Bruce Sterling just wrote a wonderful melancholic essay on cypherpunks, Wikileaks, Julian Assange and the human society that forms their milieu. It may be the best piece so far to capture the character of Julian Assange.

Glancing over the comments, I stopped on this one – here is an extract:

[..] the people that run the governments of the world don’t get it at all. As the old guard “nationalists” die off there will be less and less reaction to this kind of thing to the point where it’s happening so much most things are just lost in the noise. I’m younger than Bruce, but not by much, however I know this much that he doesn’t seem to, in a world where the population has grown up with Facebook/MySpace/etc there is not even the expectation of privacy or secrets. Get over it. People will again have to start actually being polite to one another, or they’ll be exposed for all to see.

Personally, I do not believe that information which is solely classified because it’s embarrassing to a government should be. I also believe that people that work for the government should be honor bound to report when crimes are being committed, and that supersedes ALL other directives. Until we reach that state we will not have grown into adults as a society. Right now governments behave as children without adults behave. Read Lord of the Flies.

I disagree with him about expectations of privacy from the Facebook generation, but the rest rings true to me. But what hit me as I read it is his remark that “Ppople will again have to start actually being polite to one another, or they’ll be exposed for all to see” : this immediately reminded me of this Heinlein quote:

“An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life” – Robert A. Heinlein

One may not agree with Heinlein about whether citizens bearing arms is a good idea, but the fact is that the balance of power that was previously wholly on the side of the governments has just been slightly tipped back toward the citizens.

Will that make governments more polite toward their citizens ?