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a man slumped on his desk, from 'The Sleep of Reason Produces



some fire in me yet

So I’ll keep this one short: it feels like I’m getting back into my stride, and I managed to knock out 2000 words on cognitive liberty and decentralization for a (shh secret) magazine that Mike Masnick is editing for us at the Foundation. The bad news is that my brief was 800-1000 words, but hey, better to kangaroo ahead in first gear a bit than not start the engine at all.

Here’s a sampler, the final mag will be openly licensed:

The PC was always intended as a machine that augments individual abilities. That ambition has deep roots, from Vannevar Bush’s 1945 essay “As We May Think“, Doug Engelbart’s 1962 paper “Augmenting Human Intellect“, through Ted Nelson’s 1974 manifesto “Computer Lib“, Steve Job’s 1980 “Bicycle For The Mind” campaign, to Sherry Turkle’s 1984 book “The Second Self” and beyond.

In this way of thinking about digital tech, the personal computer is an extension of your brain and its abilities. Its memory is to help you remember; its processing power is there to help you think faster; its network connection is for you to reach out to others; its interfaces are to connect more closely to you. It is yours in the same way as your hands belong to you, as your eyes, as your imagination.

Something has taken us from that tradition. The PC has inched closer to our faces, and under our skin. It has become ever more personal and intimate (do you sleep with your phone?) It has in many ways, become more “user friendly”. But it has also much much less user controlled. Its memory and processor now spends its time on showing advertisements, enforcing copyright protection rules, and sly surveillance of your habits that all resist your ability to evade them. That network connection is used to stream out your behavior to strangers, rather than let you voluntarily choose who to communicate to.

No matter how they ape the liberatory language of this tradition, many of us look at Neuralink or VR and see it as a fundamentally alienating tech, controlled by others, leering into our personal space; foreign body horror rather than extensions of our selves.

Those on the cutting edge of technological adoption, like the elderly and the disabled, know the profound difference between tech that expands your personal autonomy, and those that are limited and controlled by others. Many others who might think they have more freedom in what tech they adopt, are feeling the walls close in too.

(400 words)

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petit disclaimer:
My employer has enough opinions of its own, without having to have mine too.