Julian Assange's last video
before communications cut at Ecuadorian Embassy
1. The purpose of Wikileaks
I started WikiLeaks to solve a very interesting problem to me, which was
And we all know politics is largely irrational.
That's the purpose of WikiLeaks, to try and understand mankind, and from that we can perhaps produce a better, or more realistically put, less worse human civilization. But that is changing.
Mankind in some sense just having small grasp of understanding about how it is progressing through the world I think is now almost completely eliminated. And not in the way that I expected. We actually have access to much more knowledge about how we work than we ever did before. But it has been eliminated through the speed of information-processing and therefore the speed of the change of knowledge.
And that is rapidly moving into - well - that algorithmic processing of knowledge is moving into Artificial Intelligence. And while Artificial Intelligence is just another kind of algorithm,
So I think you guys in both these two dimensions are able to do something.
(Time 2:50) 2. What's it like spending every day in the Embassy?
The interesting stuff I can't describe because of, I mean,
And I have been detained in prison, under house arrest, and in this Embassy, without charge at any time in this country, for almost 8 years now. The difficulty for people who are detained in one form or another is monotony. Absolutely! So I try and make each day as different as possible, as it possibly can be. And it is never different enough for me.
(Time 3:50) 3. If you get your freedom, what will be your plans? Will you return to Australia?
There is a shifting geopolitical constellation, as far as the operation of WikiLeaks and other publishers are concerned that are trying to push the envelope, WikiLeaks is designed in its structure, well, because it kind of suits the things I like doing, to be the boldest but still credible publisher. It's an interesting tension that box "still credible". By that I mean we are very bold, not so bold that we publish child pornography. That would certainly be bold, but it's not I think interesting and credible.
(Time 4:40) 4. What led you to start WikiLeaks?
Coming out of my experience in dealing with governments and the security industry, I go into encryption and became an encryption engineer.
I met a small number of companies I consulted to. And after a while I viewed that the universe was hard enough to understand for human beings without going around encrypting it all the time. And in some sense that was to make human life harder to understand. And while I understood and even come back, I suppose, to embrace that early philosophic position of mine, that in a computerized civilization encryption is the fundamental building block of liberty, I think that is clear, it's very interesting philosophically to why that is so, so then, well, I should really tackle to de-crypt physical reality.
That sounds mad, but that's what physicists do, right? We try and decrypt physical reality to understand time and space, beginning and end of things. And after a while I felt that I had - although physics is very wide - but I felt I had a decent enough understanding that the extra time put in wouldn't produce a great deal more understanding. And so then I came back taking some of these concepts that have been developed in quantum mechanics about understanding flows of causality -one thing causes another- and if you look at it for particular interpretation through the flow of information, of how one thing you are trying to measure goes on to cascade causality across others and then eventually to the person looking at it.
And so I thought, why not take that concept, which can perhaps be described in a way that WikiLeaks uses it as causality amplification,
and try to put that into place to help understand human civilization.
And while that is in some sense a very ambitious and impossible project along the way - to have some fun and achieve some important flows for justice, which is satisfying if you do that. It is very very satisfying to see innocent people for example walk out of prison with one of our publications above their head.
(Time 7:56) 5. What can be expect from WikiLeaks in the future?
Back in 2007 when I launched WikiLeaks - I don't know if people can bring their minds back to the cultural dynamics on the Internet at that time - it was in some sense far more controlling a space than it is now, and in other senses far more open, because there weren't the big players dominating it as they do now. But the fight as to whether a WikiLeaks was culturally acceptable, had not been had yet.
And through succeeding in that fight and defending our organization, we became in a very unsual way part of the status quo.
Not of the status quo of establishments obviously. Many establishments opposed us because of state secrets and all establishments are in some sense hypocritical and rely on keeping a different interior world to exterior presentatiion.
WikiLeaks became culturally established, such that there would be a tremor sent through the broader Internet culture which is now the broader Western culture, if WikiLeaks were to disappear. And that is a very difficult role to be in.
