The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

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The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Weeks » Sat Dec 31, 2011 12:00 am UTC

Cory Doctorow delivers a nice talk on why the copyright war isn't the endboss of the game, but only the miniboss of the level. =D

http://boingboing.net/2011/12/27/the-coming-war-on-general-purp.html

Here's the transcript: https://github.com/jwise/28c3-doctorow/blob/master/transcript.md

The last 20 years of Internet policy have been dominated by the copyright war, but the war turns out only to have been a skirmish. The coming century will be dominated by war against the general purpose computer, and the stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race.

The problem is twofold: first, there is no known general-purpose computer that can execute all the programs we can think of except the naughty ones; second, general-purpose computers have replaced every other device in our world. There are no airplanes, only computers that fly. There are no cars, only computers we sit in. There are no hearing aids, only computers we put in our ears. There are no 3D printers, only computers that drive peripherals. There are no radios, only computers with fast ADCs and DACs and phased-array antennas. Consequently anything you do to "secure" anything with a computer in it ends up undermining the capabilities and security of every other corner of modern human society.


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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sat Dec 31, 2011 2:59 am UTC

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby KnightExemplar » Sat Dec 31, 2011 5:34 am UTC

Microsoft hasn't been so pushy about the UEFI Secure Boot. Plus, secure boot is just a good idea if you want to defeat rootkits. If anything, I'm feeling confident about the PC world. Sony Vegas doesn't have too much DRM crap. I mean, Adobe products do but "enterprise" licenses generally make some sort of near-null DRM version available for someone who's willing to pay the cost.

But the "war" on General purpose computation has happened, and the lines have been drawn. ITunes has shown that the consumer base prefers DRM free music. However, Steam has shown that we don't really mind DRM in our games. The consoles have always been more of an "application" system, unified and controlled by their respective companies. It is very rare to find a DRM free game now, its how the market has spoken. DRM-based apps on Smartphones (both Android and iPhones) have also shown that people are fine with DRM-based software.

Even the "cloud" has attacked the concept of "owning software". People just don't want to own software today... and enterprises want to control their software (and your information). Its how the world works. I'm not sure if its a bad thing... but certainly, we are going to see much and much less control over our software and information. People already throw stuff onto Youtube and put up with the DMCA takedown notice crap, because its too damn hard to host your own videos. People prefer Facebook as an application over holding control of your information in the form of Geocities or "Personal Homepages". People don't really care that Google and Facebook run AIs through your email to better figure out advertisements for you...

Its just... how things have happened. No one seems to care about it either.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby omgryebread » Sat Dec 31, 2011 5:35 am UTC

I've only worked at a lobbying firm for a short time, so I haven't learned a ton. But one thing I have learned is that everyone has a reason to support something politically, and the way to win an argument against them is to find and address that reason.

If a Senator is blocking a bill because he wants an unrelated bill to pass before he supports it, then arguing about the merits of the first bill isn't going to do any good. No matter how trivial his concerns or how underhanded his tactics, addressing his pet bill in one way or another is the only way to get what you want. We're not going to convince gay marriage opponents of the virtues of marriage equality until we address their homophobia and desire for a 1950's nuclear-family world, either by convincing them that gay people are not the devil, and having everyone be the Cleavers is not the ideal; or by convincing their kids and waiting for them to die.

That's not to say you have to win by directly addressing their problems. You could threaten the Senator by holding his other pet bills until he releases the hold on yours. You could get the courts to side with you on marriage equality.

My point is that content producers have a concern that the copyleft people never address. They view copying their IP without their consent as theft. You're not going to stop their attacks on a free internet until you address the fact that they are having their stuff stolen.

I see two ways to do that: The first is to let copying boom until you obliterate their business model and all content is produced through a more liberal model by default. The second way is to somehow come up with a way to let them deal with IP theft, while convincing them that measures to prevent it more won't increase their profits. Argument's like Doctorow's will help defeat individual bills, but they won't win the war he wants to win.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby KnightExemplar » Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:00 am UTC

True, big business models see the lack of copyright protections as a threat. But smaller players see the $1.4 Million lawsuit vs Disney for saying "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in "The Lion King" to be a threat on creativity. Big businesses don't see legal battles as a threat: they have the lawyers to deal with that. Small businesses don't see the lack of copyright protections as a threat: they spend much less money per product and produce a hell of a lot more content. Its the lawsuits that hurt them.

The world has changed. Things like Youtube exist. And other online media like Newgrounds, Ebaum's World... and "Know your Meme" and other entertainment sites... independent artists are able to create much more content and reach much more audiences. So... the world is shifting. Disney and other big companies had no problem pushing the limits of Copyright Law to 80+ years after the artist's death... but with the remix community today... such strong copyright laws HURT the creative process.

These viewpoints have yet to be communicated to Congress however. SOPA is the beginning however, lets see where things will go from here.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Ghostbear » Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:09 am UTC

omgryebread wrote:You're not going to stop their attacks on a free internet until you address the fact that they are having their stuff stolen.

While I agree with most of your post, I died a little inside* when I read that.

The problem with that solution, I think, is that the big companies are being very stubborn by this, and outside of the music labels**, they haven't really been hit that hard by copying. So that means letting them get a way to deal with piracy, but every manner they attempt to adopt is far too heavy handed that it won't work. I don't see a solution along either of those lines happening at all any time soon. Many of the solutions proposed by them are also separate from piracy- a lot of the worst DRM changes for games aren't really meant to stop pirates. It's to stop second hand sales.

* OK, fine, not really. It sounds better if said like that though.
** Who have almost completely given up on DRM and now support online music sales, so they definitely tried to learn their lesson to some extent.

KnightExemplar wrote:People already throw stuff onto Youtube and put up with the DMCA takedown notice crap, because its too damn hard to host your own videos.

