Stop Writing Computer Hackers!

I never want to see computer hacking in a movie ever again.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
-Arthur C. Clarke.

I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here: it didn’t require any discipline to attain it.
-Ian Malcolm.

Computer hacking in movies is so often just magic. Boom, something impossible happened. Who cares? It undermines the human story: that curiosity and bravery are noble traits. It removes struggle. And if you don’t struggle, you don’t truly earn something.

I currently live on an island. When I recently had occasion to visit the mainland, I eagerly took the opportunity to catch a couple of movies I had been desperate to see in theatres: Jurasssic World Fallen Kingdom, and Ocean’s 8 (about whose predecessor I have written at length). I must say while of course I loved JPark and O-8 and I’ll eat them up no matter what in this gutless era of unnecessary sequels, I was quite disappointed with the computer hacking aspects of both. I am so done with computer hacking in films. Contemporary screenwriters have shown themselves utterly unfit to wield that power. Read more of this post


Short Story: “The Device”

After a particularly annoying series of trans-Tasman flights, I wrote the following. Consider it my entry for a Black Mirror episode.


The device had been invented just five years ago. Like everybody else, Ricky had no idea how it worked. That was a closely guarded secret. He only knew the public byline: FOR YOUR COMFORT AND SAFETY THE FLAWLESS AND FOOLPROOF AIRPORT SECURITY DEVICE IS NOW BEING DEPLOYED.

He had been through it twice before. The first time he’d been nervous. He’d read the online instructions thoroughly. One submitted oneself to a little waiting time, and was guaranteed of not remembering it. All passengers were diverted to large waiting rooms where squads of beaming, reassuring, highly trained nurses would administer a quick, painless, very small shot in the forearm. This is when the device, microscopic, is inserted. One then became fuzzy, halfway-losing consciousness, waking up thirty minutes later in an extremely comfortable chair, ready to immediately board the aircraft. Somehow in those thirty minutes the security of everybody had been assured. The process had been completely smooth for him, and apparently every other passenger in the country, and the second time he had actually looked forward to it, especially the free snacks.

He dimly remembered a time when the worldwide air security apparatus had swelled into an ugly and intimidating thing that subjected one to agonising waiting in unmoving lines to scan baggage, while being scrutinised by a thousand cameras and nervous officers with firearms, tasers, and batons at their hip. Panicking quietly while being scanned, terrified of looking guilty of crimes you hadn’t committed, being asked presumptive and confusing questions about your intentions, X-rays, invasive pat downs, more waiting in departure lounges. The waiting – god what was that song? The way-yay-ting is the hardest part! It was impossible to deny that the use of the new device these days was a much smoother and more pleasant system. Just show up half an hour ahead of time, get your harmless and temporary device injected and have a pleasant, restful sit down before boarding your flight. Easy! Comfortable! All the airport security staff treated you with dignity! While the public was not permitted to know the method of the ubiquitous and apparently magical device, many believed it was merely a sedative; just a ruse to have you knocked out cold while they stripped searched your body and your baggage. Governments promised in the most serious terms that this was not the case and there was absolutely no bodily invasion at all, and allowed panels of third party experts and advocates to independently verify that to their satisfaction, but for worldwide security the workings of the device had to remain a total mystery.

On his third trip, Ricky was going to learn all about it.

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