O'Reilly Network    
 Published on O'Reilly Network (http://www.oreillynet.com/)
 See this if you're having trouble printing code examples


A Contrarian View of Open Source

by Bruce Sterling
08/06/2002

Editor's Note: At the recent O'Reilly Open Source Convention, writer Bruce Sterling held court in a conference room far too small to hold all of the people who wanted to hear him. Below is the text of this talk, which was presented on July 26, 2002.

Bruce Sterling: Thanks for showing up to see the obligatory novelist at this gig.

It's very touching of you to take the trouble to watch me get some emotional issues off my chest.

You know, I don't write code. I don't think I'm ever going to write any code. It just amazes me how often people who know absolutely nothing about code want to tell software people their business. "Why don't they just," that's the standard phraseology. "Why don't they just" code up something-or-other. Whenever I hear that, frankly, I just want to slap the living shit out of those people.

That's like people whose fingers are covered with diamonds complaining about the easy lives of diamond miners.

You're, like, seven miles down in this diamond mine, and these cats are laboring, laboring with these pickaxes and blasting caps and giant grinding machines. And it's like: "Why don't you people just put in a tomato garden down here? Don't you like fresh air in this diamond mine? How about some zinnias and daisies? You over there, with the carpal tunnel wristbands -- you sure look pale, fella! Don't you like the sunshine?"

They don't like to confront the sweat, and the labor, the human suffering ... Even people who are in the industry don't like to talk about what a massive drag it is, to sit there, grinding code, at 3 a.m., as your eyes, and your wrists, and your spine, all slowly give out. Everybody has to come up with these farfetched, elegant, literary metaphors to describe this process.

Stuff like The Cathedral & the Bazaar. Now, I get it about being the bazaar. I'm a science fiction writer, I got no problem at all with bizarre stuff. But commercial software? Microsoft? As a cathedral?

Have you ever seen a cathedral? Cathedrals are medieval religious centers where people do penance and take vows of poverty. They worship relics of the holy dead in there. Microsoft is a commercial software company. It's the commercial software company. It's got to be about the least cathedral-like structure known to humankind.

When you go into a cathedral, you don't read shrink-wrap licenses. There are no developers' documents in there. You've gotta read stuff like the Bible in a cathedral.

And it's an interesting book, the Bible. Not one word about software in it. It's got all these obscure parables and weird war stories and such.

Like the story of Jesus Christ chasing the moneylenders out of the temple. I know this is kinda hard for contemporary people to get their heads around, but Jesus Christ used to beat people up with a whip for being capitalists. He chased the moneylenders out of the sacred precincts. They were extremely alarmed by this. They were screaming stuff, like "Hey wow! The Prince of Peace is beating the living crap out of us!" He didn't even claim that they were crooked moneylenders in the temple, it's not like they were Enron or anything. It's just -- the very idea that there should be any commercial activity whatsoever in a cathedral -- this was enough to make the world's best-known prophet and pacifist philosopher completely blow his top.

This interesting divine perspective is kinda overlooked in Eric Raymond's metaphorical treatments, I'm noticing.

When you look at the way Open Source plays out in our society, you get a rather traditional industrial dynamic, very early-20th-century.

It's this classic artisans-versus-factory model. It's not about a bazaar. Because bazaars are pre-industrial, they're swarming with crooked rug merchants, and pickpockets, and lepers straight out of the Arabian Nights. Open Source isn't about being some kind of canny rug merchant with an eye out to make some fast dough. Open Source, basically, is about hanging out with the cool guys.

It's very tribal, and it's very fraternal. It's all about Eric, and Linus, and RMS, and Tim and Bruce and Tom and Larry. These are guru charisma guys. They're like artists, like guys running an art movement. Guys who dress up with halos and wear wizard hats. That form of organization is not a bazaar. It's not a cathedral. But it nevertheless has some distinct advantages. Because if you're in a cathedral, then you have to wear this holy uniform all the time. If you're in a bazaar, you have to stake out this patch of ground and keep it, and defend it, or just get overwhelmed by other guys greedier than you.

The coolest thing about doing this artsy noncommercial creative work is that you get to stop. You get to throw up your hands and quit, if you want. It's like a charity. The widows and orphans are telling you "Thank you for not letting us starve, kind sir!" They're all grateful to you, they're touching the hem of your garment. You get to feel pretty good about what you're doing, and if you're tired, you just stop. It's like: "Okay, I'm tired! I've got compassion burnout now. No more free software. Lady, you and your damn kids can starve."

