The Battle For The Root

I’m quite fond of saying “The defining conflict of the era, is Network vs Hierarchy” because it always seems to elicit sage nods of approval from my learned colleagues – really I don’t know it it’s true or not, but it seems like a cool thing to say, so I say it.

Conflicts are almost always hierarchy vs hierarchy… with the people at the bottom carrying the burden of suffering… so there’s also this permanent resentment about top-down control. Every once in a while a technology turns up that breaks top-down control… and after a period of attempted to be bannings (under the guise of heresy and witch-hunts), a big player takes advantage of this resentment to get people to mobilise around his flag… under the promise of freedom… and often, new hegemony is imposed.

Oliver Cromwell wound up having far more power than any king. Henry the Eighth… etc etc… The Catholics did not have the monopoly on cruelty and violence by any stretch. Guy Fawkes was the Stuart 9/11… but protestantism (believe it or not) is the spiritual ancestor of woman’s rights, egalitarianism, of the enlightenment, science… etc etc.

William Tyndale Bible William Tyndale Bible

ok. Get to the point.

The lines are being drawn… between openness and control. Between open-platforms and control-systems.

Proprietary software is a control-system, Facebook is a control-system. iPhone is a control-system. Debt-based money is a control-system

Open-Source is open, Android is open, the Personal Computer is open. The Internet as a whole is open.

Google’s Wave is open; Opera’s Unite – while being a great (and crucial) idea, is closed.

iPhone is the AOL of cellphones. Android is an attempt at being the hand-held PC.

People bitch warily about Google… having too much power, saying that what Google is about isn’t “openness” so much as “openness to Google”. This is missing the point, and the historical context. What Google is, is a major player that’s come down on the side of the protestants – it is mobilising popular sentiment against top-down control. That is what “don’t be evil” means. The fact that Google is a hierarchy, with hierarchical goals and hierarchical needs, doesn’t mean it’s not doing good – because what it is doing is creating open-systems – the fact that it is setting these systems up so it can spy on them, doesn’t stop them being open… it just introduces a higher order of problem – but it doesn’t attempt to build evil (aka top-down control) into the DNA of what it creates.

DNA being the relevant word – because without control at a really low level, open software can just route around attempts to close it. To turn an open system to a closed system… to change the DNA, you need to control the root. Your PC may run Windows – which is a closed system, but you can (theoretically at least) route around any controls that Windows might try to impose – because Windows doesn’t own the root. You do.

Earlier in the decade was The Palladium Scare – which was Microsoft (who are the old-guard) attempting to build DRM directly into hardware to stop the PC being an open system – it was an attempt to take the root.

A bit later was the Sony root-kit fiasco – in which it attempted to infect its customers PCs with a virus that took the root.

The continual attacks by telcos against network neutrality are attempts to take the root – to stop the web as a whole being an inherently open system.

The global “3 strikes” fad laws that 1/2 the countries in the western world seem to be contemplating are an attempt at the “moral root” – which is to say, slight-of-hand… a distraction over the “details of the punishment” in an attempt to sneak through the idea that governments/corporations have a “moral right” to control at this level.

It’s all a battle for the root… so the Catholic Church can carry on raising armies, extracting tithes and selling indulgences.

Daniel Schmitt, spokesperson for talking to the BBC (7 minutes in)

No Comments » for The Battle For The Root
1 Pings/Trackbacks for "The Battle For The Root"
  1. […] 1) The Battle For The Root. […]