What would it mean? It would mean essentially that the envelope for publishers and freedom of speech and the rights of citizens vs. institutions and establishments would suddenly contract. So I personally and WikiLeaks are partly in the business of keeping the envelope wide, being that avangarde where we are constantly crashing up against icebergs, constantly trying to smash through the ice or at least maintain position, so that behind us there is a widened cultural space for liberty, broadly speaking.
(Time 10:21) 6. What are the biggest threats to businesses and governments today?
I mean you have had some very good speakers speaking at the kind of practical everyday computer security in the industry. So I am not going to do that, probably because I wouldn't be that good a it.
WikiLeaks has a threat model, that exceedingly ... it is a very high threat model. Absurd, in fact. The UK government, by the middle of 2015, admitted just one department to lowering having spent 12 million Pounds - it was very embarrassing trailing me - it was very embarrassing. So in response they classified the budget. So, the budget figures have not been released. They certainly have not been released for others. So - a high threat level environment.
It is very interesting, I suppose, all the means they have come up with to deal with that environment. But they are in some sense unique to small to midsize organizations operating at the highest levels of which - I am not sure there are any others than us - I suppose that there are some independence groups and terrorist organizations. But on the terror side, it's quite a different game, obviously.
Finite civilization lifetime
But there is a much bigger threat for everyone. And I see it like this:
At the time the Los Alamos project, physics, western physics, became harmonized, because you brought the different physics traditions from across Europe, the leading figures, to the United States and to Los Alamos, and then you had a harmonization of nomenclature and understanding. And those people then spread out. So one of those people was Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist, very interesting man.
One night Enrico Fermi was out walking in Los Alamos with some of his physicist buddies, and he looked up at the stars and said: "Where is everyone?" So - you are going to freak out a little bit, because, yes, I am bringing in the Aliens into this part of the talk, to answer this question. His question is very deep: There don't appear to be any, and by "appear" I mean there are no physical signs that we can detect in terms of what happens to stars, the energy seems to be constantly boiling off, being wasted into space. We don't hear radio signals, we don't see anything of civilized life. And yet, in the last ten years planetary astrophysics has shown that there is tens of thousands of extrasolar planets, which we have actually detected on an individual basis. And from that you can assemble the probabilities of there being earth-approximating planets. And there is hundreds of millions, maybe billions, just in this galaxy.
So the question then becomes: Where is the civilized life, why don't we see it. Why don't we see any signs of it anywhere? The answers to that are: Well, there isn't. We don't see signs of civilized life with our increasingly powerful measurement apparatus, because life simply doesn't evolve, life itself. That's why we don't see some life.
There is something very rare about the Earth, when life here evolved. But when we look at the Earth and when we look at extrasolar planets, we don't see any reason why that should be true. In fact, we see organic aminoacids in space dust and asteroids and so on. And we know asteroids cross-pollinate, for example there is asteroids here from Mars, bits of Earth is going to Mars, etc. So there is quite a lot of reason to believe that the basic building blocks of life have spread widely.
So, in my view, and I think it is the only view you can take so far until more data comes in,
And I think the answer to that is the very rapid competition, if you like, a lightspeed competition that occurs when you wire up the world to itself. And that very rapid competition can have two phases:
1. It can produce very robust Artificial Intelligences that it then couples with their states. You can see that panning out in the United States and China, as each erupt,
There are interesting trajectories in different ways, but that takes too long to describe. So I think that's the biggest threat, it is geopolitical competition removing what otherwise might have been sensible human controls on the development of Artificial Intelligence.
That geopolitical competition, harnessed by, and itself harnessing the largest Artificial Intelligence companies, to ratchet up a process which human beings can no longer control.
And that is where we are headed. And that is a severe threat to human beings in general and all businesses. But, perhaps the answer to that threat is, people understand computer security, defensive computer security in particular, trying to work out what to do about it.
(Time 18:22) Q.: What is your view on cyber warfare as an offensive role, as a retaliatory action?
Nation States have not been around that long. Most people don't understand that. The Westphalian system has only been around 400 years and in fact most nations - not states, but nations - communities of people - were not even in the Westphalian system for a long time.
