IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 83

been achieved a few days after their
hack, Anonymous released some of
the information they had stolen -
including a list of names from the
Witness Protection Program. Milburn
mentions this alarming fact, but he
spends significantly more time drawing the parallels between Anonymous' hack and works of fiction or
video games.
The implications of this sort of
hacking are frightening. Real people
had their safety taken hostage as
part of an Internet vigilante justice
campaign. This poses a serious risk
of living as a "zombie in this hightech zone." Instead of challenging
acts of rogue, politically-motivated
hacking, Milburn essentially glorifies
the culture of hacktivism that victimized bystanders. Phrases like "the
world is a game - so hack it" are littered throughout the book, and
though Milburn correctly states that
our world needs "the wisdom to survive our own superhuman condition"
(i.e., our technological prowess), he
does not offer up any such wisdom.
On the contrary, immediately after
asserting this need, Milburn suddenly shifts to exploring video games as
a medium for generating awareness
about environmental issues. The
final two chapters of Respawn are
devoted entirely to this idea, and a
statement of a need for wisdom is
where the book ends its discussion
of the implications of the relationship between video game culture
and hacking culture.

DECEMBER 2019

Furthermore, Milburn's argument
that hacktivism follows paradigms
taught in video games like Adventure
and Portal is paradoxical. Isn't the
lesson of Portal to figure out how to
change obstinate systems by using
their own tools against them? This is
clearly what Anonymous did
when they hacked the USSC.
The USSC didn't create the
Internet - they used it to publish information, just like
almost any other organization
with a website. Hackers
exploited the USSC's use -
not creation - of a tool, and
used their skills in the domain
of technology as a means of
achieving reform in the entirely separate domain of the
criminal justice system.
This hacking is not analogous to using the portal gun to earn
one's freedom from its creators. A
better analogy in this case would be
to work within the judicial system in
order to effect change, not to take
bystanders hostage in battles rooted
in personal beliefs about intellectual
property rights and sentencing
guidelines. Simply marveling at the
parallels between science fiction,
video games, and hackers releasing
compromising personal information
is burying one's head in the sand.
The condition of being a "zombie
in this high-tech zone" means living
in a world where anyone's personal
information could be leaked to the
entire world by skilled computer

geeks following their own personal
moral codes. Interpreting hacking as
applied science fiction is not useful,
unless doing so provides some guidance as to what can be done to
make the online world more secure
for the millions of people whose

But in today's technological
world, uncertainty and precarity
carry much more serious
risks than not being able to
play games.

∕

IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

information is only as private as
someone else's computer system.
Unfortunately, Milburn does not provide us with any such clues in
Respawn, and the connections he
draws really seem to speak more to
the coolness of video games and science fiction than the real-world consequences of hacktivism.

Reviewer Information
Nathaniel Knopf graduated from M.I.T.
in 2019 with an S.B. in Electrical
Engineering and Computer Science,
and is currently a Post-Baccalaureate
Clinical Fellow at McLean Hospital in
Belmont, MA. Email: nathanielknopf
@gmail.com.

83


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IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019

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