Hack Against the Apocalypse: The Civilian Soldiers of the Internet

PCA/ACA, Spring 2014


Through the lens of Manuel De Landa’s robot historian, I briefly track the military roots of the Internet that eventually morphed into the civilian population of hackers that established the now familiar notion of personal computing. While early Internet-engaged films like War Games (1982) and The Matrix (1999) represent the Internet as an antagonist and treacherous technology controlled by an apocalyptic army of machines in direct opposition to the survival of humanity, movies after the non-scare of Y2K, such as Swordfish (2001) and The Core (2003), instead show the humankind in co-operation with the Internet. In reality, this collaboration has resulted in the Internet becoming exceptionally pervasive in private and public infrastructures and, once again, a valuable military asset. Looking specifically at Iron Man and Pacific Rim, the previous fears, documented by Manuel De Landa and N. Katherine Hayles, of cutting humans “out-of-the-loop” in military operations has almost completely dissipated and has been replaced by a new model of soldier that demands “a-man-in-the-middle,” exemplified by the near literal cyborg of Iron Man, his machinic phylum of remote-controlled Iron Men, along with his relationship with the character War Machine. A movie-going audience’s comfort with Iron Man and the dual-user-controlled machines of Pacific Rim both reflects and ultimately encourages a dangerous re-militarization of the Internet, a process wherein the hacker has been repurposed from her/his civilian body into the military assemblage as an outdated model that promotes an overly simplistic nationalism and too-basic post-human evolution that does not reflect our contemporary globalized and virtual world.

Presentation Slides: HACK AGAINST THE APOCALPYSE PCA 2.0 Hacking PCA-aca 2014 conference presentation

Presentation Notes: PCA-aca conference presentation