Why you should encrypt your mail

By default, email messages are sent in cleartext over the Internet. A common analogy is that an email is like a postcard - anyone who handles it along the way from sender to recipient can read the entire message. In comparison, encrypting your messages is like putting them in an envelope. But here the analogy suffers, because the digital envelope of encryption is so strong that, as far as we know, even the NSA can not force it open.

For this reason, strong encryption is a threat to government power and it is very likely that governments will sooner or later try to prohibit it. They will not outright ban the use of encryption, but rather require that people who use encryption provide their decryption keys when asked by the government. This is already the case in several jurisdictions.

When we come to this particular point in the expansion of tyrannical power, developments might turn on the number of people who have adopted encryption as a daily routine. If encryption is still a fringe phenomenon, there will not be enough voices to avert government abuse. On the other hand, it is possible that if a large enough segment of a population is using encryption, it might be difficult for politicians to push an anti-encryption agenda. In any case, if millions of people are habitually sending encrypted messages, it will be much more difficult to target them systematically.

So even if you currently are not concerned about your personal privacy (although you definitely should be), you should still use encryption and encourage others to use it. If many of us do, it might provide a bulwark against state suppression of private communication. In any case, it will strengthen the capacity of the general population to resist further power-grabs by the cleptocratic elites.


A while ago I started using the website prism-break.org for assistance in migrating my last OS X environments to free software alternatives. The site provides a great overview of friendly alternatives to proprietary software and from the beginning I recommended it highly to my friends. The site has developed and become even better since.

Only the other day did I see who is behind the site. To my surprise and delight, it is Peng Zhong, a very talented freelance designer who has done projects both for my own company and for friends of mine. Most importantly, he created the design for artilect.com and I happen to like it a lot. He was also contracted by Artilect to design foretagsklimat.se and he later did some great work on the Scrive website.

I don't exactly know Peng (despite having worked together in multiple projects, we have never spoken to each other), but I think that he is obviously a good guy. Please support him if you can, e.g. by making a bitcoin donation or by contributing code, translations etc!

In any case, make sure to check out the site - it is a gold mine!

Programmer scarcity and the tech megatrend

This is a re-post from Hacker News, some comments in response to an excellent little essay by David Heinemeier Hansson. This topic tends to come up now and then, so I put the comments here to have a handy reference.

I often think about how extraordinarily lucky I am to be living through this technological boom. Computation, automation and mass-communication will continue to transform human society even more for decades. High-end software development skills will become even more scarce. Immersing yourself in the boom by running a software shop with a bunch of good friends - the best of times!

The point about programming skills becoming more scarce is an important additional factor to why it is good to be in the software business:

We are still in a relatively early stage of the technological boom signified by things like electronics, computers, robotics and the internet. These technologies have changed life on Earth dramatically, but there is probably at least as much to come. In any case, for the next two or three decades, more and more aspects of life will be the object of automation, computation etc. So the demand for software development will continue to increase, and probably by a lot. Software will become an even greater part of the economy and continue to crowd out other types of business.

Only a small percentage of the population have the talent and inclination to become very good programmers, and children with these traits often do not get proper encouragement and guidance. So from the beginning, it is very hard for society to produce a large number of programmers. More importantly, the ratio of people who can become good programmers is probably more or less a constant, while the need for software development will grow much faster.

We might also be getting worse at producing programmers. For example, software is becoming more mature, hiding more and more of the internals. I started programming at age seven, in the eighties. In local stores I could buy glossy magazines with articles about programming, often with entire programs that I could copy into Basic etc. For sure, there is the Internet now, but what kind of programming culture for kids is there? I could pick my first computer apart and learn all about how it worked. Kids these days learn to use iPads before they learn to speak, but they never get to see what is inside. Who knows where this will lead? We already know that a lot of graybeards are retiring and they are often impossible to replace since the current generation of programmers is not nearly as hard-core.