Now you can think about why the Westphalian system, the nation state system developed.
There is clear physical reason why that arose. It's a geographical conflict, and geographical basically means two-dimensional spatial conflict. But the Internet has no two-dimensional spatial nature. So instead, what you see with the conflicts that occur through Internet based organizations and states increasingly moving on the Internet, is a kind of interdigitization conflict. There is no border and it's 220 milliseconds from New York to Nairobi. So why would there ever be peace in such a scenario. There is no border of peace, within which there is greater cooperation. That's not easy to construct.
Now, with cryptography, to the degree that it is well engineered, you can create some kind of borders, in fact that is what all institutions that are surviving on the Internet, and archaic international space, are doing. They are creating their own borders using cryptography. But the size of the attack-surface for any decent-size organization and the number of people and different types of hardware and software that has to pull inside itself means that that is very hard to establish. And things are moving so fast that I don't think it is really possible for organizations to come up with borders that are predictable enough and stable enough to eliminate conflict.
Therefore, there will be more conflicts. They are kind of sexy, because they have a lot of power and they conform to certain classical human models that were culturally absorbed over the last, at least a few hundred years, and a notion of a well-defined cultural Other. But I think they are small players, really small players in this game, as it goes forward.
You look at what Google and ? and Tencent and Amazon and Facebook are doing. In their basically mass-opencut harvesting of the knowledge of humankind, as we express it when we communicate with each other. Some people do on Facebook or upload YouTube videos or deals between different companies to get hold of the other.
That classical model - which people in academia have called surveillance capitalism, namely you acquire capital through surveillance, the capital is the data, and then you sell it to advertisers, basically. That has changed, now. It's really a very very interesting and important and severe economic change, which is:
Even just the transport sector alone - this is worth trillions of Dollars more than the advertising, intermediation sector.
And to be a player in that game you have to have the vast reservoirs of data. And Europe doesn't even have one! It's incredible. It could have perhaps struggled forth with one.
But, if you look at things [like] the European privacy legislation and the tradition of privacy - not so much in the UK - but emanating from Germany and Germanic Europe culturally, while it's kind of dear to me as someone who understands about the importance of privacy. It has meant that a European company has not been able to emerge - although I think there is other reasons as well, why it hasn't - that
8. New totalitarianism
(Time 25:25) Q.: ID theft is on the rise, why is this area increasingly attractive to criminals?
It's an interesting question. I think, you know, the answer is not terribly interesting and a bit obvious, which is, vast databases of IDs are economically interesting to institutions for other reasons. And the centralization of those vast databases then makes the marginal cost of stealing each ID lower, and the globalization of principally commerce, means, you can use IDs in more places.
But, let's kind of pull back and look at it at a more philosophical perspective.
That's a very different situation for individuals to be in, than they have previously been. That a small child now in some sense has to negotiate its relationship with all the world's major powers. Of course, in practice, it can't do anything. Its parents are not managing that negotiation. It puts us, I think, in a very different position, in a sense that very few, in fact maybe only a few people in this audience, very technically capable people, are able to live apart, to choose to live apart, to choose to go their own way. They MUST be part of not only the state, but the major state-like corporations, so the powerful, they may as well be states, and not just their own state, but other states as well.
That's a significant cultural change for humanity. It smells a bit like totalitarianism in some way. Obviously the world is different. But there is some feeling about it, which is totalitarian.
(Time 29:11) Q.: What is your view on the media coverage of your activities?
Well, I mean (laughs), you know journalists have one of the lowest approval ratings of all professions. The last study in the United States was about 25%. I think, lawyers are slightly lower. Congressmen are way lower. And just about everyone else is higher. Why is that? It's a sad thing, it's a really sad thing. As someone who loves to document how human civilization actually works, we are in constant warfare with those people who are trying to distort the understanding of how human beings actually behave, including distortions by proxy, which is to come up with nonsense about WikiLeaks or me.
