A long time ago (BK – Before Kids) I was lucky enough to meet David Brin at Ad Astra, the Toronto Science Fiction convention. It’s easy to meet people who have opinions. It isn’t often that you meet someone smart enough to explain to you exactly why the opinion is right. David Brin is one of the few I’ve met who are that smart.
A long time ago in Internet Time (2006) David wrong an article for Salon called Why Johnny Can’t Code. It’s a great article, and I recommend everyone read it, and share it.
Got reminded about the article when Michael (our oldest – he’s 28 now) and I were out yesterday picking up plumbing parts – the downstairs bath tub faucet was leaking hot water.
While he was driving (I wasn’t in shape to drive yesterday – heck, I barely managed to get into the car) we were talking about games. Michael is good at games. Really good. And he reminded me of one of the reasons why.
Apparently (I’d forgotten) a long time ago I’d taught Michael how to use a hex editor to view (and change) save game files. We’d done a lot of fooling around with the old Gold Box AD&D game Pool of Radiance, making things like a ‘Shield of Fireballs +5’…
Why does this all hang together?
Because it is getting harder for kids to learn how to code as David Brin pointed out, and it is getting harder for kids to learn how to use a hex editor too. I’m serious. The big growth area for games is phones and tablets. Have you ever seen a hex editor for IOS or Android? How about for any of the Playstation or XBox game consoles?
So we are moving further into a culture where people use things that they don’t understand, can’t play with to understand, and where it is often illegal to play with stuff in that matter (read up on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – it makes it illegal to modify ‘copyrighted works’ without the consent of the ‘owner’ and yes, this does include save game files).
Like a lot of people, I’ve been following the NSA Spying Scandal closely. In fact, I’ve been following it for several years, since before I first ran into Barrett Brown. Seriously. The leaks about go back a long way, and most writers appear to have missed the implications.
The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop too.
There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum.
What to do?
The whole NSA spying on emails thing came out of left field to most people. I knew a fair bit about it before it hit the news – I’d been corresponding with a variety of people who were nibbling around the issue from various directions. The problem was that they were all working on different angles, and everything seemed to lead into one direction, which seemed like pure paranoia.