Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

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Last night, I watched the movie Sneakers. It was released in the early 1990's--1992, I believe--and stars, among others, Robert Redford, River Phoenix, Dan Ackroyd, Sidney Poitier, and Mary McDonnell. It's probably one of my favourite movies, I think.

The plot: Robert Redford's character Martin Bishop is the head of a group of experts who specialise in testing security systems. Actually, he isn't Bishop, or at least he isn't known by that name; rather, his birth last name was Bryce, dropped since he had to go undercover following an early 1970's hacking exercise inspired by 1960's vintage radicalism. (At least he escaped; his best friend an dcolleague died in prison.) He's blackmailed by government agents into stealing a top secret black box. They find out, after they recover the box, that it has the capability to decode all existing encryption systems around the world. After they hand the box over, they learn that the agents who hired them didn't work for the Government after all; or, at least not their government. Or at least not the State.

Sneakers is very much a movie of the early 1990's, inasmuch as its plot held that geopolitical/ideological competitions like the Cold war were gone forever, and that in the future, efforts to control and direct the flow of information would be the main sources of conflict. It isn't to be faulted for this, since that seems to be what everyone suspected. Arguably, the current world order--basically, a unified global economy with a fragmented polity dominated by the United States--comes close to Sneakers's vision anyway.

And the power of the chip--the ultimate decryption device--is certainly highly relevant. Still more important than information is the question who has access to inform. Destroying the selective secrecy of information would change things radically. An open-source copyright-less future?

Sneakers's ending was a bit weak, I fear--things ended on much too happy a note. Still, it is a fun movie.
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