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The most important thing

The most important thing

I'm sitting in prison- I'm in my cell. It's dark, someone took all the light bulbs in the cells. So, I'm sitting close to the door, so the light from the corridor outside can allow me to see what I'm writing.

I've been here a week, but it feels longer. In Ecuadorean prisons there are no books, no TV, no media. We go outside 5 hours a week and can have max 2 visitors during three hours on Saturdays. The minutes pass by quite slowly. So I think and I write.

Many years ago, a friend told me (and he has said this many times to many people): What is the most important thing you could do? Are you doing that? If not, why not? This has stayed with me as an important guideline. Indeed, our time is short, we should do the most important thing.

I was born with a lot of privilege. And during my life, mostly through luck, I've acquired even more. Let me be clear, I don't deserve privilege over anyone else. In my opinion, no human being deserves privilege. However, I have it, so what do I do?

One option is to ignore it and act like it doesn't exist. To me, this is an abhorrent option. No, privilege for me means responsibility. I hate something I don't deserve and I can't get rid of it. Thus, I have to use it for the improvement of the world. It's really that simple. Privilege means responsibility, power means responsibility.

Then, what is the responsible thing? Like my friend told me, logically, the most responsible thing you can do is to work on the most important thing you could ever do. It follows logically.

Of course, it's not as simple as that. You have to choose something where you can have -or can acquire- the right skills. You have to choose something where you have a chance of success. You must be able to access the right resources. All these considerations are embedded in the original questions.

Sitting here in my cell, I ask myself the question. The same way I've asked myself the same thing hundreds of times over the last year. Iʼm still not sure of the answer.

Obviously I'm not very productive sitting here. But maybe me being a martyr, kidnapped by the Ecuador government, will serve to start discussions, catch attention and open new ways of fighting. Maybe it will serve to wake some people up.

Of course I don't have much choice in my current situation, but I can apply the question to my previous life and I can start thinking about what should come next. These thoughts are taking most of my head space these days.

So, about my previous life, I decided many years ago that the field of privacy is both something extremely important and also something where my specific knowledge and connection would allow me to do something important. So, I've worked on privacy enhancing tools. To me, privacy is something that is absolutely necessary for human beings to be free and the rise of surveillance is threatening this to the core.

My goal with CAD (and the previous iterations) of the concept was to create a group of people with the necessary skills to push privacy forward in several different efforts. There are so many things to work on. Both hardware and software protocols and implementations, infrastructure and end user systems. And we were only just getting started.

The thing about the most important thing is that it can change. When I get out, I will have different possibilities than I had before. I don't know what that means. Maybe there's no good way to know until I'm out. But it's still something I'm thinking about.

I urge all of you to consider these questions. Devote your life to the most important thing.

In solidarity,

Ola Bini