April 10, 2011
Political Book Burning To Become Impossible?

My deep thought for the day: In the future, when some group wants to burn some politically or religiously objectionable book, will physical books be so rare that they'll have to get the books specially printed just to burn them?

Or will protesters copy electronic books onto many hard drives and simultaneously all pull out magnets to pass over the hard drives in a mass demonstration of magnetic erasure?

Got any ideas on how book suppression will be done 50 years hence?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 April 10 11:58 AM  Comm Tech Society

Bruce said at April 10, 2011 1:52 PM:

If you own Google, just take the book out of the search results. I assume Google already manipulates search results to control what people read onthe internet.

PacRim Jim said at April 10, 2011 1:53 PM:

One humongous EMP could eclipse the burning of the Library of Alexandria as the biggest memetastrophe.

philw1776 said at April 10, 2011 2:10 PM:

A moot point. In 50 years Sharia Law will have outlawed book burning protests throughout what was formerly Western Civ.

Randy Beck said at April 10, 2011 2:12 PM:

Printing the book won't be necessary. They'll only burn it in CGI.

Brett Bellmore said at April 10, 2011 2:28 PM:

Book burning is something other than book suppression, in as much as it's a failure at that unless you get all the copies. I suppose, given current trends, somebody interested in book suppression 50 years hence would find a cooperative judge humor the claim that the book infringed their copyright on something, (Perhaps use of the word "the"?) and order government mandated DRM to erase it from all storage media. By the time the order was reversed, all existing copies would be gone...

That's where we'll be 50 years from now if present copyright trends continue...

Jody said at April 10, 2011 2:59 PM:

For suppression: worms that selectively activate and delete files when a selected book is encountered. Sorta like how Stuxnet selectively activated.

For political statements: printing and burning will remain the M.O. for some time, unless there's a Second Life kind of equivalent.

Michael B. said at April 10, 2011 11:25 PM:

I've always thought book burning was ridiculous idea. Before you can burn a book, you have to buy it, in which case the person who wrote it, the people who printed, the people who distributed it, and the people who sold it, all make money off of your protest book burning.

David Friedman said at April 11, 2011 1:03 AM:

If books exist mostly online, one version of book burning would be some way of making a book hard to find. With current technology, that might mean putting up a thousand pages with contents that would get pointed at by a Google search for the book. Presumably more sophisticated versions of that could be contrived in the future.

ANM said at April 11, 2011 8:30 AM:

Everything old is new: Effigies! We'll use 3d printers to fabricate lifelike representations of the authors, and lead them to a fiery end.

Lou Pagnucco said at April 11, 2011 8:56 AM:

Criminalizing vocal, printed or online criminal/scurrilous thought and speech is probably most efficient.

Tracking e-offenders, as several free European and Asian countries do, effectively neutralizes agitators.

Lono said at April 11, 2011 9:01 AM:


As far as book supression - well thats a key goal of the internet imho. Just like you said using DRM and a government mandated internet protocol somewhat like Microsoft proposed with it's Palladium initiative - it will be as simple as just flipping a switch to remove and media from 99% of the people. Sure you'll always have the 1% who you can't control - but they are just a bunch of conspiracy theorists, truthers, and birthers anyways - so who's gonna listen to them?


As ignorant as book burning is - you are right - they will likely just use 3D printers to make symbolic representations which they will then burn - and like ususal most civilized people will collectively yawn...

AuricTech said at April 11, 2011 10:49 AM:

As usual, xkcd has an appropriate response.

Brian Macker said at April 11, 2011 11:10 AM:

Burning a book you bought and own is not about "book suppression". Breaking into a library or someones else's house to do it to their copy is.

Freddy Hill said at April 11, 2011 11:52 AM:

Farenheit 2570!

David Clemens said at April 11, 2011 12:23 PM:

I suspect electronic books will never be seen as dangerous. I've blogged about it here:


Ron Tarro said at April 11, 2011 4:38 PM:

It will be banned by "deep packet inspection" and packet blocking on the routers that form the internet. Like HDMI in TV's, it simply won't allow "un-approved" content to pass.

Leonidas said at April 11, 2011 4:53 PM:

"Got any ideas on how book suppression will be done 50 years hence?"


asolzynitzyn said at April 11, 2011 6:30 PM:

loud gongs if the thought of the book enters your consciousness a la Harrison Bergeron for elimination.
protest? a gram is better than a damn, and if you don't have a gram the government will provide

CR said at April 12, 2011 12:34 PM:

Book burnings have been solely symbolic since the Guttenberg printing press went into service. Before that it was not a major effort to gather together all handwritten copies of a particular manuscript and destroy them all at once so there was a very tangible outcome of book burnings. Even the Fahrenheit 451 scenario was silly and absurd in its day.

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