32C3: First Congress, First Impressions

by nikken, created on and last updated on .
CC0 Public Domain no rights reserved.

At the time of my writing, the Congress is probably still in full effect, but I am home again after the holidays and now the Congress. This was my first time and the following are my first impressions, still fresh in my memory.

First of all, I had a really good time. The crowd was really pleasant, as far as I could tell no events were overrun and everything went super-smoothly. There were many more talks than I had time (and mental/physical capacity) to attend – more on that below.

But also, that's about it. I didn't take the opportunity to engage in any assembly, meet new people or attend one of the parties. This time, I just consumed. Shame on me.

Still, I would love to go again. Now that I know what to expect, I'll be better prepared for 33C3.


Now, I didn't attend any assemblies or workshops and did not partake in any serious hacking. That left me with a lot of time to attend plenty of talks.

The following are not all of the ones that I saw, just the ones (of those I did see) that I can recommend for people who didn't have the chance to attend. That doesn't mean that the talks that I did see but did not list here were bad necessarily. They are, however, probably either too specific or too dry to recommend here. Those of you who are interested enough to check those out, you know where to look.

I have listed the talks alphabetically and wrote a couple of words on every talk. Some of the titles might sound scarily complicated, but bare with me. If you just have time for one or two talks, scroll down to the conclusion.

Computational Meta-Psychology, Joscha
The abstract to this one made me curious. I have no real experience to speak of with regards to artificial intelligence, but who wouldn't want to learn something about this. What we got however was quite the eye-opener: given the techniques that A.I. provides us with, what can we say about how we, the actual intelligence, form our thoughts? Our identities? Can we know truth? There are no truths to be found here. Check it out.

Here are Joscha's talks from the previous years:

I feel like a criminal and I have to be god at the same time, Leonie Maria Tanczer
Leonie interviewed some thirty-odd self-identifying hackers to find out how they perceive the society's perception of them and the state of things. This is not a representative study but the findings are still quite useful for people who are new to hacking and want to go beyond the image of people in hoodies typing away furiously at their keyboards in the eerie glow of their matrix-y terminals.
Internet Landscapes, Evan Roth
Evan recounts his low-tech hacks and computer art projects from the early '00s on and tries to refuel the flames that made him fall in love with the internet. What follows is a journey around our planet to the physical monuments of The Internet.
Keynote, Fatuma Musa Afrah
Fatuma is a newcomer (Don't call refugees that. Call them newcomers or think of something nicer yourself.) born in Somalia and raised in Kenya. She's a human rights activist that has worked together with big NGOs in Africa and now tries to adapt to life in Deutschland.
Lessons Learned: Freifunk für Geflüchtete, Peter Löwenstein
The CCC has worked hard to provide refugees in Germany with free internet access. Here's how that went in Darmstadt. Warning: little tech, a lot of realpolitik.

Want to know more? Check out CR216: Flüchtlinge und Hacker (Podcast, GER)!

Logjam: Diffie-Hellman, discrete logs, the NSA, and you, J. Alex Halderman and Nadia Heninger
Wow, what a doozie. We know since Snowden that the NSA can decrypt almost two thirds of encrypted internet traffic, but we didn't learn how. If you can make it past the (crypto-) math, you might find out (it's not like the NSA says yep, that's how we did it) what happened. Scary.
Public Library/Memory Of The World, Marcell Mars
The talk itself didn't go to smoothly – I didn't mind – and I don't know yet how that turned out on camera, but if open access to knowledge – and that means books in practice – this might be interesting for you.
Quantum Cryptography, Christian Schaffner
What's the state of Quantum Cryptography? What is Quantum Cryptography? What is Quantum? Entertaining!
Ten Years After We Lost The War, frank and rop
Ten years ago the talk 22C3 - We Lost The War (which I have not seen yet) depressed quite few people. What has changed since then? Not much – except that things got worse. So why should we be less depressed? Frank and Rop on the state of the world and why we need to Hack The Planet.

What's still to see?

... but wait, there's more! I missed the Jahresrückblick because Saal 1 was too full. I missed a couple of talks because they ran simultaneously with talks that I wanted to see a little bit more. Information overload. So here's a list for you, composed of the stuff that I would have liked to see myself or people liked, if you didn't get enough already:


My favorite talks probably were Computational Meta-Psychology and Internet Landscapes. If you want to be depressed, check out Logjam and Ten Years After We Lost The War.

Did you attend 32C3 and have opinions on my list? Or my lack of hacking/creative/social endeavours? Did you just read my list and now have opinions on that? Just want to wish me a happy new-years? Send some electronic mail my way!