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Kids, science fiction, technology, democracy and surveillance

I sat down in Toronto with Steve Paikin and The Agenda, a great TVOntario programme, and talked about liberty, technology, kids, and surveillance.

Agenda Plus: Cory Doctorow on the Future of the Library

Interview about kids, hacking and democracy with NPR’s Here and Now

I recently recorded an interview with NPR's "Here and Now" about surveillance, kids, activism, and my novel Homeland. (MP3)

Video from my Maker Faire Meetup keynote

Last Sunday I gave the keynote speech at the Maker Meetup after the London mini Maker Faire. Make's write-up of the event includes a video of my speech, which came out well (I think!).

Appearances: Reddit AMA, San Diego Comic-Con, and Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego

This Thursday, I'll be doing a Reddit AMA with a bunch of authors from the current Humble Ebook Bundle, at 1230h Eastern/0930h Pacific/1730h UK. Then I head to San Diego to teach the Clarion Workshop, and I'll be taking part in the instructor's lecture series at the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, speaking on July 16 at 7PM. And then I'll be at ComicCon, speaking on the Ode to Nerds panel in Room 6A on July 18 at 1345h and signing at 17h. All my upcoming gigs are listed here, in case you want to see where I'll be next. I hope to see you!

The NSA’s Prism: why we should care

Here's a read-aloud of my recent Guardian column, "The NSA's Prism: why we should care, which sets out the reasons for caring about the recent revelations of bulk, warrantless, suspicionless, indiscriminate surveillance.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3 link

Explaining metadata collection with Alan Turing, Theresa May and Winston Churchill

My latest Guardian column is a one-act historical drama about metadata, starring Winston Churchill, Alan Turing and UK Home Secretary Theresa May:

May: Mr Turing and his colleagues have laboured hard with every hour that God has sent, but try as they might, they can extract nothing of use from the Enigma cipher.

Churchill: (roaring) Nothing? All these years, all this work, and you have nothing?

May: Well, not precisely nothing, prime minister. The lads have got far enough that they are able to extract "meta-data," but I stress again that this is of no strategic import and would in no way help us to compromise the foe.

Churchill: Meta-data? Tell me more of this meta-data? Is it a Greek word?

(May turns to Turing, who wipes his palms on his trousers)


Metadata – a wartime drama

Teaching computers teaches us how little we understand about ourselves

My latest Locus column is Teaching Computers Shows Us How Little We Understand About Ourselves, an essay about how ideas we think of as simple and well-understood -- names, families, fairness in games -- turn out to be transcendentally complicated when we try to define them in rule-based terms for computers. I'm especially happy with how this came out.

Systems like Netflix and Amazon Kindle try to encode formal definitions of "family" based on assumptions about where you live -- someone is in your immediate family if you share a roof -- how you're genetically related -- someone is immediate family if you have a close blood-tie -- how you're legally related -- someone is in your family if the government recognizes your relationship -- or how many of you there are -- families have no more than X people in them. All of these limitations are materially incorrect in innumerable situations.

What's worse, by encoding errors about the true shape of family in software, companies and their programmers often further victimize the already-victimized -- for example, by not recognizing the familial relationship between people who have been separated by war, or people whose marriage is discriminated against by the state on the basis of religion or sexual orientation, or people whose families have been torn apart by violence.

The ambiguity that is inherent in our human lives continues to rub up against our computerized need for rigid categories in ways small and large. Facebook wants to collapse our relationships between one another according to categories that conform more closely to its corporate strategy than reality -- there's no way to define your relationship with your boss as "Not a friend, but I have to pretend he is."

Teaching Computers Shows Us How Little We Understand About Ourselves

Humble Ebook Bundle II: name your price for Last Unicorn, Wil Wheaton, Lois McMaster Bujold, Little Brother, Boneshaker, and Spin!

It's time for another Humble Ebook Bundle! Once again, I was honored to serve as volunteer curator of the Humble Ebook Bundle, a project from the Humble Indie Bundle people who've made Internet history by bundling together awesome, DRM-free media and letting you name your price for it. We did the first Humble Ebook Bundle last fall (with my novel Pirate Cinema) and made over $1.25 million in two weeks (!). The new Ebook Bundle is even cooler. Here's the lineup:

* The Last Unicorn (deluxe edition), by Peter Beagle

* Just a Geek, by Wil Wheaton

* Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

* Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest

* Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson

* Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold

As with all the bundles, there is a secret stash of releases in the wings for week two; if your payment is higher than the average at the time you make it, you get them for free (and they are sweet!). Otherwise, you can always get them by topping up your payment. And as always, there's charities involved -- you can earmark some or all of your payment for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Child's Play, and the Science Fiction Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund.
Excerpt …

Games, at some length

Edge Magazine's Jason Killingsworth interviewed me at some length about my history with videogames, from Apple ][+ to Atari to arcades, with notes on Zynga, DRM, piracy and the Humble Bundles.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom illo


(Click to embiggen)

Illustrator Brian J. Smith did me the tremendous honor of creating this fabulous, detailed illustration inspired by my novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which turned ten this year. He hid all kinds of great little gracenotes in it, too -- tons of characters from the book and from the Disney parks.


Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Brian J. Smith

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