Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Control Revolution by Andrew L. Shapiro

The Century Foundation, New York

Shapiro's title well explains his book, but control isn't one sided. Control, he says, is passing from the institution to the individual. From being controlled, the individual is gaining self-control, as different from more
nebulous concepts of political freedom.

While the present leap in the Information Society continues to empower individuals, the underlying system of information communication technology (ICT) is also very useful for denying freedom and placing individuals under automated control, homogenizing the social order using the mathematical principle of "the least common denominator."

P 20-21
(Birth of the Internet)
In the 1960s and 1970s the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency created a network to allow defense researchers to share computer resources between universities.

Soon it served the more social purpose of email communication spawning the creation of a distributed bulletin board system based on topics of interest called the UseNet. Arpanet continued to grow under the National Science
Foundation until it was privatized in the mid 1990s. The government sold off the network backbone to a consortium of technology corporations and gave a single company control over the directory service that gives names to all the computers and links them to their computer language addresses.

Privatization of this kind removes all decision making power from the government (with its presumably democratic interaction with the population) and puts all decision making power in the hands of corporate officers.
Education, health and social welfare, even prisons, have been transferred to private control relying entirely on free market forces to provide well-being and justice. Certain small units, such as in machinery maintenance or
transportation, function well serving the public as corporations as long as accountability and competition are present as part of the process.

(Failures of Privatization)
But taking such vast policy responsibilities out of the scope of the democratic process and granting them only the values of the profit motive is a concept untested in history and does give the intuitive feeling that social responsibilities would be met.

Personal experiences in the health field suggest that doctors will consistently bypass common ethics and provide unnecessary and possibly dangerous surgery to increase hospital profits. Educational corporations have consistently failed to provide improvement when asked to take over troubled public institutions.

There is no real reason to assume that a privatized Internet will enhance the social responsibilities normally given to government and the granting of monopolies historically guarantees price gouging, hence anti-trust laws.

(Technology Crash of 2000)
Total privatization accelerated the technological growth of the Internet from 1995 onward where it graduated from the simplistic text based applications like the UseNet to the highly graphical and interactive World Wide Web. The acceleration was, in fact, phenomenal, and using traditional economic analysis it was very likely to create a financial bubble. Growth in the last year of the technical rise was beyond any previous experience and resulted in a crash that very likely pushed America into a three year market depression causing employment problems that are expected to last much longer.

(Global Stocks)
Global stocks, if an indicator of the global economy, suffered just as the technology stocks did, as if to say that the world was depending on American, and European, technology to bootstrap itself out of historical poverty. Their
investments all went sour and their market indexes followed very closely those of technology stocks, where as more common wealthy nation stocks only suffered marginally.

(Culture of Individualism)
The US has a strong culture of individualism; today self-reliance is expected in health, diet, exercise spiritual awareness, exercise, self help and even recovery from severe mental and health problems. Historical roots point to
spirit of the frontier, the very language of the national documents and the laws of the land, and the residence of a large percentage of individualists and free thinkers in the world, either born into the tradition or brought here
often to escape repression elsewhere. Names like Emerson and Thoreau, Franklin and Einstein, Emma Goldman and Susan B. Anthony. Even Daniel Boone and Billy the Kid remain as important folk heroes.

It has increased over the years; trust in institutions has eroded dramatically, both with government and corporations. From a seventy-five percent in the early sixties, the government's trust rating has fallen to twenty-five percent.
The private sector has done even worse, falling from 55 percent to 21. Even doctors are as entrusted now, as are educators and journalists.

**There is a tendency to create black and white separations between issues, oversimplifications that are exploited by those who may be under scrutiny. Economists, financiers and government leaders and the private sector offer us
two choices in governance and sustenance, communism or capitalism. If the government cannot be trusted, they say, then they present us with a more individual solution, the corporation. The law supports the concept that a corporation is an individual creating the horrid skew, which has been righted by collective bargaining, and class action law suits. Corporations are often bigger than government yet enjoy the status and protections of an individual person, the system we live in offers no choice except to accept the rules presented by a few institutions based on a millennia of developed control practices.

P 23
The need for personal control is known to every person, they pass from infancy and childhood to many years of expressing individuality as teenagers to the full responsibilities of adulthood.

Control is the key factor in our political and economic lives as we struggle to become stakeholders in society

P 39
(On-line feedback loop)
Journalists are often the arbiters of the facts, so keeping them on guard is a tremendous asset for the community. The Internet provides an "on-line feedback loop" allowing interactive questioning of the facts to hold the media

(Buckminster Fuller, Direct Democracy)
P 58-59
Democracy was in a shambles and needed to be modernized "to give it a one-individual-to-another speed and spontaneity of reaction commensurate with the speed of broadcast news." "electrified voting" "Devise a mechanical means for nation-wide voting dial and secretly bye each adult citizen of Uncle Sam's family."

(Government obsolete)
Citizens can use the Internet to express their views instantly, not just on policy issues, but for instance, the location of dump sights. Representatives would no longer be decision makers but tabulators to keep track of what the voting public wants. Referendums are common in Switzerland, which has also pioneered the use of the Internet in political outreach.

P 80
(Click Wrap Agreements)
These documents go beyond the copyright laws in controlling the way information can be used. They contain hundreds of lines of fine print and are followed by an OK button that somehow is taken to signal consent. Being impossible to
understand by the average person even if they did take the time to read the documents, they also deny the legally required opportunity to negotiate the terms of the agreement. Nonetheless the courts will very likely support these agreements.

(Trusted Systems)
This technology controls how information is used. Browsers have been modified to prevent users printing, cut and pasting, or otherwise copying information even if they have paid for it. Unlike the concepts of fair use and trivial
sharing, which allows music listeners to make copies of music or magazine readers to photocopy articles.

Trusted systems make no allowance for fair use, the aspect of copyright that is essential to freedom of expression. They also help the monopolization of computer technologies and dangerously shrink the public domain. The political
trend is to do away with the freedoms of expression rights to an even playing field at an exponentially increasing pace.

Trusted systems also record the use of data with accuracy that a user's mental profile can be established based on what information is accessed. Furthermore, assumptions can be misleading since the intent of the viewer will never be known, yet the trend has been for the use of this type of profile to be protected by the courts and even in some cases used as evidence in criminal cases.

(Digital Millennium Copyright Act)
In 1998, copyright maximalist persuaded congress to enact laws preventing users from circumventing tools designed to control a user's access to information. The law requires the use of one kind of program rather than another when specified by the provider of the content.

P 86
(Freedom and control)
"there is no more perfect form of subjection than the one that preserves the appearance of freedom" (Rousseau)

(Microsoft Quote)
"Where do you want to go today" means that they really "want a cut of every transaction on the Internet" -or "vig" (Myrhvold).. to become the supreme commercial middleman.
**Corporate independence from government to increase control over the individual, in an environment that promotes individual choices

(De-isolation of ideas)
P 119
"You can create your own world in the Net and do whatever you want on it." You may make all your own rules for others to interact with you eliminating the needs of give and take that are the basis of commonly shared community. There has been decline in social organizations over the years and the wide spread use of the Internet may continue that in some users. However the tools of the Internet are invaluable to social organizations and in the future more


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