I don’t have to sell it to you. It’s a tasty idea. I assume the technology is up to it. Yes? Or is my faith that these Wikismiths can do anything they want in the internet just a starry-eyed illusion? (I never got beyond Computer 101 – and that was thirty years ago. When in the course of human affairs I happen to see a DOS screen ((you may know it as a command screen)) I feel I’ve come home.)
Considering how much legal hacking goes on, from the likes of Googoo and Microsoft down to your drugstore and your dry cleaner, and the news stories in the papers (sorry, “in the media”) about, for example, some Estonian pre-teen who disabled the pentagon’s server, or the five Rumanian sexagenarians who stole Target’s entire database and then set up a company incorporated in Nigeria, now worth billions, which markets and sells the information, I can’t imagine it would be difficult for skilled Wikismiths, once they’ve accessed a computer, to make changes, not only on that computer but, thanks to the worldwide web, on every other computer it communicates with.
Let’s take The Panama Papers. Some Wikismiths stole 2.6 terabytes of data, (2,600,000,000,000 bytes) from a Panamanian law firm and handed them over to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, who passed them on to an investigative journalism consortium, which just released 149 of 11,500,000 documents. Now if the Wikismiths had been Wikiwipers instead of Wikileakers, after downloading all the data from the lawyers’ computer, they would have deleted it. Then they methodically would go into all the bank accounts, credit card accounts, wealth management accounts, corporate accounts, etc., which could be accessed from the lawyers’ computer, and cancel them all.
What if Wikiwipes were to change the balance of an account to zero? Would that count as theft? There is no material gain. Would it be like the punk who grabs a vase out of the hands of a little old lady and smashes it? Or like the little old lady who had wandered through the Bronx Botanical Gardens and plucked a bouquet of rare flowers, which she was going to put in a vase, but when the vase was smashed by the punk, propped them up in the sink, where they drowned? Two robberies were committed, but only one of the robbers is a criminal.
(Just to be clear: the punk is a criminal because he is a punk, not because he grabbed the vase and smashed it. If the punk had stolen the flowers, and the vase for them had been grabbed out of his hands and smashed by a little old lady, there still would be only one criminal: the punk.)
If it is impossible for Wikiwipes to leave zero balances without transferring the money elsewhere, I suggest that, instead of transferring the money to charities, which would raise the ire of charities which didn’t receive transfers, Wikiwipes sends the debited funds to the appropriate tax authorities. Wikiwipes then would have government on its side (something that’s not easy to do if you’re trying to impoverish the 1%) or at least stun it to inaction between the hammer of oligarchic fellowship and the anvil of public opinion.