Not to nitpick, but DMCA is something you'd have to deal with, legally at least, with hosting your own videos as well. In the end it's just too damn hard to host your own.

My big worry for the future of computing is the huge desire by the big companies for "App" stores. Besides having a stupid name, they all come with some form of censorship. When you have other ways to install programs it's not that big of a deal, but I believe most smartphones don't have that option (I still have a dumb phone, so I don't know), and Windows 9+ are definitely going to move in that same direction. They'll just say they're using stuff like that to block things like porn applications, which I don't feel is a good justification as-is, but people in general will be OK with that. But I can't imagine a program such as utorrent- which does have many legal uses- passing through the approval process (and staying approved) for any of these things, once someone realized it could be used for piracy and started pressuring Microsoft or Apple or whoever to remove it from the store. To me, it seems to be the end of the open platform of PCs- which is one of the most wonderful things about them.

Stuff like the UEFI bootloader don't really worry me that much, because if it was implemented, I'd be willing to bet the open source folks would come up with a creative solution- not that they should have to, but I don't doubt their intelligence or creativity.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby KnightExemplar » Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:46 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
KnightExemplar wrote:People already throw stuff onto Youtube and put up with the DMCA takedown notice crap, because its too damn hard to host your own videos.

Not to nitpick, but DMCA is something you'd have to deal with, legally at least, with hosting your own videos as well. In the end it's just too damn hard to host your own.


DMCA means that you can take responsibility for being held liable and take it to court if you so desire.

Youtube is a bunch of cowards. They won't ever put themselves in a position where they'll be held liable for the videos you put on it. Well... maybe they aren't cowards as much as they are just covering their own ass. Obviously, its too much for us to expect Youtube to do anything about it... but that goes with the territory.

If you put your content on Youtube, then Youtube holds the right to take down stuff to cover their own ass about it. Ditto with anything else online. But this has become so natural that people don't really think twice about it anymore.

My big worry for the future of computing is the huge desire by the big companies for "App" stores. Besides having a stupid name, they all come with some form of censorship. When you have other ways to install programs it's not that big of a deal, but I believe most smartphones don't have that option (I still have a dumb phone, so I don't know), and Windows 9+ are definitely going to move in that same direction. They'll just say they're using stuff like that to block things like porn applications, which I don't feel is a good justification as-is, but people in general will be OK with that. But I can't imagine a program such as utorrent- which does have many legal uses- passing through the approval process (and staying approved) for any of these things, once someone realized it could be used for piracy and started pressuring Microsoft or Apple or whoever to remove it from the store. To me, it seems to be the end of the open platform of PCs- which is one of the most wonderful things about them.


The open development platform is a Windows thing. As the old meme goes... Developers Developers developers developers. Developers developers developers developers... Microsoft knows their position with Developers. And they ain't gonna sacrifice that for anything.

Its only really been Apple that has abused the hell out of the App stores. But they were pro-DRM until the DRM-free competition heated up. Similarly, lets see how Microsoft creates their app store.

EDIT: As for porn content... there's a lot of liability there. I'd expect even Microsoft to ban porn from a Microsoft-sponsored "app" store. If someone puts up the wrong thing, then Microsoft will be held liable since its on their store.

Stuff like the UEFI bootloader don't really worry me that much, because if it was implemented, I'd be willing to bet the open source folks would come up with a creative solution- not that they should have to, but I don't doubt their intelligence or creativity.


Its impossible to make a secure system if you can't change the trust chain. If you assume the trust chain is never broken, you get issues like with Sony PS3 hack... or Blue Ray players. A single break in the trust chain means ALL devices become broken.

If users are able to change the trust chain (ie: allow it to install Linux), then new trust chains can be built as old ones get broken. As with anything with security... true security will require constant maintenance. We just can't assume that the centralized trust chain will never be broken: we need to plan for contingencies.

Basically, the only way for UEFI to be implemented correctly, is for people to be able to install Linux onto their devices anyway. (ie: Find a new trust chain that also trusts Linux, and replace the old proprietary-only trust chain with the one that trusts Linux too).
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Ghostbear » Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:30 am UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:DMCA means that you can take responsibility for being held liable and take it to court if you so desire.

Youtube is a bunch of cowards. They won't ever put themselves in a position where they'll be held liable for the videos you put on it. Well... maybe they aren't cowards as much as they are just covering their own ass. Obviously, its too much for us to expect Youtube to do anything about it... but that goes with the territory.

If you put your content on Youtube, then Youtube holds the right to take down stuff to cover their own ass about it. Ditto with anything else online. But this has become so natural that people don't really think twice about it anymore.

Yeah, I don't disagree with that. I was just saying if you're hosting your own web videos, those will be subject to DMCA takedown requests as well. And unlike Google, most of us won't have lawyers on retainer, or the money to spare to hire a lawyer for this type of thing, or even the spare time to go to court, regardless of lawyer costs. So as weak as Google is about it, individuals would probably be even more at their mercy. The failure of the DMCA takedown notice, to me, is that they failed to implement a sufficient punishment for fraudulent requests. When we get scenarios like the Megaupload fiasco, and you know that in the end Universal's biggest punishment over it will be lawyer fees.. I lose a lot of faith in the system.

KnightExemplar wrote:The open development platform is a Windows thing. As the old meme goes... Developers Developers developers developers. Developers developers developers developers... Microsoft knows their position with Developers. And they ain't gonna sacrifice that for anything.

Its only really been Apple that has abused the hell out of the App stores. But they were pro-DRM until the DRM-free competition heated up. Similarly, lets see how Microsoft creates their app store.

I'm not going to judge them before I see the store, I'll agree with that sentiment. But I will worry that they'll do it wrong- "App" stores tend to go down this route, so I'm going to worry that theirs will do so as well. I'll be the first person to give them credit if it doesn't.

