It should be no surprise that Cory Doctorow has thought this all through but in his recent presentation at 28c3 he talked about The Coming War on General Computation – The copyright war was just the beginning. What was interesting is that it was based on extrapolating the current war on copy protection, DRM and the film and music industry attempting to control how and what we see and hear based on the use of copyright. I is speech he points out that this is almost an minute replica of what is going to happen to the whole of society that far out weighs anything as insignificant as whether a song is copied or not.
There is a transcribed version here too
The premise is that of control. Those wanting to control how or what you do with something versus you wishing to use it how you want. He points out that appliances are often restricted computers. The computer can do everything, but it is not allowed to by root kits or other mechanisms that stop that particular computer doing what it could do.
You could view this as a simple case of buying the thing you want to do the thing you want. Processes that you do not want to be running on your appliance are outside your control, for your own good. Which of course may mean its just easier to use, or that you are being manipulated either financially at first or politically as a regime seeks to stop you doing things it considers detrimental to its existence.
So it seems we trade freedom for convenience. At some point that could come back to remove any freedom to trade?
The current arguments over SOPA are another escalation in the copyright wars. The internet is being looked at as something that needs filters and controls by those who need to filter and control. In doing that it breaks the internet. It threatens open source development (which of course has always threatened large corporate entities), it threatens creative expression (which of course can point fingers, be satirical and root out hypocrisy) the list goes on. Yet is it there to stop a few people stealing some things that maybe are not worth being stolen?
That is not to say there is not a problem with real thrift and real criminality that happens to occur on the internet and computers in general, but…. do we lock up everyone in jail so no-one commits any crimes?
There was a particularly good tale of unintended consequences, which is really what happens with all this sort of regulation and control, it may be well meaning to start with but messes things up.
From the transcript https://github.com/jwise/28c3-doctorow/blob/master/transcript.md (CC-BY Joshua Wise)
[[931.2]] This kind of superficial resemblance and underlying divergence happens in other engineering contexts. I’ve a friend who was once a senior executive at a big consumer packaged goods company who told me about what happened when the marketing department told the engineers that they’d thought up a great idea for detergent: from now on, they were going to make detergent that made your clothes newer every time you washed them! Well after the engineers had tried unsuccessfully to convey the concept of “entropy” to the marketing department [audience laughs], they arrived at another solution — “solution” — they’d develop a detergent that used enzymes that attacked loose fiber ends, the kind that you get with broken fibers that make your clothes look old. So every time you washed your clothes in the detergent, they would look newer. But that was because the detergent was literally digesting your clothes! Using it would literally cause your clothes to dissolve in the washing machine! This was the opposite of making clothes newer; instead, you were artificially aging your clothes every time you washed them, and as the user, the more you deployed the “solution”, the more drastic your measures had to be to keep your clothes up to date — you actually had to go buy new clothes because the old ones fell apart.
It was also this piece about hearing aids that struck a chord (again CC-BY Joshua Wise)
[[1627.8]] As a member of the Walkman generation, I have made peace with the fact that I will require a hearing aid long before I die, and of course, it won’t be a hearing aid, it will be a computer I put in my body. So when I get into a car — a computer I put my body into — with my hearing aid — a computer I put inside my body — I want to know that these technologies are not designed to keep secrets from me, and to prevent me from terminating processes on them that work against my interests. [vigorous applause from audience] Thank you.
This was because a family member recently went to have a hearing exam and in that the doctor “upgraded” the existing hearing aid to work on the audio loop facility that you have in banks and cinemas. It seemed strange that this feature, which already existed, had not been enabled by default? It makes you wonder what else is in that device or any other?
So next time you have a copyright argument, as Cory says, think of this a the mini boss towards the end of the level that we get to practice on before the mega boss at the end.