"What are you going to do, turn off the internet?"
A combination of Moore's law and Android will bring down corrupt and authoritarian regimes over the coming years, Eric Schmidt declared at a Google conference on Privacy today. The former Google CEO turned exec chairman and company ambassador also appeared to maybe rule out the firm becoming involved in the creation of facial …
... via the new Google Ballotbox (beta) app. Google promise that while they will receive all the votes they won't look at them other than to count them Meanwhile in another announcement Google announces politically profiled adverts so companies can pitch their offers to people likely to be of the political persuasion that would be likely to buy the products!
Responding to audience questions on apparent apathy about politics in the West despite the free flow of information, Schmidt suggested Westerners had become lazy, forgetting that people had died fighting for the liberties we enjoy.
Far too true. In the last month we've seen people celebrate the death of "Due Process"; we've shown willingness to abandon the building blocks of Freedom in Habeus Corpus and Right to Free speech, all because some boogeyman of the week is giving us nightmares....
Maybe we simply don't deserve to be free.
Interesting point here I think, namely that it takes two to tango. The "freedoms" we have today have certainly been paid for in blood, but only against others who were witholding those freedoms in the first place. Apart from being on the victorious side, who is to say that our freedoms are more worthy than some of the things that were replaced by these freedoms. Maybe to you they might be, but not to everyone. For example, I am pleased with the freedom of homosexuals to be able to be openly homosexual with state protections from persecution. However many people out there would prefer the freedom to prevent homosexuals from openly practicing - indeed some would like the freedom to be able to righteously kill homosexuals in God's name without fear of government interference.
You say people have celebrated the death of due process, however it is likely in future times people consider our idea of due process to be barbaric, primitive and grossly oppressive (locking people up for ages before trial, forcing victims to go through their torment as examples). Still worth shedding blood for?
What you think of as freedom of speech is neither free nor compatible with everyone else's view. We can bring out the trite "shouting fire in a crowded cinema" example as a starting point, but how far does freedom of speech count when contrasted with things like official secrets, libel, fraud etc.
In the middle ages, peasants were free to go through life knowing that their church and lord would provide for them and protect them, and then some bastard separated church from state and some had the gall to celebrate this - and in years to come people will look at our freedoms today and despair for us, for exactly the opposite reasons you are doing so now.
How about a system that tracked and profiled the activities of a country's citizens. With only a small amount of information, you could determine their age, address, and roughly approximate their political views. Who were they visiting? What papers do they read. Something the old East German Stasi had to pour away the country's limited income to achieve is now easily achieved: just control your nation's backbone connection, and catch the analytics data as it flies past. Truly, it's a glorious new age, especially now that the citizens stay connected to the networks when they leave their homes too.
One more time, for the slow kids in Mountain View: Technology is an instrument, not an actor. Knives are technology. You, as the sentient human bieng holding the handle, can choose to stab your family, or you can cook a nice meal for them. It's your choice, the knife has no say in it.
Information can't set someone free; it is inanimate.This constant personification of "information" really bugs me. Information doesn't "want" to be free, any more than my last year's tax return wants to go and see a movie this weekend. Nor does a big pile of information promote freedom. I can keep a stack of books on medicine in my house, but that won't make me a doctor.
It's the mass delusion of people who can't understand their fellow human beings trying to re-cast society in a way that takes other people out of the loop: you're not important anymore, only the information trail you leave behind you is important, because that's what I can measure and record, and index. Well, I'm more than that. And so are you.
Information can't rise up against a repressive regime; that takes living, thinking people, willing to sacrifice their own safety for the benefit of others, and Google being there or not is incidental; if it weren't there, people would use something else to organise themselves. (I can't see how AdWords or page-rankings figure in the typical struggle for freedom, but perhaps with the full nauseating text of the speech it would become clearer). The point is: it's the will that's important; with that, the means will follow.
So the Iranian and Egyptian revolts used Twitter? big deal. The American Revolution used the postal service and hand-carried messages. If a technology was there, it was used. By Schmidt's logic, without pens there would have been no Declaration of Independence. Sorry Eric, without pens, the declaration of independence would have been written in crayon, or carved out of wood, but it would have still been written, or memorised and repeated.
