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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday October 13 2019, @03:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the last-throes-of-public-culture dept.

https://public-interest-tech.com/

Mr. Schneier and friends have created a new website to promote a change to the socio-economic technical milieu we are currently facing.

He suggests we need to have "public interest technologists" to help the situation.

He writes:

"We need technologists who work in the public interest. We need public-interest technologists.

Defining this term is difficult. One Ford Foundation blog post described public-interest technologists as "technology practitioners who focus on social justice, the common good, and/or the public interest.""

Is he right? How can this be implemented without becoming as riddled with government agents, spies and mafias as the key positions of our corporations and institutions are right now?

Full disclosure: this writer has been a public interest technologist for a while now and I have actually alluded to the need for something like what is being suggested on multiple occasions, 'a different kind of organization' is the way I put it, way back a few months ago.

Discuss.


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  • (Score: 1, Flamebait) by barbara hudson on Sunday October 13 2019, @05:30PM (5 children)

    by barbara hudson (6443) <barbara.Jane.hudson@icloud.com> on Sunday October 13 2019, @05:30PM (#906669) Journal
    RMS. 66 years old and still has to beg for a room to stay in for a few months at a time. As he gets older, the risk of him dropping dead on some strangers couch increases. Combined with his newfound pariah status thanks to Jeffrey Epstein and his penchant for looking like a crazy homeless person you can see panhandling, sounds like a solid career choice for nobody.m
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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bzipitidoo on Monday October 14 2019, @01:33AM (4 children)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 14 2019, @01:33AM (#906804) Journal

    A fine Argumentum ad Hominem, mentioning RMS. It's a shame that he has been brought down, but it was to a large degree self-inflicted. Public software will continue just fine without him.

    I think Schneier is half right. We really could use more advocacy. Whether this should be through one or a very few famous individuals, maybe not. Yet, a charismatic, kind, humble, knowledgeable individual who is good at explaining things, a sort of Carl Sagan of technology, could help a lot. This person cannot be a ruthless, monopolistic competitor such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Linus Torvalds could be that person, but it is as RMS said, he's just an engineer. He's abrasive. Like so many geeks, he doesn't want to dirty himself with politics and other such squishy, soft subjects. It's a massive problem throughout STEM, this disdain for public relations and even good manners, the curse of everyone on the Asperger/Autism spectrum. It's one of the factors in the fall of RMS. He should have known better than to say the stuff he did, and maybe he would have, if he had more awareness and respect for social mores. Perhaps someone from academia could do it, but who? By the time a top computer scientist achieves some fame, he or she is likely too old. Maybe an actor, such as Wil Wheaton? Or, should it be an organization such as the FSF or the EFF?

    Most especially, we need more advocacy to raise the profile of and support for various fine alternatives to patents and copyrights. Lot of people still really do not believe in libre software. They believe "you get what you pay for." Crowdfunding works. It should work better. Our public libraries should be unleashed from all the crazy rules that force us all not to use our technology. The entire Library of Congress ought to be online, with every individual item available for download to anyone who wants it.

    Another issue that needs addressing is programming, especially the idea that programming can be taught in elementary school, and that it will be or already is such an important part of life that everyone who can should learn how to do it. There's a lot about coding that is hard, and overwhelming. If a tome such as the Camel Book doesn't do it, one of the fastest ways to scare off newbie programmers is to tell them that one language alone isn't enough, they need to know libraries, software repositories, and algorithms. And recursion. In any case, I think all our mainstream programming languages are still needlessly complicated and difficult.

    More generally, much technology is still too hard to understand and use, despite the best efforts of Apple, the company that is most focused on ease of use.

    There are other legal problems. Why do we still use paper receipts? Why is the medical field still so behind in their use of computers for record keeping? New patients should not have to fill out lengthy paper forms asking all kinds of questions about their medical history, over and over. Medical providers are too quick to blame the government and regulations such as HIPAA.

    Then there's the matter of access. Access to the Internet should be recognized as a fundamental human right. Why the f** has not the US Postal Service's mandate been extended to the online world? The near monopoly that ISPs enjoy should be ended. Another part of access is a computer. We now have extremely low cost things such as Raspberry Pis and the One Laptop Per Child initiative so that is not a big problem.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by deimtee on Monday October 14 2019, @04:31AM

      by deimtee (3272) on Monday October 14 2019, @04:31AM (#906839) Journal

      He should have known better than to say the stuff he did, and maybe he would have, if he had more awareness and respect for social mores. Perhaps someone from academia could do it, but who? By the time a top computer scientist achieves some fame, he or she is likely too old. Maybe an actor, such as Wil Wheaton? Or, should it be an organization such as the FSF or the EFF?

      If you read the transcripts without taking them out of context what he said was not objectionable. It was on a private list and was leaked and misquoted deliberately to knife him in the back. Office politics I guess.

      --
      No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14 2019, @10:19AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14 2019, @10:19AM (#906888)

      and the One Laptop Per Child initiative so that is not a big problem.

      That initiative usually just leads to schools handing out locked-down junk ridden with non-free proprietary user-subjugating software. It denies students the ability to educate themselves about how the software operates (via the source code), the ability to make changes to the software, and independence. Schools are supposed to promote education and independence, which is why they should never use proprietary software or, even worse, force students to use it.

      • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Monday October 14 2019, @11:46AM

        by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 14 2019, @11:46AM (#906897) Journal

        Yes, that's another related area that needs advocating. Walled gardens are bad. In the past, and without meaning to, the keepers of these gardens would do a very effective job of showing everyone why walled gardens are bad by doing something stupid, such as taking away popular functionality or content. And they'd spout laughable propaganda that DRM was good because it kept users safe from piracy. Windows Vista was an example of that kind of stupidity. These vendors of the proprietary backpedal quickly when they see they've pushed their customers too far. Yet the customers still settle too fast, for too little. Maybe some advocacy could help show them they're still getting a bad deal.

    • (Score: 2) by everdred on Monday October 14 2019, @04:20PM

      by everdred (110) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 14 2019, @04:20PM (#906995) Homepage Journal

      a charismatic, kind, humble, knowledgeable individual who is good at explaining things, a sort of Carl Sagan of technology

      Maybe it depends on your definition of technologist, but Cory Doctorow is what comes to mind, through his activism, blogging and fiction.