I’ve been playing with computers since well before they were fashionable. I was building my own hardware and writing code in the late 70’s when it was just the domain of very nerdy people, and was considered in the same way as train spotting or playing dungeons and dragons board games (things I personally never had any interest it btw).
In those early days, I was involved in the world of bulletin boards, a loose network of home computers, which connected users intermittently via home-phone connected modems. People dialing into a local bulleting board could leave and receive emails that would be forwarded around the network allowing a message to pass pretty much anywhere in the world within hours. And like-minded people could share and grow their ideas on message boards, sharing their program code and thoughts.
Even in those early-connected days it was amazing how quickly you could learn about any topic of interest, just by asking people, who could ask others. The power of sharing thoughts quickly dominated our lives, and for those of us connected “on-line” every other form of learning quickly paled into insignificance.
People outside of our network had no idea what we were doing, had no comprehension of the pure pleasure a group of disparate people who had never met each other got from learning amazing new things together. It didn’t matter what anyone looked like or how much physical wealth you had, what mattered was your whit, your intelligence and your creativity.
In those early days some people loved the challenge of breaking into other electronic systems, telephone network and other computers. While others took pleasure in building new things, more complex email and message board systems, databases and creative applications that could do things visualize three dimensional objects or create a speaking voice out of a sound system designed to create nothing more than a beep.
It was obvious even in those early days that some of these creative people would be able to use their skills in support of their political ideals. While I do not agree with widespread disruption as a means of political protest, it is an obvious strategy, and as the world continues to rely more and more on information technology it will become an increasingly powerful weapon.
Today there is an amazingly complex hidden world that anyone interested in learning about subversive methods of hacking or social manipulation can use to learn how to break security systems or steal identities. The world has (frankly) changed forever, and society will have to live with the fact that personal information stored electronically will allow others to impersonate our virtual selves.
The concept of a loosely associated group of smart people helping each other is a very powerful force that will influence the world we live-in in-perpetuity.
The concept of the group anonymous is the natural extension of the world I saw evolving in the late 1970’s. I don’t agree with all the things I have seen this group do over the last couple of years, but I think that is the point. This group isn’t a fixed structure, but a mesh of smart people who can pinpoint the skills they need to achieve any specific goal. I’ve been quite amazed at how morale-bound their strategic activities have been so far.
I suspect there are many other less overt groups out there that form and meld to achieve many other less morale goals.
This is the world that we now live in, and just like any other area of society, the technology and the skills that are developed have good and bad applications.
Over the next twenty to forty years I suspect many of the people who are active in the world of anonymous today will become the leaders of society, in very much the same way that activists in the 60’s have become many of todays world leaders. It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens…..