December 28, 2008

UPDATE: Ending the Internet as We've Known It

Sorry to keep pounding this but I can't believe how many people still don't get it.

Via Slashdot,

"Microsoft's vision of your computing future is on display in its just-published patent application for the Metered Pay-As-You-Go Computing Experience. The plan, as Microsoft explains it, involves charging students $1.15 an hour to do their homework, making an Office bundle available for $1/hour, and billing gamers $1.25 for each hour of fun. In addition to your PC, Microsoft also discloses plans to bring the chargeback scheme to your cellphone and automobile — GPS, satellite radio, backseat video entertainment system. 'Both users and suppliers benefit from this new business model,' concludes Microsoft, while conceding that 'the supplier can develop a revenue stream business that may actually have higher value than the one-time purchase model currently practiced.' But don't worry kids, that's only if you do more than 52 hours of homework a year!"
This is an important step in the devolution I've outlined in previous posts that's transforming the internets as we've known them into something controlled centrally from the top down by mega-corps and gummints. I realize that that transformation could yield efficiencies in some areas, but I think they'll mainly benefit the controllers (them), not the controllees (us).

My main concerns relate to the power of those who own or control the more centralized system, which power will be enormously enhanced to do any or all of the following:
(1) To charge us whatever they like for their services, including but not limited to forcing us to pay for and use upgrades that we don't want or that are incompatible with older documents or software that we still want to use;

(2) To surveille us without any "probable cause" to suspect us of wrongdoing, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, esp. the Fourth Amendment; and

(3) To alter or delete any information or data, whether accidentally or intentionally, if they consider it a "threat" or simply inconsistent with their own interests.
As I said in my 6/3/07 post, "effective regulation or oversight over those in possession of that ownership and control [of the devolved system] would become impossible, since they would have the power with a few keystrokes to alter every digital record on the planet . . . ."

The following is from my 10/3/07 post on the subject:
Free speech in general and the internet in particular seem to worry control freaks.

As of 2000, just five megacorporations – Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) – controlled over 90% of the media industry in the U.S., with General Electric's NBC a close sixth (see here, here, here, and here).

In 2003, despite the largest public outcry in FCC history, the FCC adopted rules loosening restrictions on media ownership (stories here, here, and here) . . . .

Certain people have spent a lot of money to gain all that control, and notwithstanding claims of hard times in the media biz, the investment has in fact proved profitable; but one of the main benefits that might have been hoped for – control over the agenda and messages reaching audiences of any significant size – is threatened by the 'net.

* * * * *

In an earlier post, I discussed conservatives' plans to replace the internet as we know it with something called the "Worldbeam" (a.k.a. the "Cloud"), a system in which, instead of storing all your personal docs, files, and software on your own computer at home, everything would be stored on larger computers elsewhere, and you would just have a box that would be little more than a gateway to the Beam.

Instead of buying your own copies of applications, the most basic might (or might not) be provided on the Beam for free, and you'd pay license fees for anything fancy, so vendors could force you to upgrade whenever they liked. Although access to your own data would theoretically be protected by a password or other security, the gummint or others who controlled the Beam could access, modify, or simply delete any or all of your or others' data much more easily than now.

The internet would have been transformed into a massive, top-down surveillance system while conferring virtually unlimited power on those who controlled it to re-write "reality." [As I said in my 6/3/07 post, "[w]ho controls the Beam will control history, and thus will have the power to botch if not completely control the present and future."]

I was worried, but thought it would be some years before the "Beam" replaced the 'net as we know it.

Duh. It's finally dawned on me, there's no need for those desiring Beam-like control to engineer any single, vast switch-over to a new system. They're simply colonizing the 'net little by little – and many of us are unwittingly helping them.

Think MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, MeetUp, LinkedIn,,, and yes, Blogspot – you upload or create tons of data about yourself and your activities, opinions, social and other relationships, and personal preferences into online facilities that are maintained and controlled by other people. You may or may not even keep copies on your own computer of everything you put on the 'net. Think online banking and investment, every airplane ticket you've ever bought and hotel you've booked, every comment you've ever posted, and every purchase you've ever made esp. from vendors like amazon that keep track so as to make recommendations. Think on-line spam filter services (I realize AT&T is probably already giving the gummint copies of every e-mail that passes through AT&T's "pipes," in direct violation of our constitutional rights -- see here [and here, here, here, and here] -- but hey, we managed to shut that down, didn't we? Oops, guess not [link supplied].) . . .

* * * * *

At least now, of course, we CAN keep copies of our stuff on our own computers. My computer can of course be infected or hacked; but I can fight that in various ways that at least make it more difficult for my privacy etc. to be massively violated by the gummint, etc. Theoretically, I could even put stuff on a computer that has no wireless port and isn't otherwise connected to the 'net, so someone would have to have actual physical access to it in order to alter or delete it [and if you are an activist who opposes gummint policies, I recommend you do this].
(There's a "Search Blog" function at upper left on this page; you can enter "internet" or other terms to find additional, related posts.)

As I look back at what I've posted before, the only thing that's changed is that the devolution is happening even more quickly than I imagined possible.

As I also said in my 6/3/07 post, "I happen to agree that all information is good information. But what needs to be spelled out in no uncertain terms is that because knowledge is power, a balance of power requires a balance of knowledge." Right now, the powerful know a lot more about us than we know about them; that needs to change.

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