"But we're google, we must be important - look at our page ranking!". Well, in the living, breathing world, you're not that hot. You sell advertising, you are a luxury. Live with it.
Sorry about the rant, but Schmidt really gets on my wick.
That deserves a standing ovation!
Mr Schmitt is the personification of the corpulent, greedy businessman turning people's stats into nothing but cold hard cash without a single consideration about any living, breathing thing on this planet. Greed for green is everything.
As I have said before, he is the 21st century version of the wicked, dark-satanic mill owners of the 18th and 19th century.
Are you sure technology isn't an actor? We 'chose' to expensively reshape our towns and change our habits when cars were invented, but there's no way we weren't going to do that. So what real choice did we have? We use technology but it also ends up using us.
As we do more online, and more mass data is available about the population, it must be possible to categorise us more and more finely. We don't see the big picture, but a modern Stasi's computers could. And who refined the technology they would need? Google. Schmidt is just guessing about the future, like the rest of us.
”He who controls the present controls the past. He who controls the past controls the future."
Orwell, amongst other political commentators, observed that the control of information allows the few to control the many. It is undeniable that freedom of communication (and therefore information) makes it increasingly difficult for a powerful individual or a state to filter that information in order to influence people.
Whilst a state can use the flow of information to profile its population, this isn't much use if a large proportion of your population is gaining access to precisely the kind of information which you dan't want them to have.
Ultimately, the increasing freedom of access to information, opinion and likeminded individuals will always be a force of good.
"Ultimately, the increasing freedom of access to information, opinion and likeminded individuals will always be a force of good."
You are assuming that "likeminded individuals" have good intentions. Neo-Nazi groups (I hereby play my "get-out-of-Godwin" card), paedophile "rings", terrorist organisations and sex-slavers all organise using internet tools. As do charities, support groups for rare diseases, humanitarian organisations and human rights advocates.
The tool is amoral, you can use it as a force for good or evil, but it is you who decide, not the tool.
It's this decision that's important. The internet lets you select very precisely what you see and don't see, so if you're not careful it just confirms the opinions you already hold, rather than challenge them. A pretty tiresome example of this is the endless political discussion threads where both sides can pull out huge numbers of "proof" articles that are then decried by the other side as black propoganda or fabrication, as shown by an equal but opposite rebuttal...
@ "Law of Unforseen Consequences"
The cars point is interesting, because it does show that this thinking isn't new. The 1950s and 1960s were characterised by an obsession with accommodating motor traffic to the detriment of all other city users: the Birmingham Bull Ring, the San Francisco Embarcadero Freeway and (thankfully uncompleted) London Ringways are all examples of the collective madness. Actually, you really need to look up the London Ringways, or the original plan for Glasgow's motorways. The idea of carving motorway through cities like this is insane, but it nearly happened.
No, it's not an exact parallel, but it was the elevation of a technology above the people it was meant to serve. But again, it's not the technology that does this, it's people, so in awe of the shiny thing that they forget what's really important.
I know I'm a cynical person by nature (well, at least when it comes to dealing with stuff like this) but it truly amazes me how easy Google keeps using loaded words and phrases like "do no evil, openness, freedom" and now even "democracy". While in the end all of that is simply no more powerful than Google's own whims and mood. And we all know what drives a company.
What even scares me more is how fanatical some people can become the moment when we're talking about Google or their products. I know its easy to really like something and only natural to focus on the good parts and somewhat leave the bad parts out, but when it comes to tech guys I'm amazed how many don't seem to be able and relevate things a little here and there.
Like for example the discussion of Google not opening the source code to the latest Android.... "Its open source because the OOS policy they're using allows them to do so". Whatever happened to "do no evil" I wonder? Sure; following the policy by the letter allows you to pull certain stunts, perfectly legal too. But whatever happened with "going by the 'spirit'" (or intention) of the policy instead? THAT is something you'd see someone do who really values the basic things which that OOS policy stands for.
Democracy? More like cheap propaganda to me. In the end its all about one thing: money. I don't hold that against them, don't get me wrong, but I do start to question their motives and means ever so more often these days.
