Preparing for the Coming War on General Computation

Building a Hidden City – a first skirmish in the War on General Computation


My friend Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) gave a barnstorming talk to this year’s Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin, #28c3, “The Coming War on General Computation”. It’s available to watch online at  and there’s a transcript for those who prefer to read such things at


The core of his argument is that the arguments over copyright that have taken so much of our energy over the last two decades merely prefigure a much more fundamental conflict between those who would allow free expression to extend to the ability to run any code on any processor, and those who would regulate the use of Turing machines. As Cory puts it


“we don’t know how to build the general purpose computer that is capable of running any program we can compile except for some program that we don’t like, or that we prohibit by law, or that loses us money. The closest approximation that we have to this is a computer with spyware — a computer on which remote parties set policies without the computer user’s knowledge, over the objection of the computer’s owner. And so it is that digital rights management always converges on malware”


So far this has been done to serve rights holders, but as every technology converges on being controlled in so