The Guardian is reporting that Ridley Scott is going to direct a BBC adaptation of Philip K. Dick's 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle, the famous what-if future history of America if Nazi Germany had been victorious during World War II. This adaptation of alternate history picks up on current debates about the preservation of liberty when privacy is being eroded. Because of the Tech boom, politics have less impact on this debate than one would think. Some have focussed on the war on terrorism and the increasingly sophisticated use of surveillance by public authorities. But in fact the internet is already five steps ahead of the camera in the street.
That's odd, because during the 1990s magazines like Wired hyped the internet as a bastion of freedom and guerilla anarchy against big governments and corporations. The Global Internet Liberty Campaign is one of many sites that follows that original stance. Instead of being a haven for freedom, the internet is becoming a battleground between these interests, and it's not at all clear that the Old School proponents for Web freedom are going to win. Some long ago retreated into hacking or piracy to push their cause. Copyright becomes one of the hottest bones of contention and older industries struggle to redefine property rights when property has become virtual. A weird news byte I saw relatively recently was a BBC report on a unveiling of new Microsoft software in Asia, where Microsoft romanced some of the top hackers in the business.
There's also the question of who will win in this pitched battle for virtual ground. The governments? The corporations? The hackers? The everyday people out there on the internet who are packaging their private lives for public consumption? Who will end up owning all the private information down the road when Facebook gets merged with another company? Can you copyright your own life? Or will someone just download it and reproduce it without your permission? There are now manuals and reports on how to disappear off the grid, just like John Connor, such as here, here, here and here. There is a Website devoted to living off the grid called Off-Grid - apparently the irony of this is lost on them. Wired put it this way: "Your inbox is awash in spam, your boss is chuckling over your credit report, and you've got a sneaking suspicion that Uncle Sam counts how many Löwenbräu you chug. Yes, your privacy's shot to hell, and you're tempted to shrug and settle for an open source life. But privacy isn't like virginity, forever lost after the first trespass. With some work, "reprivatization" is possible. Use this three-tiered guide to pick a level of solitude. But be warned: Going all the way off the grid is more Ted Kaczynski than Howard Hughes."
It seems to me that under these conditions, government will evolve. The elections and legislatures may remain to keep people preoccupied with the Punch and Judy show of politics. But the real action will involve the management and manipulation of huge bodies of information and the constantly moving, encrypted sites that provide access to them. Who will hold the keys to those kingdoms?