Breakpoint event

Mudge, a security researcher who was the most visible member of the old hacker thinktank the L0pht, invited me to a reception for former cybersecurity czar and White House national security advisor Richard Clarke. Clarke was at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge tonight, shaking hands and signing his new thriller, “Breakpoint.” Clarke, who grew up in the area in Dorchester, drew an eclectic crowd that looked like people who knew him when, people who’ve known him since, people who’ve taken the course he teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a few security types.

He got laughs when he noted that this is his third book and his second work of fiction, unless you ask the Bush Administration, which would say it’s his third work of fiction. In fact, Breakpoint is not so much fiction as a policy brief for 2012, when Ray Kurzweil’s techno utopian vision for the future smacks headlong into Bill Joy’s dystopian counter-vision. Joy is a character in the novel (he’s called William Gaudium); most of the heroes, meanwhile, buy into Kurzweil’s techno-utopian vision. Thinly disguised versions of Microsoft and Cisco are in it, as well. Clarke got knowing laughs for his disclaimer that the book was pure fiction and not based on real people or companies, after which he introduced Mudge as someone who is not the character Soxster from the novel.

The most important pages in the book are his appendix, which discuss about a dozen technologies under development, largely for military purposes. If Clarke is correct, the U.S. will have significantly boosted its technological lead over the rest of the world in five years, and its only real threat will come from within, as the rate of technological progress sparks serious social unrest. We’ll check back with Clarke in 2012.

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