The Speeding up of History

Woodcut of a printing press operation by Jost Amman, circa 1568

I can’t help observing that things seem to be moving a good deal faster today than they ever did in previous eras. My grandmother was born in 1932. Her childhood home had no flushable toilets, no heating or air conditioning, no car, no television, no radio, and certainly no computer. I scarcely need to mention that at the time she was born penicillin had yet to be discovered, “the pill” had not been legalized, the idea of sending a man into space was ridiculous, atomic science was in its infancy, there was no social safety net in the U.S., and the populations of such countries as China and India were only 1/3 of what they are now.

Universities were mostly for the rich or abnormal. In contrast, it wasn’t at all strange for people to drop out of school well before the age of eighteen. The Catholic Church still forbade saying Mass in anything but Latin, and Islam had barely touched the West. The entire continent of Africa was under the control of more powerful European nations. In the U.S., African-Americans were treated as slightly less than human and Japanese-Americans were being placed in internment camps. This is to say nothing of the enormous upheavals in the global economy and popular culture. The world, in short, was a vastly different place in 1932. Continue reading

The Lavabit Shutdown and its Implications for American Liberty

Ladar Levison 2013 Flickr Gage Skidmore

Ladar Levison is not impressed with the FBI. Flickr photo by Gage Skidmore

Contributor Samuel Mantravadi believes that the FBI has overreached in its latest attempt at using technology to track down a potential criminal.

Ladar Levison is somewhat of a hero these days in software and technology news circles. If you’re not not up on the latest gossip, Mr. Levison is the founder, developer and CEO of a company called Lavabit that provides provided secure e-mail services via encryption 1) to and from its servers and 2) while on its servers (two separate methods of encryption).

In the wake of a series of secret subpoenas and search warrants given by the FBI, Mr. Levison has chosen to shutter his services rather than fully comply with the order. In the wake of the e-mail shuttering, another award-winning blog, Groklaw, also chose to stop reporting due to the possible massive invasion of privacy (previous articles still available). Continue reading