Nobody can do anything about that sudden refusal on your part. "Well, he gave us a really cool algorithm ... What more can we possibly ask?" If you abandon your rug in the bazaar, people just steal it immediately. They steal everything in a hot second. But if you abandon your open source code, the code just sort of sits there. Other people pitch in, and it gets bigger and fatter. There are big festering piles of code, huge piles of code. This has been playing out for seventeen, eighteen years now.

A classic struggle in other ways. You've got the Stallman free-as-in-freedom model ... This guy sees code as some kind of handmade luxury vehicle. Maybe it's a tank. And you've got Gates, who is the commercial industrialist robber baron. The Ford Model T ... any color you like as long as darkness is the standard.

If you're prettier then Gates underprices you, and if you're cheaper then he uses Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. This guy ... William Gates? He's my age. He's a gentleman of my generation. We're a few months apart in age. I've never met him. I hate to pick on him. Really. He's obviously a very smart man. And he's a nicer guy, as a human being, than a lot of his competitors. But I have to pick on Bill, instead of Bill's competitors. Because Bill physically killed and ate all his competitors.

The older Bill gets, the uglier he gets. He's a guy riding a white horse, that turned into a runaway bronco bull, that turned into a scaly crocodile, and now, it is turning into some kind of diseased revenant. It's like the Steed of the Nazgul, those black, flying zombie horses that explode when exposed to fresh water. That's what Microsoft is like now. These guys, these Nazgul ... They used to be kings. They were originally human beings, they had wives and children and futures, they had their own little nations to govern and manage. But then there was the One Ring -- One Ring to Rule Them All. One. And they couldn't resist. And they gave in.

It's not even about "Fear Uncertainty and Doubt" any more. The flavor of it has changed. If you look at it, it's all about Fear Uncertainty and Hate. "Where do you want to go today -- to give us some money, OR ELSE?"

And the answer -- the popular American answer, really a kind of consumer uprising here -- is: "I wanna go steal some MP3s!" That's the answer. "I wanna go pirate some Hollywood movies and keep 'em for myself, please!" And the reaction is: "Gee, our customers are criminals! They must be spied upon, lest they hurt us, and one another!"

The result is 95 percent market domination by Microsoft. But that's not a market economy. That's not even capitalism. That is a state-capitalist, state-sanctioned monopoly that Mussolini would have smiled on. Mussolini used to give the people of Italy free radios. But they would only tune in to the fascist station. This was supposed to be the only kind of radio that people in Italy understood. This was the entirety of Italian radio as a medium. Mussolini's radio had just one big dial on the front that said "Radio Zone."

The devices we're looking at now have that vibe to me. The contemporary PC, this is like hostility and paranoia made into a plastic consumer device. By Intel, and Dell. And Bill -- I don't sense that he's happy about this. The man seems troubled. He has a guilty conscience. He's vaccinating kids in Africa who don't have telephones, while kids in the USA who have Pentium 4s are spewing his viruses.

What the hell kind of industrial policy is that? Teddy Roosevelt would jump down off Mount Rushmore and kick our ass from hell to breakfast for tolerating such a situation. It's the Palladium Security State. It's an operating system that hates and fears you.

Microsoft Windows is slowly but surely becoming an armed terrorspace. It's like an airport. You go into an airport nowadays, it's really kind of amazing that the people who run them still expect you to spend money in there. They still pretend to you that you are this pampered jet-set consumer, instead of a captive under armed guard, which is what you are.

People in airports do horribly oppressive things to you. They go through your shoes, they empty your pockets. They confiscate various small but valuable items. "Where Do You Want to Go Today?" That's what they say in the airport, but there's this skeleton grin behind that question. There are men in camo with automatic weapons. There are surveillance cameras all over the place. You can't bring in your wife, your girlfriend or your grandmother without a ticket. You can't sob as you kiss your mother goodbye for the last time at the airport, because it's all on security tape. Then you wander into this rigid, bloated terrorspace, where, during every move and every action you undertake, it's presumed that you have swallowed dynamite and will cheerfully kill anyone you see.

And yes, that's also the contemporary computer system. The computer industry is really screwed up now. There are razor-thin returns on investment, because you are no longer allowed to invent anything or genuinely surprise anybody. And if you do, that will be immediately swept up into Microsoft's operating system, or even Apple's dinky little operating system. The computer industry is losing tons of money now.

