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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Assange + Schmidt = New Book

Just got this press release in the mail from OR Books.  Book to come this September. More here.
In June 2011, Julian Assange received an unusual visitor: The chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, together with an entourage of US State Department alumni including a top former adviser to Hillary Clinton, arrived from America at Ellingham Hall, the country residence in Norfolk, England where Assange was living under house arrest.

For several hours the besieged leader of the world's most famous insurgent publishing organization and the billionaire head of the world's largest information empire locked horns. The two men debated the political problems faced by human society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network­ from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin. They outlined radically opposing perspectives: For Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with US foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to American companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the Internet's future that has only gathered force subsequently.

When Google Met WikiLeaks presents the story of Assange and Schmidt's encounter. Both fascinating and alarming, it contains extensive, new material, written by Assange specifically for this book, providing the best available summary of his vision for the future of the Internet.  The book also includes an edited transcript of the conversation with Schmidt in which Assange outlines the way WikiLeaks works and why it is so significant for governments and corporations. What emerges is the clearest and most sophisticated picture of the philosophy behind WikiLeaks to date.

Assange proposes a radical overhaul of the naming structure of the Internet, one which would revolutionize the way information is accessed. By coupling the intellectual content of a document to its online name­doing away with the haphazard URL system, ­Assange outlines a potential future for the Internet that would make it faster and much more difficult to censor.

In contrast, Schmidt’s contribution equates progress with the geographic expansion of Google, supported by the US State Department. In cutting prose, Assange denounces this world-view as "technocratic imperialism" and offers a stringent critique of its methods, goals and effects.

These are vital counterpoints for anyone interested in where the Internet­and by extension human civilization­is heading. The difference between the paths taken by Assange and Schmidt was illustrated subsequently by their responses to the Snowden disclosures: while WikiLeaks aided the whistleblower's escape, Google scrambled to manage a public relations backlash after the revelation that it had taken money from the NSA to process spying requests from the US government.

In June 2011, the North and South poles of the Internet came together in the English countryside for an historic dialogue. This extraordinary book tells the story of that unlikely encounter, and its significance for us all.