Along with preparing to move across the country, I've been listening to the audiobook of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. I don't really like the format (hearing someone else read a book is sometimes quite tedious, but at this point in my life, I have almost no extra time for reading long form fiction like Stephenson's. cf. above comment about moving across the country, add 1 year old son, new job simmering to a boil soon, and a slew of unfinished papers sitting on my hard drive waiting to be polished into publishable matter.) It sometimes makes elements of fiction that would probably slide by as just missed attempts at stage dressing are sometimes enunciated in ways that make them stand out as weak, even annoyingly so. The solemnity of the mafia running pizza chains is a bit hard to get into, particularly when it is such a central element of the story. But I'd probably be much more charitable if I was reading it myself rather than half listening to it while falling asleep on the plane or driving to pick up moving supplies (or maybe I'd just stop reading altogether.) I don't like Stephenson as much as I thought I would, but one element does stand out: the hacker as hero.
Anyway, I am sure I am coming late to the party, but after finishing the film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I am struck by this as a recurring theme. I'm sure this is uninspired as an observation of a key cultural theme for a good part of the last 30 years or so (in my lifetime, at least since Matthew Broderick hacked into the War Games). So here I want to make less of a case for it being such a cultural theme (thought would welcome some examples) and more of an argument for hackers needing to be heroes at the current moment. Wikileaks is sort of on this level, though most of their power comes from whistleblowers like Bradley Manning. And Anonymous is a very clever and exciting crew. But in both cases they mostly just muck up the elite management of the military-corporate state system at various levels. Excellent work to be done there, but I think it would be nice to have some hackers do something a little more practical. Most of the big money that exists today isn't kept in immense vaults guarded by nefarious looking henchmen (though probably some of it does): it's just a set of numbers allocated in a computer terminal. It is just waiting for some good hackers to reallocate the wealth of the world. If the uberrich refuse to be taxed, they must be hacked.
There's recently been some angst about the fact that social security benefits and other forms of government payments will finally enter the twenty-first century--they will be distributed via direct deposit. The animosity came from the details of the policy which state that, if people don't set up their own bank account into which this money can be deposited, then the government will maintain one for them. However, if they opt for this government account option, they will only be allowed one ATM withdrawal per payment. It's an inconvenience, but getting more people to have bank accounts able to have direct deposit--especially people who are in need of some "transfer payments" of one kind or another--would really facilitate the above. I'm not saying full expropriation, but a very nice skimming off the top (something like they did accidentally in Office Space) to support the increasingly dire circumstances under which most of the world's population lives.