Little Brother

The flu returned for another two days. So I had time to read something, and I did Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother (a hard copy via Amazon).

Quick review: I liked the overall scenery a lot, but I’m biased. San Francisco and all the relevant organizations from local newspaper publishers to EFF and the Swedish Pirate Party are familiar enough to me to be able to get in to the mood of his characters. I also liked the basic idea of figuring out what Patriot Act combined with a crazy government could mean in the extreme.

What I did not like was how unrealistic the story was, after all. One-dimensional security guys patrolling in the streets of SF and picking everyone from their homes who connect to some encrypted Xbox network. Teenagers running the whole show. Give me a break. It was all too present-day stuff, like a year or two from now. Also, while I’m definitely not an expert in writing good prose I’ve read much better flowing stuff than this. For some reason this book felt like not completely polished, a bit like a long blog post (occasional edit typos, sudden story-stopping wikipedia-level briefings on tech terms). I can pretty much side with those who have noted Doctorow is just reusing his blogs and personal preaching.

It’s always good to read topical books like this. However, maybe because of all these issues in the “implementation”, the main point of the book, that we should watch the watchers, did not sink in that effectively. Actually I’d say Doctorow’s first novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was more enjoyable to read and will probably be his best novel ever. And in my opinion, his best work with a message is Content. It’s not a novel but a collection of columns and opt-eds.

Next book in the works

I blogged already elsewhere on my new book on software law. Ok, actually it is a second revised edition, but to me it’s another new book.

The next one is already in the works. It will be about piracy. I will start roughly from home computers in the 1980s and the end in the PirateBay’s first instance judgment from Sweden and Finreactor-saga’s Supreme Court judgments from Finland. The book is not just about illegal copying but I will cover also cracking to some extent. I have no idea what the end result will look like. It may be legal, or more political. It will be in Finnish, and depending on the outcome I will continue with another — definitely more political — version in English.


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By the way, the best book about the background of the recent piracy-related happenings in Sweden is Piraterna by Anders Rydell and Sam Sundberg. It’s main bias is a 100% Swedish-centric view of the earth — much like most American books on social and political issues. That said the book gave me an interesting “insider’s perspective” on how things have been going on there. I got the impression that most of the stuff they are famous for — Piratbyrån, The Pirate Bay, and Piratpartiet — share the common denominator they started as a sort of political response. Not from someone’s desperate need to share culture or experiment with new technology in the first place.

Also reading the book’s thesis that piracy will be Sweden’s major export for the information age gave me a backslash of how mobility was supposed to be Finland’s export… or hell, maybe it really came like that! Maybe we continue to get our content from a Swede-lead PirateBay ten years from now like we go with Nokia-phones today as we did in 1999?

Demonstration

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Spent the afternoon in a demonstration against Lex Nokia or snooping law. Our mighty statement got to the front page of Helsingin Sanomat as pictured above. Pretty good for another bystander. It’s Herkko on the left, Vili in the middle, and me on the right.


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About the actual question: it seems to me that we have a trend towards increasing corporate privacy in the name of “business secrets” or “confidential information”. This law proposal essentially says that corporate privacy beats individual privacy. There is a sort of legal problem since corporate privacy is not a constitutional right while individual privacy is… Or used to be. We have also been witnessing the erosion of individual privacy in the face of all kind of unwanted behavior (to some corporate interests). Think file sharing as one recent example.

China 3/5 – Politics

Had a week off from these China posts because of another trip to France and Italy… but now it’s back to business, or politics, that is.

Politics in China. Can I even blog about this subject? Do they blovk my entry to the country the next time? I don’t belive so. It turned out that politics is actually quite a separate metaphysical state of affairs in China today.

Politics is largely separated from the economy to start with. You can run business as usual and the state is quite ok with that. The state still owns all the land, and even has a kind of residual right to buildings. But that’s nothing sensational, as today businesses lease everything in the west as well.

Politics is also separated from the academia. There is no sign of the sulture revolution anywhere around. For example academic cooperation between Chinese and Taiwanese – or Chinese Taipe if you like – universities seemed flexible and intense. This is all in par with the political idea of “Greater China.”

I know there are issues of free speech and a number of “chinese scandals” because the state is obsessed with controlling the flow of information. The good side of the control regime is absolute efficiency in issues like building a modern Beijing in just five years.

Finnish parliament and the big picture

In the latest Kanava, Matti Wiberg delivers an observation I can fully agree with:

Kids are taught in the school that the parliament decides on the big picture and the bureaucracy focuses on details. In fact, it may be the other way around: civil servants decide on principles, and the parliament mainly deals with irrelevant side-issues.

He motivates that conclusion by finding out that 40% of the parliament’s lawmaking activities are about changing one random paragraph in a given statute. If you work with such crap, you just don’t have time to focus on the relevant issues.