09.26.20

Gemini version available ♊︎

The Cheapening of the Programmer is a Threat to Human Rights of All Computer Users

Posted in Deception, Finance, Free/Libre Software at 10:32 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Cheaper comes at a (hidden) cost

Putrajaya Night Scenes

Summary: From the era of computer experts (down to the low level of computing with transistors), mathematicians, physics gurus and respected technicians we’ve come to orders-following, user-apathetic engineers who are overworked, grossly underpaid, and way too fearful of raising ethical concerns (voicing disagreement can result in prompt dismissal, followed by perpetual unemployment) and this ensures digital oppression without checks and balances

THE really old computers were very expensive. They used to be the luxury of large universities, large research institutions, nuclear simulation facilities and so on (putting aside corporations and the private sector at large). At the very least one programmer/engineer was needed for each machine (an operator) and on-site repairs required whole teams, coordinating with off-site manufacturers and other suppliers. Many machines were leased, not owned, and real owners didn’t just buy new components each time anything broke down (it was still cheaper to repair, not outsourced to cheap-labour markets or ‘cheap labour’ countries). Computers used to be large beasts (as big as whole rooms/entire buildings if not bigger… as in cross-building/site) and a real pain to maintain.

“Many things have changed over the past half a century.”In 2020 one can buy a new computer for as little as a hundred bucks. A decent computer, not some bare-bones chip that’s pluggable to a screen and keyboard/mouse (those cost a lot less than a hundred bucks or even fifty bucks).

Many things have changed over the past half a century. Computing generally evolves a lot faster than most scientific disciplines, both in terms of hardware and software (the latter typically evolves in line with quantity and speed of available hardware). Notice, for example, last year’s video about UNIX inventors and what came before UNIX (obviously these predecessors perished). It’s not a long clip and it’s quite strictly copyrighted by the ‘IP’ sticklers. Hence YouTube:

UNIX deviated, shifting away from that time’s norm. Blind obedience begets trouble and repressive societies (lack of scientific advancement). Brilliance starts/originates from divergence. We need ‘rebels’.

As figosdev told me a few hours ago about Richard Stallman, “I still admire him a great deal (he’s never not going to be the founder of all this, indeed he and Gilmore are the main reasons BSD is free as well. So that’s TWO Unix-like operating systems he’s helped free, and no, that’s about it if you count stuff in production use. But it’s two he’s helped free and zero he hasn’t helped.”

The “mini-computer” (or minicomputer) they allude to in the video is PDP-7 — so very “mini” that it was ‘only’ 500 kg (half a tonne) and cost as much as a house. “In a 1970 survey,” as Wikipedia puts it. “The New York Times suggested a consensus definition of a minicomputer as a machine costing less than US$25,000 (equivalent to $165,000 in 2019), with an input-output device such as a teleprinter and at least four thousand words of memory, that is capable of running programs in a higher level language, such as Fortran or BASIC.”

Back then, computers were a lot more expensive than their operators.

“A few years ago we started noticing the growing expectation — as in job descriptions — that sysadmins should be programmers and vice versa, with buzzwords like “DevOps” or various other nonsense (e.g. buzzwords with “AI” or “Sec” inserted in-between).”To be clear, the cheapening of computers since then isn’t the fault of China. “Western” companies (as well as “Eastern” ones, notably those in Japan and South Korea) chose to outsource to mainland China for their own selfish interests. The abundance of low-cost computers then meant that more and more people had them, even since childhood. That presently persists and the trend accentuates. It meant, especially in recent decades, that low-income places (like India) had access to/capability of computer literacy and programming competencies.

