Archive | December, 2013

You’re a cow on a farm.

28 Dec

I know that in many parts of the western world, particularly in Europe, the primary role of government is seen as a service provider to its people. People pay taxes and in return the government provides emergency services, infrastructure, schools, healthcare, and looks after public safety.

That concept is similar to the concept taught all US school children, minus the healthcare. The US government, however, is unlike any other western government because it’s a superpower. The fact that the US government is a superpower drastically changes its relationship with its people. Its massive scale simply changes the dynamics in a way that makes it unlike a smaller country in Europe.

The primary aim of the US government is NOT to provide services to its people. The primary aim is to  protect the interests of its shareholders.

Who are the shareholders if not the people?

In American society, money = power. Money = a stake in the game. More money = more shares = more influence.

Someone might attempt to counter argue that voting = power and that despite a rich person having more money than a poor person, they both have one vote. If you seriously still think the act of voting is somehow a check on power, why is it that the income gap is the largest it has ever been? Why is it that government policies all favor helping the rich get richer while the poor get poorer? If there’s more poor people than every before and fewer rich people than ever before, why is it, if as you say they both have 1 vote, that government policies still favor rich people and corporations? It’s because voting is a placebo. You don’t even get to pick the people or things you want to vote for. Those choices are made for you by the establishment to ensure that whatever it is you’re voting on is “safe” to those in power.

But I digress. We just needed to get that out of the way.

Money = power = influence in the government.

The government exists to protect the interests of those with the most influence over it.

But what about the services the government does provide?

The services the government provides to people are the bare minimum needed to keep them working. Healthcare was/is recently a big issue and perfect example of this. The US is one of the only western countries without universal government healthcare. Yes we recently pass “Obamacare” but if you look past all the news headlines and actually read it, you’ll see that it was not the universal healthcare everyone wanted, but rather a trainwreck of “reform” written by the very companies it ostensibly is meant to be reforming. It’s a joke.

Regardless, during the debates, the point of office productivity kept coming up. The cost to the economy of not having healthcare and being unable to pay for being sick was repeatedly brought up as an argument for providing healthcare.

Most Americans don’t understand their role in society, in the government. Their role is of the cow. Their role is to produce milk for the farmer. The farmer is there to ensure the cows are as productive as possible while minimizing costs. And what an elaborate farm it is…

You go to school, you get a job, you go to work, you pay your taxes, you saddle yourself with debt, you pay interest on that debt, you marry, reproduce and put more people into the system. Once in a while you take a vacation to convince yourself that you’re still free. In reality you’re in a cage. You’re the engine of the system; you’re the cow that produces milk for the farmer. The farmer will provide for you only the bare essentials you require to remain productive. Anymore and you’re cutting into his profit margin, any less and he loses money in lost productivity.

 

Moo motherfucker.

Tech illiteracy will enslave the population

23 Dec

“Kids these days are so amazing at using the computer!”

Dwight-Schrute-False

 

It’s popular wisdom that the younger generations are “tech natives” and naturally know how to use technology given that they grew up in a world with that technology. In my experience, this sentiment is usually uttered by people so far removed from technology, that the simplest operation of technology appears to be magic.

The fact is, most people today who appear to “know how to use a computer” can only navigate very specific services and devices. For example: If you ask the average North American teenager or college student, they’d probably be able to show you with ease how to navigate facebook, twitter, instagram, tumblr, reddit, or a smartphone. If you ask them to install a new operating system on their computer, build a computer, write a program, or design a website they’ll stare at you like a deer in the headlights.

They don’t know how to do these things and they’re the “tech natives.” The reality is that they, like most people who use technology, have a nice comfortable bubble of “these are the programs and devices I use daily” and that’s it. They like things simple and predictable. Throw them an error or something unexpected and they’re helpless.

In my short time working in the tech field I’ve been shocked at just how few basic troubleshooting skills people have when it comes to technology. For most of the people I’ve come across, the computer is a magic box and if something doesn’t work, they’re helpless. What I find really interesting is that people don’t usually think this way about their cars.

If they get in their car to go to work in the morning and it doesn’t start, I think most people wouldn’t immediately throw up their hands and go “oh no! the magical car is broken!  I have no idea what it could be!” Most people would at least check to see if it has gas, then check to see if the battery was dead. Some of the more advanced drivers would then check other engine factors. The point is, most people would at least investigate to some small degree.

Not so with computers. I think the disconnect is partly due to the fact that, unlike a car, there really aren’t that many moving parts to a computer. If a program stops working, it’s harder to visualize why that program stopped working. As such, most people lack even basic troubleshooting skills when it comes to computers.

I want to preface what I’m about to say with a disclaimer. I am not a microsoft fanboy. I really couldn’t care less if you love or hate microsoft. That being said: I dislike Mac computers.

I say I dislike them not for technical reasons, well maybe a little, but mainly for philosophical reasons. You see, I believe Mac’s popularity is connected with the fact that people are technologically illiterate and just want things to “work.”

“But GP! What’s wrong with just wanting things to work?! For wanting a smooth user experience with little to no technical knowledge required by the user? Doesn’t that democratize technology and enable the lowest common denominator access to that technology?”

Yes, it does open technology up to the lowest common denominator in a way that does not require them to have any technical knowledge, and that’s the problem!

Look, computers aren’t perfect. From time to time you’re going to run into problems that require you to think critically. That’s precisely what Macs (and console gaming for that matter) try to avoid. They try to design a user experience that requires as little thinking as possible on the part of the user.

In a world that is increasingly dependent on technology in everyday life, I can’t help but feel this attitude is reckless and dangerous to society.

You’re creating a generation that is simultaneously dependent on technology and ignorant of the very technology they depend upon. It’s a recipe for a gullible and vulnerable population; which is precisely why there is an incentive for the status quo to perpetuate this trend.

Technology is a very potent force for change, yet if the population can’t interact with that technology outside of a specific set of regulated and confined relations, then that technology loses all potential as a change agent.

At the end of the book “Cypherpunks” Jullian Assange talks about a future wherein he foresees the only truly “free” people in the world being the people who are technically literate. Sadly, I think he’s right in his prediction of where the world is going. At least in my experience as a help-desk technician and systems administrator I’ve seen that most people not only lack basic technical and troubleshooting skills, but are actively hostile to the notion of acquiring those skills. 

Darwin was famous for is realization that organisms most adaptive to change were the organisms most likely to survive. The technically illiterate people who happily consume no-thinking required products are not only refusing to adapt to a technical world, they’re content to stay ignorant in exchange for ease of use and comfort. They’re too short-sighted to see that there is a price for ignorance: freedom.