Tag Archives: Cory Doctorow

The Boy Who Could Change The World – and the Book that changed Aaron’s Life

boy_who_could_change_the_world_finalI’ve been reading The Boy Who Could Change The World this weekend, although it’s probably an extra-emotional experience for me, due to the timing. It really is a wonderful collection of writings from Aaron’s curious and insightful mind.

Besides the content from Aaron’s blog, two longer, previously unpublished essays are included in the  “Politics” and “School” chapters of the book. These were found in the Safra Center archives.

The finished masterpiece was Edited by Jed Bickman at The New Press.

Benjamin Mako Hill and Seth Schoen edited the section on “Free Culture,” and wrote its introduction. Cory Doctorow edited and wrote an introduction for the “Media” section.

David Auerbach edited and wrote the introduction for the “Computers” section. David Segal and Henry Farrell edited “Politics.” (David did the introduction, Henry the postscript for the section.) James Grimmelmann edited and wrote and introduction for “Books and Culture. Astra Taylor edited and wrote an introduction for the “Unschool” section.

One excerpt that stood out to me was Aaron’s enthusiastic account of  The Book That Changed My Life. (The book being Understanding Power by Noam Chomsky.) Although the piece is titled “The Book That Changed My Life,” it turns out it was a film,  Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, that caused him to find and read the book.

From The Book That Changed My Life:

Each story, individually, can be dismissed as some weird oddity, like what I’d learned about the media focusing more on posters than on policy. But seeing them all together, you can’t help but begin to tease out the larger picture, to ask yourself what’s behind all these disparate things, and what that means for the way we see the world.

Friends of Aaron Video From Aaron Swartz Day 2015 – Video and Full Transcription

Complete Transcription of the Friends of Aaron movie, including: Cory Doctorow, Brewster Kahle, Cindy Cohn and Virgil Griffith.

From the November 7, 2015 evening event at the Internet Archive, in San Francisco, before the speakers.

“Hi, I’m Cory Doctorow. Welcome to the third annual Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon.”

Now a Few Words from a Few Friends of Aaron’s

Cory Doctorow
Blogger, BoingBoing, Science Fiction Author,                                              Little Brother/Homeland
Special Advisor, Electronic Frontier Foundation

You know. I knew Aaron for a really long time. And when we first met, people who cared about the Internet were a bit weird. It was as though we were really interested in something trivial and futuristic and speculative, while all around us raged really important battles about more significant issues. Issues about climate change. Issues about financial fairness. Issues about privacy. Issues about race and gender.

And what we’ve found in the years since then is that those other issues have gotten even more urgent, but more and more people have come to realize that the Internet is the fight that will determine how all those other fights go on. Because the Internet is the battlefield on which all those fights will be fought.

And so it’s really crucial that we win the Internet. Not because the Internet is more important than everything else, but because it’s the most foundational thing.

I hope you have a great day at the International Hackathon.

Brewster Kahle
Founder and Digital Librarian
Internet Archive

Aaron Swartz lives in many many ways. Aaron Swartz’ ideas have been carried forward by many others, and in fact, tragically, by his persecution, prosecution, and death, has come to be widely known to others.

The idea of public access to the public domain. That we can live open source lives freely, and that it’s desirable, and you meet new and interesting people.

And the lesson of Aaron Swartz has not been forgotten by the institutions that participated in having him crushed, and has led to reforms, top and bottom, of those organizations, to not have that ever happen again. So, public access, public domain, living open source lives, should be encouraged for the next generation, and made safe by the institutions that are too slowly learning their lessons.

Cindy Cohn
Executive Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Aaron has left us all such a legacy of caring about the politics around technology and not just caring, but getting involved. And whether you’re getting involved as a technologist or an activist you can have no better loadstar than Aaron. I have watched as he’s inspired people all over the world.

We haven’t had success in building things in DC, to help fix things. Aaron’s law has gotten stalled. However, we’ve been able to stop the bad. There have been several attempts, and there’s one right now, in the Cybersecurity to continue on the horrible pathway of making the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act worse and worse and worse. And, we stopped it cold, shortly after Aaron died. We’ve gotten it dramatically changed this time, and I think we’re gonna stop it cold again. So, while we haven’t yet been able to make good out of what happened to Aaron, we’ve been able to stop some bad. I’m not done yet. It’s still early days. But, I still run into people all the time who tell me that learning about Aaron was the moment. Their “wake up” moment. When they decided, “I care about technology too, and I want to get involved.” And that’s awesome!

Virgil Griffith
Technologist d’Avant-Garde
Tor2Web, WikiScanner

So after Aaron Swartz’ death, there was a rash of suicides at Cal Tech, where I was at school. (Unrelated!) And they had a little suicide thing. And I gave a little talk there, and I’ve been thinking about it recently. And I remember what I told them. I said “even when you feel like crap. You’re like ‘I can’t do anything.’ ‘I’m no good.’ ‘I spend like four days out of the week sleeping.’ ‘I’m only productive one day a week, tops.’ I would say, “even that one day a week, is more valuable than you would ever realize.”

I used Aaron as an explicit example. Even though Aaron was not even near (pauses). He was definitely not thriving. He was in surviving, not thriving mode. But still, even him in surviving mode was like amazing. You know. But I think he just couldn’t see it.

And I feel like Aaron was making this mistake as well. Okay so, Aaron would kind of flip between being egotistical and being very self deprecating. So, internally, he though of himself very highly, but outwardly he’d be very self deprecating. I felt like just in general, he did not appreciate, like, his own importance and the things he could do. Even if Aaron was active one day a week. Well that’s awesome. A one day a week Aaron, I’ll take it. I’ll totally take it. Ya know. And I think he would have really had difficulty, seeing that, as useful to the world. He’d be like “oh I’m so unproductive. I’m so ungood. Blah blah blah blah. No no no. One day a week’s great.

Brewster Kahle (ending comments):

Aaron Swartz has inspired hackathons, yearly gatherings of people remembering and moving forward some of the ideas of SecureDrop, of going and building public access to journal literature, to basically building a public sphere that may not be tied to institutions, certainly not tied to business plans, but tied to an inspiring vision, of information access and living open source lives. Aaron Swartz lives on in many many ways.

Afterword By Aaron Swartz for Cory Doctorow’s “Homeland”

Doctorows_HomelandIn the Huffington Post, Cory Doctorow talks about the afterword that Aaron wrote for Homeland (the sequel to the incredible Little Brother).

This afterword is probably one of the best explanations of the spirit behind having an Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon every year.

 

From Cory Doctorow:

I knew I wanted an afterword from Aaron Swartz, who had the best techno-activist instincts of anyone I knew, and who I’d know since he was a little kid, and who was also being savagely victimized by the US government for his principled work. I’m devastated about what happened with Aaron. I asked him to write me a afterword in the form of a letter to a kid like himself, but who was 14 in the year 2013. What he gave me was a call-to-arms that made me want to rush to a barricade, and left no doubt that we both hoped for the same thing from this book: that it would inspire a generation of activists who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it came to freedom in the information age.

From the Afterword to Homeland by Aaron Swartz:

This is your life, this is your country — and if you want to keep it safe, you need to get involved…

The system is changing. Thanks to the Internet, everyday people can learn about and organize around an issue even if the system is determined to ignore it. Now, maybe we won’t win every time — this is real life, after all — but we finally have a chance.

But it only works if you take part. And now that you’ve read this book and learned how to do it, you’re perfectly suited to make it happen again. That’s right: now it’s up to you to change the system.

Let me know if I can help.