The original promise of the e-book was not a promise to the reader, it was a promise to the publisher: “We will design something that appears on a screen, but it will be as inconvenient as if it were a physical object.” This is the promise of the portable document format, where data goes to die, as well.

Clay Shirky – How Will We Read (via bijan)


Much has been said, written and posted about SOPA over the last month or so. But what I found refreshing and enlightening about this talk from Cory Doctorow was the lengths to which he went to frame SOPA in it’s real historical context. The title of this talk says it all “The Coming War on General Purpose Computation”.

A few excerpts:

The proponents of SOPA, the Motion Picture Association of America, circulated a memo, citing research that SOPA would probably work, because it uses the same measures as are used in Syria, China, and Uzbekistan, and they argued that these measures are effective in those countries, and so they would work in America, too!

It may seem like SOPA is the end game in a long fight over copyright, and the Internet, and it may seem like if we defeat SOPA, we’ll be well on our way to securing the freedom of PCs and networks. But as I said at the beginning of this talk, this isn’t about copyright, because the copyright wars are just the 0.9 beta version of the long coming war on computation. The entertainment industry were just the first belligerents in this coming century-long conflict. We tend to think of them as particularly successful — after all, here is SOPA, trembling on the verge of passage, and breaking the internet on this fundamental level in the name of preserving Top 40 music, reality TV shows, and Ashton Kutcher movies!

It doesn’t take a science fiction writer to understand why regulators might be nervous about the user-modifiable firmware on self-driving cars, or limiting interoperability for aviation controllers, or the kind of thing you could do with bio-scale assemblers and sequencers. Imagine what will happen the day that Monsanto determines that it’s really… really… important to make sure that computers can’t execute programs that cause specialized peripherals to output organisms that eat their lunch… literally. Regardless of whether you think these are real problems or merely hysterical fears, they are nevertheless the province of lobbies and interest groups that are far more influential than Hollywood and big content are on their best days, and 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?”

So we’re here, at logger heads, ostensibly arguing about piracy when the underlying fear of these disruptive, connective, enabling devices extends far beyond the gilded stars of Hollywood boulevard. 

And it’s just the beginning.

Which is why Cory’s talk at 28C3 is required weekend viewing on BRYCE DOT VC.

When human beings acquired language, we learned not just how to listen but how to speak. When we gained literacy, we learned not just how to read but how to write. And as we move into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them. In the emerging, highly programmed landscape ahead, you will either create the software or you will be the software. It’s really that simple: Program, or be programmed.