Bonum Certa Men Certa

If They Call You a “User” (or “Customer”), They Might be Drug Dealers and Lords of Narcotics (Digital or Otherwise)

“They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

--Bill Gates

A media overload

Summary: Preying on so-called 'users' is the nature of proprietary software, which puts digital shackles on people and then starts manipulating them

THE simple fact is that many of today's interfaces are designed to be "addictive", especially on the Web where the 'currency' is screen time (opportunity to spy on people and foist ads onto them). This is certainly true about Facebook (with admissions from the company) and Twitter is hardly better with its infinite scrolling, suggestive (yet cryptic) "trending" clickbait and so on.

"...if many 'addicts' get together, they can fork the implementation to better suit their needs and distribute the fork free of charge."It wasn't too long ago that Richard Stallman asked geeks to submit to him examples of interfaces that had been designed to be addictive.

In the case of 'traditional' and native software, formats that are secret and proprietary software with lock-in mechanisms have long been used to force people to 'upgrade' (pay for the same thing over and over again). The network effect, or peer pressure by format incompatibility, is an issue long documented (for decades; it helped rationalise the vendor-neutral OpenDocument Format).

Man all drunkIt's time to communicate these issues using the jargon or slang of narcotics. The term "users" is heavily used in that context because of the helplessness of the addicts, who are reduced to mere zombies that consume and cannot think clearly.

Free software addresses some but not all of these issues; there's no guarantee that addiction elements will be entirely obliterated just by virtue of some piece of software being free (to study, modify, share as well as run without restrictions). One can easily get addicted to Free (as in freedom) computer games. But the leverage the developer gains over individual people or large groups of people (even entire nations) is clearly limited; if many 'addicts' get together, they can fork the implementation to better suit their needs and distribute the fork free of charge. That's very much unlike what a certain Bill Gates (nowadays a vaccine profiteer) sought to achieve with Microsoft products. It's all about power, unjust power and coercion. It's not about technical excellence; technology here is merely the means by which to gain power (political, not technical) over a lot of people while amassing endless wealth, controlling the lives of so many without democratic oversight.

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