Cory Doctorow: Demon-Haunted World

From the September 2017 issue of Locus Magazine

Cheating is a given.

Inspectors certify that gas-station pumps are pumping unadulter­ated fuel and accurately reporting the count, and they put tamper-evident seals on the pumps that will alert them to attempts by station owners to fiddle the pumps in their favor. Same for voting machines, cash registers, and the scales at your grocery store.

The basic theory of cheating is to ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Be the First One to Not Do Something that No One Else Has Ever Not Thought of Doing Before

From the July 2017 issue of Locus Magazine

The legendary musician, producer, and weirdo Brian Eno has many notable accomplishments and high among them is the production of the ‘‘Oblique Strategies’’ deck, a deck of cards emblazoned with gnomic and hard-to-parse advice that is meant to shake your creative rut: ‘‘Fill every beat with something,’’ or ‘‘Infinitesimal gradations’’ or ‘‘Do nothing for as long as possible.’’

My favorite of these ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Weaponized Narrative

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’’ To this day, especially in times of ‘‘disaster,’’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

–Mr Rogers

In ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: The Jubilee: Fill Your Boots

From the March 2017 issue of Locus Magazine

In 1972, a group of researchers funded by the Volkswagen Foundation published a seismic book called Limits to Growth, which used the most sophisticated techniques of the day to model the planet Earth and project its future. The book’s authors were trying to figure out how rosy a future the world’s poor could count on: would they some day enjoy the ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: It’s Time to Short Surveillance and Go Long on Freedom

From the January 2017 issue of Locus Magazine

 

Let’s say for the sake of argument that you voted for Donald Trump and you’re ecstatic that he’s taking the White House. You might even be rubbing your hands in glee at the thought that Obama was dumb enough to operationalize George W. Bush’s surveillance apparatus – rather than living up to his election promise to dismantle it – because now ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Sole and Despotic Dominion

 

From the November 2016 issue of Locus Magazine

 

William Blackstone is a towering legal authority, whose 18th century Commentaries on the Laws of England are still studied today. Blackstone was big on private property as a cure for humanity’s woes. In Commentaries, he wrote one of the most famous definitions of private property in English-language history:

 

There is nothing which so generally strikes the imagination, and ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: The Privacy Wars Are About to Get a Whole Lot Worse

From the September 2016 issue of Locus Magazine

 

It used to be that server logs were just boring utility files whose most dramatic moments came when someone forgot to write a script to wipe out the old ones and so they were left to accumulate until they filled the computer’s hard-drive and crashed the server.

Then, a series of weird accidents turned server logs into the signature motif of ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Peak Indifference

From the July 2016 issue of Locus Magazine

 

Ever since the first days of public access to the Internet, activ­ists like me have been making dire warnings about the privacy implications of leaving data-trails behind you when you engage in everyday activity. We hoped that people would think forward to the potential risks of disclosures down the road – that the individually harmless crumbs of personal in­formation could be ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Peace In Our Time

From the May 2016 issue of Locus Magazine

 

E-books are game-changers, but not in the way we all thought they would be. Far from taking over print, e-book sales have stagnated at less than a quarter of print sales and show every sign of staying there or declining for the foreseeable future.

But e-books continue to be a source of bitter controversy that divides publishers from two of their ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Wealth Inequality Is Even Worsein Reputation Economies

From the March 2016 issue of Locus Magazine

 

I need to confess something: ‘‘Whuffie’’ would make a terrible cur­rency.

In 2003, I published my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, in which all society’s scarcities, even death and energy, have been overcome, and where conflicts over resources – notably, who gets to run Walt Dis­ney World and what they get to do there – are ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Wicked Problems: Resilience Through Sensing

From the January 2016 issue of Locus Magazine

 

A problem is said to be ‘‘wicked’’ when the various parties engaged with it can’t even agree what the problem is, let alone the solution. As the name implies, wicked problems are hard to deal with.

More than a decade ago, the Federal Communica­tions Commission got its first inkling of a wicked problem on its horizon.

Here’s the problem: around the ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: The Internet Will Always Suck

From the November 2015 issue of Locus Magazine

 

Technologist Anil Dash has a law. ‘‘Three things never work: Voice chat, printers, and projectors.’’ It’s funny because it’s true. We’ve all struggled with getting a printer to work; we’ve all watched a presenter and an AV tech sweat over a projector in a room full of awkwardly shifting audience-members; we’ve all noted the perverse tendency of voice-over-IP calls to turn ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: What If People Were Sensors, Not Things to be Sensed?

From the September 2015 issue of Locus Magazine

The Internet of Things is starting to emerge. You can tell it’s just starting, because we’re still using the ungainly name ‘‘Internet of Things.’’ It’s one of those coinages that tells you that we don’t know what a thing is or what it’s for, like ‘‘horseless carriage’’ or ‘‘3D printer.’’

But there’s one thing we do know about the IoT: it involves ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Skynet Ascendant

From the July 2015 issue of Locus Magazine

As I’ve written here before, science fiction is terrible at predicting the future, but it’s great at predicting the present. SF writers imagine all the futures they can, and these futures are processed by a huge, dynamic system consisting of editors, booksellers, and readers. The futures that attain popular and commercial success tell us what fears and aspirations for technology and society ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Shorter

From the May 2015 issue of Locus Magazine

When I started writing, I thought I was talented. I was six, and I’d written something precocious that attracted praise from the grownups around me, and that praise included a descriptive dimension: I hadn’t just written something that was good – I was a good writer.