A few years ago we started noticing the growing expectation — as in job descriptions — that sysadmins should be programmers and vice versa, with buzzwords like “DevOps” or various other nonsense (e.g. buzzwords with “AI” or “Sec” inserted in-between). The general idea is, you pay people less to do more work and handle/learn more tasks (steepening the training curve), in some cases handling more responsibilities for the same salary (e.g. programming in daytime, then being ‘on-call’ at nighttime, just in case of downtime-inducing incidents). You then hire fewer people. So much for “job creators”…

“If the computer industry was meant to enrich life and provide job security, then it’s certainly not doing that (not anymore).”Much has been said about the harms of computing, notably privacy erosion, addiction, misinformation and so on. Not much is being discussed in relation to professions of those crafting and maintaining computer systems. A lot of the argument boil down to unbridled nationalism (basically blaming the “other”, as Donald Trump does so hypocritically with China). Within this context, free software (free-as-in-freedom) is mostly a side issue. Human and labour rights are of greater relevance and unless we start the dialogue about these matters, it’ll continue getting worse each year. Wages have already stagnated, many more technical jobs have been deprecated (COVID-19 gave more excuses towards this outcome, long sought by greedy managers regardless), and stress is typically increasing while burden shifts from organisations to individual people. Under the flag of “AI” (pronounced “HEY HI!” — how fitting) they introduce themselves at the door with pink slips, passing all the savings (on salaries) to heads of corporations and rich shareholders.

If the computer industry was meant to enrich life and provide job security, then it’s certainly not doing that (not anymore). Ask some recent Computer Science graduates. People scrolling up and down Facebook “walls” isn’t happiness and it does not enrich life. Facebook, it should be noted, sent many workers home. Many will never come back. Not on site, not offsite either. This predated COVID-19. As somebody put it last year: “Facebook laid off around 6% of the workforce and no one knows… omg FB management is awesome. How they did it.. for a WARN notice the threshold is 500 people… So they laid off 400ish for the past 4 months” (Microsoft did the same this past summer, laying off about 5,000 people in total, including in datacentres).

“The way things are going isn’t sustainable, nor is it tenable if we rely on the digital equivalent of conscientious objectors to better steer technology towards benefit to users, as opposed to corporate overlords.”The general trend is, technical professionals are treated as increasingly disposable as computers become growingly ubiquitous and the public mostly complacent about the whole thing. Nobody bothered thinking about the impact this can have on morality and ethics. when people are desperate to keep the scarce job they still hold they’re a lot less likely to object to or dissent against immoral orders (or even polite instructions that are in principle open to debate). They tell us that we’re overpaid and “expensive” (senior workers more so, hence they get thrown out earlier on in their careers), then they replace us with low-paid labour elsewhere. Again, not the fault of ‘cheap labour’ countries; for them those jobs may mean as much as literally putting food on the table.

The way things are going isn’t sustainable, nor is it tenable if we rely on the digital equivalent of conscientious objectors to better steer technology towards benefit to users, as opposed to corporate overlords.

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email

Decor ᶃ Gemini Space

Below is a Web proxy. We recommend getting a Gemini client/browser.

Black/white/grey bullet button This post is also available in Gemini over at this address (requires a Gemini client/browser to open).

Decor ✐ Cross-references

Black/white/grey bullet button Pages that cross-reference this one, if any exist, are listed below or will be listed below over time.

Decor ▢ Respond and Discuss

Black/white/grey bullet button If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

DecorWhat Else is New


  1. IRC Proceedings: Friday, January 21, 2022

    IRC logs for Friday, January 21, 2022



  2. Peak Code — Part II: Lost Source

    "Debian and Mozilla played along. They were made “Yeoman Freeholders” in return for rewriting their charters to “work closely with the new Ministry in the interests of all stakeholders” – or some-such vacuous spout… because no one remembers… after that it started."



  3. Links 22/1/2022: Ubuntu MATE 21.10 for GPD Pocket 3, MINISFORUM Preloads GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  4. Computer Users Should be Operators, But Instead They're Being Operated by Vendors and Governments

    Computers have been turned into hostile black boxes (unlike Blackbox) that distrust the person who purchased them; moreover, from a legislative point of view, encryption (i.e. computer security) is perceived and treated by governments like a threat instead of something imperative — a necessity for society’s empowerment (privacy is about control and people in positions of unjust power want total and complete control)



  5. Peak Code — Part I: Before the Wars

    Article/series by Dr. Andy Farnell: "in the period between 1960 and 2060 people had mistaken what they called "The Internet" for a communications system, when it had in fact been an Ideal and a Battleground all along - the site of the 100 years info-war."



