Let me posit two easy-to-imagine, impossible-to-ignore cultural innovations which have not yet happened. If they did, they would show up as catastrophic cultural tipping points after which everything changes.
I’m not sure the changes which would follow would be good or bad. By virtue of being unthinkable, these changes are hard to model or wargame out. Without further ado…
Mumsnet and GCHQ gang up against (online?) paedophiles
- Mumsnet thinks that terrorism isn’t the worse threat facing society: paedophiles (like these Tory scum!) are.
- Snowden & co keep outing these amazing GCHQ/NSA capabilities to read everybody’s email, and there’s all these stunning new data retention powers.
- Surely, surely the answer to paedophile rings is to set GCHQ’s awesome might upon them… and so beings a public campaign to turn the full power of the secret state on organized paedophile rings. Who are, after all, a much more severe threat to the average UK child than any imaginable terrorism… Suddenly one of the most powerful factions in our society (mums!) can protect their kids online – by making sure GCHQ is empowered to keep the internet safe for the little ‘uns. Solved!
Likelihood: 8/10 (GHCQ has to find a new reason to justify it’s powers soon!)
Impact: ???/10 (do they actually go after the paedophiles, or is it token gestures only?)
Surprise: 9/10 (Mumsnet… as protofascists!)
The National Rifle Association goes Cypherpunk, freaks out about the NSA
- Registering firearms is one of the NRA’s most feared scenarios – they hate, fear and cannot abide firearms registration, because it enables firearms confiscation at some future point (at least in their minds.)
- Any sufficiently advanced government snooping program, particularly one that includes multi-source feed synthesis (all credit cards, email, phone calls) enables trivial construction of a gun registration database. It might not be perfect, but it’s likely to be pretty damn good. Good enough for government work.
- So what if the NRA started helping to actively protect NRA members from government surveillance by, for example, giving a NRA-customized TAILS install to every NRA member on annual renewal, and/or operating a secure email service, TOR browser, virtual private network server and similar.
- More generally, eventually the militia movement has to come to the conclusion that the NSA is pointed at them too, and their freaking out about Big Brother goes from being rather abstract and filled with CAPITAL LETTERS FOR YOUR LAST NAME stuff to being well grounded not in conspiracy theory, but conspiracy practice: the NSA is watching you my fellow Americans.
- Commence militia members going cypherpunk, joining the EFF, and completing that left-right unification we’ve all been waiting for. A united front from left and right against government spying on law-abiding Americans, led by the NRA which is, after all, 10x the size of the ACLU, never mind the EFF!
Likelihood: 7/10 (do gun nuts really understand cryptographic options?)
Impact: 9/10 (suddenly we realize we’ve got so much in common, except Jesus!)
So there’s my future scenario: Mumsnet & GCHQ vs. the NRA & EFF in a fight for the Soul of the Internet, and more.
Whadda ya think? Comments welcome below