100% All-Natural Content
No Artificial Intelligence!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The end of general-purpose computing?

It's a bit of a long read, but Corey Doctorow has published an exceptionally well-written piece at Boing Boing about the direction that general-purpose computers are going in regard to SOPA (the "Stop Online Piracy Act") and other dubious legislation. Doctorow recounts the history of digital rights management measures, how they have all ultimately failed and will continue to fail, and how it is driving information as we know and enjoy it to become way too specialized.

Here's a snippet...

...Ultimately, the question is whether every PC should be locked, so that their programs could be strictly regulated by central authorities.

Even this is a shadow of what is to come. After all, this was the year in which we saw the debut of open source shape files for converting AR-15 rifles to full-automatic. This was the year of crowd-funded open-sourced hardware for genetic sequencing. And while 3D printing will give rise to plenty of trivial complaints, there will be judges in the American South and mullahs in Iran who will lose their minds over people in their jurisdictions printing out sex toys. The trajectory of 3D printing will raise real grievances, from solid-state meth labs to ceramic knives...

Regardless of whether you think these are real problems or hysterical fears, they are, nevertheless, the political currency of lobbies and interest groups far more influential than Hollywood and big content. Every one of them will arrive at the same place: "Can't you just make us a general-purpose computer that runs all the programs, except the ones that scare and anger us? Can't you just make us an Internet that transmits any message over any protocol between any two points, unless it upsets us?"

Anyone else having visions of the future that William Gibson gave us in Neuromancer, with its black market computer shops and software dealers?

"When PCs are outlawed, only outlaws will have PCs!"