A Super Mario Generation


Are we living in a Super Mario moment? Soldiers, contractors and hackers release data and breach codes of conduct out of a “sense of duty.” Discarding “codes of honor” for the cause of information freedom, they discard one set of abstractions for another. “Information wants to be free!” they say. But at what point does this swapping of abstraction read less an act of patriotism and more an act of misguided motivation.

The story of the lone actor casting himself against an insurmountable force is a common plot line of many hacker/leaker stories. One figure with access to secret information feels a need to reveal the secret detail. Doing so violates his/her code of honor but such violations are seen as justified for the benefit of the public. The lone actor sacrifices himself for the better good: throwing it all away for our benefit of knowing.

In these quests of individualism we see a lone actor working against a far stronger enemy. The hero works to liberate a perceived purity being held by perceived tyranny. This game of abstraction reads well in certain lights. The minor hero works despite the odds and is our classic underdog. And yet, what source for this narrative can be trace to this generation? Is this a generation of Super Mario brothers whose quest against the American government mimes Mario beating Bowser?

Who is the Princess here? Are we so distorted that abstract concepts like freedom of information, the right to keep private data or other perceived ethical rights recently developed by technology at play? Has this generation fallen so far into post-modern malaise that the great causes are less about protecting the innocent and more the rights to hide your photos or keep your secret chats a secret?

Of course there is a great importance to the privacy of data. Users must be made aware of how their information is used and be provided with ways to opt-out or function without the data being collected. Knowledge is power and if once enabled he/she chooses to provide this data for the benefit of free software so be it. Perhaps the market for more secret data via paid software can develop from this world.

What remains different though is this data deemed secret. If provided with access to secret information it remains a duty to protect it. Do you object? Do you feel its collection is a violation of the law? So be it, but the worst action is to release it. A fool is one who senses a hole in the dam and decides it best to blow it all away. A bad system needs fixing, not destruction. A real hero works to resolve a conflict. See a hole? Fix it! Do you sense a violation of privacy laws? Then leave with honor and work to gain real access to the avenues of change. Become a leader and be a fix.

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