cyber thriller

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Read: The Edge of Madness

Michael Dobbs’ novel The Edge of Madness is rather on the edge of disappointing.

For a cyber-thriller there is too little cyber, too little [or or even none] ‘wow, this is what technology can do nowadays.’ For a political thriller there is too little politics, scheming, plotting even though there are four different heads of their states involved in the plot. The characters are mostly cardboard cut-outs. Only the reluctant ‘hero’ gets a little more depth, some glimpses of his darker past.

The plot is rather constructed. The solution to the big problem is too convenient. In the end, the evil guys are all dead or get what they deserve. At the end of the episode all is back to normal.

Utterly unremarkable.

Read: Daemon and Freedom

Knowledge is power. Combining data from different sources generates new knowledge. The ability to manipulate these data can yield a ghastly amount of power. Put that power in the “hand” of a decentralised computer program, a daemon that lurks in the remote corners of our networked society, and you can, we all can, be held hostage.

That seems to be the main idea of the cyber-thriller and social critique Daemon by Daniel Suarez and its sequel Freedom(tm). There is a lot of technology jargon that may put many readers off. Unfortunately, what Suarez is writing is not science fiction. What he is describing is current technology put to use to change the world order: Back from globalized specialization, production, and trade to local, self-contained, and sustainable small economic and geographic units; abolishing the hegemony of international conglomerates, annihilating their economic and political power that renders democracy just an illusion of its original ideals. Getting rid of money. Creating a new currency. Establishing an exchange based on needs and desert.

Suarez shows that we may already live in a post-privacy world. There are no secrets. And not only does our data, the data about us, tell more than we would be able to tell about ourselves, its susceptibility to manipulation may lead to all the bad consequences we european privacy nuts fear. Suarez embraces this post-privacy world. He bases his utopian (or is it dystopian?) new world order on perfect (data) openness, accountability (even for private citizen and their private actions), and institutionalized reputation (for each and every social interaction).

Even then, there is the danger of power concentration, and corrupted leadership. Even this new world order, decentralized with bottom-up decision-making and grassroots citizen engagement needs an all-powerful central authority, a judge and executioner. Who controls this entity? Who guarantees that this benevolent force does not become a spirit that we’ve cited, yet our commands ignores?