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My Year as a Digital Vegan — Part X — Happy New Year: Thoughts for 2022 and Beyond

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 5:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

By Dr. Andy Farnell

Series parts:

  1. My Year as a Digital Vegan — Part I — 2021 in Review
  2. My Year as a Digital Vegan — Part II — Impact of a ‘COVID Year’
  3. My Year as a Digital Vegan — Part III — Lost and Found; Losing the Mobile Phone (Cellphone)
  4. My Year as a Digital Vegan — Part IV — Science or Scientism?
  5. My Year as a Digital Vegan — Part V — Change in Societal Norms and Attitudes
  6. My Year as a Digital Vegan — Part VI — The Right Words
  7. My Year as a Digital Vegan — Part VII — Staying the Course and Fake It Till You Make It?
  8. My Year as a Digital Vegan — Part VIII — Who Teaches the Teachers?
  9. My Year as a Digital Vegan — Part IX — Hard Reckonings: The Nine Circles of E-Waste
  10. YOU ARE HERE ☞ Happy New Year: Thoughts for 2022 and Beyond

Andy Farnell

Summary: Dr. Andy Farnell (above) offers some positive words of encouragement and optimism as this series concludes

Thanks for reading my review of 2021, my first official year as a Digital Vegan. Lest you think that it’s in any way a negative philosophy, let me change your mind. The most frequent critical personal comment I get is that I’m by far too much an optimist.

“…the European Patent Office (EPO) looks lost to all hope of reform.”I feel optimistic that many techno-doom stories are passing teacup storms. It’s the spirit of our age that we ruminate on our worst nightmares, egged on by fear-mongers. AI isn’t a thing. Machine learning ain’t all it’s puffed up to be. Its dark faces are mainly manifestations of existing malevolent social cybernetics now illuminated by computing progress. We ought to attack those root causes and the maniacs pushing them, not attack promising technologies.

Face recognition may be banned in Europe within a year along with killer drones and illegal mass surveillance. I can imagine a future when the CCTV cameras in our streets are taken down – perhaps only because visual surveillance has shifted to more effective and invisible modes. With respect to rights, “to be forgotten”, “to repair and reverse engineer what we own”, “to choose free software”, “to use end-to-end encryption free from backdoors”… Europe is on the right track.

Certainly there is corruption in Europe – so bad in fact that the European Patent Office (EPO) looks lost to all hope of reform. However, if the new government of Germany is really what it seems, it may be time to put some faith in the rule of law and institutions again, however weak they seem now. In 2022 the ECJ is likely to let individuals bring actions against foreign tech-giants. Unexpectedly our UK DPA has not diverged from GDPR and the Online Safety Bill, despite some authoritarian attacks on speech and privacy, bolsters other rights and is empowering against big-tech abusers.

“E-waste will come into mainstream discourse in 2022 and campaigns to “not buy a new phone” will likely meet brutal resistance and disinformation from the industry and become a speech/censorship battleground.”Going forward, we’ll figure out how to recycle our phones more and use them less. E-waste will come into mainstream discourse in 2022 and campaigns to “not buy a new phone” will likely meet brutal resistance and disinformation from the industry and become a speech/censorship battleground. Regardless, because of rising environmental and ethical awareness the technological society will have to find a place for all four ‘R’s, recycling, reuse, reduction and rejection. All-together these support resilience through functional diversity. A technological society without space for dissent and abstinence will fail.

Other things I am hopeful for, 5G and anti-vac paranoia will fade with renewed popular belief in science and continued total absence of evidence (which is not evidence of absence) of harm. Maybe Bezos, Branson and Musk will stop their dick-waving so that personal vanity space tourism where each passenger’s trip unleashes a lifetime CO2 use, becomes a mark of shame, not pride. Further along, in post-pandemic boom, I think the passing of paranoia and closer human contact will unleash a new wave of humanist thinking around tech. Education and health-care can undergo healing and restoration. And the world, albeit a warmer one, will keep turning.

I’ll still be a Digital Vegan – an Electronic Epicurean – because it’s a philosophy of celebrating good technology. That means rejecting bad technology, and much of my thought will still be defined by what I don’t do. Like rejecting people who behave as if it’s only a means to dominate and extract rent from others. Like eschewing uncritical and stuck behaviours, passive assent to technological abuse, and helpless claims it’s all “inevitable”. It means embracing smaller groups, less travel, slower technology, more meaningful technology geared toward conviviality.

“The bad-old world died a little, not you.”Yes, Digital Veganism is also about “changing the world” and “social justice”, but changing the world is not about stopping bulldozers, Neo-Luddism, blocking traffic, daubing slogans, toppling statues, vandalising 5G masts, shouting down speakers, DDOSing servers, or handing out pamphlets. Those are easy things because they externalise struggle.

The really hard stuff is the little things that actually change our own lives and souls in a way that is dangerously infectious. I act because I am following my heart (The Path, The Way, The Force) and assert that is a good enough reason on its own. I don’t need to justify why I think Microsoft, Facebook and Google are grotesquely immoral catastrophes for humanity (although I could write a book on it). I simply refuse to let them touch my life, and that’s the end of it.

Take courage. If your Digital Vegan thing pisses-off even your closest friends for a while, you’re probably in to something real. Follow that moral instinct. Do things that are embarrassing, make yourself feel small, excluded or weird in a world where social non-conformity feels like death. Then realise, you’re still alive and it didn’t hurt. It felt good. The bad-old world died a little, not you.

“The system relies on you being a hopelessly lazy and insecure narcissist who cares more about the judgement of others than your love for them.”Now watch those friends congratulating you. They want to be a little more like you. These repeated acts of social self-immolation are deadly to the status quo. The system relies on you being a hopelessly lazy and insecure narcissist who cares more about the judgement of others than your love for them. It needs you to be comfortable and greedy for the latest powerful hardware, for skin-deep accolades, and rituals of conspicuous waste – not a soldier who adapts, improvises and overcomes to achieve more with less. It cannot adapt to fatal strategies.

Instead, make it awkward for others to not support you in what are very reasonable and modest requests, so that the absurdity of our silent acquiescence is forced to a head. Don’t feed the machine. As philosopher Rick Roderick put it “People aren’t afraid of dying any more, they’re afraid of being seen wearing the wrong trainers.” Put on a pair of the wrong trainers and join me in a little mischievous Digital Veganism in 2022.

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