The war has begun against the general purpose computer

Sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow has warned the the Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin that there is a war coming on general computing as the forces of darkness attempt to get everything device specific.

Doctorow said that the last 20 years of Internet policy have been dominated by the copyright wars but this was just a skirmish.

The rest of the century will be apparently spent trying to kill off the general purpose computer as an enemy of the forces of darkness.

Doctorow said that the stakes in this war are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race.

He told the conference that there was no general purpose computer that can execute all the programs we can think of except the naughty ones and computers have replaced every other device in our world.

“There are no airplanes, only computers that fly. There are no cars, only computers we sit in. There are no hearing aids, only computers we put in our ears. There are no 3D printers, only computers that drive peripherals. There are no radios, only computers with fast ADCs and DACs and phased-array antennas,” he pointed out.

As a result anything you do to “secure” anything with a computer in it ends up undermining the capabilities and security of every other corner of modern human society.

Since general purpose computers can cause harm the number of parties with legitimate grievances against computers are going to continue to multiply, as will the cries to regulate PCs.

At the moment the regulators favour things like code-signing and other “trust” mechanisms to create computers that run programs that users can’t inspect or terminate, that run without peoples’ consent or knowledge, and that run even when users don’t want them to.

Doctorow said it was important to the IT industry and the future of humanity to come up with systems for mitigating the harm of general purpose computing needing spyware.

He said it was the only way to keep ourselves safe, and computers safe from autocratic regulators.