You Can’t Stop the Signal

If you research the development of communication technology you’ll notice two trends. First, when the technology first begins to gain popularity there are always government busybodies arguing that it must be controlled. Second, any attempt to control the technology utterly fails in the long wrong. When the printing press started gaining prominence the Inquisition wanted to control it to prevent the printing of heresy. While they achieved some limited success in controlling what was printed in certain languages, namely the languages the Inquisition officials that works in censorship knew such as Italian, the result was that people printed censored works in languages, such as German, that Inquisition officials were less familiar with. Today the same game is being played with modern communication technologies. Every government seems hellbent on censoring modern communication technologies and some states have been especially tyrannical in their efforts. Cuba is one of those states. But the watchful censors of the Cuban government have been continuously outsmarted by a bunch of kids:

HAVANA (AP) — Cut off from the Internet, young Cubans have quietly linked thousands of computers into a hidden network that stretches miles across Havana, letting them chat with friends, play games and download hit movies in a mini-replica of the online world that most can’t access.

Home Internet connections are banned for all but a handful of Cubans, and the government charges nearly a quarter of a month’s salary for an hour online in government-run hotels and Internet centers. As a result, most people on the island live offline, complaining about their lack of access to information and contact with friends and family abroad.

A small minority have covertly engineered a partial solution by pooling funds to create a private network of more than 9,000 computers with small, inexpensive but powerful hidden Wi-Fi antennas and Ethernet cables strung over streets and rooftops spanning the entire city. Disconnected from the real Internet, the network is limited, local and built with equipment commercially available around the world, with no help from any outside government, organizers say.

Never underestimate the power of kids wanting to communicate with one another. Unlike many adults, kids haven’t have the fear of the state beaten into them and therefore are more willing to flip it the bird and do as it wants. Combine this willingness to disobey with an amazing capacity to learn new technologies quickly and you have a recipe for rendering state censorship efforts impotent.

As long as we have states we will likely have attempts to censor communications. But you can’t stop the signal. Humans have an innate desire to communicate with one another and will smash through any barrier that lies between them and their friends.