Ben Hammersley’s speech to the IAAC


Source: My speech to the IAAC | Ben Hammersley’s Dangerous Precedent

IAAC stands for Information Assurance Advisory Council and is, to quote Hammersley, the UK’s talking shop for government, law enforcement, security services, and private companies around the issues of cybersecurity and the like.

Hammersley’s speech touches many topics, and is so good overall that it’s difficult to quote from, but I think one of the central points lies in this bit:

Fundamental Truth Number two is that the internet is the dominant platform for life in the 21st century.

We can bitch about it, but Facebook, Twitter, Google and all the rest are, in many ways the very definition of modern life in the democratic west. For many, a functioning internet with freedom of speech, and a good connection to the social networks of our choice is a sign not just of modernity, but of civilisation itself.

This is not because people are “addicted to the video screen”, or have some other patronising psychological diagnosis. But because the internet is where we live. It’s where we do business, where we meet, where we fall in love. It is the central platform for business, culture, and personal relationships. There’s not much else left.

To misunderstand the centrality of these services to today’s society is to make a fundamental error. The internet isn’t a luxury addition to life; for most people, knowingly or not, it is life.

I generally agree with Hammersley, I am more or less of his same generation, and I sometimes do what he does: being (quote) the translation layer, the guy who tells the older guys what’s going on with the younger guys, and explains to the younger guys why the weird decisions the older guys are coming up with are being made — although what I try to explain at times to the younger guys is that not all the values of older guys deserve to be uncritically thrown out of the window, and not all this technological progress we’re living has to be accepted unconditionally. There are important issues and tradeoffs to be understood and sometimes younger people just don’t seem to care, or care enough.

Hammersley’s speech has been quite inspiring and I’ll soon post a longer piece with my own observations.

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