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Thread started by Dave Winer on Saturday, June 15, 2013.

The quiet war in tech

The war is over what information you and I get, and what information they get.

As we get less, they get more. As we lose control, they gain it.

In this war, the governments have more in common than they have differences. The Chinese probably could destroy our banking system, and we could probably destroy theirs, but they don't want that, and our government doesn't either. They're really on the same side.

What they want is to keep order, I really believe that. The order that keeps the rich rich, and more or less ignores the challenges we all face in keeping our species alive on this planet. I understand the sentiment. There's so much to comprehend, if you want to have any kind of quality of life, you have to compartmentalize. If you look at preserving order, you can't pay attention to climate change.

I think though we all know the precarious system of banking and computer networks isn't going to keep running forever. There's going to be a meltdown. We had one in 2008, and it looks like we just re-inflated the bubble temporarily, bought a little time, it's just going to get us back to where we were, only this time the pop will be bigger.

If you were President of the United States, and you saw a certain probability of this happening, you'd re-up on the side of preserving order. That means you have to be prepared for the day when people go to the ATM and find their bank account is inaccessible. When it happens to everyone even. How are the rich people going to enjoy their lifestyles when that kind of chaos is going on? It seems quite possible we'll live to see this happen.

It's all tech, top to bottom. The banking system is tech. The military is tech. And in that context, it's not surprising that our, the people's, information access systems are really weak compared to the ones the governments have. That's no accident. Our tools have been getting more precarious, thanks to bugs introduced by the browser vendors (if they're not deliberate, they're incredibly incompetent, your choice). And Google captured almost all the tech of RSS, only to shut it down. Just as things show some sign of coming back to life, now Facebook sounds like they'd like to have their turn at pwning the open public news flow. Please, if you make a feed, and you read this, keep making the feed as-is, no matter what Facebook asks you to do to it. By now it should be obvious that the big tech companies are not our friends. They're more like the government than they are like you and me. Maybe not their fault, maybe they didn't see it coming, but I doubt they'd deny that they're there now.

JavaScript is another item that we should be thinking about. Google is developing the same kind of power over the programming language of the Internet that they had over RSS. Over time they're likely to move their implementation of JS away from the standard. I've spent most of the last year programming in JS, and I think there's a lot to be said for making the language smaller and more efficient. But I'm a newbie, and if I had spent the last five years developing in it, the last thing I'd want to hear is that the language itself is considered a moving target. So, net-net, we have to insist that for now at least JS stay what it is. I don't trust anything about Google to do this right. They may think they know what they're doing, but they led us right into control by the government. That's a mess that needs undoing, and they shouldn't be creating any more messes.

One more note. I said a while back that if you want to understand politics you have to become deeply immersed in tech. The political reporters and bloggers have been totally too casual about that, even the smart relatively open-minded ones, and that even includes Glenn Greenwald. Is he really prepared to listen to Snowden, or can he just report an approximation of what Snowden tells him? It's the latter, because as smart as Greenwald is, he hasn't been spending the last N years schooling himself in the technology that we've built our existence around.

So think about it, how are we going to boot up the intelligence we need to make sense of this situation in time to make a difference?

Serious question, and heavy times.

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