Monday, May 28, 2012

Your computer is your information machine

Sometimes I'm finding that even I am questioning the validity of certain subjects I've talked about here, vis-a-vis the ostensible topic of this blog--the expansion of fair use in copyright to cover all non-commercial use.  I talk a lot about Digital Restrictions Management software, for example.

Well, DRM is a thing which restricts fair use, and is therefore antithetical to my philosophy.

Point being, this blog is about a philosophy, ultimately, and the topic is merely a very sharp entrée into those philosophical and practical notions which, I think, are the real point of this exercise.

I like to talk a lot about how important it is that the internet should be free.  I try not to assume that this is important and good, but also to justify the idea with examples of how the opposite will be bad.

So today I want to talk about another way of looking at your computer.  It is not just a very fancy calculator.  It is an information machine.  In fact, it is your information machine.

The notion of possession is important.  A computer is your information machine not because you own it or possess it physically, but because it is you who controls it.

For example, if you purchase an iPhone (or most Android phones too) you possess an iPhone, but you do not control it.  Apple controls it, and your phone company controls it.  Your information machine is controlled by others.

That's why lots of people root, or "jailbreak" it.  Usually this is done because the owner of the machine wants to do something with it that the stock configuration doesn't allow you to know...controlling you.

Funny thing is, people blithely accept this, when they would totally freak out if their home PC came this way.  Interesting, isn't it?  I think it's just because people don't yet think of their smartphones as computers, but that is fortunately changing rapidly.

But consider this--what do you do with your computer and smartphone?  What is the only thing you do?

You obtain and trade information.

So the next time some website wants you to install their "app" in order to listen or view or read their content, know what you are doing--handing over control of your information machine to another.  When you buy a smartphone, know that by default and without your knowledge it may be gathering lots of information about you.  Who owns who?

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