FC: Richard Forno article on "high tech heroin"

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Sun Sep 14 2003 - 23:21:17 PDT

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    Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2003 21:01:30 -0400
    Subject: Article: High-Tech Heroin
    From: Richard Forno <rfornoat_private>
    To: <declanat_private>
    Message-ID: <BB87E4AA.2793E%rfornoat_private>
    Declan - I don't have this on my site yet, but if you like it, please
    consider it for Politech.  Thx.
    Enjoy the weekend,
    High-Tech Heroin
    Richard Forno <www.infowarrior.org>
    (c) 2003 by Author. All Rights Reserved.
    Permission granted to redistribute this article in its entirety with credit
    to author.
    Dostoevsky once wrote that "in the end they will lay their freedom at our
    feet and say to us, 'Make us your slaves, but feed us.'" His prophecy is
    relevant when examining the modern Information Age -- a dark,
    corporate-controlled society predicted by such artistic legends as Bruce
    Sterling, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, and William Gibson  and is the focus
    of this article.
    We want to be part of this information environment and feel more empowered
    with each new gadget, service, or digital connection in our lives. The
    concept of "information everywhere" provides instant gratification to
    satisfy our needs for books, music, porn, and digital interaction with
    others through web searches, e-commerce, wireless, instant messaging,
    e-mail, and streaming content over broadband. High-speed links enable
    organizations to operate around the world at light speed and conduct
    business on a twenty-four hour clock. The sun never sets in the Information
    Age; we are always plugged into the global matrix of the information domain.
    We're addicted to it and constantly awash in a sea of electronic stimuli.
    Yet as we rush to embrace the latest and greatest gadgetry or high-tech
    service and satisfy our techno-craving, we become further dependent on these
    products and their manufacturers  so dependent that when something breaks,
    crashes, or is attacked, our ability to function is reduced or eliminated.
    Given the frequent problems associated with the Information Age - loosing
    internet connections, breaking personal digital assistants, malicious
    software incidents, or suffering any number of recurring problems with
    software or hardware products, we should take a minute to consider whether
    we're really more or less independent - or empowered - today than we think,
    knowing that how we act during such stressful periods is similar to a heroin
    junkie's actions during withdrawal.
    Technology, like gambling and heroin, is addictive.  We're driven or forced
    into buying new gadgets and constantly upgrading our technology for any
    number of reasons, both real and perceived, and feel uncomfortable without
    our latest "fix." Corporations love this because once we accept and begin
    using their products or services, the dependency is formed and they
    essentially own our information  and subsequently, society and us. Their
    proprietary lock on our collective information means they can force us to
    spend money and upgrade on their schedule and not when we truly need - or
    can afford - to do so, regardless of whether or not we need the latest
    features, and regardless of the consequences that may haunt us down the
    But unlike many other industries from the Industrial Age and the heroin
    dealers, high-tech corporations are in a unique position to determine - and
    force - us addicts to spend money while relinquishing our rights to seek
    recourse for damages arising from their faulty products no matter what pain
    we must endure during our period of indentured servitude and addiction to
    their problematic technologies. In some cases, particularly in mainstream
    operating systems, software, and internet-based services, it's one step
    short of blackmail. We all certainly can't go cold turkey very easily,
    although some may try and succeed.
    To make things worse, government practically has outsourced the oversight
    and definition of technology-based expression and community interaction to
    for-profit corporations and secretive industry-specific cartels (e.g., the
    MPAA, RIAA, SIA, BSA, ICANN) who have wasted no time in rewriting the rules
    for how they want our information-based society to operate according to
    their interests, not ours.  At times, you might even say we've voluntarily
    imprisoned ourselves under the control of profit-seeking wardens who have
    little if any real oversight or accountability for their actions. Our
    high-tech heroin dealers are not only promoting and profiting from their
    product but developing the laws and methods to govern and regulate its use
    while protecting themselves from any negative side-effects and ensuring
    their revenue stream.
    Whether it is our ability to share available creative products according to
    existing laws, bring to market new creative works, establish an identity in
    cyberspace, or otherwise exchange digital information, these groups  - with
    well-funded (read: purchased) government approval - have declared themselves
    the overlords of their industry-specific fiefdoms that comprise the
    Information Age.  Each industry and vendor wants to assert their proprietary
    technical and legal authority over who does what, when, how, and under what
    conditions with their products and services, even if their profiteering
    desires are incompatible with our law-abiding ones. And if their efforts to
    maintain law and order according to their proprietary technical standards or
    legal trickery fail, they can always turn things over to the federal
    government for action as a backup plan.
    Combining these perverts of profit with the fickle, often-ignorant nature of
    our elected lawmakers has produced an Information Age where the rights and
    abilities of the individual don't matter.  Neither does facilitating
    society's evolution by allowing it to take maximum advantage of technology's
    capabilities for its collective benefit. Or reality. Today, what matters is
    only how much money and freedom people are willing (or forced) to pay (or
    sacrifice) to their corporate masters for the privilege of living within the
    various information-based fiefdoms provided for them to generate revenue.
    The Information Age will not be remembered by the fun, high-flying and
    overwhelmingly feel-good Dot Com days despite the ongoing presence of Dot
    Com-developed technologies. Rather, the Information Age will be remembered
    as a period when 12-year old girls from New York slums, senior citizens, and
    innovative college students are harrassed by greedy cartels seeking to scare
    their future customers into submission; when the profit goals of high-tech
    vendors determine how client businesses and people are organized and
    interact; when everyone is presumed a potential criminal until proven
    otherwise according to oppressive industry-defined criteria; when a
    once-awesome revolution in global communications became converted into a
    cesspool of unsolicited and offensive marketing messages; when knowing how
    to do something that's illegal is just as illegal as actually doing
    something that's illegal; when the legal protections over freedom of speech
    are trumped to preserve corporate secrets or marketshare while hiding
    vulnerabilities that endanger the public; when our lives are monitored and
    dissected by marketing firms looking for the best way to sell us things we
    don't need or want; and when technology's promise and alluring capabilities
    are used to surreptitiously entrap and willingly imprison members of the
    information-age society instead of truly empowering them.
    Dostoevsky was way ahead of his time.
    # # # #
    Richard Forno is a security technologist and author of "Weapons of
    Mass Delusion: America's Real National Emergency." His home in cyberspace
    is at http://www.infowarrior.org/.
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