Should-Read: Cory Doctorow: Let’s Get Better at Demanding Better from Tech: “In 2018, companies from John Deere to GM to Johnson & Johnson use digital locks and abusive license agreements to force you to submit to surveillance and control how you use their products…

…It’s true that if you don’t pay for the product, you’re the product–but if you’re a farmer who’s just shelled out $500,000 for a new tractor, you’re still the product. The “original sin of advertising” story says that if only microtransactions had been technologically viable and commercially attractive, we could have had an attention-respecting, artist-compensating online world, but in a world of mass inequality, financializing culture and discourse means excluding huge swaths of the population from the modern public sphere. If the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has you convinced that money has had a corrupting influence on who gets to speak, imagine how corrupting the situation would be if you also had to pay to listen…. I’ve argued before that the reason we’re still talking about decades-old SF movies like The Matrix and The Terminator–the reason smart people keep issuing foolish warnings about our primitive AIs making great leaps and becoming our overlords–is that these AI-apocalypses resonate with our current corporate situation. Corporations–artificial persons under the law–are colony life-forms that use us like gut-flora, maneuvering us to help them thrive and reproduce, jettisoning us or crushing us if we cease to serve their needs.

There is a key difference between the actual gut-flora that’s filling your non-metaphorical intestine right now and the metaphorical gut-flora that we humans constitute in the bowels of the Fortune 100: gut flora can’t be persuaded by moral argument, and people can. The long-delayed techlash…. Early “techno-utopians” were keenly aware of these risks. They founded organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Free Software Foundation, not because they were convinced that everything was going to be great–but because they were worried that everything could be terrible, and also because they saw the potential for things to be better. The motto of these pioneers wasn’t, “This is going to be so great.” It was, “This could be great–if we don’t screw it up.”…

Our technology can make our lives better, can give us more control, can give us more privacy–but only if we force it to live up to its promise. Any path to that better future will involve technologists, because no group of people on earth is better equipped to understand how important it is to get there…


Brad DeLong


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