All that boasting about the largest legal creation of wealth in history ... It's the largest semi-legal destruction of wealth in history. It blows my mind that these VC guys, who spent 20 years blathering about Ayn Rand capitalism, don't just admit that they live and work in a stagnant monopoly. What a bunch of limp-wristed sissies these captains of industry turned out to be, all these swaggering mercenaries so eager to punch out the bureaucrats in the free market. They're a race of slaves! They're like deer in the market's headlights, they creep around like mice.

It reminds me a lot of Metropolis. That old silent movie, with the robot that turns into a pretty girl? In that film, Metropolis, they've got this sweet-tempered liberal girl, who's trying to educate the workers' children. But she gets kidnapped by the corrupt oppressors from the top of the government. Then in comes this deranged operating system that moves like a woman ... The difference between the denizens of Metropolis and the movers and shakers in the computer industry is that the degraded proletarians are willing to rebel, while the Americans just moan and writhe in their sleep as their stock options go underwater.

It amazes me that the grocery boys in Silicon Valley don't just kick them unconscious and take their sports cars.

The stark moral choices that underlie all this ... they just keep getting starker. There's nothing newly created. Even free software guys, who like to spend a lot of time talking about grand community-building schemes, spend most of their working time aping commercial products. That's what they do. "We've built something that can interoperate with Microsoft!" That's like sticking banderillas in a bull, when the world really needs at this point is something like ... a piping-hot catfish dinner.

Open Source Convention Organizer: I'm sorry, sir -- we have to move your room.

Bruce Sterling: You have to move my room?

Organizer: Yeah. Sorry.

Bruce Sterling: Can't you just throw out half the audience?

Audience: (laughs ominously)

Organizer 2 (soothingly): It's just right next door, though.

Bruce Sterling: It's "just right next door?"

Organizer 2: Just right next door.

Bruce Sterling (to audience): Are you guys gonna rebel at this?

Guy in Audience: Open up the walls!

Organizer 2 (hastily): No, they can't open up the walls. They're gonna move that one in here. That room next door is bigger. More people will be able to sit down. It'll be more comfortable for everybody.

Bruce Sterling: Maybe I should just wind this up.

Audience: NOOOOO!!

Bruce Sterling: You're really going to get up? Like the waters of the Red Sea? Okay, let's see you do it. I'm the last man out of the room.

(tape break)

Bruce Sterling: I know lunch is coming, we've got to eat ... But I'm still venting my ever-growing fury!

There's a noticeable lack of basic creativity in the free software world, that is alarming and not very flattering. People in free software still have a basically piratical state of mind. They want goods without working for them. They still have a cracker state of mind. "How can I look through that closed bedroom window?"

"GNU's Not Unix." Okay, you're "not Unix" -- but what are you really? Why do you have to live in that shadow? The shadow of this other enterprise. There's something basically juvenile about that. Something that is unworthy, creatively feeble, childish.

But it's not as bad as the scene in commercial software. There's no reason to buy Microsoft .NET stuff that spies on you and installs digital rights management gizmos against your will. Why buy into that? Do you want to get sucker-punched? Do you want to make Jack Valenti the king of your box and Mickey Mouse his commissar?

Plus there's those virus horrors. And why people are willing to do this to the people they love and trust best in the world is beyond my understanding. If you had some kind of sexually transmitted virus, and you woke up in the morning dripping pus, I would hope that you would understand that there was some kind of moral need for immediate action. Even if it was kind of inconvenient and humiliating and personally degrading.

But if you're running Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, it somehow seems kind of okay to spew Klez-H, Sircam, Klez-E, Magistr-B, Hydris-B, Magistr-A, BadTrans- B, Vavidad.E1, Yaha-A, and MyLife-J.

And you're not just infecting your girlfriend, boys. You can hit your mom, your grandmother, your maiden aunt, your ten-year-old daughter! "Gee, why didn't you teach your ten year-old not to click on the attachments?" Because she's ten years old, you moron!

I had a long argument about this with Cory Doctorow. He and I were really going at this hammer-and-tongs, over the growing spam and virus crisis. And I thought that there needed to be some kind of political and legal solution. Like building a galvanized steel cage in Cuba and throwing all the spammers and virus writers in there as unlawful combatants who are clear and present deadly enemies of humanity.

Audience: YAAAY!!! (Applause)

Whereas Cory is a techie, and he wants a techie solution. So he's a fan of stuff like Vipul's Razor, and he doesn't mind if the traffic on the Internet is 96 percent fraud, malware, and evil garbage, as long as none of it gets on his feet.