I mean there has been, there is a lot of amazing plots that we have uncovered in one form or another. I think my favourite allegation is that I am a cat torturer. No seriously, AFP (Agence France Presse) put that everywhere. It made it even into the New York Times. I don't really know where to start for people who are not familiar with this kind of disgusting machine that the media is, and how it works.
Perhaps it's enough to say that most human wars have come about as a result of lies. And that seems absolutely clear in democracies. Democracies have to be lied into war. It is a very serious ongoing problem. It resulted in the deaths of millions of people over the last fifty years. And you can do a calculation: How many deaths are journalists responsible for? And I did it in the United States, because, not meaning to pick on it, but these figures for the total number of political journalists is about five thousand. It's something like 200 kills per journalist in the last twenty years. Just the US journalists alone, because they would not do their job, they would not be accurate, and because they lacked courage.
(Time 31:52) 10. Do you have any regrets about releasing sensitive information that could have endangered lives?
No. This is another one of these propaganda talking points. Not to criticize you - I know you are trying to give me something to bounce off. But the United States government had to admit under oath in the trial against Chelsea Manning in 2013 that it could not find a single instance of someone who had been physically harmed as a result of our publications to that point. Now, I should say, if you work on an industrial scale - everyone knows you work on an industrial scale - then the world is big and there is a lot of reverberating dynamics that you can never properly play out. It's the same for car manufacturers, the same for big publishers. But thus far there is no example of that happening for us.
11 States define themselves in significant degree as having power by violating their own rules.
(Time 32:55) Q.: When you eventually leave the Embassy, do you plan to continue your activities?
Yeah, I don't know, it's a - no, I mean I do know, what I should answer in response to that question. It's an interesting diplomatic back and forth about, well, really about the - in my view- the alliance structure, the Western alliance structure between the United Kingdom and the United States. That has caused problems for many people in the U.K. for a long time in justice and related extradition cases, and quite a bit of prestige as well. Quite a bit of state pride. In both, states never liked to be forced to follow their own rules. In fact, they define themselves in significant degree as having power by violating their own rules. That's one of the key ways in which states demonstrate this as a primacy of their power that they are the one group having to obey its own rules. And that is true in my situation.
12. Surveillance and strategic interception
(Time 34:12) Q.: How do you see things changing in the next 5-10 years in terms of the types of cyber threats?
In the detainee period it's hard to predict and that's the big problem. I don't see the National Security Agency (NSA), GCHQ, Five Eyes, DGSE France a bit, Russia a bit, China mostly domestically, have been engaged in mass surveillance and the Five Eyes countries for, well serious computational mass surveillance, about twenty years. That is something - on such scale, that it strategically affects the development of human civilization. In fact, it's called strategic interception for exactly that reason.
Now, strategic interception is slowly being degraded. And that was a very important thing to do, because - and I guess some people can't see the reasons - but as the majority of the world's population threw itself onto the Internet, we merged our human societies with the Internet. So the result is that, whatever the security structure of the Internet, our human societies also became part of that. And that structure was in part mass strategic interception.
I worked on this for years, many other people as well, and we had a really big hit in 2013 with Edward Snowden's revelations that smashed that into the consciousness - not of the average person, I think that was a negative actually, because they all became paranoid about what they were saying and became fearful and conformist - that we smashed that into the minds of engineers.
And engineers thereby felt enobled that they were part of the flow of human destiny by including encryption into the communications protocols. So that has checked a very dangerous development. And we are left then with the other dangerous developments of which some are the ones that I described. I don't think that now and perhaps in the next three years we are going to see computer hacking at scale. People talk about it as if it is happening at scale at the moment. It is not happening at scale, not compared to strategic interception. But the AI'ification of computer hacking is something that will happen at scale, because we are automating it.
Now, within AI - how you train AIs for discrete problems, computer hacking, many aspects of it is a discrete problem. There has not been significant progress on it, in my view. But there has been enormous progress on how you can map through a space which is in between a fluid problem and a discrete problem.
An example of the space like that is the Game of Go!. That's a very good example for space, where each step in Go is discrete, but you have got enough pieces and enough board, that it almost starts to become a fluid.
