Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gaming the System

Recenly I've been thinking about the underlying rationale of using a computer to do anything. Frankly, it has dawned on me that perhaps the entire 'IT revolution' is a bit overrated; we are pouring billions, trillions of dollars into these things annually. Are we really getting that much out of it?. At first, I thought I was just reading too much Nick Carr, but now I've got a better idea; I think computing is about Power. And yes, that's a capital P, Power like Max Weber Power:

"By power is meant every opportunity/possibility existing within a social relationship, which permits one to carry out one's own will, even against resistance, and regardless of the basis on which this opportunity rests."

Basically, It's an "I'm going to tell you what to do" type of thing, this old, rather un-fun competitive chimp infrastructure full of winners and losers. I don't see anything wrong with that, but we should clarify that connecting to the Net, and the trillions we are spending to do so, is really about access to Power, the Power to control and profit off of other human beings. Opinions like this put projects such as OLPC and rural wifi in a different light - maybe we are just connecting more suckers to the Internet to take their money.

The irony of this is that I don't think the investment is worth the returns. In fact, I think it is a giant gambling game, where instead of hunting the Woolly Mammoth, we are now hunting virtual information to put food on the table. I'm the first to admit have a heap of personal examples where I tried to make a million off the net - online poker playing, domain name investing, surfing for money to name a few - Guess what, It didn't happen; my poker bot was just as good as people (or bots) I was playing against; I bought 200 domain names and sold one; the surfing thing took too much time, an I ended up making 30 cents an hour. Who is gaming who here, and are we going to keep turning earth into computers to keep this going? It can't last forever.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's like the historian Henri Pirenne said: "Piracy is the first stage of trade." Which I interpreted to mean, "Trade is the second stage of piracy."