A (very) possible techno utopia: how Berlin could thrive in a post Snowden world

Written by Matteo Cassese

Bruce Sterling on stage at As Darkness Falls. Photo credit: As Darkness Falls

Bruce Sterling on stage at As Darkness Falls. Photo credit: As Darkness Falls

In a conference discussing mass surveillance titled “As Darkness Falls” Bruce Sterling brought, with his usual style, a positive message and a strong wake up call. Germany could stand at the center of an enlightenment very far from the darkness proposed by the conference title.

20 years ago Sterling published a book titled  “The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier” where he describes the fight of hackers and cyber police. He would have never imagined that the hacker vs. police genre would one day see a hero like Snowden. But Snowden happened, and we exist in the world after his revelations.

Who said that the NSA won? The NSA is a failure, it has lost all its wars on the ground for the past years and now it’s even damaging Silicon Valley in unprecedented ways.  This giant of “security” isn’t making anyone more secure. Their failure has to be seen as an opportunity. What is Germany doing with the opportunity in leading the world in the areas of data security, free software and cryptography? Why doesn’t Merkel grant asylum to all whistleblowers of the world?

I have tried to capture Bruce’s words in this sketch. Below some considerations of mine.

Click on the image for a larger version

Click on the image for a larger version

Berlin, already host to some tremendous journalists and activists (here is how the Washington Post takes notice of that), with it’s natural left/green leaning counterculture friendly populace, with it’s historical hacker scene (Choas Computer Club), with it’s growing tech scene, could organically become the center of the entrepreneurial, freedom spreading & profit making alternative to the NSA driven, VC powered stacks of the Silicon Valley. A true techno utopia that has the great chance to really happen.

Policymakers, investors and entrepreneurs should take Bruce’s advice seriously:

Germany, you have a tremendous opportunity, now what are you going to do?

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