When you assemble all the computer hacking techniques together, there is so many, and so many targets, that now you are starting to look like - now you have a search space that starts to look more like a fluid. And these search spaces we can increasingly conquer. And when you have very large computer programs, and I suppose when you fuse large computer programs, if they are large enough, you have enough discrete chinks in the attack surface, that altogether they are more like a fluid.
So I think inevitably we are going to see this AI'ification of computer hacking attacks and that will then be merged with other search spaces. And those other search spaces look like what is the informational space. Because in the end what you really want is machines and human beings to make particular decisions. So you bring to bear - you acquire - as much knowledge as possible, and then map it back in onto that actors whose decisions you want to affect.
So there is a lot of talk about hybrid warfare, some of it legitimate, some of it overblown, it's actually been something that has been around for many many years. But I think this notion of bringing together different search spaces in AI that are large enough to have a semi-fluid property, means that you can then go through the search spaces of all of them together. And that can produce something very powerful and from a human perspective completely incomprehensible.
13. Lawless UK
(Time 40:27) Q.: Is there a point at which you may decide to walk ouf of the Embassy and see what happens?
Yeah, I mean, I guess there is a - human beings are very adaptable. It is their best quality and their worst quality. They adapt to doing nasty things. They adapt to being on the receiving end of injustice, and they cease complaining about it.
The real question is: When, not whether, but when the UK government will follow its treaties that it has signed up to.
If we look in my particular situation, well, yes, everyone understands there is a vast political and geopolitical dynamic that is intimitely connected with the United States. But it is instrumentalized in practice by UK intelligence services and police, who will physically arrest me and hold me for whatever the US wants to do with me. So, what is the excuse to actually do that, to enable those budget expense. The excuse is, in a case that I was never charged for, the extradition order has already been dropped where I repeatedly won. They say they are going to keep around the warrant, the UK altered the warrant for the Swedish extradition which I won. They are going to keep around that warrant despite me winning that. Because I came in here and perhaps they might want to, they haven't, but they might want to charge me with a bail violation. This is the technical excuse.
They haven't. Twice the UK courts have refused to do so. Why - because if you move your house-arrest location to pursue a parallel legal process, a higher legal process, which is an asylum application, that's not a bail violation. OK. What if it was. What if you disagree with the analysis and say, there is a bail violation. Well, OK. Even before I came into this embassy, and applied for asylum, which is everyone's right, everyone in this audience, if you are generally being persecuted, even before I came into this embassy, you add up the time in prison under very gruelling house arrest for eighteen months, I have already done three times the maximum amount of time under UK sentencing legislation. The UK sentencing legislation values house arrest at 50% of prison time. That's the law.
So, not only is this a bogus warrant that has no purpose. If you, as the judge did a couple of weeks ago, say, well, maybe if he came to court I might want to charge him. That is why we need to keep that warrant around. OK. But if that occurred, there could be no possible prison time, because I have already served more than three times the maximum possible prison time even before I was awarded asylum. If you include the time in the embassy, which you should, because the UN has assessed that if you legally block someone from leaving the country, that is a form of detention. That would be ten times the amount.
So the real question is, when is the UK government going to uphold the treaty obligations that it has signed and uphold basic justice principles within UK law.
14. Transparency of intelligence agencies
(Time 43:55) Q.: Governments are meeting with private sector companies to showcase their offensive cyber capabilities in secret. Is this something that should worry the public?
We have published a series - the "Spy Files" that documented these conferences, private-public conferences where the different mass surveillance vendors and target-hacking vendors, like GAMMAGroup present their wares. And actually, there is quite a lot to be gleamed from that.
Whenever you talk about a big, well a sizable industrial sector, it is impossible to really hide its shadows, now. You always see the shadow. You do not always see the thing, but -you know- a little shadow is squeaking out somewhere. And through that you can map out some of the contours. That is an indirect enough process and a conflict-free enough process that it is kind of hard to get the public really involved in it.
We had done all that for example before the Edward Snowden publication.The conflict in the Edward Snowden publications is what really drew people in, because it is not simply that what WikiLeaks was saying was important, what Greenwald was saying was important, and what the President of the United States was saying was important.
