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Monday, December 4, 2017 — 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM EST

Cory Doctorow

Dead canary in the coalmine: We just lost the web in the war on general purpose computing

picture of Cory DoctorowThis is the decade in which the unstoppable temptation to solve your problems by breaking everyone else's computers really starts to chomp on our collective butts. The World Wide Web Consortium just gave in to Netflix's demand to break every browser in the world to make it incrementally harder to pirate TV shows, while this year at a summit in Ottawa, the Australians demanded that all the world's crypto be sabotaged to make it incrementally easier to conduct mass surveillance.

The general purpose nature of computers, capable of running any program that anyone can conceive of, is an iron law of nature, not a fetish of mulish nerds who refuse to acknowledge the importance of catching bad guys or watching TV in the proscribed manner.

The technical nature of this problem, the complexity of its contours, and the awful fallout from ill-conceived "solutions" make for a toxic brew. Any time you have a  problem that is boring, complicated and important, you have big trouble (this is the origin of the climate change crisis!).

Computer scientists and technical people have a solemn, urgent duty to drag their less-informed peers into this debate, before it's too late.

After all, a car is computer you put your body into, and so is a campus building, a skyscraper, and a Bombardier CS300. A pacemaker is a computer you put in your body, and so is a cochlear implant and an implanted defibrillator. A phone is a computer before whose cameras you parade naked, while speaking your most sensitive secrets and living out your most private moments.

If we don't get computers right, everything else will go terribly, horribly wrong.

Cory will be signing copies of his books after the talk. Books will be available for purchase on site from Words Worth Books.

Cost 
Free, but you must order tickets to attend
Location 
ML - Modern Languages
Theatre of the Arts (ML 135)
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1
Canada

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