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HACKED OFF BY THE INTERVIEW

In the book What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night the world’s leading scientists from all fields of study discuss the possibility of mankind’s decline or obliteration. Included are many fire and brimstone scenarios such as incoming comets, widespread pestilence, and natural disasters. Circumstances that if they happened to occur would be out of mankind’s hands in terms of the outcome. A majority of the essays included concern the internet and its demise. In his essay “Living Without the Internet for a Couple of Weeks” Daniel C. Dennett makes clear that “Goliath hasn’t been knocked out yet, but thousands of Davids are busily learning what they need to know to contrive a trick that will even the playing field with a vengeance.” In the past few weeks a group of “Davids” employed their tricky tactics and did severe and irreversible (at the very least in reputational terms) damage to one massive “Goliath”. The hack attack by Guardians of Peace on Sony Pictures exposed a torrent of embarrassing details from squabbling executives, and egotistical outbursts from Hollywood stars. Although these email exchanges read like the source material for a more devious draft screenplay of The Player (1992) Wag the Dog (1997) or What Just Happened? (2008), it could offer a subtext of something far more dangerous. The hack was in retaliation of the forthcoming release of Seth Rogan and James Franco’s latest comedy The Interview, a film that depicts the gory assassination of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un by a hapless television journalist (Franco) and his producer (Rogan). When the first trailers for The Interview were made available back in June 2014, North Korea complained to the United Nations to block the film’s release. As reported in the Guardian newspaper, The North claimed the content of the film was an “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war.” In many ways a fair comment from The North, who have been accused by the United States of similar depictions of the US in their own media propaganda and for sponsoring terrorism in the past. Although North Korea denies knowledge of this attack, the FBI have been adamant that, if nothing else, North Korea set the wheels in motion for the attack to take place. American retaliation is on the cards, though what this looks like at the time of writing is yet to be revealed. The retaliation aspect of this scenario is perhaps the scariest notion of all. Are nations about to engage in cyber warfare that will have a knock on affect for us all? The landscape of warzones may change from vast deserts, fortified barracks, and abandoned cities to digital realms, where the citizen is in the direct line of fire. This would of course not be a deadly gunshot, but a disarming and disoriantating blow to our daily lives. One frightening conclusion of What Should We Be Worried About?… is the lack of any contingency plan for the internet’s downfall. Entire infrastructures rely on the flawless and continuous operation of the web. The loss of internet service through hacking attacks, or as seen in the film Transcendence (2014) where the decision is made to simply disconnect from all power sources in order to survive, would bring globalization to a standstill and make capitalist economics worthless. Pulling the rug from underneath our aggressors means toppling the entire house. Much like the outcome of Transcendence, mankind would have to adapt and become self sufficient, learning to survive in regional pacts that rely on trades, growing food in communal gardens, and getting about on bicycles. In all honesty that consequence seems tolerable compared to the result of following through on the other conclusion: all out global conflict. The hacking of Sony Entertainment might not seem like a doomsday scenario, but with the apparent backing of an armed and dangerous regime orchestrating, the situation suddenly becomes a very serious and deadly concern. This whole scenario could be a swaying domino that will either steady itself or possibly be the start of a dramatic collapse. Either way we will look back on this with the knowledge that one silly comedy film did or nearly did bring about Armageddon.

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