So, I let Cory convince me and I installed Mozilla on my Mac. And its bug-track completely wrecked System 9. So I stopped fighting with Cory Doctorow. Not because he was winning the argument, but because his fucking Open Source solution cost me three days of desperate effort to restore my files! So I took the further trouble to install System X, and I backed up everything of course, but I still don't get it about System X quite frankly, and neither does System X. It never knows what it's running. There are chunks of Microsoft code in there like giant lumps of black putty just lying to you about what they are doing on the Internet. It's like trying to wade through drilling mud running this thing. It steers itself by committee.

And Microsoft Internet Explorer and AOL, they desperately hide the realities of the Internet from you, so that they can profit from your growing and ever-more-permanent confusion.

As opposed to the sparkling lucidities of the free software developers! Free software, basically congealed by people who have some vague idea what they are doing, and are loathe to spend any time writing down specs, when they could be writing new features.

Another Guy in Audience: Preach it, brother!

"Don't like it? Hey, just reconfigure it yourself, don't bother me!" It's the Hippie Squat Model of software architecture. "If I want to paint the doors and floors bright blue and put the toilet right into the kitchen, why not?"

It's very offensive to user sensibilities and it is as ugly as a sack full of penguin guts. But, you know, that is a vital systemic advantage. Because that catches the eye of the committed crusader. It actually brings people in who will stay and work hard for no money.

It's like life in a refugee camp. If you want Doctors Without Borders to show up, you don't want to have yourself any kind of really nice refugee camp. With some flowers, and a safe place for old ladies to knit. You want that inferno of starvation and disease that looks really good on CNN. Because if you actually organized a refugee camp, then you'd have stuff like taxes and gas and electricity and police protection, as opposed to what one gets in squatters' camps, which is incessant internal quarrels. Because there's never just one gang trying to run the anarchy. You get bitter quarrels, between Free Software and Open Source, between the Stallman hero-model and alternative business.

And, that's an interesting discussion. But, nevertheless, it's an industrial model, which is in practically every sense much less attractive than the one of the early 1980s, when there was a genuinely functional computer industry with some actual competition in it and room for real innovation.

But at least Open Source is clearly better than the Microsoft stranglehold. Man, US Steel, General Motors, and Standard Oil at their worst and cruelest were better than that.

What's the real price you pay for free software? The real price you pay is having to bow the knee to the weird organizational model and the freaky, geeky social values that prop that up. If you're the user, you have to hang out with Linux freaks.

Yet Another Guy in Audience: And buy us beer!

That is the price. You pay a price in attention and respect, and hours and hours and hours of selfless devotion. You keep feebly hoping that something will actually work right out of the box, and maybe even look nice. But then you get stuff like Gnome, KDE and Eazel ... They just don't like to do the boring stuff for the stupid people! That's just not in the job description! It's not even a job. That's the secret.

You know, information doesn't get to be free. But that's got very little to do with the bits, or the atoms, or the bandwidth, or the speed of the copying, or any of these things that techies lick their chops over. Information stays expensive because of the social processes in which information is embedded.

Let me see if I can make this clear to you with a whole series of nice little literary metaphors. We need to personalize this problem, as a series of human stories about human relationships.

First of all, let's just forget about stuff like cyberspace and the speed of light and the weightless bits. Given that there is a ferocious triple dominance of Microsoft on operating systems, Intel in chips, and Dell in hardware, the computer industry is finally getting boring. Almost as boring as my own business, the book business. It's still pretending to innovate, but its glamour routine has gotten all ritualized. The machines are slow, the programs are bloated, the changes are cosmetic, just like the heyday of Detroit's Big Three carmakers, so many years ago.

The computer business wants to be really hot and sexy. It's like eavesdropping on a rich kid's affair with a supermodel. He's the user, he's the customer. He's eager, he's gullible. But she'd better be taut, hot, and totally glittering, or he'll pitch her right off the edge of the loading dock.

She's the vendor. She's this lean, mean, beanpole- tall jet-setter who's always heaving iron in her gym or preening before the cameras, screaming hysterically for next season's fashions. And as long as both of them don't know what's coming next -- as long as they can't outguess that, as long as they just plain don't know -- then they'll be as glamorous as all get-out. Just as long as their bubble of mutual infatuation has yet to burst.

Because in the information economy, everything important that happens is about the relationship. The information economy is about who promises what to whom. Behind the scenes, it's all about commitment.