Look, this is an outrageous situation. So power is concerned about it, so therefore in itself it must be powerful. Yeah, I think it impinges on a deeper question which is:
Now, I love the idea of intelligence agencies. I am a fan of the idea of intelligence agencies, because it has the word "intelligence" in it. And I like that people know things. And may be they might make sensible decisions if they know things. Intelligence agencies when they are acting their best, reduce fear and reduce paranoia, because if there is something you don't know, hype merchants can fill this black box with the most terrifying possibility of what might be in there. But if you really do know another state's weapons systems and capacities, etc., it might reassure you that actually they are not as bad as the most catastrophic scenario. And so they can actually contribute to world's peace in that way.
The problem is: it is a principal-agent dilemma. This is a classical problem when dealing, say, with lawyers. You hire a lawyer to work for you and represent you and act in your interest. But of course, the lawyer is also always trying to act in their own interest and inject their own interest into your equation. So how do you police that? How do you police it with lawyers? Well, you police it by constantly looking at their work and try to do random samples, I guess, introspecting into their work to see, if the claims made are justified.
That is the fundamental problem with intelligence agencies, and it's the fundamental problem with delegation of assessment about how the world is working. You can't completely delegate. You can't delegate, because human beings inevitably are corrupt and cut corners and act in their own interest and not of the person who has appointed them. And in that case, for example, in the UK intelligence services, which have an important role, every state needs something like an intelligence service to protect it from interference by other states. But without insight, deep insight into how those organizations are acting, they go astray.
So intelligence agencies must be transparent. It is vital that they are transparent. And because they are deeply interconnected with industry, some of that transparency is provided by enforcing transparency on the industry itself, including at these conferences.
15. Intelligent evil dust
(Time 48:30) Q.: What do you believe is the best way of tackling privacy by the Internet of Things?
I mean, (laughs!) it's a big dilemma. One of our lawyers - of course we have to educate them about, you know, different kinds of surveillance techniques - but they said:
"God dammit, you know what we should do, we should like buy up some chunk of Madagaskar, or Patagonia, or somewhere, and just ban every electronic device promised, like a high intensity radio wave-free area, because of that constant buffetting that we have by principally commercial organizations, trying to harvest our interactions with the world."
That's the principal economic model, that all these AI companies have had and the traditional surveillance capitalism companies have had.
And the number of degrees of interaction - so what do I mean by that - if you kind of imagine the space of interactions,
is dramatically increasing. And in a way you can consider each one of these degrees of freedom is kind of like a triangulation. So, to triangulate something into two-dimensional space, okay, you just need two directions, two-directional signals.
So anyway. Between dozens and hundreds of measurements we are emanating constantly. So, if you click those together you can effectively triangulate someones activities and behaviour. And I don't think by chopping at many of them or by adding kind of ? cover that you can make that much of a difference. And increasingly it is less.
In terms of the Internet of Things:
There is research prototypes now, which -I assume- being used by intelligence agencies are very small electronic circuits, that you can just put in paper or put in paint on the walls that are powered by the GSM stations, and they operate as the GSM radio wave passes through them. That gives them enough power for various small times to do things. Obviously, that tendency is going to continue.
It's not like the Internet of Things, it's like intelligent evil dust, scattered everywhere, like confetti, in everything.
16. Threatening power
So I think it is increasingly hard for human beings to work out how to deal with that. The only way I can see is that - we have got to securitize this problem. The computer security industry has been engaged in outrageous securitization for a long period of time, hyping up threats etc. I get how the game is played. It needs to be securitizing in a different way. We need to securitize the - by securitize I mean, you turn something into a threat and thereby change behaviour or get economic gain from it.
We need to securitize the threat to elites by these developments, the people who run these companies, that it's a threat to them; it's a threat to the most powerful people in society. Until we eliminate the notion that there is a place that powerful people can hide from, or skilled people can hide from this phenomenon. And that's the way to get all those people who have the ability to make a difference make a difference.
Address of this page
Marianne Steenken & Joachim Gruber