Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: marcus yallow

Taking control

In chapter 4 of Little Brother, there’s a passage where Marcus talks about the idea of privacy. He says that it is a feeling of liberation when you have an aspect of your life that is completely under your control. He compares it to things that we all do that are not shameful but would still require privacy. This passage struck out to me because it made me look at the whole online privacy issue in a new light. It made me consider the psychological implications of online privacy. Doctorow  brings up a great point through Marcus’s voice: For some people, online privacy is not just important because they have something to hide, it is a way to take control of their lives. I never considered this psychological angle to it, but with all of our lives being invested in the online world, it can seem easy to lost control especially considering how fast technology progresses. As humans we are inclined to creating organized systems and keeping things under control. So it makes sense that some of us would be cautious about oversharing our information online. It is very likely that people would feel a sense of vulnerability by having their information online and not feeling like they can keep up with it. Having this privacy can give people the sense of control they need so it doesn’t get too overwhelming.

 

Privacy: From Times Square to the Percent Accuracy

The overwhelming theme of the novel Little Brother concerns the privacy of an individual and a society in all aspects of life. From the moment in which Marcus is first questioned by the National Homeland Security (NHS) until the end of the novel, Marcus highlights to the reader of the many horrifying consequences of a government overstepping its boundaries. Two examples described by Marcus hit me hard about why privacy is vital in having a normal and functioning society.

The first example is after the NHS confiscates Marcus's electronic devices and receiving the passwords of those devices through brute force and intimidation. The NHS tells Marcus that if he truly has nothing to hide, then it should be no problem for them to take a look through his devices. This bothers Marcus extremely; however, he eventually gives in due to the fact that he knows that giving the NHS what they want is the only way for him to be released. Marcus compares this thinking of the NHS to forcing somebody to go to the bathroom in a clear glass room in the middle of Times Square. Although they have nothing to hide or protect, any normal person would want privacy when going to the bathroom and to not be in the public eye. This comparison was powerful in the imagery it invokes. Picturing somebody having to use the bathroom in public shows that Marcus having to give away all of his privacy and dignity is wasteful.

Secondly, as somebody who loves statistics and numbers in general, I also found the example of "false positives" and "percent accuracy" powerful. It demonstrates how problematic and inefficient the search and interrogation of almost everybody throughout San Francisco is in finding the terrorists who blew up the bridge. By displaying that even a 99% accuracy causes the government agencies and police to searching thousands and thousands of people further highlights the inefficiency of investigating people for possible terrorist suspects because in reality, their percent accuracy is closer to 50%. This example shows the reader not only how difficult it is to catch a terrorist in this manner, but also how it complicates and hurts the lives of the everyday citizens.

 

Defining Moments

There are moments that last forever; moments that completely change your life and define who you become. In the second chapter of Cory Doctorow’s book, Little Brother, Doctorow cleverly depicts an everlasting and defining moment in Marcus Yallow’s life. Just as Marcus and his friends are about to uncover the next clue to a game they are dedicated to, their lives are changed forever. Doctorow produces this effect by changing the laidback and unconcerned style of his sentences to an abrupt, immediate and urgent one. He uses the words “sickening lurch” to describe that nauseating feeling you get right before a catastrophe transpires. The sentences that follow return to the eerily slow-paced and calm style, stretching out the mere seconds in which all the events occurred, into a long description of everything that ensued in them. Doctorow uses words such as “roaring,” “punishing,” and “sirens” to paint both a visual and aural scene as well as create the intensity of the explosion.
This moment eventually comes to dominate the course of Marcus Yallow’s life, defining his goal of defying the Department of Homeland Security and his struggle to attain his right to privacy.

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