“Disruptions: A Digital Underworld Cloaked in Anonymity” and Cultural Logic of Computation
The blog posting, “Disruptions: A Digital Underworld Cloaked in Anonymity” in the New York Times “Bits” blog made me think of Golumbia’s book. The blog posting is an article from November 17 of this year, covering an important arrest concerning the Silk Road, a black market on the internet. The article explains that the Silk Road is a place where people can anonymously purchase illegal substances and commit other crimes such as contract killings. Even though the Silk Road was shut down, another site, bearing the same name, was created shortly afterwards.
The author writes, “Like the rest of the Internet, the Dark Web is being shaped and reshaped by technological innovation.” The author explains the impact of TOR, software designed to enable people to be anonymous online. He also mentions bitcoin, which, according to the author, is virtual money, and can be used easily by persons making illegal purchases online.
“[T]he growth of the Dark Web is starting to attract attention in Washington” the author writes. Officials are worried because each time they take down sites like the Silk Road, another takes its place. The director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Arizona, Hsinchun Chen, was interviewed from the article and said, “This underground has grown so widespread in recent years that entire international virtual communities and black markets have been spawned across the Internet to help facilitate trade between cyber criminals scattered in different parts of the world.”
This article reminded me of Golumbia’s book, as it shows how individuals and groups of people are changing technology. Golumbia writes, “it seems to me we can leave it to technocrats and capitalists to insist that we as the citizenry have no right or power to determine how technologies change, adapt, and function in society. No doubt there are a whole range of technical questions that can be left to specialists. The ubiquity of computer technology is not one of them” (26).
This article shows that people do have the power to determine how technologies change, adapt, and function in society. The people who create and organize sites like the Silk Road are finding ways to keep the sites online and format them so that others can use them easily, despite resistance. This article is, of course, a dark example of how people can change technology, but it does show that people can and are doing so.
On a side note, the person arrested, who is suspected to be the mastermind of the Silk Road, was arrested in a public library.