The point is to make it harder to break up with me, the vendor, than it is to put up with my continual exploitation. There are basically six ways to do this. They get used in the information business all the time.

Number One. A contract. We'll put it on paper. We'll make it a legal, binding relationship. We somehow agreed that we really need each other in order to go on living. We stood in front of witnesses and we agreed to stick it out no matter what. That's normal, it's honest, it works. Unless it doesn't work, in which case it gets really nasty and leaves permanent scars.

Number Two. Brand-Specific Training. I'm really complicated and hard to figure out, but I give you something you just can't seem to get elsewhere. We spent endless days and nights talking over all my painful personal quirks and kinks, and getting all wrapped up in me and my needs. Now that you finally understand me, it just seems exhausting to throw me over and try to date somebody new.

Number Three. Search Costs. There's probably somebody else who would suit you as well as I do, but you're never going to find them -- not in a sorry little town like this, anyway.

Number Four. Information Formats. Nobody else can even speak our language around here. We've got a private argot of voodoo keyboard rituals. It's like a private lovers' baby-talk. If you try to ditch me and pick up somebody else talking that way, she'll look at you as if you came from Mars.

Number Five. Durable Purchases. You bought a huge mainframe and special scanners and printers, and a car and a fridge and a house. You can't just walk away from all that. Boy, can I ever make that cost you.

Number Six. Loyalty programs. I seem to like you better every time we go out together. I come up with all kinds of sweet little favors based on how well we're getting to know each other. Your Mom and Dad will love me. So will your friends and family. Look how thoughtful and generous I am with the people who can commit. Let's all get real, real cozy.

There are some other interesting aspects of this informational romance. They may not seem real technical -- you may not find them built into the hardware -- but these gambits all get people to pay big, expensive wads of money for information that wants to be free.

A. Branding and Reputation. Listen, baby: you can trust me. I've got breeding: my famous family of products has been around for generations. I'm just not that kind of guy! Why would I risk all that just to take advantage of you in this one little situation? Stick with the gold standard -- me and mine -- and save yourself a lot of heartbreak.

B. Standards-Setting. Everybody depends on me. I shoulder the grave responsibility of being reliable and predictable. I am the authoritative source through which all good things flow. The government smiles on me. So do international committees. If it doesn't work with my stuff, it just plain doesn't work.

C. Expectations Management. Also known as "Fear Uncertainty and Doubt." I know you're thinking of buying from that other vendor. But his stuff is hazardous and will injure you. Besides, I'm making one of those myself, just next quarter. Mine will be much better than his, and more people will use it, so you'll just have to buy it from me anyway, and plus, everybody will laugh at you. You'll lose your job. Look at the way I stepped on my competitors. I could step on you, too.

D. Creeping Featuritis. I'll add more and more "attractive" features to keep my jaded user intrigued. You like eye shadow? Lip gloss? Tattoos? Piercings? How about some latex and black rubber? Would a clown wig help?

E. Sell the Organization, Not the Information. Let's be very clear about this. I'm not selling you ones and zeros. You are hiring me as your grand vizier, because I have a deep cybernetic insight that is denied to lesser beings. I'm an indispensable part of your management team. Just give me your wallet, I'll look after all that.

F. Dubbed Local Versions. It's too hard to get a date in the English-language market, because they're all so cynical and sophisticated! But I'll be wonderfully glamorous if I take everything I learned and translate it into Hindi, Chinese and Malay.

Quite a spread, isn't it? You wouldn't think relationships could be so full of pitfalls!

And then -- there's the Open Source Model.

That Linux Girl. That little slip of a hippie girl.

She's barely noticed at first. She lives in a little trailer shack, and her address at MIT is 666 Infinite Corridor. She's got this mad geek stare in her eyes. She's got open arms, and a threadbare tank top, and unbuttoned jeans. Free Love, that's what it's all about for our Linux Girl. Free like freedom, free like beer, free like, whatever.

She's playing old, sentimental, Linda Ronstadt albums ... "You and I travel to the beat of a different drum" ... Love, Peace, and Linux ...

"I love geeky guys," says the Linux Girl. "All geeky guys, I love ALL geeky guys. And I'm not ready to settle down. EVER!! I don't do that AT ALL!! Washing your socks, ironing your shirts, HA HA HA, let me offer a light little hippie-girl laugh here! Just cruise on by the trailer, handsome! I'll take my clothes off. No, it's better than that. I'll take my RIBS off! You can see RIGHT THROUGH ME! I've got nothing whatever to hide! I am open all the way through!"

