You may have heard of the group that was trying to make a functioning firearm with a 3D printer. They did finally succeed. I doubt it’s especially effective as a weapon, but what it represents is, for good or ill, a pretty fucking big deal.
In my fuckoff long post about Bitcoins I referenced a concept that many of its adherents support, which is ‘crypto-anarchy’. This is the idea that by the use of encryption and therefore the free flow of information, the effectiveness and long-term sustainability of any government is lessened, with the ideal end point being that governments can’t exist. With Bitcoins the supporting argument is that a government can’t tax an encrypted digital currency. The reason the gun was created was to move to a more, er, physical means of protest.
You see, the idea here wasn’t “wouldn’t it be cool if you could print a gun.” It’s “if plans to print a gun were online everywhere, the government couldn’t impose realistic restrictions on them, therefore more freedom.” It’s a sort of protest, or perhaps a line in the sand. Charles Schumer, who even as a liberal I find disgusting, is of course bloviating about this one endlessly as he does with all things and calling it “stomach-turning.” Well it should be, Chuckie, because you can’t get your little political fingers on it.
There’s a great deal of concern amongst pro-gun-control groups and to be honest I sympathize with their concerns, but I also know there’s no way to stop this. It’s a genie that can’t be re-bottled. As I said, for good or ill. Apparently there’s already been a call for bans on 3d printers, but good luck with that. And although I’m sure censorship will be suggested shortly, that’s the other side of the crypto-anarchy coin… you can’t censor what you can’t find, which you can’t find because it’s encrypted. That’s the whole idea.
There’s another example of this that also came up in the Bitcoin post, which is the Silk Road. This is a hidden website that’s difficult to get to and even harder to find physically because it’s location on the internet is encrypted. The servers can’t be seized nor their datacenter raided because nobody knows where it is. And it’s been cheerfully selling drugs the whole time, in spite of a hell of a lot of politicians banging on about it (it’s worth noting that one user thereof was tracked down and arrested… authorities said it was traced by their seemingly untraceable bitcoin transactions, and they’re not as secure as some would believe… but then, if they can manage that, why is the site still live?).
This sort of thing, though, is where the real frontier of digital rights is. That is to say, it’s bleeding over into the real world in a far more visceral way.
And on that note, I’d recommend folks read the great comic series Transmetropolitan. It’s not exactly crypto-anarchy, but is indeed meant to represent a world where the free flow of information is… very different. It’s also interesting, and funny.