35C3: We need to tell a better story than cyberpunk

Posted on Thu 03 January 2019 in misc • 2 min read

At 35th Chaos Communication Congress I had an opportunity to give a lightning talk titled "We need to tell a better story than cyberpunk". You can find a recording of it below, and the slides are available here.

EDIT: OpenTranscripts volunteered their work and wrote down the transcript of my talk. Thank you!

My goal was to show hackers that by repeating the dystopian cyberpunk tropes in their own narratives they're hurting their own agenda. The general public, seeing them as senseless rebels, doesn't even stop to consider valid points they raise, like the net neutrality, tech accountability or the value of privacy.

I believe we can change that by painting new world based on hacker values - but this time inclusive for the regular people, bakers and schoolteachers. Such world wouldn't require everyone to learn how to code or secure a server, but we could all benefit from the cultural technologies of transparent knowledge sharing, open dialog about technology and distributed, horizontal power structures.

A newly-born narrative which offers all those is Solarpunk with a very concise manifesto. I believe that hackers as a community can start telling their varied stories - and even showing their conflicts and how they resolve them - within such a framework. The rich and very real experience of hackerspaces and anarchist communities coupled with a new, consistent visual style could help replace the cyberpunk in the collective imagination.

You can expect me to write a larger blogpost on that soon :)

The Congress - as usually - was full of interesting talks and workshops. While the latter weren't filmed, you can find a choice of really great lectures at CCC Media site. Some of my picks are:

  • Feminist Perspectives - a discussion among female hackerspace founders / researchers. Why don't women like coming to male-dominated basements? Are one-gender hackerspaces a solution? Can they be a step?
  • Are machines feminine? - Why are Siri and Alexa female? Do the sex and gender of a disembodied voice matter?
  • How medicine discovered sex - Why are women considered "atypical patients" in lots of research papers? Can the new doctors be taught that heart attack symptoms are different in men and women?
  • The Precariat: A Disruptive Class for Disruptive Times by Guy Standing, explaining why we shouldn't be happy for being "young professionals", how the lack of job stability weakens democracy and how can Universal Basic Income help fix it.
  • The Critical Making Movement by my fellow Global Innovation Gathering members explains how we can use our engineering and research skills for something more than creating yet another startup.
  • How Facebook tracks you on Android - even if you don't have a Facebook account. European Union's ruling against shadow profiles might not be enough to stop them.
  • wallet.fail - are your cryptocurrency hardware wallets safe?
  • What the fax? - how to take control of a computer by sending a fax to a nearby printer machine.

There are of course many, many more, and I invite you to look around!