The A&R guys from the industry are dropping by ... "We may have a star here boys, I'm liking this Janis Joplin thing ... But wait a minute, Janis here doesn't do anything but free concerts! And I guess her code looks pretty tight and shapely, but her body is completely transparent! You can't get anybody to pay to see a woman sing when her body is clearer than glass! It kinda defeats the whole purpose, really! It's like some kind of totally academic thing she's got going on here! She's like the Visible Woman! There's something creepy and medical about her ..."

Free Love as a policy is sort of okay. I mean, people will kinda overlook it when you're young... Because they expect you to die, of VD or AIDS or something! But the Linux Girl just laughs at viruses. "HA HA HA! Only debutantes from Redmond get viruses!"

And then she starts having children. Any guy's children. She'll have your child, as long as you're not particular about giving it your name. She's got a whole brood of kids, like Sendmail, and Postfix, and Apache, and Perl. And some of 'em die young, and some are mentally retarded. But the hippie earth mother is just hitting her stride here. She's a one-woman demographic boom! She's having litters of kids, kids by the dozens.

Cops are coming around, and stuff ... "Is this your trailer park, ma'am?"

"Not really, officer!"

"Could we see some ID, please?"

"I never bother much with any official papers!"

"Are you from around here, ma'am? You don't look very American."

"Actually, I'm Finnish, officer! Look at this old birth certificate!"

"We'd better run her in for questioning ... Whoa! I can't even get a grip on her! It's like pitchforking mercury! It's like she's made outta mirror sites!"

And the guys from Redmond come by and roll down the smoked glass in the back of the limo... "She's DISGUSTING! She's a cancer on our community!"

Now the very earth is starting to crack where this woman walks... She's as big around as a bus! She's got children in places other business models can't go, places they've never even heard of! She's got children like... Red Flag Linux.

This Chinese kid, in a little Mao suit. "Thank you for the free software, Mother! We will destroy the running dogs of Wall Street now!"

"No problem, Red Flag, they're doin' it to themselves! He's such a polite and disciplined little boy, my Red Flag Linux!"

And then there's the Simputer. He speaks Telugu and Hindi and Urdu, and he costs only two hundred bucks!

"I love you Mom! I am the future, Mom! Demographics and birth rates are on my side, Mom! My new President is an atomic rocket scientist Mom! Someday you will die, Mom, and I take you to the Tower of Silence for a Parsi funeral where the vultures will eat your flesh, and then the future of computing will be mine as far as the human eye can see!"

"HA HA HA, oh my Simputer boy, he's so imaginative!"

In conclusion: these are some pretty hard times.

In times of adversity, you learn who your friends are. You guys need a lot of friends. You need friends in all walks of life. Pretty soon, you are going to graduate from the status of techie geeks to official dissidents. This is your fate. People are wasting time on dissident relics like Noam Chomsky. Professor Chomsky is a pretty good dissident: he's persistent, he means what he says, and he's certainly very courageous, but this is the 21st century, and Stallman is a bigger deal. Lawrence Lessig is a bigger deal.

Y'know, Lawrence, he likes to talk as if all is lost. He thinks we ought to rise up against Disney like the Serbians attacking Milosevic. He expects the population to take to the streets. Fuck the streets. Take to the routers. Take to the warchalk.

Lawrence needs to talk to real dissidents more. He needs to talk to some East European people. When a crackdown comes, that isn't the end of the story. That's the start of a dissident's story. And this isn't about fat-cat crooks in our Congress who are on the take from the Mouse. This is about global civil society. It's Globalution.

I like to think I'm one of your friends. That's easy enough to say. But one of the true delights of the world of free software is that it's about deeds, not words. It's about words that become deeds when they're in the box.

And boy, what kind of deeds are we seeing this season! Cybersecurity, the terrorspace, information warfare, pirate panic ... and Mickey Mouse as an armed enforcer with a Congressional license to stalk and whack P2P networks, mafia-style? As Worldcom has lost more money that the gross national product of Hungary? You're gonna see who your friends are before this is over. You have a lot more friends than you think.

Thanks!

Bruce Sterling is an author, journalist, editor, and critic. He has written eight science fiction novels, three short-story collections, and two non-fiction books, including The Hacker Crackdown: Law And Disorder On The Electronic Frontier.


Return to the O'Reilly Network.

Copyright © 2009 O'Reilly Media, Inc.