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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Edward Snowden and Jaron Lanier Discuss Civil Disobedience and the Digital Revolution at #DisruptSTORY

Facing each other via Beambot telepresence, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and celebrated scientist and author Jaron Lanier examined the challenges and opportunities of the digital revolution in an unprecedented discussion at #DistruptSTORY on July 12. The Event was made possible by the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation awards and it’s founder, Craig Hatkoff.

Touching on pop cultural touchstones such as Pokemon Go and USA’s Mr. Robot, Snowden and Lanier discussed the paralysis that comes with having more choices, power imbalances created by technology, and how the landscape of civil disobedience has changed over the course of American history. Fittingly, Snowden was presented with TDIA’s Thoreau Prize for Public Service and Civil Disobedience at the conclusion of the discussion.

“Do you think Walden Pond had Wi-Fi?” Lanier asked a snickering crowd.

Snowden chuckled, then turned serious. “I’m working to reform government, not harm it,” he said in a nod to Thoreau. “The majority can make us think that things that are very wrong are very right just because they’re popular.”

Following the discussion, a panel of experts featuring Tribeca Disruptive Innovation awards founder Craig Hatkoff and Rabbi Irwin Kula discussed the moral ambiguity and paradoxes inherent in civil disobedience.

Circling back to Mr. Robot, Rabbi Kula noted that protagonist Elliot Alderson–and “real life” vigilante hactivists like Snowden are “early moral adaptors” within the tech realm who understand that concentrations of power need to be deconstructed.

As Snowden reflected: “Power is dangerous, and speaking truth to power is the most dangerous. It’s not enough to believe in something. All of us have the obligation to stand.”

Learn More about our partners’ favorite disruptive products and innovators in volumes I, II and III of our Disrupt List.