Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 10th, 2011

Conversation with Julian Assange: Conducted by Hans Ulrich Obrist

The professions of my parents were  in theater, and I moved to over 50 cities in Australia of the 70,s and attended 37 schools in rural areas.  You can imagine Tom Sawyer in this modern time:  I rode horses, explored caves, dived and did motorcyclist….

In Adelaide, my mother helped whisk out nuclear documents of the British testing site in Maralinga. At the age of 15 I started decoding systems meant to preventing the dissemination of open programs.

Before the advent of Internet, Australia was kind living in the outback and it was a pleasure to discover the outside world and get inside the Pentagon archives of the 8th Air Force, (the strategic nuclear air force in the USA).

At 17, I had founded an underground magazine and the Federal police rounded us.  I had already set the foundation for Australia Internet using a provider that I created. I used cryptography and mathematics to protect my sources and get inside systems.

You see, there are three kinds of information: Knowledge disseminated by schooling systems, books, and manuscripts that are slowly degrading and in the way out of circulation; information related to the economic industrial functioning of societies such as the “know how” of hydraulic systems …which are protected by lobbies; and the third type of information that are actively censored and prevented from entering the public domain.  “The secret type of information” is a serious handicap for a just, fair, and intelligent interaction among communities.

Until I was 20 of age, I was basically a hacker continuing his university studies in Melbourne.  I edited an underground magazine called “International Subversive”.  In that period, every developed State had its own Internet system and its own network, but they were not interconnected.  For example, you had Arpanet and Well in the US connecting universities, and X.25 connecting telecommunication industries, QSD in France, Altos in Germany…We were a very restricted community of hackers, scientists, and people in power; we were young, active, and motivated and we invested the embryonic internet.

Our phones were bugged and we witnessed six years of legal prosecutions in the US, England and Australia.  We were mostly young geniuses with the faculty of easy adaptation to this newer intellectual horizon, even though many of us did not finish formal higher education.  I was inspired by the book of Alexander Solzhenitsyn “The God of darkness”, Louis Fischer, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender, Richard Wright and the Black Panthers radical traditions.

1994 witnessed the apogee of the micro-movement “Cypherpunk”  (decoding punk).  True hackers disliked the absurd term of cyberpunk.  The “Cypherpunk” community were mostly from California, Europe and Australia and we had understood the nature of the power relation among individuals and States, mainly based on the science of cryptography. We had no founding members or a guiding philosophy, but had starting principles originating from John Young, Eric Hughes, and Timothy C. May…We formed circles of discussion and we had this concept that with talents in mathematics and programming we can empower individuals to confront the power of States, to say No to public power. We could code and decode as efficiently as States could.  WikiLeaks was a combination of various ideas circulated during the discussion groups.  The economic feasibility in internet communication was not exorbitant to start a internet-type enterprise.

There was abundance of information and the critical problem was “which piece of intelligence is worth saving and analyzing even further”?  We discovered that information with “feeble light” (not widely diffused) must have been undergoing economic censorship to take out of the public domain, thus, highly important to State powers and affecting the safety and stability of the regular people.

Once a State or institution endeavor to censor anything, it means the power-to-be feels threatened by the information.  Unless most power relationships are transformed by financial interests, political censorship will be highly dangerous.  Thus, free expression and free gathering are dangerous to political ideological systems.

Note: Hans Ulrich Obrist is an artist from Switzerland and organizes biennial in Vienna and Berlin.  He is the director of international projects at the Serpentine Gallery in London.




August 2011

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