Puzzles and games for enthusiasts is nothing new, and dates back hundreds of years. I modern times, however, corporations and spy agencies have deployed riddles into the public sphere as ‘hiring filters’ to snag promising talent. Advert s in newspapers, magazines and online, messages on billboards – all these have been used by Silicon Valley tech firms, CIA, GCHQ and MI5.
Is Cicada 3301 such a tool?
When released on to notorious hacker hangout internet forum 4CHAN.org in January 2012, on a discussion board about the paranormal, with the message: “We are looking for highly intelligent individuals.” Interest in Cicada quickly cascaded, as users were led across the web, as well as the globe, from one clue to the next, but few knew much about who was behind the Cicada enigma. It’s now running an annual cycle of this elaborate code-cracking competition.
Is it really the ultimate game for super nerds and amateur cryptographers, or is the whole operation an elaborate cover for an operation. The slight of hand, of ‘now you see it, now you don’t’, springs to mind here. Nothing exists by accident and without explanation – and nothing exists without a funding source behind it.
Cicada 3301 includes references to mathematics, crytography, stenography, science,art history, religion, esoteric symbolism, with clues that sometimes have intervals of years between them, leaving people puzzled and eager to solve it, leaving many self-styled geniuses and computer hackers completely vexed by the mental maze.
In Alan J. Pakula’s 1974 cult thriller, The Parallax View, staring Warren Beatty, newspaper reporter Joe Frady goes undercover to investigate a high-profile political assassination.
The film’s plot is centred around an obscure company called the Parallax Corporation who places adverts in classified pages in order to screen and recruit a certain type of individual, one who could later be trained, mentally programmed and then used for Manchurian candidate-type assassination on behalf of US intelligence agencies and large client corporations. See the film’s original trailer here:
Once the corporation lures in prospective employees, recruits are made to feel important, smart and special, and showered with privileges, perks and gifts – before being sent on highly illegal missions on behalf of the corporation. Frady gets sucked into the program, soon realising he’s in too deep, into a much stranger world than even he could ever imagine.
Maybe it’s all just a bit of fun. Sure it is…
RT’s new program ‘Going Underground’, hosted by Afshin Rattansi, asks the question, “What is Cicada 3301″?