Why would a Post Collapse Civilization care about DRM?

The basic idea is you have pockets of civilization, cities that are somewhat self-sufficient and can trade even if it takes months, and can maintain technology to a limited degree using scavenged parts. However, hardware hackers and those that can ‘root’ locked down specialist hardware either to uncap or even change functionality are seen as something like modern witch craft.

The idea I had is that AI that act as resource management sees rooting as depriving it of needed data and potential control. Someone on the NaNoWriMo forum had this to say:

For technology, people think that hacking is bad because the technology they have is vitally important to surviving the post-Collapse world. These selfish and awful hackers are using techniques they don’t know and don’t understand to mess with and endanger the AI/tech that keeps them alive. The hackers are trying to kill us, so burn the witches. Usually “witches” are people who use means that are outside of the “natural law” in order to accomplish their goals, so the hacker’s techniques and methods are going to need to be considered mysterious and immoral to get the same effect.

For DRM (Digital Rights Management) I’m going to draw a connection to the demon “programs” and point back to the age old examples of DRM: alchemists and other “magicians”. It’s the oldest thing in the book. You don’t let the other guy know how you did it. Whether that’s the steps to transmute lead into gold or the ritual to summon a demon and set it to its programmed task, you protect your knowledge with whatever cipher/encryption/missing steps method you want so that the other guy can’t steal your techniques.

Anyone mind chiming in/

There’s the other angle as well. DRM itself could be considered immoral and evil in a post-collapse world. Suddenly, when the bombs go off, a lot of people’s photos, home movies, survival guides, libraries all stop working. The old law enforcing the DRM may be gone, but the old DRM is still a very inconvenient or possibly impossible obstacle to get to everything that was ostensibly yours. Back in the good old days when Amazon still existed, instead of being a radioactive pile of rubble.

The bombs didn’t just physically erase families. Now that all our photo albums are on vaporized encrypted servers, even the memory of those families are gone.


that is what hardware crackers would use as moral justification. What right do these people have to enforce a rule of order that was designed for a time and infrastructure that doesn’t exist? They free up hardware that wouldn’t work sinceit can’t call home because home is a crater. This is why you would have people learning even though the penalty is fatal.

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Now that’s an angle for the FBI: Apple protecting their users data by encryption is immoral, because they can’t access it after a global cataclysm.


Basically, this problem, like so many others, is caused by not enough people having read a decent amount of SF.


Value, greed, concentration of power.

Estimate 1% of humans cannot prevent themselves doing anything to get power.

If they weren’t there, DRM wouldnt even exist. They pop up as random mutations. So unavoidable if we breed.


Side question: why is anyone still writing post apocalyptic stuff? Isn’t that scenario as played out as Captain Fabulous and his Shiny Spacecraft?

Yeah! Why do they still write love stories? Or murder mysteries? Or technical documentation?



Because I can isn’t reason enough? Why do anything at all? It’s obviously all been done before.


when you write technical documentation, are you keeping the putative needs of a post apocalyptic civilization in the forefront of your mind?


I would be fairly surprised if a post-collapse society would be against people cracking DRM, any more than they would be against people taking crowbars to whatever buts of rubble seem worth salvaging.

There would be an obvious “anti” party if there were still someone in a position to exercise control by using the legacy systems, they would presumably be against someone messing with that; but unless the scenario is a very, very, gentle collapse, I’m just not sure that their would be such people(and the few exceptions would find that the costs and risks of travel and difficulty of communication makes attempting to grow fat of tithes tricky).

DRM systems are generally designed to fail brittle(since if you don’t default deny, just faking a network outage during the authentication step becomes a viable hack); and they tend to rely on a lot of 3rd party moving parts. In many cases(Denuevo in games, say) the vendor doesn’t even control the DRM themselves, they license it from some other guy whose authentication servers are probably a smoldering heap of rubble. Even if it’s developed in-house, knowledge is likely to be spread among several people, access to keying material tightly controlled even before the robot wars, and infrastructure for authenticating users generally probably dependent on a bunch of network infrastructure and servers handled by ops(or farmed out to Amazon, and likely on fire either way).

