Timely Reading

While I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have only now gotten around to reading Cory Doctorow’s books, I couldn’t be reading them at a more perfect time. Little Brother and Homeland deal with the privacy issues that are in the headlines as we debate whether Edward Snowden is a patriot or a traitor. Doctorow would argue for the former and provides powerful examples of what happens when innocent people think it’s okay to give up some of their privacy rights in the mistaken belief that by doing so, they help the government catch terrorists. In a conversation with my husband last night, I found myself giving those examples. Doctorow calls these books science fiction but when matched to the discussions on Meet the Press this morning, I would argue that they aren’t fiction.

There is a lot of science in the books, however. The young people are tech savvy and use their skills to protect themselves in smart ways. The books include extensive bibliographies and I added lots of RSS feeds to my aggregator. There are also articles from leaders in the field encouraging readers to consider careers in computer programming and security. And I gasped a bit when I saw the Afterword to Homeland written by Aaron Swartz, whose suicide in January shocked and saddened and led to many questions about the way he was being persecuted for his stance on freedom. A very special light went out. Here’s Swartz’s message to the readers of Homeland after he describes the fight he led against SOPA:

This is your life, this is your country–and if you want to keep it safe, you need to get involved…The system is changing. Thanks to the Internet, everyday people can learn about and organize around an issue even if the system is determined to ignore it. Now, maybe we won’t win every time–this is real life, after all–but we finally have a chance. But it only works if you take part. And now that you’ve read this book and learned how to do it, you’re perfectly suited to make it happen again. that’s right: not it’s up to you to change the system (pp. 389-390).

If you haven’t read these books, you should. And there’s no excuse. Doctorow provides free downloads of all his books in a variety of digital formats. I’m happy to say I bought the analog copies to help contribute a bit to this voice of freedom. I’m also glad there are lots more to read from this prolific writer. My next read is Makers.

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