The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Here's the video of my keynote last night at the 28C3, the Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin, entitled "The coming war on general computation."

The last 20 years of Internet policy have been dominated by the copyright war, but the war turns out only to have been a skirmish. The coming century will be dominated by war against the general purpose computer, and the stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race.

The problem is twofold: first, there is no known general-purpose computer that can execute all the programs we can think of except the naughty ones; second, general-purpose computers have replaced every other device in our world. There are no airplanes, only computers that fly. There are no cars, only computers we sit in. There are no hearing aids, only computers we put in our ears. There are no 3D printers, only computers that drive peripherals. There are no radios, only computers with fast ADCs and DACs and phased-array antennas. Consequently anything you do to "secure" anything with a computer in it ends up undermining the capabilities and security of every other corner of modern human society.

Update: Here's a transcript, courtesy of Joshua Wise.

Update: Christian Wöhrl has produced a German translation, too.

The coming war on general computation

12 Responses to “The Coming War on General Purpose Computation”

  1. Harbo says:

    is there a transcript for those of us who are bandwidth poor?

  2. Feldspar says:

    Cory, is it ok to copy your ebooks and give them to friends? It is a hypothetical question. I don't have any of your ebooks and my friends are not interested in them. I just want to know where you draw the line.

  3. smorgasbroed says:

    Sorry, Cory, I can not follow you through as audio is so baaadly out of sync and that's soooooo distracting.

    I just don't want to listen to it only, I like to see the video, too ... no, looking at you while you talk is NOT boring ;-)

  4. Tom says:


    I just watched "The Coming War on General Purpose Computing" and I would like a transcript of the event as you moved to fast through the presentation. In addition, please include the Q & A session as the interaction was valuable.

    Thank you,

  5. Shae Erisson says:

    I enjoyed this video, but I do wish you had suggested some sort of solution.
    You seem to advocate funding the EFF, etc so they can educate law makers and thus we will end up with sane laws.
    If that goes wrong, I can only see making our own hardware, as mentioned by one of the post-talk comments.

    Are there other solutions?

  6. Chris says:

    Thanks ;)
    Torrent available at http://bit.ly/sTTFyt

  7. [...] read a few posts this morning about the wonders of open software and how it can help ‘the [...]

  8. dan says:

    Cory, the embedded video is not showing up; I'm just getting a blank frame. Might just be me? Found it on YouTube and really enjoyed it. You have a particularly strange way of exciting me and scaring the crap out of me at the same time.

  9. [...] Now replace all these speeches with the following 30 minutes #28c3 talk (plus 25 minutes of Q&A) by Cory Doctorow on “The coming war on general purpose computation“. [...]

  10. [...] . . . but there may be a war coming where all control over computing devices is taken from us.Cory Doctorow presented the 28C3 keynote “The Coming War on General Computation.” Here’s the [...]

  11. [...] Cory Doctorow presented a 28C3 keynote “The Coming War on General Computation.” Here’s a outline about this entrance war: The final 20 years of Internet process have been dominated by a copyright war, though a fight turns out usually to have been a skirmish. The entrance century will be dominated by fight opposite a ubiquitous purpose computer, and a stakes are a freedom, happening and remoteness of a whole tellurian race. [...]

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