Wednesday, February 04, 2004

"Voting" as a cybernetic arms race

Like it or not, elections now hinge on the ability of hackers to infiltrate and falsify data harvested by electronic voting machines. Maybe we should simply drop the pretense that such archaic things as "candidates" and "votes" matter; the party with the best hackers and electronic sabotage techniques wins.

Philip K. Dick's first novel, "Solar Lottery," is about a future society in which the President is "elected" at random. Winning the Presidency is like winning at PowerBall or, more accurately, being selected for jury duty. It seems to me that this is an increasingly valid model for our own so-called democracy if we're to continue to rely on electronic voting machines. We must become nihilists. We must surrender choice to the caprices of barely understood software.

In this brave new democracy I've proposed, there is no more electioneering, no more posturing on "issues," no more handshaking. You can watch TV confident that you'll never see an ad endorsing a particular candidate or raking "the other guy" over the coals. In fact, you probably won't even know who the candidates are in the first place. And why should you? Ultimately, they're all represented by electronic fluctuations in the guts of some machine. They aren't "people" anymore . . . but really, were they ever?

The system's been corrupted, infected, fundamentally dismantled. We can't go back. So why not jettison the theatrics and start hacking code?

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