s any different?” I have no idea what 14 means.
I strongly disagree with 33; I chose not to support the mp3 format because it isn’t a free standard. And there are too many evil software idea patents hooked into it. I chose to use ogg for my format of choice for audio.
As for 90 that’s debateable. The databases already exist. And you aren’t going to stop the wealthy persons; or the PI’s or the government from buying data and profiling someone/investigating someone. The only person you can stop is the average person. Which is sad because that’s who it could help most. ie; I hire a nanny…I want to know if she has molested children in her past. Privacy is dead and it’s not going to change, people are making too much money.
I disagree with #88
Do not vote for the sake of voting. Vote intelligently. Vote for only the things which you are informed.
[…] 95 Theses of Geek Activism – Le 95 tesi dell’attivismo geek. Ovvero: come la tecnologia puÃ² dare una mano alla libertÃ . […]
[…] read more | digg story […]
[…] LINK […]
Point 31 is wrong. Blogging is idiotic and does nothing to help anybody.
Yes, blogging is so idiotic that you read through 31 points (at least) on a blog post before finding something worth spending the time to make a comment on.
TimTheFoolMan Says: If the actions that qualify as â€œviolating the license agreementâ€ also result in loss of revenue, then it may be equivalent to theft.
Keep in mind that someone had to come up with the concept that copying a file is equivalent to theft. However, this is an unfair comparison. You can’t lose something you never had, and this also applies to “loss of revenue” due to copying. It’s an unmeasurable “what-if” that is constantly misconstrued as being a hard number by many corporations. This deceives many people into believing that corporations are being literally ripped off.
In fact, what often happens is that companies become more popular due to their software being (illegally but widely) available, and they gain market domination as a side effect. The actual financial impact of piracy is poorly understood, especially over the long term, and especially by companies who have their own agendas.
Unless you are depriving someone of the same property that you are taking, there should be a better, less ambiguous term for copyright infringement, for example, because the losses of theft and the losses due to copying files cannot be physically compared.
I do not use copyrighted content for which I do not have a license; however, I completely disagree in principle with the severity of punishment and over the top restrictions with which the law currently deals with copyrights. We can change this for the better, and it is right for us to try.
I also recommend that anyone who can find an open source alternative to a commercial product should use it. That keeps them within the law and helps to support a good cause instead of supporting proprietary formats and strangling license restrictions.
[…] Science Addiction Â» 95 Theses of Geek Activism (tags: geek activism politics technology privacy security copyright) […]
[…] This is all over the web today – I saw it on Boing Boing this morning and Metafilter tonight. That link was cited as being via Digg. […]
I hack according to this page’s recommendation, but I can’t call myself a hacker since I use methods that others came up with.
Up with the geek revolution. >.>
[…] Link to: Science Addiction Â» 95 Theses of Geek Activism (via Digg) […]
[…] http://www.scienceaddiction.com/2006/07/23/95-theses-of-geek-activism/ […]
68a. Make sure the quotes are authentic. A posting on a random web page is not reliable. The Franklin quote is uncertain. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin
And Jefferson did NOT say “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”. http://volokh.com/posts/1146554363.shtml
Note the quote from the Jefferson Library.
[…] Finally, I recently discovered the 95 Theses of Geek Activism, posted just a few days ago. It’s slightly different from these other two in that it’s, pardon the clergy-related pun, preaching to the choir. Still, whereas the others are meant to stir up conflict in hopes that a good resolution will come of it, these Theses actually provide some good advice on how to make change. The most confrontational: 73. We do not lock the door to our bedrooms or bathrooms because we have something to hide. We do not secure our networks, conversations, emails and files because we have something to hide. […]
[…] Science Addiction -blogin 23.7. kirjoitetussa postauksessa analysoidaan “nÃ¶rttiaktivismin teesejÃ¤” (YÃ¤k, karsastan tuota nÃ¶rtti-sanaa, ‘aktivismillakin’ on outo kaiku. Miten olisi teknologiaentusiasti ): Geek activism has not taken off yet, but it should. With the gamers recognizing the need for a louder voice, EFF gaining momentum and Linux taking on the mainstream on the one hand and recent severe losses in privacy, freedom of speech and intellectual property rights on the other, now seems to be the best time to rally around the cause. […]
[…] A travÃ©s de la pÃ¡gina web de Microsiervos, he encontrado un intenersante recopilatorio de acciones que se pueden llevar a cabo para volver a recuperar nuestra libertad (casi perdida) en la era tecnolÃ³gica. Technorati Tags: microsiervos […]
[…] The 95 Theses of Geek Activism, courtesy of Science Addiction. […]
while i disagree with a few of the points mentioned (GLP, blogging) i do agree with the majority of them 🙂
whoops, meant GPL of course 🙂
Who said Cyberpunk is dead?
[…] We do not lock the door to our bedrooms or bathrooms because we have something to hide. We do not secure our networks, conversations, emails and files because we have something to hide. […]
Thank a lot for this list, it’s truly inspiring!
Keep up the good work!
If there would be a political party that would stand only for, let’s say, 30 of this theses, i would totally vote them!
Whew, that was quite a read. Took me a while to get to the end, but I suppose it was worth it.