October 19th, 2003

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People Who Live In Caves

I met this dude at the Amtrak station today. He swears he knows me from somewhere, and I thought he seemed very familiar too. But we spent a good 10 minutes listing our various group affiliations and there's no overlap. Anyway when we found out train was delayed by an hour he invited me to have a bite to eat, I suggested Kopi. It was really cool to have a random stranger (though a stranger that I thought I knew from somewhere, and he thought the same) ask to hang out and chit chat.

I guess he's a current CS student but it was the weirdest thing. He didn't know about the Diebold thing. Ok, fine so he hasn't read slashdot today. He didn't know what slashdot is. He didn't know what the EFF was. Ok, fine, so he's more of a techie and doesn't follow the political stuff. When I described it as the ACLU of the computer world he didn't know what the ACLU was. As the conversation progressed he had never heard of the DMCA, he had never used linux, didn't know Linux was free, didn't know about the free software movement, the open source movement, the GNU project, or the GPL. He had heard the term "open source" but didn't know that programs like WinZip (free to download, not free, no source available) were not open source. After explaining a lot of stuff his basic understanding of the Diebold situation was that we shouldn't have to worry about it because some government regulatory body ("like the FDA, but for elections") would/should take care of it.

Is this kid an anomally or are there a lot of smart educated, even geeky, people who are this clueless about basic political isssues (the existance and purpose of the ACLU) and their career field (the different philosphies of software development and licensing). Does political rhetoric that assumes a BASIC level of understanding of the system fall on largely deaf ears?

The weird thing was this kid had a definite sort of "alternative" look of some kind. I think he mentioned that he was into the goth scene. I frequently (mistakenly) assume off the bat that if someone doesn't look really mainstream then they are slightly more clued into alternative politics and news and I assume that if such a person is also a computer geek they know about such things as slashdot, linux, and the DMCA. I was agog when I met my first republican pagan. I guess after that I shouldn't be surprised to meet a clueless goth geek. I have such higher expectations for the counterculture. Not that they'll agree with me, but at least that I can talk to them in ways that I can not talk to a fratboy.

Anyway I think I scared him away as I tried to back off and educate about the issues. He asked me to explain so I was doing my best. But all of a sudden he said he had to go to the bathroom and then he avoided me for the rest of the night. Poor guy. I'm sorry. I'd have been just as happy to have him talk about LARPing (one of his other stated interests) or whatever...but he was the one asking me questions.