I should be writing a post on my math and English blog about simple series. Or exercising.
I'm thinking about weev.
Being put in jail for a non-crime under one of the many laws that turns the US national laws into a mockery of law.
And the CFAA.
How can you respect law when laws like this exist?
Well, okay, specific laws that can't be respected have existed forever. Or, at least, ever since humans started trying to codify law.
Respect for law requires not getting your internal systems tangled up about specific laws that cannot be respected.
Analogy time: Grammar.
People do not speak according to rules of grammar. Grammar exists as our collective attempts to explain how people speak. Explaining how people speak is not, in and of itself, necessary, but grammar is very useful when you try to figure out what people have put in writing, when they aren't around to explain it themselves. (Well, putting in writing includes audio tracks in this modern world.)
Grammar also helps you dig into your own deeper motivations, when you look at something you said or wrote and wonder why?
Tying the analogy to the thought people do not behave according to the laws that people write down. Legislated law exists as an attempt to help us understand, post-facto, how society should respond to what people do. You can't tell whether any particular act will be good or bad until after the act is done. (Often, well after.) That's why the US Constitution is supposed to prevent laws that would make it possible to charge people with crimes they haven't yet committed.
Supposed to. But that is not directly the topic of this rant.
Bad law exists. It always will, as long as humans write law.
We don't want to just turn a blind eye to bad law, but we also don't want the existence of bad law turn us against law-in-general.
I have lots of friends like weev, people who live significant parts of their lives in deliberate contradiction to the written law. If we put all of them in jail, I would be awfully lonely out here.
Yeah, I mean, from the odds I calculate, if we send to jail all the people who have deliberately done things as bad as what weev has just been sentenced for, there would be more people in jail than not.
Examine yourself and ask, have you ever put unknown persons at risk for deliberately breaking a "minor" law, or a law that "should not be a law"?
Putting people at risk is not the question here, the law, and your attitude is the question. The risk is the reason for the question.
If weev should go to jail for the part he played, so should the engineers who designed the database he casually walked into.
Hmm. Put scare quotes on that: "engineers" so-called.
No. Let's not judge them until we can judge their managers. Chances are that management at AT&T played a significant part in putting that travesty of a database live on the web.
They broke laws. Deliberately. For profit, or, at least, to avoid losing the profits somebody in the company had irresponsibly projected. Yeah, we pull the thread and it connects, well, everywhere. Bean-counters who push bad projections, anyone?
But weev is the arrogant one, the one who sticks out. I'd talk about the old ritual of scapegoats, but that would cloud the issues.
The problem is that we misunderstand computers.
Computers are not magic boxes that, if we can figure out the right incantation, will somehow magically fix all of our problems.
Computers consist of three things:
Memory is just fancy paper that can be indexed, and can be re-written (written and erased and written again) at will, at high speed.
The cpu is just the fancy pen that writes and re-writes. And it can calculate. And it can be directed where to write or re-write next. And it is fast.
There are specific features, but there is no magic.
(If there is magic, it is in what we do with them, but that's beside the point.)
We can do good or evil with computers, just like any other tool at our disposal, if we will take the responsibility to learn the tools.
Think about this. If you saw a battered notebook sitting on the sidewalk outside some company's store, what do you do? You probably ignore it. But someone you know might pick it up and notice it belongs to the store. Then what?
There are principles of courtesy that weev ignored. Courtesy is not supposed to be law. When courtesy becomes the law, it ceases to be courtesy. That takes all the meaning out of courtesy, and never fails to codify stuff that ends up out of context, and wrong.
And, had weev followed all the principles of courtesy that have (not yet) been (properly) established, the current record is that he still would have been charged with doing something illegal.
Some people say weev is just grandstanding, just trying to get attention. I could not argue with that, I'm not sure weev himself would argue with it. Is grandstanding such a crime? Is it worth burdening society with four years of keeping him well fed and away from "computers", away from the rest of society out here?
Wherever "out here" is.