Misunderstanding Reality: Why Kevin Mitnick Needlessly Suffered

Kevin Mitnick was promoting his new book, Ghost in the Wires, on the Colbert Report. It turned out that of his 5 years he spent in prison for hacking, the first was in solitary confinement. Why?

Colbert: Why a year in solitary confinement? You don’t look like a dangerous guy.

Mitnick: [...] The prosecutor had told the judge during a bail hearing that I could pick up the telephone and connect to NORAD and whistle the launch codes and launch a nuclear weapon. And because of this the judge had a special order that I’d have to be held in prison without access to a telephone. So, the only place they could put me was in solitary confinement. So I was there about a year.Colbert: Can you do that? Could you do that? Because that would be bad-ass.


This seems like another situation in which sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke’s third law applies:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

To those who misunderstand reality and what is possible, the prosecutor’s ridiculous assertion seems plasuible. That is, when technology seems like magic to you, your intuitions of what this magic is capable of are going to be awful. As a result, a man was needlessly separated from human contact for a year.

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