2005 [prediction #1] treacherous computing


[prediction #1: Treacherous Computing]

Welcome to Treacherous Computing [TC, aka "Trusted Computing"] - a topic I mentioned when it was under Micro$oft's Palladium moniker at the New Forms Festival panel in 2002. Hardware encoding for Digital Rights Management, which also centralizes control over the PC to the hardware and software manufacturer. Got a file They don't like (corporation or government)? It's deleted automatically. You've got open source tech? It won't function anymore on the hardware; at the least it will be isolated from the rest of the machine and thus rendered useless (nevermind the Net, which is going to see TC-only protocols, or at least TC security, contrasted with the nefarious infection of data in the realm of P2P). At the panel, Paul D. Miller brushed aside these concerns by claiming that hackers will always be able to backdoor software, remix culture, etc. But hardware encryption means that such software--and this is an actuality, not a possibility--won't even be able to run; it will have to be TC certified (i.e., only corporate software will run in this new hardware environment). The problem is at the level of the means of production: we need open source hardware, which means open source factories. The issue of control is not as ephemeral as we'd like to think. Culture jamming and remixing will remain surface until global open source organisation can develop alternative means of production (I'm reminded of William Gibson's idea, in Idoru, of the Sandbenders computer made by a collective in Oregon.) The "information society" has a crux point, located dead centre at the level of hardware production, which means that the proletariat class is still that of the worker, and that the level of control over society balances between the flows of data ("information") and those very real and material components that allow--as in to designate permission and control--these flows. The balance is not equivocal. Software without hardware is a dead material object (a CD-ROM, a server, a hard drive), which is to say it reverts to the material encasing that underlies all data and information. Control over this object ultimately determines the limit and extent of software. Is this another way of saying that the base/superstructure, ideology/materiality binary still holds some water? Yes, insofar as water flows regardless of its containment. Prediction: in 2005, we're going to see a resurgence of two concepts: class and production.

What's the solution? Well, step one is to switch completely over to open source OS (Linux). What will happen? Quite possibly at least two separate computing worlds: that of the open source community and the corporate world, and the division will not be a peaceful one. My prediction? Class-computer conflict, where files won't be transferrable between the two, where the corporate TC world will employ private policing firms to hunt down open source collectives and raid open source factories, where two cultures and two economies will develop in conflict with each other, both transnational and global. Unfortunately the balance of power is far in the hands of the corporate structure and its military tech. Control will operate without choice: massive file deletion will become common as a practice to collectively erase memory (if it's not stored, it will become nowhere: it will cease to exist; this strategy is already that of the Bush administration in its illogical but nonetheless effective compilation and justification of statements toward war, for example). China and Asia will further sever and mark a third territory. While Micro$oft is hoping that TC will eliminate widescale Chinese and Asian piracy, undoubtedly completely foreign systems will develop that will further segregate an already linguistically divided computing world. This means political and military division. Neither a hot nor cold war, we are looking at wars of tactical territories, data havens, wars over memory and storage, over production of certain technologies (as well as oil, while it lasts, but more probably, water, food supplies and other essential natural resources). While transnationals will continue to erode nation-states, the experience of the citizen will become more and more territorialized as media files only play in smaller regions, for less time, without the ability to lend or copy; where travel becomes further restricted, expensive and elite; where global conflict and effects of global warming encase the citizen in specific "gated communities" both material and virtual (the resurgence of the city-state -- think Vancouver, New York City, Montreal). Conceptually, at the level of flow, the very idea of the gift (without exchange, the impossible dream) will be deleted.

Pessimistic? Not really; it's reality, and it's in the plans. This is no longer in the domain of activists. Happy go-lucky perspectives are going to meet some sharp edges soon enough. It hopefully won't happen this way because enough people will be meeting it head-on: this is the tech seachange of the alter-globalization movement (the seizure of Indymedia's servers by no direct entity, with no chain of command or direct permission from any nation-state testifies to the development of this system of logic and control, which is that of deferral and relay).

Check this FAQ style article on "Trusted Computing" by Ross Andersen [thanks to Kim Cascone for posting this to .microsound]:

"The modern age only started when Gutenberg invented movable type printing in Europe, which enabled information to be preserved and disseminated even if princes and bishops wanted to ban it. For example, when Wycliffe translated the Bible into English in 1380-1, the Lollard movement he started was suppressed easily; but when Tyndale translated the New Testament in 1524-5, he was able to print over 50,000 copies before they caught him and burned him at the stake. The old order in Europe collapsed, and the modern age began. Societies that tried to control information became uncompetitive, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union it seemed that democratic liberal capitalism had won. But now, TC has placed at risk the priceless inheritance that Gutenberg left us. Electronic books, once published, will be vulnerable; the courts can order them to be unpublished and the TC infrastructure will do the dirty work.

The Soviet Union attempted to register and control all typewriters and fax machines. TC similarly attempts to register and control all computers. The problem is that everything is becoming computerised. We have absolutely no idea where ubiquitous content control mechanisms will lead us."

.. ./. /../... in the meantime .. think flow and snow .... :! enjoy life and 2005 -- these thoughts shouldn't stop us from enjoying those other flows, those of the slip-down skiing and boarding variety, sweaty bodies, desire, hedonism and passion ...

[whistler white-out, 2002 -- hiking powder in the lower mid-mountain with chairs closed]

.././. .. /.

posted. Sun - January 2, 2005 @ 01:02 PM           |