Archive for the AIDS Category

Ethics, hacking, and AIDS oh my!

Posted in AIDS, Foucault, Galloway, KL, Tech, Why/how on April 7, 2008 by untimelymediations

While I found the entirety of Galloway’s Protocol pleasurable, I found my interest most peaked in one of the final chapters on hacking and viruses.  Even more specifically, when Galloway discusses the ethics of hacking and relates the upsurge of computer viruses to the AIDS epidemic, I was intrigued because I had never read anything like that (sure, my knowledge of hacking is a bit slim and that could account for the oversight).  For this week’s post, then, I want to discuss how ethics, control, and biopower are interrelated.

After reading Jill’s post, I, too, am impressed that Galloway spends significant time laying out the why/how intricacies of the internet as we know it today.  Impressively, he wrote for an audience like myself (some techy knowledge under my belt), and also those with extreme fluency in the matter.  Before Protocol, I didn’t know there was a “hackers code of ethics.”  Following a lengthy discussion of code of ethics, Galloway mentions that, “hackers don’t care about rules, feelings, or opinions. They care about what is true and what is possible.  And in the logical world of computers, if it is possible then it is real.  Can you break into a computer, not should you” (168).  While hacking could be seen as a point of non-resistance, from a Foucauldian standpoint, I’d have to agree with Galloway that we’re simply seeing a different/another form of control.  However, what is most interesting about hacking and control is that the hackers seem to relinquish their bodily control to the machine.  Even though they write the code that wreaks havoc, it is the transference of power from the individual (hacker) to the machine (i.e. damaging code replicating itself in other computers) in which we clearly see the moment of control being illustrated.  Further, rather than trying to push through the control of the protocol, “hackers are created by protocol […] hackers are protocological actors par excellence” (158).  Hacking cannot and would not exist without protocol.

AIDS/Computer Viruses:

“Computer viruses appeared in a moment in history where the integrity and security of bodies, both human and technological, was considered extremely important.  Social anxieties surrounding both AIDS and the war on drugs testify to this” (179).

This quote suggests that bodies and computers are certainly interconnected through disease, subject to the same type of collapse.  (Again, I had never seen these connections before, so I might sound n00b-ish.)  During the AIDS epidemic and confusion, no one had [much] knowledge on its origins, treatment, or prevention, and we can see the same parallels to computer viruses.  At the time, hacking hadn’t “hit it big” yet, and just like AIDS, the population that it infected was unaware of its powers.  That is what’s most fascinating to me about this moment is that both the technological and the biological were experiencing the same sorts of attacks on their “bodies.”  Further, “bodies,” and ultimately biopower, has become even misconstrued (i.e. selling bodies on eBay).