On Gadgets, Hacking, and Knowing What’s Going On

So the latest gaslighting to come out of Trump is about computers, which is something I happen to know about. Specifically, Trump responded to a question about Russian hacking inside of the US with this:

“I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of [the] computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on.”

In case it wasn’t clear to everyone, Trump is that old-man boss who wants nothing to do with computers, doesn’t understand them, and is therefore angry about and dismissive of them in a way that suggests the world would be better off if we did away with them altogether. This is an archetype because it’s true of a certain subset of people, and it doesn’t have to do with age – it has to do with one’s tolerance of, and interest in, complexity and how to tackle it. People like Trump have no tolerance for ambiguity – they either know something or they don’t, a fact is true or it isn’t, a situation is solvable or it isn’t – and out of self-protection this leads them to split the world into these binary categories.

The trouble, of course, comes in that this “whole age of computers” is not only here to stay, it has transformed nearly every part of our society, largely for the better. Their complexity is indeed a problem we struggle with every day, but we struggle because we have no choice – to do work without computers these days is unthinkable.

And here is what we’re reduced to – a few ignorant comments by PEOTUS and I’m defending the mere existence of computers in our lives. You can see how the conversation has drifted from where it should be – Russians hacked us, what are we going to do about it? – to “No no, it really happened, computers matter, derp derp.” Wrong-footed again by a man who doesn’t know his ass from his elbow when it comes to technology.

The complexity of computers, and the grid, and the internet, and the internet of things, is most certainly a problem. But it’s a problem we need to deal with head-on through the use of countermeasures, regulation, surveillance, and laws defining what sorts of attack constitute aggression and even declarations of war. The gray area is to be aggressively entered and filled, not filibustered and hand-waved away. That’s just plain dangerous and weak. Which is funny because this unfit-to-be-president individual thinks he’s showing strength. He’s not, and he’s endangering our country by derailing this conversation.

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