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Wargames Reloaded


It is my innermost conviction -- at least for now -- that the metaphorical and symbolical web which we call 'culture' is constituted, built and rebuilt by ever-changing, interlocking feedback loops of the associative kind. Never will we be able to draw a complete picture of those, but sometimes the cultural anthropologist will have the chance to have an indepth glance on some of them loops. In respect to cyberculture, I guess I just stumbled over one. Does anybody remember the 1980s' movie "Wargames" -- starring a then youthful Matthew Broderick? The movie's story was about some hacker-d00d (Broderick) who hacked himself beyond the firewall of some eerie system. The system proposed a game (mind!) to him which looked like some strategical nuclear-world-war simulation. The d00d took up the game ... what he didn't know was that the system was an AI which controlled the US-military's complete defence-system, including the nukes, of course. So the drama began to unfold. "Wargames" hit the silverscreen in an era when the first personal computers affordable for the broader public hit the shelves. Well, you all know the development of computers from the times of the Commodore 64 till today. What you might not be aware of is, that the essential force of economical thrust which pushes the development of computers forward is the gaming-industry, as games are the only end-user applications which really need a P4 or a Radeon 9800. For comparatively primitive tasks like text-processing a 486 is enough. And for the sake of illustrating the magnitude of this business: The turnover of the gaming-industry exceeded the turnover of the movie-industry in the fiscal year 2002 both in the US and in Europe -- and we're talking software only, that means the sales of computer-hardware like graphic-cards, game-consoles and the like are not included. This year the US Department of Defence announced that they won't go on developing their IT-equipment from scratch themselves, as they wouldn't be able to keep pace with the development of commercially developed comps. Instead in the future they will buy their components from the industry! And here's where the dog somewhat catches its tail ...


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Nice thought. If you are really pessimistic, you may say that everything you do leads to war.
And further, "War" and "games", this looks like a satanic connection, which you could trace back through all cultures and through all times. Maybe, if you look at mankind and its history from an outsiders viewpoint (which is hard, of course), you wouldn't even discover a difference between both.

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Picked up a "Wargames" VHS tape some months ago for my collection of cyber-related pop media stuff. Found it interesting how much public attention has shifted away from nuclear armament to other topics.

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Indeed, nuclear armament seems not to be an issue anymore. Instead there was much attention to the Y2K problem and still is to a lot of things 'cyber'. When I watched TV on 11.09.01 -- just as everybody else did -- the german TV-news stuff obviously couldn't really cope with the magnitude of the events and desperately tried to drag all kinds of 'experts' in front of the camera. At one point the anchor-woman announced that after a brake some professor would speak who would talk about even more serious terroristic threats than what we just saw. After the break a pale computer-science-dude started to rant about the threats of virusses and the like for international banking and economy ... He looked quite hurt and offended by the fact that the terrorists had chosen to spread old-school terror in which's wake people actually bleed and die, and didn't do cyberattacks as he had prophesized. Now, finally, he had the chance to speak on TV -- and made a complete fool out of himself, IMHO.

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I had rather interesting accident some time ago - I was talking with some old woman and after she have heard that I have computer with Internet at home, her remark was like "Be carefull girl, you know there are a lot of hackers and they can steal all your money and do other harm". Funny thing is that this woman is completely computer iliterate and never even tried to work on PC, and has very dim understanding what hackers are. However, people hear a lot about "hacking danger" on TV and I have an impresion, that nowadays it is one of social/cultural fears, similar as fear to be robed in the street.

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This is a fear which meanwhile is fomented intentional by various governments to build stricter laws against the open information flow with greater ease.

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The finest stuff from ethnology social/cultural anthropology and cyberanthropology. Collected with ceaseless endeavour by students and staff of the Institut für Ethnologie in München/Germany and countless others.
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