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Archive for January, 2012

The War Against the World Wide Web

Reading book

PROBABLY stating the obvious here: the Internet was created to endure targeted attacks and the World Wide Web was created by a British lad who wanted to share his physics papers. Nowadays, the Internet and especially the Web are challenging the old conglomerates because they offer low-cost competition. Those with trillions in the bank account (aggregated wealth) are not going to give up without a fight; using their bought politicians they are not trying to manufacture new laws, such as ACTA, which ORG tells us is “having very serious consequences for the free flow of information online…”

No surprise here, but we must fight back against this dictatorial behaviour. The problem is not so-called “piracy” (copyright infringement), the problem is competition. By trying to paint all competition as “piracy”, sociopaths are trying to call all competitors “illegal” (even generic drugs) just so that they can keep increasing their wealth and their power, at the expense of other people. Class warfare is all it is.

Illusion of Freedom and Choices

George Carlin the illusion of freedom

Too Rich to Pay Tax

Raiders of the century

Warren Buffett
Image by Mark Hirschey

NOTHING serves as a better example of the brokenness of the system than the taxing situation and bailouts in today’s society. The richest people get labeled “job creators” and are therefore entitled to massive tax breaks and when they fail it is us, taxpayers, who are forced to give them yet more of our tax money. The source of this paradox is of course the influence of money in politics. The golden rule is that those who make the gold make the rules and until or unless we fight back, the corporate press will continue to portray billionaire as “job creators” and then brainwash people into the consensus that the richest people are so wonderful and “successful” that we should not bother taxing them. Many of them who run “foundations” do so not just for PR but also to evade tax. They have legalised their own tax evasion by buying our supposedly “elected” politicians.

The Days of Books Are Numbered

Stack of books

ANY book which does not get digitised (e.g. scanned or made available electronically) will most likely cease to be relevant some day in the near future. The way the young generation accesses information is changing, so libraries will provide no viable life line to printed literature. Moreover, what is not Open Access is likely to perish because the young generation gets accustomed to rapid access to a lot of information, free of charge. Any impediments to access will end up prioritising the competition. Those who still submit papers for publication ought to check that their papers are either made available free of charge (online) or can be legally made available online through one’s own homepage for example (some publishers use copyright to prevent the camera-ready copies from being made available anywhere outside the paywalls). For work to endure the test of time it will need to be readily available (and searchable) for all to not only access but also share with peers. Just tossing lots of papers into Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) won’t be enough to make research visible because there is lack of focus and PDFs do not get properly indexed. I quit writing papers in LATEX when I realised the people just wanted the HTML versions and not the PDFs, based on access/usage.

The reading habits, access habits, and publications habits rapidly evolve and we need to cope with change. It’s not just Wikipedia that shows us the impact of coherent texts that do not get printed to be “primed” as peer-reviewed and thus “authenticated”/”validated”. Eventually, physical books might become just a last resort/vocation (or platform) for those who are clever but don’t have a Web site in which to share ideas. They will become the equivalent of flyers or billboard protests for those who do physically what they are unable to do digitally, with a potentially broader audience.

Political Correctness

Keep political correctness where it belongs — in politics

Soapbox

Political correctness — like politeness in a sense — is one of those buzz terms that can be invoked to silence opinions we do not wish to hear or at least discourage messengers, marginalising them or leading to self-censorship (through deterrence). Political correctness is an overused term, much like “racism”, “homophobia”, “anti-Semitism”, and so on.

In an ideal world, people should be free to express themselves and those who choose to be insulted by words can shut their ears. One of their “defences” — if it qualifies as such — is that there is incitations in words, but this becomes akin to imposed censorship, where one finds a messages or image too objectionable for the public and thus wants to impose central censorship.

We live in a world where people are not tied to a television set with just 5 channels. People choose to subscribe to one of a plethora of sites or channels or books. There is abundance. Trying to limit ourselves to particular messages based on their “political correctness” is not going to achieve much except add some “allure” to the suppressed messages. People who seek particular types of speech will ultimately find it anyway, especially on the Internet (even if encrypted).

Political Correctness (PC) — like the Personal Computer — is outdated. It is for politicians to know what will attract funding and what may alienate potential voters. But political correctness need not belong on the Web; it’s incompatible with the values of freedom, including freedom of expression. Sadly, however, in a world full of hardcore conservatives, there will always be pressure to impose draconian rules of speech.

David Rovic on Corporations

Last year when David Rovic wrote a song about Bradley Manning I became familiar with his work, which mostly impressed for its good, powerful lyrics. Here you can find some of his songs. Now that corporations pretend to have the rights of individuals Rovic comes up with this song:

Fighting for Our Rights in the Twenty-First Century

STRANGE developments in the United States and the United Kingdom* have taken away our liberties and assured us that it’s for our own benefit (to stave off the terrorists, pedophiles, looters and so in). Last year I wrote about it in this blog. People must remember that once we lose our rights it is nearly impossible to get them back, unless there is some major revolution or revolutionary event (like the US in 1932). Nowadays, as many transactions and communications are carried out and routed digitally, the loss of freedoms can be technological in nature. In Techrights, for instance, the issue of knowledge being privatised (with patents) is being addressed, along with censorship and other questions. What’s good about being a technologist those days (I consider myself an academic, sysadmin, programmer, and activist) is that it’s us technologists who can make a lot of difference in restoring or preventing the erosion of human rights. Sometimes it is up to us to explain to people what is going on and persuade those in power not to misuse their power, e.g. by passing the SOPA. Now is a good time for those with the time and the means to serve a good cause by sacrificing a bit for the betterment of society.
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* More countries are affected, but I am especially concerned and familiar with places where I and my loved ones live.

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