Google may very well turn out to become that what we feared with Microsoft in the days.
At the risk of fanning the flames, I don't see the lack of open-source Honeycomb as a harbinger of doom. Basically Google forked the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) for tablets, and isn't open sourcing that fork. They claim that they will merge the next release "Ice cream sandwich" of their fork back into AOSP, and though you're free to disbelieve them if you like I reckon they probably will do that.
While it would be nice to have Cyanogen et al based on Honeycomb, I don't particularly mind waiting for something Google say is ready.
As for your other points, Google is certainly in a powerful position and thus it's worth keeping an eye on. And it's certainly made its fair share of mistakes and will do so in the future.
I'll never understand the mentality of all these big corporation haters.
They do everything FOR MONEY! Oh god, no! Run for the hills!
Of course they do, we all know this. This is a good thing because this makes them predictable.
It isn't something to be hating or something to use as an insult as so often is done. It is a good mark, it makes their motivation and actions very clear and very well known. Our course of action shouldn't be to belittle them for seeking money, but to encourage that and then cease to give them money when they do things we don't like.
If you want to see really scary, try to find out exactly what motivates a government. There is no clear and universal answer, therefore we can't predict them. That makes them dangerous!
tl:dr; Companies aiming for money is a good thing, it makes them predictable and controllable.
Says the company who until very recently had extensive investments in China...
And whilst they may like to hype up their man Wael, better not forget that he was Google's representative doing business-as-usual in a totalitarian country which happily used browser history and IP tracing to consign people to summary imprisonment and torture.
I was quite amused to read an article about how Google's Android would bring down authoritarian regimes around the world on the same day as reading another article that noted that Google's Orkut is the most popular social networking site in the PRC because Facebook is blocked there.
Really, now; Google ought to be responsible to its shareholders, and say only nice things about authoritarian regimes. At least that's what the other large companies seem to do.
"However, he insisted that Google had learned its lessons the "hard way" about ensuring it put users', and governmental, concerns about privacy at the heart of its policy making process,"
Governmental concerns about privacy presumably revolve around the irritating nuisance that we still expect to have some. But not to worry - it won't be long before a new generation comes up that has never known what it is. Some future Schmidt will be able to say of those who knew what privacy was, "They're also dead because they were alive 100, or 500 years ago."
Better go - the woman on my telescreen is telling me to get off El Reg and do some work.
I was only born at the beginning of the 70s. But I remember the following revolutions, reformations, or rebellions happening in "Western" countries:
Poland: the Solidarity strikes in 80s.
Germany: fall of the Berlin wall and the Iron Curtain in 1989.
Hungary: ditto with Iron Curtain.
Latvia/Lithuania/Estonia: line of hands across all three countries, standing up against the full weight of the USSR.
Spain: death of Franco, followed by democracy (and reactionary coup quashed by Juan Carlos I).
Portugal: coup of 1974, followed by elections.
Argentina: ruling junta overthrown after losing the Falklands war.
Chile: democracy returned to country by Pinochet, the man who took it away in the first place. Then he finds his "immunity" stripped away slowly. At the end of his life, he is put on trial for the atrocities of 1975.
East Timor: honorary Westerners - very much influenced by Portuguese culture- became independent in 1975, immediately swallowed by Indonesia, lost at least 100,000 people in the process, spent more than 20 years fighting for independence, and finally got it in 1999.
Schmidt lives in a world where "West" equals the US, the UK, other English speaking countries, and possibly France at a pinch. His heroes are probably founding fathers like Washington - safely dead and thus easy to be deified beyond all proportion. This allows him to slag off the kids of today as a bunch of lazy tossers.
But he's wrong. There are heroes and heroines in the West - people who risked their lives for democracy in my lifetime. Many of them are still alive. And most are like you or me.
"Like for example the discussion of Google not opening the source code to the latest Android.... "
Google isn't opening the source for 3.0 because it was rushed to beat ipad2 and is therefore broken and that they're embarrassed with it. They have publicly stated that 3.1 will be open source from day one.
Thanks for being a MS troll.
Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020