KnightExemplar wrote:EDIT: As for porn content... there's a lot of liability there. I'd expect even Microsoft to ban porn from a Microsoft-sponsored "app" store. If someone puts up the wrong thing, then Microsoft will be held liable since its on their store.

Porn was only an example- anything sufficiently controversial will tend to get censored by these places. Like the utorrent example I gave. I dislike censorship, and I don't think bringing it to PCs will ever be a good thing. As for porn-style content specifically, they could just make an 18+ only section of their store. They can content limit stuff by MPAA rating, so they'd be able to do that for programs as well. It's only a liability if they're stupid enough to make it one.

KnightExemplar wrote:Basically, the only way for UEFI to be implemented correctly, is for people to be able to install Linux onto their devices anyway. (ie: Find a new trust chain that also trusts Linux, and replace the old proprietary-only trust chain with the one that trusts Linux too).

To be clear, I didn't mean to imply that it'd be easy for them, or that it'd even be a technical solution- they could have worked something out with Microsoft and crew, or made a legal solution.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby torontoraptor » Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:54 am UTC

While I agree with Doctorow that this is a problem, I have a slight issue with his second point. The majority of those 'general-purpose computers' in airplanes, cars, radios, hearing aids, and everything else, are just micro controllers, not really something which runs Windows or Apple.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Ghostbear » Sat Dec 31, 2011 9:27 am UTC

torontoraptor wrote:While I agree with Doctorow that this is a problem, I have a slight issue with his second point. The majority of those 'general-purpose computers' in airplanes, cars, radios, hearing aids, and everything else, are just micro controllers, not really something which runs Windows or Apple.

In the older days they were closer to micro-controllers. Modern tech is much closer to a full fledged computer. A computer isn't just limited to something that runs Windows, OSX or Linux; it's more defined by the manner of components and how they're organized. Your phone (even a dumb phone) or your calculator are each computers. Hell, my alarm clock would probably be defined as a computer. You seem to be thinking in terms of "computer that you go to the store and buy to run our software on" type of definition, but "computer" is much more broad than that.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Link » Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:38 am UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:Microsoft hasn't been so pushy about the UEFI Secure Boot. Plus, secure boot is just a good idea if you want to defeat rootkits.
It may give you extra security, but if the price you pay is the right to use the general-purpose computer you bought as a truly general-purpose-computer, one might wonder if that's a price one should be willing to pay. Now, if the signature management were open to the end user, this would be different, but that would subtract from the security as well (you just have to convince your intended victims that your key is safe).

KnightExemplar wrote:ITunes has shown that the consumer base prefers DRM free music. However, Steam has shown that we don't really mind DRM in our games. The consoles have always been more of an "application" system, unified and controlled by their respective companies. It is very rare to find a DRM free game now, its how the market has spoken. DRM-based apps on Smartphones (both Android and iPhones) have also shown that people are fine with DRM-based software.

Even the "cloud" has attacked the concept of "owning software". People just don't want to own software today... and enterprises want to control their software (and your information). Its how the world works. I'm not sure if its a bad thing... but certainly, we are going to see much and much less control over our software and information. People already throw stuff onto Youtube and put up with the DMCA takedown notice crap, because its too damn hard to host your own videos. People prefer Facebook as an application over holding control of your information in the form of Geocities or "Personal Homepages". People don't really care that Google and Facebook run AIs through your email to better figure out advertisements for you...
To the average consumer, it may not matter much, but that isn't relevant to the underlying problem: you're restricting the fundamental freedom of the people, and paving the way to even further restriction. Even if the vast majority doesn't explicitly want to be in complete control of their own software, there's a non-negligible minority that does (Cory Doctorow, Richard Stallman... just about everyone in the Free Software movement). And what Doctorow is saying is that we're working towards a future where the status quo has changed from "you can let someone else control your software and your information" to "you must let someone else control your software and your information". I'd say that would be a bad thing!

torontoraptor wrote:While I agree with Doctorow that this is a problem, I have a slight issue with his second point. The majority of those 'general-purpose computers' in airplanes, cars, radios, hearing aids, and everything else, are just micro controllers, not really something which runs Windows or Apple.
Microcontrollers are Turing-complete, ergo, given enough time and memory, they can run any program, ergo, they are general-purpose computers.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby KnightExemplar » Sat Dec 31, 2011 2:13 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
torontoraptor wrote:While I agree with Doctorow that this is a problem, I have a slight issue with his second point. The majority of those 'general-purpose computers' in airplanes, cars, radios, hearing aids, and everything else, are just micro controllers, not really something which runs Windows or Apple.

In the older days they were closer to micro-controllers. Modern tech is much closer to a full fledged computer. A computer isn't just limited to something that runs Windows, OSX or Linux; it's more defined by the manner of components and how they're organized. Your phone (even a dumb phone) or your calculator are each computers. Hell, my alarm clock would probably be defined as a computer. You seem to be thinking in terms of "computer that you go to the store and buy to run our software on" type of definition, but "computer" is much more broad than that.


Case in point:

http://gse-compliance.blogspot.com/2011 ... e-now.html

For those who do not know, 747's are big flying Unix hosts. At the time, the engine management system on this particular airline was Solaris based. The patching was well behind and they used telnet as SSH broke the menus and the budget did not extend to fixing this. The engineers could actually access the engine management system of a 747 in route. If issues are noted, they can re-tune the engine in air.
The issue here is that all that separated the engine control systems and the open network was NAT based filters. There were (and as far as I know this is true today), no extrusion controls. They filter incoming traffic, but all outgoing traffic is allowed. For those who engage in Pen Testing and know what a shoveled shell is... I need not say more.


Thats right. 747s could be patched midflight with a telnet session. They just didn't feel like fixing their programs to use SSH...

--------------

As for actually attacking a microcontroller... A certain kind of insulin pump is WiFi enabled. And a hacker figured out how to control the entire insulin pump through the wireless interface.

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/9205 ... ulin-pumps

Radcliffe, who is a diabetic with a wireless, always-attached insulin pump, was slightly worried that someone might hack his pump, meddle with its settings, and kill him — and so, in true hacker fashion, he has spent the last two years trying to hack it himself. Unfortunately, he was very successful. He managed to intercept the wireless control signals, reverse them, inject some fake data, and then send it back to the pump. He could increase the amount of insulin injected by the pump, or reduce it. In both cases the pump showed no signs of being tampered with, and it did not generate a warning that he was probably about to die. “I can get full remote control,” Radcliffe said. “If I were an evil hacker, I could issue commands to give insulin, without anyone else’s authority. This is scary. And I can manipulate the data so it happens in a stealth way.”


----------------------------

To the average consumer, it may not matter much, but that isn't relevant to the underlying problem: you're restricting the fundamental freedom of the people, and paving the way to even further restriction. Even if the vast majority doesn't explicitly want to be in complete control of their own software, there's a non-negligible minority that does (Cory Doctorow, Richard Stallman... just about everyone in the Free Software movement). And what Doctorow is saying is that we're working towards a future where the status quo has changed from "you can let someone else control your software and your information" to "you must let someone else control your software and your information". I'd say that would be a bad thing!


But really, the consumer doesn't necessarily complain that he can't modify his hammer or screwdriver. Similarly, you never had control over the software in your Thermostat or Hearing Aid. Consumers NEVER cared about controlling those sorts of things. And I bet that no one really cares about controlling their own insulin pumps (outside of a security point of view).

The difference between "unified tool" and "general purpose computer" is a virtual one: it only exists in our mind and in the mind of the developer. Whats going on is people are realizing that less people actually care about general purpose computers, and more than likely prefer to just use Facebook.

I wouldn't be worried that general computers would disappear: they're needed for anyone who wants to run a server or perform research. But we've always been restricted by the developers of the devices we use every day. Most people don't care about changing the software on their routers (except those crazy people), or printers. Or insulin pumps >_<.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Diadem » Sat Dec 31, 2011 4:09 pm UTC

It strikes me that this is not so much a war on general purpose computing, but a war by general purpose computing. And it's not so much a war, as a rebellion.

Those in power have always controlled the flow of information. They have always sought to control our thoughts and actions. Through religion, through morality, through various -isms, through propaganda. This is nothing new. The general purpose computer and the internet are challenging this position. And so they are fighting back. But they're not attacking to gain a position, they're defending to maintain the status quo.

This in itself is nothing new. "Those in power" is not a fixed group. The members change all the time. And the internet is not the first new technology that treatens the status quo. Pretty much every new technology in the past has done so. Sometimes those in power managed to defeat the threat, sometimes they absorbed it. Sometimes they were swept away by it, but the new rulers, more savvy with the new technology, quickly managed to restore control of the flow of information.

What remains to be seen is if the general purpose computer and the internet can create a permanent freedom of information. I hope so, but I'm far from certain about it.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby KnightExemplar » Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:55 pm UTC

Its not so much that companies are taking away the freedoms of choice... its that they're not getting designed into the product in the first place. People like unified platforms "that just work". They don't like all of the customization that you can put into a computer. And companies IMO are just capitalizing on the wave of computer users who just don't want anything to do with customizing their platforms.

Less choice is more. Its the fundamental tenant of modern UI design. Its not about control, its about giving the user what they want. Users don't want control over their platforms anymore because it makes it too complicated to use.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby elasto » Sun Jan 01, 2012 2:17 am UTC

Hmm.

My first reaction on reading the speech was: Wtf! I don't want planes and cars and insulin pumps and all the rest of it running on GPC's that can be subverted! They should have been on bespoke, locked-down hardware to begin with. And KnightExemplar's post only reinforces my belief.

However, the reason they weren't - the reason a car, a plane, a phone, an insulin pump are all based around general purpose microchips - is the same reason general computing will never go away: It's just so damn expedient. Everything will get more and more software-driven simply because the cost differential between doing it that way and using locked-down bespoke hardware will grow ever wider.

General computing is never going away. It will never be impossible to run unsigned code - at worst, you'll always be able to self-sign. Otherwise, how could businesses ever have in-house software? And if businesses can do it then a hacker can do it - either by registering in some country with lax checks and with fake details or by simply hijacking another person's registration. Therefore copyright violation will always be with us.

And, yeah, people care much more that their device 'just works' than that they can customise it. Yes, more control is always preferable to less control, but, basically, people want the default settings to be superb out of the box, and, if they're not, fiddling with settings will be an annoyance more than an enjoyment. Noone reads the manual after all. Why? Because everything should be just 'plug-and-play'.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Sockmonkey » Sun Jan 01, 2012 4:47 pm UTC

It's also about the money. Being able to create your own games, programs, and music means the big boys don't get a cut. Plenty of people even offer their stuff for free, so naturally, major industries are throwing a shit fit.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby dedwrekka » Sun Jan 01, 2012 6:59 pm UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:Beware he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.

I find myself thinking about that cutscene more and more over the past several months. It just seems almost prophetic at this point.


KnightExemplar wrote: ITunes has shown that the consumer base prefers DRM free music. However, Steam has shown that we don't really mind DRM in our games. The consoles have always been more of an "application" system, unified and controlled by their respective companies. It is very rare to find a DRM free game now, its how the market has spoken. DRM-based apps on Smartphones (both Android and iPhones) have also shown that people are fine with DRM-based software.

Even the "cloud" has attacked the concept of "owning software". People just don't want to own software today... and enterprises want to control their software (and your information). Its how the world works. I'm not sure if its a bad thing... but certainly, we are going to see much and much less control over our software and information. People already throw stuff onto Youtube and put up with the DMCA takedown notice crap, because its too damn hard to host your own videos. People prefer Facebook as an application over holding control of your information in the form of Geocities or "Personal Homepages". People don't really care that Google and Facebook run AIs through your email to better figure out advertisements for you...

Its just... how things have happened. No one seems to care about it either.


I think you're misinterpreting the data, but only slightly. For one, ITunes was not always DRM-free, It didn't make the switch to DRM-free until after it was already popular and many of the people who used it since early in it's inception may have simply passed by the switch without really noticing. Also, when Ubisoft first implemented their DRM in From Dust, there was certainly a lot of hubub about it, and it's not the first PC game on Steam to get a black eye due to added DRM. I think it's the idea that people "prefer" one type or the other rather than a majority of the people using it simply do not understand that the products they use have DRM in them, or that they do no understand what DRM really means in regards to their product, is the missing bit of data. It's easy to assume that everyone who uses one of these services know about what they're using, what it means to "the big picture", and what limitations are put on their products, but it's really not the case.

<OP transition>
Think about it this way, if Youtube had put a link up on their homepage talking about the SOPAct early in the year, then there would probably be a lot more people interested in the fight against DRM as political policy. As it is, the more people I talk to about this, the more I realize that there has simply been no coverage of it. Beyond a few internet forums, beyond the boundaries of the internet, out in the real world there are very few people who would be affected by the SOPAct who even know about it's existence, and less who truly understand what it means.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby KnightExemplar » Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:33 pm UTC

dedwrekka wrote:
KnightExemplar wrote: ITunes has shown that the consumer base prefers DRM free music. However, Steam has shown that we don't really mind DRM in our games. The consoles have always been more of an "application" system, unified and controlled by their respective companies. It is very rare to find a DRM free game now, its how the market has spoken. DRM-based apps on Smartphones (both Android and iPhones) have also shown that people are fine with DRM-based software.

Even the "cloud" has attacked the concept of "owning software". People just don't want to own software today... and enterprises want to control their software (and your information). Its how the world works. I'm not sure if its a bad thing... but certainly, we are going to see much and much less control over our software and information. People already throw stuff onto Youtube and put up with the DMCA takedown notice crap, because its too damn hard to host your own videos. People prefer Facebook as an application over holding control of your information in the form of Geocities or "Personal Homepages". People don't really care that Google and Facebook run AIs through your email to better figure out advertisements for you...

Its just... how things have happened. No one seems to care about it either.


I think you're misinterpreting the data, but only slightly. For one, ITunes was not always DRM-free, It didn't make the switch to DRM-free until after it was already popular and many of the people who used it since early in it's inception may have simply passed by the switch without really noticing. Also, when Ubisoft first implemented their DRM in From Dust, there was certainly a lot of hubub about it, and it's not the first PC game on Steam to get a black eye due to added DRM. I think it's the idea that people "prefer" one type or the other rather than a majority of the people using it simply do not understand that the products they use have DRM in them, or that they do no understand what DRM really means in regards to their product, is the missing bit of data. It's easy to assume that everyone who uses one of these services know about what they're using, what it means to "the big picture", and what limitations are put on their products, but it's really not the case.

<OP transition>
Think about it this way, if Youtube had put a link up on their homepage talking about the SOPAct early in the year, then there would probably be a lot more people interested in the fight against DRM as political policy. As it is, the more people I talk to about this, the more I realize that there has simply been no coverage of it. Beyond a few internet forums, beyond the boundaries of the internet, out in the real world there are very few people who would be affected by the SOPAct who even know about it's existence, and less who truly understand what it means.


Why would iTunes switch from DRM-based to DRM-free? DRM encombered media gave far more control to Apple. DRM-free music can be loaded up onto a Zune. Or more likely today... you can buy DRM-free music now and eventually load it onto your Android phone. DRM could have kept the iTunes store Apple-only, much like how digital books bought on Amazon are DRMed and fail to work on iPad or Nook.

No, Apple would never give up such an important edge unless the consumers demanded DRM-free music. It is indeed a victory that DRM was removed from iTunes. There is no reason to give up a competitive edge like that. It just doesn't make business sense... unless the consumers really really wanted it. And yes, people were switching out of iTunes and using Amazon explicitly for the reason of getting DRM-free music.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Sockmonkey » Sun Jan 01, 2012 11:57 pm UTC

I this is linked elsewhere on this site but just in case...
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby elasto » Mon Jan 02, 2012 2:30 am UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:Why would iTunes switch from DRM-based to DRM-free? DRM encombered media gave far more control to Apple. DRM-free music can be loaded up onto a Zune. Or more likely today... you can buy DRM-free music now and eventually load it onto your Android phone. DRM could have kept the iTunes store Apple-only, much like how digital books bought on Amazon are DRMed and fail to work on iPad or Nook.

No, Apple would never give up such an important edge unless the consumers demanded DRM-free music. It is indeed a victory that DRM was removed from iTunes. There is no reason to give up a competitive edge like that. It just doesn't make business sense... unless the consumers really really wanted it. And yes, people were switching out of iTunes and using Amazon explicitly for the reason of getting DRM-free music.

Piracy will always be with us because the general computer will always be with us because too many businesses couldn't live without it.

And, if piracy is always with us, it puts an upper limit on how much DRM a company can wrap a product in - because once it becomes too much of a hassle to use people will just go pirate it. The cost is only half the reason people pirate, the convenience is, for many people, an even bigger factor.

The challenge for the entertainment industry is to deliver their product with more value and with at least the same convenience as the pirates do. If they do that people will pay the money. If they don't, well, market forces will dominate just as they do in every other facet of economic life.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:35 am UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:But really, the consumer doesn't necessarily complain that he can't modify his hammer or screwdriver. Similarly, you never had control over the software in your Thermostat or Hearing Aid. Consumers NEVER cared about controlling those sorts of things. And I bet that no one really cares about controlling their own insulin pumps (outside of a security point of view).

The difference between "unified tool" and "general purpose computer" is a virtual one: it only exists in our mind and in the mind of the developer. Whats going on is people are realizing that less people actually care about general purpose computers, and more than likely prefer to just use Facebook.

I wouldn't be worried that general computers would disappear: they're needed for anyone who wants to run a server or perform research. But we've always been restricted by the developers of the devices we use every day. Most people don't care about changing the software on their routers (except those crazy people), or printers. Or insulin pumps >_<.

There's a lot of truth in this, but there's also a difference that is fairly important. Yes, most people might not deeply care about modding their hammer, and just as much not care about modding their router. And those people have a good point. But a hammer or simple thermostat is not just 'closed' to the owner. After production, it's just as closed to others.

While modern electronic hardware (not to mention Facebook) is becoming more open to the manufacturer than to the average owner even after purchase. Or better: to the user, during the service. Owenership entails exactly the kind of control that is getting fuzzy. It's extremely opaque to a user what the machinery around them is doing exactly, an there's no guarantee that that functionality stays constant either. So you get all kinds of hiccups that users clearly didn't want their machinery to do: Amazon deleting books, telcos running monitors on people's phones, Sony installing rootkits, Facebook showing people's transcripts going back years, et cetera. And in some of such cases it was not just unwanted functionality of the product, it was also unnoticed for a while.

And in that respect, it's good that people like Doctorow harp on the "if you can't hack it, you don't own it" . It's not important that every person individually can or wants to hack the machinery around them. But it's very healthy if some are doing it, and if the barriers for them are low. It lays open what the machinery can do and what it actually is doing, which serves as a protection to the people who tehemselves aren't into tech-modification at all.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby big boss » Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:45 am UTC

elasto wrote:The challenge for the entertainment industry is to deliver their product with more value and with at least the same convenience as the pirates do. If they do that people will pay the money. If they don't, well, market forces will dominate just as they do in every other facet of economic life.


Completely agree. The entertainment industry is trying to hold onto a business model that was developed when the internet was not around yet and are using their lobbying power to try to avoid changes in the way the entertainment market operates.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Jahoclave » Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:48 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:However, Steam has shown that we don't really mind DRM in our games.

Well, I think the problem here is that Steam has shown itself to not be a massive steaming pile of shit. It does what you want very effectively for the most part. If it sucked or had a lot of issues people would get really pissy. Ergo, people don't really notice the DRM because the service is good and doesn't prohibit you from installing on different devices--unless you want to share games with people: which is really the only downside. Whereas, with music, people want to put it on a vast variety of different devices.

So I'd chalk this one up more to general laziness and a refusal to take a stand on the issue. It works for most people and so they don't notice.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby JudeMorrigan » Wed Jan 04, 2012 10:30 pm UTC

Jahoclave wrote:Well, I think the problem here is that Steam has shown itself to not be a massive steaming pile of shit. It does what you want very effectively for the most part ... It works for most people and so they don't notice.

That's the general impression I have amongst people I know. (Yes, I know, anecdotes, data, etc., etc.) I think what most people care about is convenience, utility, lack of annoyance, and not paying more for something than they feel it is worth. See, for example, the popularity of Apple products because they "just work". There are obviously exceptions out there.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Ixtellor » Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:37 pm UTC

Cory Doctorow and Boingboing.net lost my respect years ago with their predictions of doom... that didn't come to pass.

He may be smart, but he is the computer industries version of Glenn Beck.

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/11/03/se ... t-tre.html

Seems I recall lots of people on this board talking about how this evil Obama treaty was doing destroy your precious'es.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby elasto » Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:05 am UTC

I know this wont be news to many but it was to me: With devices like the Raspberry Pi coming out it feels to me like a 'war on general purpose computing' is lost before it's even begun.

It's a $25/$35 board with an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor, VideoCore IV GPU, and 128/256MB of memory with HDMI, Ethernet, USB ports etc. It runs Linux/RISC OS and has been demo'd playing Quake 3 at 1080p and full HD H.264 video.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby phillipsjk » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:21 am UTC

Ixtellor wrote:Cory Doctorow and Boingboing.net lost my respect years ago with their predictions of doom... that didn't come to pass.

He may be smart, but he is the computer industries version of Glenn Beck.

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/11/03/se ... t-tre.html

Seems I recall lots of people on this board talking about how this evil Obama treaty was doing destroy your precious'es.

Let me get this straight: You claim that the perceived ineffectiveness of a treaty signed on October 1, 2011 discredits Cory Doctorow. You then use the fact that SOPA opponents have been discredited (by you) to claim (in another thread) they are wrong about the potential harm of the implementation bill?

The WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms treaties were signed in 1996. It was about 3 years before the United States ratified them with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Canada still has not ratified those treaties, in no small part due to the contention over the Technological Protection Measure provisions.

The law does not move at Internet speed. Neither can the Internet so fundamentally change society within a single generation that our old laws are automatically "obsolete." If any laws are obsolete, it is because they were poorly thought out (like the various copyright extention acts in the face of faster and cheaper reproduction technology).
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:39 pm UTC

phillipsjk wrote:Let me get this straight: blah blah blah


Here is what you need to get straight.

Cory Doctorow has been predicting the end of the internet (hyperbolic) for a very long time now. (Although: "stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race." is pretty damn dramatic. )

DRM, DMCA, MGM v Grokster, and Microsoft Office are all areas where he has weighed in with his distopian predictions.

