I’m used to reactionaries; I grew up in Texas. I’m just not used to reactionaries coming in from the left. I suppose it’s a sign that the left is maturing, in much the same way that Bitcoin is maturing, which is to say becoming part of an established system that finds side effects existentially threatening. And if you can con someone into holding still for fear of what waves they might make if they were to move, whether it’s through guilt or fear or what-have-you, you no longer have to worry about their side effects. It’s the liberal version of “fuck you, got mine.”
Now, I got my first taste of this right around 25c3, when there was some press coverage of the biohacking work I’d been doing with lactobacillus. If you ever want to see a Democrat supporting gun rights, telling him one of his neighbours is doing synthetic biology in their kitchen seems to work — I have never gotten more death threats than I did when the Huffington Post picked up that article. And we can talk until we’re blue in the face about why that is, but I think what’s most interesting is that when presented with a sufficiently large example, people will blithely throw away what up until then they’d considered some of their most cherished beliefs, like guns being evil or murder being wrong, at least for the sake of argument. Obviously no one’s come up and shot me yet, so apparently no one’s completely pitched those beliefs out the window, and I’ll take that as a good thing. I’m in favour of not being shot. But I’m also in favour of change I can see, not merely change I can believe in. If that means poking the status quo with a stick to see what it does, I’m more inclined to do that than not. And if it responds, I’m just as inclined to do it again, like that XKCD comic with the electric shock button. Maybe I find out a little more about how it works. Maybe I find out a way it breaks. Either way, I’ve learned more about it than I knew before. And, crucially, I never would have found out if I hadn’t picked up that stick.
Meredith Patterson, eloquently describing the importance of angering the status quo in a must-read piece called “Nearly everything that matters is a side effect” on why the people who you think of—and who think of themselves—as “the good guys” are actually terrible.
- Imagine picking up a pen and paper, putting the tip of the pen on the paper, and then getting an error message from the paper that says “You’re not allowed to write this.”
- the only ethical place to take your zero-day [hacking exploit] is to someone who will use it in the interests of social justice.