01 Oct

“Unauthorized Access” by An Owomoyela

There was a time when a story about data hacking and the surveillance state was the stuff of cyberpunk and pure speculation. Right now, most elements of this story are so near-future it could exist tomorrow. This is a journey through an emerging culture, rather than something that doesn’t yet exist (if sometimes only in proto-form), and that journey is riveting.

The speculative elements are highlighted primarily in the generational disconnect, the idea that people all have the same tools and live in the same world but very few really understand it (this doesn’t just apply to hacking, but also to understanding just who the power-players are in a data-driven world, like the energy companies). This plays out on different levels in several relationships—Aedo’s original incarceration and Aedo and Cadares, which both position Aedo both implicitly and explicitly as part of a younger, culturally data-savvy generation; and also Aedo and LogicalOR which positions Aedo as more naïve, in opposition to her relationship with Cadares. It feels particularly important because it resists creating a dichotomy of “good guys” and “bad guys” or “smart people” and “clueless people”; there are a lot of layers and levels and we might identify as any one of them, or of different ones at different times in our lives.

The fact that Aedo has just been released from prison (to middling fanfare), highlights another of-the-moment issue: people criminalising what they are afraid of, rather than what is actively harmful to them (in many cases their own actions). This seems to me to be a very timely statement right now, in this context and many others. I’m left with questions—particularly just what information Cadares was seeking—but like any MacGuffin it’s not really relevant. The story is in the seeking, and what that seeking shows us about ourselves and our world.