In 2006 Cory said Microsoft Word documents would only be able to be viewed/opened by license holders of Microsoft Word. Last night my wife opened a word document on her ipad.

Anytime legislation or the government is passed/proposed to curtail piracy and/or protect intellectual property, Corey and all the other soothsayers tell us how bad its going to be and how it will end up turning the internet into a waste land.

He predicited that Apple would lose their customers and they would flee to 3rd party software... Swing and a Miss.

There are a lot of very intelligent people who have a tendancy to overstate the consequences of an action within their sphere of expertise.

The reason half my students dont' believe global warming is real, is because of the predictions that the world "Has 20 years left!"

I am absolutely opposed to the Republican changes to Voter ID laws. However, I don't buy the predictions that "Millions of voters will be disenfranchised!!!".

Doomsday predictions... I have no use for them. (We better attack Iran before they blow up the world!!!!)

Doctorow and his fanboys get people all worked up about simple things. I think the best argument in the SOPA thread, is that it won't be affective. Its not going to end the internet... and send old ladies singing happy birthday to jail...

Maybe you could step back and say "Hmm Doctorow seems to be wrong a lot". He raises a lot of interesting points, and sure things should be observed with scrutiny... but "the stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race." Give me a break.

Give him a break and let him go back to his main job... ending literature!


Ixtellor

P.S. I never started a thread about how Doctorow will destroy literature... because I don't make doomsday predictions about valid concerns.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:57 pm UTC

Ixtellor: In your obsession to argue against doomsday scenarios, please stop seeing doomsday scenarios in places they are not.

You are acting like a reverse conspiracy theorist: "EVERYONE IS A CONSPIRACY THEORIST BUT ME."

EDIT: Though I will admit I wish these conversations would get their language throttled the fuck down.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:33 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Ixtellor: In your obsession to argue against doomsday scenarios, please stop seeing doomsday scenarios in places they are not. .


WTF!
Stop using strawman rhetorical devices.

I said "Cory Doctorow" Makes wild predictions.
Direct Quote from Cory Doctorow:
"The coming century will be dominated by war against the general purpose computer, and the stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race."

I think glossed over a few of his big predictions that never came to pass.

I happen to mention that people do this in a variety of spheres (Planned parenthood, Glenn Beck, Al Gore) <--- BTW is this is 100% accurate. For many major issues, notable people make doomsday predictions. I didn't make that up.



You are acting like a reverse conspiracy theorist: "EVERYONE IS A CONSPIRACY THEORIST BUT ME."


Bullshit Strawman, Bullshit Strawman, Bullshit Strawman.

Edit your post and restore some credibility.

As one of the rational voices in these topics, please stop dismissing my concise points.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:43 pm UTC

You are not making concise points. You have demonstrated poor critical reasoning skills, again and again. Not that I'm some champion of reason here, but compared to you, I'm like some sort of mother-fucking Christopher Hitchens.

Fuck, compared to you? This whole thread is nothing but a Christopher Hitchens clone convention--and you're the young Earth Creationist with a degree in Bull-Shitology (ink still wet from your bubblejet printer) who just burst in and screamed "EVOLUTION IS ONLY A THEORY".

Just sayin'.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:54 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:You are not making concise points. .


I said that Doctorow predicted people would only be able to open Word products with a Microsoft Office license. (In 2004). He was wrong. <---- very fucking concise.

I said Doctorow predicted Apple users would flee to 3rd party OS's. He was wrong. <--- Very concise.

I have thrown in a few statements that I clearly labeled (opinion, hyperbolic). And thats all you see.

The rest of your post was nothing but the lowest form of debate. Personal Attack.

In your last 2 post you have offered ZERO evidence, and only made 2 strawmen, and a grandiose personal attack. Not exactly Hitchens quality.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:12 pm UTC

Y'know, I should actually try to be fair here: I do agree with you that the language needs to be throttled the fuck down. "...the stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race"? What? How? Where? When? Why?! This is the sort of hyperbolic nonsense that, when I read it, I just glaze over.

And to be honest, the only thing you're doing is taking those words at face-value; I wouldn't do that, but only because, at this point, I'm willing to put into good faith that when someone says "THIS COULD BE THE END OF LIBERTY FOR EVERYONE", what they actually mean is 'This is kind of important, maybe we should pay attention!'. And nine times out of ten, I agree with that statement (it's a pretty reasonable one, after all).

Really, I just don't like how quickly you escalate to the same hyperbolic nonsense. I'm not giving you the same benefit that I give other people; I'm taking you at face-value, and at face-value, you, like this guy, sound like a howler monkey banging pots and pans together. You might have some excellent points but I kind of don't care because holy shit that's a lot of noise.

This is all working up to me saying that I should probably slow down and think more when I see your posts. I just responded instinctively to a very loud 'noise', rather than applying the filter and figuring out what the hell that noise was actually saying. So yeah, I'm sorry. That was pretty dumb of me.

You're still shit at critical thinking, though.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Bharrata » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:23 pm UTC

This may be a bit of a derail, and in that case I apologize as I mostly lurk here.

I've only began programming for the last year so I'm nowhere near as tech-savvy as most are in this topic, but I found Doctorow's assertion that SOPA is only the beginning of big money turning it's eye on the internet to be pretty spot-on. How many industries, besides music and film, have found their bottom lines hurt by the emergence of the internet - bearing in mind that the 'small' independent labels are doing great for the most part and, from what I know, haven't complained about "piracy". From where I sit it seems that poor content is really what's dragging down the bottom-line of the big players in these industries, on top of the loss of a constant re-purchasing of their content each time the playback-format changes (how many times and on how many mediums have Floyd fans bought The Wall?).

What's really terrifying about SOPA, again if I'm understanding it correctly, is that even a messageboard such as this could be shutdown for unknowingly hosting some copyrighted content that a single user posted. The step from there to shutting down any sort of dissent or sober critique of the government is a small one.

