I've decided it's nigh time for us to become hackers all.

This is motivated not least by the NSA kerfluffle and other wrong-doing, the decades-long attempts by governing bodies to stifle the tools for their citizens to express themselves, especially as a citizenry corralling their governing bodies, and the increasing ease with which anyone with an unimpressive fluency with digital technology can make endroads around security and good intentions.

It is with intrepid excitement that I conclude that it is the responsible citizen of the near future who learns these same tactics. Who becomes conversant in probability and statistics and the science of computation in the ways commonly labelled “machine learning” so as to vet information policies both broad and narrow, moreover to contribute to such policies. Who becomes the antihero of so many cyberpunk stories short and long, given that their predictions of global governing entities and sprawling megacorps and nearly ubiquitous and invasive surveillance have, too, largely been realized.

The how of this pedagogical exercise is both easy and daunting to begin, at least in the basics. We all need to understand what a CPU does, what a GPU does, how RAM works, how hard drives and DVD-ROMs and displays work, inasmuch as we understand the science of microwaves and automobiles–well, maybe a bit more than that. What is a computer? What is a computer program? What are the basic data structures and flow-control mechanisms? How are our computers and our online presences secured, and how are they not secured? Why is Windows inherently less secure than OS X or your favorite flavor of UNIX/Linux; what are the premises within which this is debated? What is the history of “hacking” and how, if at all, is it different than “cracking”?

Those are interesting and valid considerations but we’d be remiss if we didn’t consider the greatest source of insecurity: people. I am no expert and I understand this is a tired story, but having come across some astonishing examples whereby social engineering defeated capable security protocols reminds me to keep a vigilant eye on how we the people use, misuse, and abuse our computing devices and their inherent collisions with our lives, with our finances and employment and our citizen status. Which, of course, is what this whole post is about.

What are your thoughts? Let me know below.


My name is Daniel Black. I am on the internet in several places, including Twitter and Tumblr. I am a person. I am a father and a husband. I have a degree in mathematics. I ruminate about thinking and writing and how to make decisions.

Continue reading about me if, you know, you're curious like that. It's okay; no one's watching. You could also subscribe to the RSS feed, if you swing like that.