Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: Information Age

Back to the Future

In chapter 7, The Code Book joins the likes of George Orwell’s 1984 and the Hollywood hit Back to the Future series in making predictions about the years to come. The concept of the narrative’s future being our “past” is a little mind-boggling, but it is incredibly interesting to read the forecasts of a book published almost 20 years ago now. Use of the internet was just starting to become publicly accessible when The Code Book was written, but as an scholar who is obviously well versed in the subject matter, Singh actually makes some very good predictions about the future of the internet heading into the 21st century. He recognized that the internet would certainly gain popularity and become utilized for a multitude of purposes: online shopping, banking, taxes and data records are all amenities that we have and regularly use today. He is correct, therefore, about the requirement for encryption that has progressed beyond military and government use. Hackers attempt to steal identities via credit card and social security numbers. Secure encryption is no longer a privilege, but a necessity when all of our most personal information is stored on computers. It is difficult to fathom things that have yet to come. I don’t know if even Singh could have predicted the integral role internet now plays in our lives, during an Information Age in which so many people rely almost entirely on electronic devices to manage and live their lives.

Becoming public to become private

“Much to her frustration, she finds that sharing at least a little bit affords her more privacy than sharing nothing at all.” (p. 74) This statement by Taylor, in Boyd’s book It’s Complicated is a true reflection of the world we live in. We live in the 21st century and due to ever-advancing technology, it has become easier and easier to exchange information. This information age that we live has meant that sharing information has become the norm and any deviation from this norm sticks out like a sore thumb -- or as Dr. Bruff would call it, a lead-lined coffin. So, when anyone, like Taylor, chooses not to share they immediately draw attention – the exact opposite of the what they were trying to achieve in the first place.

Boyd says that the thought process of Taylor as well as many other teens of “focusing on what to keep private rather than what to publicize” (p.77) is a difficult concept for adults to grasp. Boyd seems there are only two groups of people in this battle of privacy, parents and teens. The actual groups that Boyd should discuss are those that have been able to adapt to the information age and those who haven’t. While there is a correlation between being an adult and not understanding the above statement, there are many adults who do understand the nuances of privacy today, as we can see from the multitude of adult vloggers that publicize their lives. The reason that Boyd may think that the two distinct groups are teens and adults is because most teens have not known a world other than the information age and so they have been forced into adapting how they keep their lives private. It can also be argued that Boyd does, in fact, know that there are teens who don’t understand privacy in the 21st century as well as adults who do understand it but she just chooses not to in order to make her book more controversial or in order to widen the rift between parents and teens. Whatever the case may be, there is one thing to remember. There are always two groups, those who can adapt to the ever-changing world around them and those who do not, and consequently are left scratching their heads, wondering why things aren’t as good as they were “back in their day” and why the “new generation is the worst generation ever”.

Reference:

Boyd, D. (2015). It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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