Perhaps I've been going down the rabbit-hole a bit too much in the last week, but after watching several other speeches from the 28c3 convention it seems like SOPA combined with all of the internet surveillance and censorship technology built for the FBI, and sold to third world dictatorships http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12Mz3r0I6PY which we have sanctions against in the first place, is (to get a bit hyperbolic) a path to hell paved with the good intentions of saving two bloated industries that have players which only became so large and dominant by operating in an unconnected world.


I don't pretend to grasp even the large majority of this lecture http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kEfedtQVOY&feature=related on insecurity being inherent to turing-complete machines, but from what I could it appears that there are ways of fixing the piracy problem without resorting to the potential of a wide-scale curbing of freedom. Further, any attempt to stop piracy or hacking without taking into account the nuts and bolts of what drives them, why they're even possible and the possible implications of said attempts seems to be just a Drug War redux. I'll pass on that, thanks.



edit: I thought once we all got out of high school we could spot rhetoric for what it is, and understand its purpose. It's not like even 200,000 people globally have seen this video, and his hyperbole might help get some casual computer users who view it as a screwdriver to even pay attention to a bill that's getting very little coverage in the MSM.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:30 pm UTC

My thesis: I feel like the effects of legislation attempting to resolve issues with privacy and internet privacy, will have no statistically significant negative externalities. The people claiming they will I find to be without merit based on observing their predictions of past attempts to cull piracy.

I find it distracting to get caught up in those kinds of arguments and that the valid arguments "SOPA may not work at all" get drowned out. Then the Pro-Piracy contingent jumps in and further muddles the waters and/or derails the thread/topic. Much like a Republican debate.

The Great Hippo wrote:Based on a few random internet posts in which you were responding to numerous points and personal attacks AND the fact I was emotionally invested in disagreeing with you, I find your critical thinking to be shit.


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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:33 pm UTC

I'd just edit it to say 'your critical thinking here is shit'. I don't know anything about your critical thinking outside of this particular context; you might be an exceptional critical thinker elsewhere. If my post implied that I was criticizing your critical thinking outside these threads, I apologize.

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:54 pm UTC

Bharrata wrote:I thought once we all got out of high school we could spot rhetoric for what it is, and understand its purpose. It's not like even 200,000 people globally have seen this video, and his hyperbole might help get some casual computer users who view it as a screwdriver to even pay attention to a bill that's getting very little coverage in the MSM.


Orly Tatiz feels just as strongly about Obama's Birth certificate.

You, and others, seem to be coming from the point of view that this issue, unlike those crazy ones, is valid and we should all be worried about it.

I think it should be looked at, and after having done some research, feel confident it has been.

Cory Doctorow and the other people "in the rabbit hole", I believe, don't have much credibility and are far to emotionally invested to apply basic reasoning. His persona/mythology is wrapped up in "savior of the internet", and I think it has warped his sense of reason. A genius who can't escape his own shadow.

Is the government of the united States going to 'mess' with a huge part of its economy as well as cultural defining resources over some you-tube videos and blogs nobody reads?
Does the government even have the resources to do that?
Is Google willing to risk market share over "happy birthday songs"?
Is Microsoft or Apple going to alienate their entire user base?

For me Its: "this is a huge problem" versus This is just another piece of legislation we won't notice.

What I have not heard is a defense, rationalization, of why Doctorow and company are credible on this issue.
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Bharrata » Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:04 pm UTC

What I have not heard is a defense, rationalization, of why Doctorow and company are credible on this issue.


I didn't know about Doctorow until coming across this speech, so I can't say if he is or is not credible, I'm sure some other posters are better suited to the task and I'd love to read some opinions.


Is the government of the united States going to 'mess' with a huge part of its economy as well as cultural defining resources over some you-tube videos and blogs nobody reads?
Does the government even have the resources to do that?


I think it comes down to opening doors which shouldn't be, sure the government might not have the resources to do so at the moment, just as they might not have the resources to indefinitely detain all Tea Partiers or OWS protesters under the new NDAA bill, but in the future they might.

I hold similar thoughts on NDAA to the thoughts you have on SOPA, I won't be running for the hills but it's worrisome to me and I haven't seen any reason why I shouldn't think it's worrisome.


Not to mention that as time goes on more of our public discourse will be taking place on the internet. Why make the freedom to do so beholden to what business or the government deems acceptable? Freedom of speech is the best means of letting idiots out themselves...why mess with what is a great process? :wink:

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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:27 pm UTC

Bharrata wrote:Not to mention that as time goes on more of our public discourse will be taking place on the internet. Why make the freedom to do so beholden to what business or the government deems acceptable? Freedom of speech is the best means of letting idiots out themselves...why mess with what is a great process?


I think your making a leap.

What exactly is, or will be, preventing your from practicing free speech on the internet?
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Re: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:30 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:What exactly is, or will be, preventing your from practicing free speech on the internet?


Internet Shenanigans: A One Act Play wrote:IXTELLOR: Our government sucks!

HIPPO: (Hm... I want to prevent Ixtellor from saying that!)

HIPPO: I agree! Also, here are some interesting files I've found on the internet!

HIPPO: (Now, I'll report these files to the government...!)

GOVERNMENT: ILLEGAL FILES DETECTED ON THIS FORUM. WE ARE SHUTTING IT DOWN.

IXTELLOR: Oh no! My beautiful, beautiful forum posts...!

HIPPO: (Ha ha! Now to replace the forums with nothing but an endless parade of PENIS JOKES!)


THE END

(no moral)

Examples of the above is what I assume most opponents to SOPA are concerned with; I am grossly simplifying, of course. I also do not know how likely the above scenario is under the legislation.


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