Learning from “Little Brother”

littlebrotherEvery year my son and I go on a “Dad & Son Adventure” and this year was no exception. Though past ones have been in such places as the north shore of Lake Superior; Rapid City, SD; and New York City; for our 9th Annual Dad & Son Adventure this year we headed to Chicago to goof off and see a play.

See a play? What kind of adventure is THAT!?! As it turned out, a fun one.

Science fiction author, BoingBoing contributor and thought leader, Cory Doctorow (http://craphound.com) wrote a book called “Little Brother” which explored what happened to a boy named Marcus and a group of his friends seen as terrorists after an attack in San Francisco. The School Library Journal writes, “…he and his friends are swept up in the extralegal world of the Department of Homeland Security. After questioning that includes physical torture and psychological stress, Marcus is released, a marked man in a much darker San Francisco: a city of constant surveillance and civil-liberty forfeiture. Encouraging hackers from around the city, Marcus fights against the system while falling for one hacker in particular.

During a discussion with my son, Alex, where we talked about internet surveillance and within which I happened to mention public key cryptography — knowing I was about to embark upon a very lengthy explanation of what that was — Alex casually said, “Oh, I know what that is…” and he went on to explain it to me! “How the heck did you learn about that?” I asked. “In Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother,” was his answer (a book which, by the way, he’s now read seven times!).

I found this so fascinating and amusing that I emailed Cory (whom I met casually at O’Reilly’s ETech a couple of years ago) to tell me the story and he emailed back, letting me know what a hoot he and his wife had as he shared the story with her. After Alex found out about our email exchange, he stated he’d email Cory too and did…and Cory emailed him back. More on that in a moment.  Read More