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Conspiracy Theories and Computers Are Natural Bedfellows

Hackers Can Open Any Locked PC Door - mengwong
From ‘The World Is Being Invaded By Computers’ to “The Greatest Invention of the 20th Century’, views are polarized about everything to do with technology.

By the end of 2010, in tandem with computer technology evolution, advances in the information-age and increasing disenfranchisement many individuals felt, WikiLeaks arose. Global, new media and non-profit making, it released millions of documents acquired from anonymous and leaked sources.

Is All Information Valid in the ‘Information Age’?

This publishing of secret, confidential, controversial and embarrassing files from inter and intra-governmental communications, horrified administrations and their agencies and possibly compromised security, but fed the appetite for disclosure that the internet and social networking birthed.

The founder of the platform, Julian Assange, was wanted in a number of nations on a variety of charges, as people and officials responded in different ways to ‘leaking’. A group of internet-activists/hackers, known as ‘Anonymous’, in December 2010 claimed to have crashed MasterCard and other websites by distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

This was in revenge for the firm suspending facilities to WikiLeaks. Nothing can be totally secure in computing environments. As celebrities, politicians and criminals find, the internet harbours few secrets. A loose-knit group of knowledgeable activists, even a solitary hacker, can access anything, anywhere, any time to achieve what he or she wants.

Computers Don’t Accept Innocent Mistakes

Rubbish in, rubbish out (UK); garbage in, garbage out (USA). Either way, it means if people input inaccurate, nonsensical stuff into a computer, inaccurate, nonsensical stuff comes out. Conspiracists also have it that deliberate inaccuracies can destabilize whole financial systems, steal assets or blackmail individuals.

Tim Ross, Social Affairs Editor of UK’s Daily Telegraph (Dec 2010) pointed out that having a name misspelt by call centre staff is annoying enough, but it could have serious consequences ‘in which people are denied access to their own funds’. Research at King’s College, London blamed outsourcing on overseas staff unfamiliar with names, and ‘poorly educated bank clerks in Britain for errors in data entry’. Verification of identities, addresses, dates of birth, previous employment details can become impossible in dealing with accounts, savings, job interviews or credit-worthiness checks. Carelessness can cost money.

Ross reported the study’s finding of three main sources of error: call centre staff keying in names phonetically either accidentally or deliberately; misreading paper files; and operators ‘typing too fast who key in the right letters in the wrong order’. Not so much conspiracy, then, as messing up.

Violence and Computers

One troubleshooting site on the web is PC Hell: ‘that place you visit when your personal computer is driving you insane with problems, glitches. To soothe the frustration, we’ll provide tips, hints and troubleshooting remedies to help you out of PC Hell. Be warned, however, sometimes there is no exit….’ They offer solutions to viruses, blocks, wrong application errors, non-installations and ‘how to delete undeletable files’. They all rely on users having computer literacy, jargon control and understanding what their problem is.

People are routinely driven to frustration, anger, even violence, over computer problems that seem impervious to human solution. That there could be a series of conspiracies to make people not only computer-addicted but dependent on the remedy-providers, is feasible, according to some and needs to be combatted in different ways.

Violence has a broader dimension. An undated paper by Alfred Bork (University of California) and Netiva Caftori (Northeastern Illinois University), suggested that the computer ‘as a highly interactive learning device, might contribute to the solution of some of the major ethical problems of our society’.

With a lack of outlets for people to vent their frustration, violence is endemic in the world, they said. They proposed an interactive learning module more than transmitting information, that encouraged children to create own behaviour patterns and solutions.

Childhood templates of violence are established, they argued, from parents or religions. New technologies of ‘film, television fiction & news, and computer games have complicated the situation, with widespread use of violence ’. They claimed that computerized programs in young peoples’ native languages utilizing computers as questioning/answering tutors were the panacea.

Theory of Conspiracy Theories

Mike Bedford wrote on PC Plus (Jan 2010) that ever since shiny silver debris was reported in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, government conspiracies have abounded. This one was that aliens were hidden by the US government, but it laid the foundations for future conspiracies including:

  • Who killed Kennedy?
  • Did Americans actually land on the moon?
  • Who was really behind 9/11?

And then, right up to the 21st century:

  • How many world wide webs are there?
  • Do most security, law agencies and militaries actually have their own untappable web networks?

Bedford suggested: ‘conspiracy theory is disarmingly simple: all you need is an occurrence, the suggestion of a dark cabal, a wilful disregard for evidence and a creative mind’. He said that once released, the tale ‘takes on a life of its own and begins galloping around the globe’. As it moves, ‘self-appointed experts pick it over’, so ‘layers of detailed information are added to what may originally have been an overheard whisper, a lie or a simple misinterpretation’.

Leaving aside politics and aliens, Bedford cited top computer related conspiracies, including: specially written software discovered hidden messages in the Bible, published in The Bible Code by Michael Drosnin; the USA’s Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a smokescreen to keep people looking for non existence lifeforms; and the government covers up the dangers of Wi-Fi.

He also dealt with the notion that government eavesdrops on emails, listens to phone conversations, is copied in to all texts and internet searches. Many argue that with high global terrorism alerts, that is less conspiracy than common sense, though no two people can agree. That it’s Google rather than government that does the surveillance for targetted advertising is a variation; the theory that the CIA can break any code is unprovable.

Internet-borne viruses and cyber-attacks being products of foreign and hostile governments (China, former USSR nations) may carry credibility, according to Bedford. However, digital set-top boxes containing hidden cameras explaining why governments are forcing digital switchovers and Microsoft’s Wingding font being a coded attempt to incite racial violence, are theories, proving for Bedford, that ‘lunatics are taking over the internet’.

This is confirmed for him by the theory that the microprocessor was ‘the result of reverse engineering technology from an alien spacecraft’, that came to earth at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947! That’s the wonder of the internet, that one thing feeds another. which is just what a conspiracy is.

First published on Suite 101, 9th December 2010.

Photo: Hackers Can Open Any Locked PC Door – mengwong

 

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