These reflections on a trip to a hackers’ conference reveal an emerging new culture: where the public and private are confused, identity is hidden, appearance is suspected, and surveillance is assumed. -Jeff
My arrival in Vegas has put me somewhat off my equilibrium. It’s twelve in the morning here, and through some trick of non-euclidian geometry, my cell tells me that it’s only been three hours since my flight left New York City at nine. I know that the time-difference has created the illusion that less time has passed than I perceived, but the streets of Vegas are indifferent, and beat out their manic, midnight tempo regardless.
I’m here, in search of Anonymous, that nameless, faceless organization that scares the pants off of politicians and public figures everywhere, a bogeyman, haunting the nightmares of middle-class boomers, and mid-level bureaucrats. This past Summer has seen a great uptick in the number of high-profile cyber crimes, many committed in the name of WikiLeaks, and I know that this may be my best chance to get a word with someone who knows about the splinter-group Lulsec.
Even as Jim, Frank, Karen and I make tracks across the desert highway in the rental car, fifteen-thousand hackers are making similar pilgrimages, converging on our location from all over the world. The leaders from every tribe come to DEFCON, one of the largest hacker conferences on the planet, bring the latest news and gossip from all corners of the world back to their local communities. Nobody knows quite what will happen, but whatever does will set the tone for the entire year.
First impressions, Vegas: a hooker thumbs a ride under a sign advertising six dollar prime rib. The strip is a hallucinogenic wonderland of dancing light, and architectural insanity. Each architectural monstrosity bound to its neighbors only by divergence, and difference. Each is more garish and twisted than the last. This city is a schizoid’s sandbox in the middle of the desert. The land here . . .