Deep Thoughts, Privacy and Protection

War Online: Virtual Battle of the Future

Antony Adolf is a peace activist and a scholar of things war-and-peace related, and aside from being a teacher, public speaker, and scholar, also finds time to blog for, the site dedicated to empowering social movements around the globe.

His latest entry, “Companies Trump Countries in First Virtual World War,” has some interesting thoughts on what a virtual world war will look like. Looking at the recent Google vs. China showdown, Adolf comes to the conclusion that companies, and not countries, “will play the leading roles, with countries relegated to the supportive roles they once held, in the first virtual war.”

And what will this virtual world war look like? It’s a battle over privacy; it’s a war wrought by the ubiquity and many-tentacled reach of social networks.

As Adolf writes, “The Big Brother metaphor in George Orwell’s 1984 now applies less to an invasive force outside of us as individuals and groups, than a hitherto untapped impulse within us which social media has unleashed.”

It seems individuals will be the enemies of themselves, what with our willingness to divulge almost anything in an online setting. Sure, in virtual worlds we can hide behind avatars, and this could be one of the key selling factors of VWs moving forward with their continued push into the mainstream. But the other new world, that of social networks, Tweets, and online library borrowing? Treacherous:

“The new era touted as openness and connectivity is also an auto-invasion of privacy epidemic that makes the world vulnerable to a virtual war the likes of which have not even been imagined by most of us.”

At the bottom of his post, Adolf attempts to describe what real ‘virtual warfare’ would look like: “No deaths, for one; less destruction of property, another.” Is he suggesting that the auto-invasion of privacy epidemic will lead to an uprising on the Web? It seems so. He sees search engines pitted against each other, or this, even more visual possibility:

Imagine armies of open source fundamentalists executing an e-coup against monopoly software makers that supply enemy corporations or governments. Their banners may be company logos rather than country flags. Considering the auto-invasion of privacy epidemic, we may all be considered part of information suicide attacks, digital kamikazes.

Adolf’s post presents a new, activist looking at the zeroes and ones on which we all rely – to consider 0s and 1s not an abstract language or as a static code, but something comparable to the energy sources of the past, and present: “(They) can be likened to the wind power that drove empires around the globe, and the nuclear power that put the threat of total annihilation at the push of a button. And we are providing that fuel so willingly that we cannot imagine a world without it.” Adolf concludes by saying “our online lives are cannon fodder.”

In addition to this though-provoking analysis of an information future at war with itself, is the remarkable visual accompanying the piece, credited to fdecomite on Flickr, worth sharing here:



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