The original vendor might well be in a better spot if they still have everything they need to produce a clean build for their own use; or as a superior competitor to the cracked copies; but their ability to re-establish that tasty licensing revenue seems tricky at best.

All that said, in an environment where swift transmission of cracked copies, and just-fucking-google-it-powered techies are no longer possible; I can see people with relevant knowledge doing some obscurantist hoarding to increase their value as hackers, rather than toiling mud slaves, to Bartertown’s warlord; I just can’t see the fight being between them and the old-world copy-cops rather than being a contemporary dispute over how well they will be compensated for their work, how indispensable they think they are vs. Lord Humongous thinks they are, and similar areas of labor law.

I can also see some situations where malicious (or hapless and accidental) damage could result in being greeted with roughly the enthusiasm reserved for a London arsonist in 1666; but not because you dabble in things beyond your station; but because you dabble in exactly the thing that just ruined our day by no longer working, so we blame you. You don’t need to hold a specialist in superstitious awe to recognize him as dangerously capable of subject area malice or incompetence; and have a corresponding interest in supervision, moral suasion, and brutal punishment. To some degree we already try to do this; with licensure and professional censure for things like doctors and lawyers(along with lofty ideals to try to discourage people from needing that censure in the first place); given that regulatory capture doesn’t work as well without a relatively strong, bureaucratic, state to capture, enforcement would probably get more enthusiastic, if more unsystematic, after the nanite plagues.

Also: the Brotherhood definitely wouldn’t hold your haxxor skills in superstitious awe; but they would definitely kill you up with the extremest of prejudice for being a script kiddie.


Among other incentives(genre that combines mortality salience and people’s enthusiasm for plucky survivors?); one might argue that the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic genres were recipients of one of the largest programs of government funding for the arts; certainly since the glory days of theocratic monument and tomb construction, possibly period; I’m not sure how the GDP and cost numbers shake down.

This was unintentional; the money in question was allocated to various DoD bits and pieces during the Cold War; not the National Endowment for the Arts; but (at least for me) one of the things that really helps make the genre compelling is the fact that my not-very-distant predecessors poured substantial talent and staggering resources into building the real thing; a body of work that both stands pretty well on its own and inspired a solid body of commentary.

(By way of relatively obvious example; I’d like to have a better one; but this is the one that comes to mind because it is obvious: Doctor Strangelove is both good and given much more punch by the degree to which it mirrors On Thermonuclear War with some character development added.)

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There is also the fact fiction’s greatest ability is to take a thing and put it in a novel enough situation where you can provide color commentary on how it reacts.

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Talk about DRM is just talk about keeping secrets, really. In a post apocalyptic situation, surviving communities would be more ntetested in sharing information, not in hoarding it for an advantage. Add to this that DRM adds complexities in data storage that a community that just survived an extinction level event can’t afford, and DRM becomes an issue only when trying to access data from the pre-apocalyptic society.

Part of why DRM has always been so dodgy, compared to cryptography, is that it’s a really an attempt at a weird sort of conditional secret keeping:

Not disclosing something to someone is comparatively easy; attempting to disclose it to them such that it’s transparent if they just play it back once; but utterly refuses to be dumped to their hard drive; or can only be replayed X times, or expires in 18 months, or whatnot is harder.

It’s not some fundamentally new thing; people have been disclosing sensitive information under the implicit or explicit condition that it be used only for specific purposes; and not for others, for who knows how long; but it’s easily the most audacious attempt to extend “I’ve told you this in confidence” to a large audience of people you have only a commercial relationship with and minimal social influence or direct control over.

I suspect that any recognizably human society will continue to have its share of secrets and disclosures-in-confidence; and some people will probably be willing to be pretty drastic in their attempts to maintain them; or punish those who threaten or violate them. However, without the ability to engage in low-friction economic interactions with large numbers of people you have basically no other ties to; it’s hard to see DRM being the tool of choice; rather than the historical classics like appeals to loyalty and threats of violent death.

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