Talent is a destructive myth. To call someone talented is to imply that their abilities are ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Stability and Surveillance

From the March 2015 issue of Locus Magazine

In Thomas Piketty’s ground-breaking 2014 economics blockbuster Capital in the 21st Century, the economist carefully documents the increasing wealth disparity around the globe, a phenomenon that has animated the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, Pope Francis, and political activists around the world. Some of Piketty’s critics have tried to call his math into question, but on this front Piketty seems most ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: A New Deal for Copyright

From the January 2015 issue of Locus Magazine

Last November, I published a book-length essay about how copyright is failing to serve artists, and how it has come to present a clear and present danger to wider society. The book is called Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, and it is composed of three snappy arguments (along with forewords by Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman) which I will summarize ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Stories Are a Fuggly Hack

From the November 2014 issue of Locus Magazine

As I’ve mentioned before, stories are weird. I mean, really, really weird. Nothing that happens in a piece of fiction has any consequence in the real world. Romeo and Juliet did not live, did not die, and the ‘‘tragedy’’ they represent is objec­tively less important than the tragedy of the live yogurt culture I digested at the breakfast table this morning.

My ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow:Audible, Comixology, Amazon, and Doctorow’s First Law

From the September 2014 issue of Locus Magazine

It’s been half a decade since I coined ‘‘Doctorow’s first law of electronic publishing’’: ‘‘Any time someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you, and won’t give you the key, you can be sure that the lock isn’t there for your benefit.’’

I’m talking, of course, about ‘‘digital rights management,’’ one of those immortal, terrible ideas that resurfaces under a ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Security in Numbers

From the July 2014 issue of Locus Magazine

Edward Snowden wasn’t the first person to leak information about US mass surveillance. The mass surveillance story has been unfolding since an AT&T technician called Mark Klein blew the whistle on the NSA in 2006, but the Snowden story is the first one that’s caught and held the public’s interest for more than a brief moment. I wish I knew why that ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: How to Talk to Your Children About Mass Surveillance

From the May 2014 issue of Locus Magazine

There’s a popular forum on the Reddit online service called ‘‘Explain Like I’m Five,’’ in which redditors pose difficult and esoteric questions whose settled answers are beyond their comprehension, and ask their fellows to simplify these answers to the point where a five year old could follow them.

Parenting is a long-running game of ‘‘Explain Like I’m Five’’ (actually, it starts with ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Cold Equations and Moral Hazard


From the March 2014 issue of Locus Magazine

Legendary science fiction editor Gardner Dozois once said that the job of a science fiction writer was to notice the car and the movie theater and anticipate the drive-in – and then go on to predict the sexual revolution. I love that quote, because it highlights the key role of SF in examining the social consequences of technology – and because it ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Cheap Writing Tricks

From the January 2014 issue of Locus Magazine

Plots are funny things. In the real world, stuff is always happening, but it’s not a plot. People live. People die. People are made glorious or miserable. Things eagerly awaited are realized, or hopes are cruelly dashed. Love is gained; love is lost. But all these things are not a plot – they lack the fundamental tidiness and orderliness that makes a ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Collective Action

 

From the September 2013 issue of Locus Magazine

Project Paperless LLC, a strange company whose ownership is shrouded in mystery, wants $1,000 for every person in your company who scans documents and e-mails them. They claim that they have a valid patent covering this ‘‘invention,’’ and while $1,000 per employee is a lot of cabbage, it’s nothing compared to what it would cost you to prove to a court ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Libraries and E-books

 

From the September 2013 issue of Locus Magazine

At the start of the summer, I traveled to Chicago for the annual national conference of the American Library Association. It was great. There are many utterly baseless clichés about librarians – the shushing spinster who prefers the company of books to humans is a creation of pure and unimaginative fantasy. But there is one way in which librarians live up ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Teaching Computers Shows Us How Little We Understand About Ourselves

 

From the July 2013 issue of Locus Magazine

A quote variously attributed to Richard Feynman and Albert Einstein has it that ‘‘If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t really understand it.’’ Most of us have encountered this in our lives: you think you really know something and understand it, and then you try to teach it and realize that you never understood it in ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Improving Book Publicity in the 21st Century

 

From the May 2013 issue of Locus Magazine

I’m not complaining when I say that YA book-tours are a death march. I relish the chance to go on the road, and I’m profoundly grateful to my publisher, Tor, for sending me out with my books – in February, I hit 23 cities in 25 days with my novel Homeland, and in most cities, I did multiple school presentations ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Ten Years On

 

From the March 2013 issue of Locus Magazine

On February 5, 2013, Tor Teen published Homeland, the sequel to my first YA novel, Little Brother. As I write this in January ’13, I’m just gearing up for the tour, which mostly involves sending semi-form e-mails to nice people who’ve asked me to do something time-consuming, explaining that I’ve only got two weeks left until I disappear into ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Where Characters Come From

 

From the January 2013 issue of Locus Magazine

Fiction is weird. The people in fiction are, well, fictional. Made up. They have no lives, and nothing they do, and nothing that happens to them has any consequences in the real world. By definition: made up people don’t affect reality.

And yet, our bodies don’t seem to know this. Yesterday, I actually made a loud, horrified noise as I read ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: The Internet of the Dead

 

From the November 2012 issue of Locus Magazine

As I write this in September, 2012, Charlie Stross and I just returned from a tour with our novel Rapture of the Nerds, a book about – among other things – technological immortality as achieved through brain uploading. Digital mortality was very much on my mind as we crossed the country. I had begun my trip with a few days ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Why Science Fiction Movies Drive Me Nuts

 

From the September 2012 issue of Locus Magazine

My friends (and especially my wife) all understand that I’m the wrong guy to take to a big budget science fiction movie. I will freely admit that this is the case. Every summer, as I sit down in one darkened cave after another to eat candy and watch some very expensive polygons interact with another bunch of very expensive polygons, I ...Read More

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