  6. Links 21/1/2022: RISC-V Development Board and Rust 1.58.1

    Links for the day



  7. IRC Proceedings: Thursday, January 20, 2022

    IRC logs for Thursday, January 20, 2022



  8. Gemini Lets You Control the Presentation Layer to Suit Your Own Needs

    In Gemini (or the Web as seen through Gemini clients such as Kristall) the user comes first; it's not sites/capsules that tell the user how pages are presented/rendered, as they decide only on structural/semantic aspects



  9. The Future of Techrights

    Futures are difficult to predict, but our general vision for the years ahead revolves around more community involvement and less (none or decreased) reliance on third parties, especially monopolistic corporations, mostly because they oppress the population via the network and via electronic devices



  10. [Meme] UPC for CJEU

    When you do illegal things and knowingly break the law to get started with a “legal” system you know it’ll end up in tears… or the CJEU



  11. Links 20/1/2022: 'Pluton' Pushback and Red Hat Satellite 6.10.2

    Links for the day



  12. The Web is a Corporate Misinformation/Disinformation Platform, Biased Against Communities, Facts, and Science

    Misinformation/disinformation in so-called 'news' sites is a pandemic which spreads; in the process, the founder of GNU/Linux gets defamed and GNU/Linux itself is described as the problem, not the solution to the actual problems



  13. Links 20/1/2022: McKinsey Openwashing and Stable Kernels

    Links for the day



  14. IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, January 19, 2022

    IRC logs for Wednesday, January 19, 2022



  15. Links 20/1/2022: Linuxfx 11.1 WxDesktop 11.0.3 and FreeIPMI 1.6.9 Released

    Links for the day



  16. Links 19/1/2022: XWayland 22.1 RC1 and OnlyOffice 7.0 Release

    Links for the day



  17. Links 19/1/2022: ArchLabs 2022.01.18 and KDE's 15-Minute Bug Initiative

    Links for the day



  18. When Twitter Protects Abusers and Abuse (and Twitter's Sponsors)

    Twitter is an out-of-control censorship machine and it should be treated accordingly even by those who merely "read" or "follow" Twitter accounts; Twitter is a filter, not a news/media platform or even means of communication



  19. IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, January 18, 2022

    IRC logs for Tuesday, January 18, 2022



  20. Links 19/1/2022: Wine 7.x Era Begins and Istio 1.12.2 is Out

    Links for the day



  21. Another Video IBM Does Not Want You to Watch

    It seems very much possible that IBM (or someone close to IBM) is trying to purge me from Twitter, so let’s examine what they may be trying to distract from. As we put it 2 years ago, "Watson" is a lot more offensive than those supposedly offensive words IBM is working to purge; think about those hundreds of Red Hat workers who are black and were never told about ethnic purges of blacks facilitated by IBM (their new boss).



  22. What IBM Does Not Want You to Watch

    Let's 'Streisand it'...



  23. Good News, Bad News (and Back to Normal)

    When many services are reliant on the integrity of a single, very tiny MicroSD card you're only moments away from 2 days of intensive labour (recovery, investigation, migration, and further coding); we've learned our lessons and took advantage of this incident to upgrade the operating system, double the storage space, even improve the code slightly (for compatibility with newer systems)



  24. Someone Is Very Desperate to Knock My Account Off Twitter

    Many reports against me — some successful — are putting my free speech (and factual statements) at risk



  25. Links 18/1/2022: Deepin 20.4 and Qubes OS 4.1.0 RC4

    Links for the day



  26. Links 18/1/2022: GNOME 42 Alpha and KStars 3.5.7

    Links for the day



  27. IRC Proceedings: Monday, January 17, 2022

    IRC logs for Monday, January 17, 2022



  28. Links 17/1/2022: More Microsoft-Connected FUD Against Linux as Its Share Continues to Fall

    Links for the day



  29. The GUI Challenge

    The latest article from Andy concerns the Command Line Challenge



  30. Links 17/1/2022: digiKam 7.5.0 and GhostBSD 22.01.12 Released

    Links for the day


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts