coderman coderman at
Thu Dec 31 04:47:46 PST 2015
... In a way, Aaron is a cautionary tale for unschooling. One of the
lessons that school teaches is that the people who make the rules
don’t really have to follow them. It’s something even the most
rebellious students learn one way or another, but Aaron looked up a
different set of rules and hacked his way out of school instead. On
one hand Aaron was happy with his choice and felt more engaged and
happier with online peers, on the other he absorbed a dangerous lesson
about navigating bureaucratic systems. Plenty of legal scholars and
technology experts thought Aaron had kept on the right side of the
letter of the law, but the criminal justice system is resistant to the
kind of hacking he tended to practice. I don’t know if he considered
fleeing the country, but I doubt it. Maybe if he had lived to see
Edward Snowden make dodging extradition look good, things would have
been different.

I was surprised when I saw the security footage of Aaron entering the
MIT building, his bike helmet held half-heartedly in front of his
face, his telltale hair poking out the sides. I had read the
Manifesto, but I didn’t think it really reflected Aaron’s intentions.
I was worried about what could happen to him, but not that worried. I
figured he had enough institutional support to keep his punishment to
a slap on the wrist. Mostly I was angry that he hadn’t taken what he
was doing seriously enough; with a team and a little bit of planning,
there’s no reason the authorities should have been able to tie Aaron
to the action. But covert ops wasn’t one of his strengths, and he
never got the chance to learn.

If I’m part of the we that counted on Aaron, then I’m also part of the
we that failed him. I thought his connections and credibility and
reputation would keep him safe, and maybe he did too. Maybe we
convinced him that a boy like him could change the world, or at least
always hack an escape route. But there’s no individual who can’t be
picked off if they cross the wrong line, or just the wrong prosecutor.

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