canopic jug writes:
Aral Balkan has a blog post about
taking small steps to end surveillance capitalism. In particular he focuses on the need for federated services. He points out that the move to re-decentralize the WWW is difficult and needs to start at the beginning, using a comparison of Apple's original computers to their latest generation of tablets as an illustration.
Five years ago, when I decided to devote myself to tackling the problem of surveillance capitalism, it was clear what we needed: convenient and beautiful ethical everyday things that provide seamless experiences1 on fully free-as-in-freedom stacks.This is as true today as it was then and it will remain so. The only way to compete with unethical products built by organisations that have control over hardware + software + services is to create ethical organisations that have control over hardware + software + services and thus have at least the possibility to craft competitive experiences. We remove our eyes from this goal at our peril.
Five years ago, when I decided to devote myself to tackling the problem of surveillance capitalism, it was clear what we needed: convenient and beautiful ethical everyday things that provide seamless experiences1 on fully free-as-in-freedom stacks.
This is as true today as it was then and it will remain so. The only way to compete with unethical products built by organisations that have control over hardware + software + services is to create ethical organisations that have control over hardware + software + services and thus have at least the possibility to craft competitive experiences. We remove our eyes from this goal at our peril.
Related: Tim Berners-Lee Launches Inrupt, Aims to Create a Decentralized Web
We, people, tend to copy one each other, particularly about thing we are not experts.
They need something to blame, outside themselves, when things go wrong.
Both very true...but I think a bigger issue is that this is simply the nature of living in a capitalist system.
Amazon.com I believe went over a decade before it ever turned a profit. They had many, many years of paid employees to keep improving their service and paid advertising to grow their market without ever needing to pay for a dime of that themselves. People just gave them money -- on a promise that the company would eventually become profitable through advertising and surveillance. You can't really do that with a decentralized system. So all you get is small hobbyist projects eternally trying to catch up to the major players.
Investment drives centralization just as much as consumer demand. It's all one big feedback cycle. Investment dollars bring advertisements which drives consumer demand, bringing new users which bring more investment dollars until either the market is captured or the company fails. With decentralized systems, there's not really any way to get that cycle started. We need a new one. Something more than "work on it in your free time"; something which lets increasing numbers of developers pay their rent as the project grows. Crowdfunding is an option...but not really a great one so far...
Basically people need to become and stay more self motivated, and not wait for everything to be spoon fed. Abundance is spoiling us, making us bored, lazy and complacent, quick to believe anything flashed on the screen.
Yes and no...
First of all, I don't think abundance is necessarily the reason. We've always had the scam artists and snake oil salesmen, they just change their clothes every few generations. (Reminds me of something I posted last week... https://soylentnews.org/comments.pl?noupdate=1&sid=28818&page=1&cid=767835#commentwrap) [soylentnews.org]
You'll sometimes hear people saying "If you want something right, you have to do it yourself." There's a certain truth to that...but at the same time, not everyone can be an expert in every field. If I just had to grow all of my own food, I probably wouldn't have much time for software development. Or my food would really suck. Probably both. So I would say, if you want it done right, you've gotta do it yourself...and if you want it done good enough, you've gotta know who's doing it.
If we want all the benefits of modern civilization, we've gotta trust and rely on each other at some point. I think the issue is more that society is structured to distrust or conceal the experts in their fields of expertise. The guys building the bridge notice a problem, but management decides it's cheaper to take the risk. The guys writing the software catch a bug, but management decides a fix would cause them to miss the deployment date so they go ahead anyway. The problem is that instead of trusting the local blacksmith, we're now trusting some MBA who doesn't know a damn thing about blacksmithing. They don't see or feel or know what's going to happen, they only know how it's going to impact their spreadsheet. Our entire society is designed around the principle that the individual worker doesn't matter, all that matters is the company and their policies. Turns out that isn't true, but you'll still hear managers running up and down halls screaming that they "need more bodies on this project", as though a brain or even a pulse isn't strictly necessary to get the work done.
We need to learn to identify experts, and more specifically to separate the MBA from the expert he's kidnapped so that he can appear to be one too. We need to give a shit about quality again instead of just buying the cheapest crap we can find on ebay. And yes, we do probably need to do some things for ourselves when we can. I occasionally do tech support for some small local organizations, and the biggest challenge isn't getting what they want done, it's trying to figure out what they actually want in the first place. Nobody thinks about "How should this work" -- they either want MAGIC! that just automatically gives the right answer with zero input; or they want someone who can just tell them to buy something that will make their lives easier without first discussing what they do all day and what their actual challenges are.
There's also a good bit of the old "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM". There's two reason for that. The first is that IBM was generally considered reasonably competent. Maybe not the best, but definitely functional. But the second reason (which is the important one for this discussion) is that it gives you someone to sue. Which is a pretty crappy solution, but that's the one our society has settled on. Same way our healthcare costs skyrocket because we don't give a damn about preventative medicine, our IT costs skyrocket because we'd rather buy first and sue later rather than just making sure the damn thing works in the first place! Because people fall for the flashy sales brochure promising everything and nothing at the same time. Just as they always have...
As for technology...I'm not sure if computers help or hurt. We get great concepts like the web of trust...but instead we end up using friggin' Yelp. And computers and software are heavily focused on this idea of abstraction, where you more or less just assume that the other program is always going to do what you tell it to do. Just like we often assume companies will do what they promise to do. So that might not be very helpful. And if I buy a car, I can pop the hood and look around and get some idea of how well it's built; but when I buy software it's all locked away behind IP law and I can't see a damn thing...so it's harder to know if it's any good before you buy anyway. At least until we demand that changes...