everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
*originally posted:* sep 2021
this wont seem like its about technology at first, but it is just as relevant to one industry as any other-- this includes the tech industry.
i realise muckrights, for example, pretends to hold the tech industry accountable. i often speak about the ways in which it does not, and why.
a lot of it comes down to integrity, fake or half-arsed disclosure, and conflicts of interest.
however, this article will speak very broadly for the most part.
political rhetoric is often heavy on the idea of personal responsibility. i consider this a farce, not because of whether personal responsibility matters, rather because of the farcical context it is put in. the people who put the most stress on the idea are frequently those who take the least responsibility themselves. of course they want OTHER people to take responsibility, including theirs.
corporations create the largest amounts of pollution there is, they send kids off to die for their energy needs and other resources, customers and activists complain, and the corporations then say (or imply, more or less) "what do you want? youre the ones who demand we sell this stuff..."
yeah, that sort of response twists reality a bit. the fact is that industries get away with exploitation and literally murder, when they do business under false pretenses. they say theyve tested things as safe that are known to be harmful, theyve shopped around for people who agree and ignored warnings from those who dont, steve jobs for a tech-related example is famous for taking bsd and turning it into a security shitshow; he is said to have fired his own researchers for warning him of security risks. this sort of thing is hardly limited to apple, of course.
an industry takes no responsibility, then turns to blame the user (or customer, or the public) for everything. and its based (albeit dishonestly) on the very real premise that users should take care of their systems and themselves, only the people who say so have already cut so many corners that its a joke.
what theyre really saying is that you should take the utmost care, when you clean up their mess. former microsoft users know exactly what im talking about. i wish this sort of problem stopped there.
the other day, someone stopped to tell me about ivermectin. i can assure you, im not here to suggest what you should do with it. this article is not actually about ivermectin, though i am aware of the people who have overdosed on it because theyre trying to give themselves medicine packaged and sold for horses, dosed by weight. i will say that i have not tried it.
i listened to his entire story, and he asked me if i was vaccinated. i lied, and said i wasnt. he then explained the medical reasons why it would never work in the first place, and though we have yet to see how the conclusion turns out, im definitely leaning towards the assumption that his argument was bunk.
i would certainly prefer to take a vaccine that has gone through the usual levels (and duration) of testing, at which point even that is no guarantee but a better indication. ive had other vaccinations too-- hence theres no measles in my history, and i consider that a good thing.
i didnt opt in to these schemes because i trust the industry, i banked on the odds. some of my plans will require me to have these things, and all the conspiracy theories (along with the usual, actual corporate corruption) dont change the fact that my plans in life will ultimately require me to have these injections. as to whether theres a line, a point where i would not opt to have something, sure there is. we just havent reached it yet. alan turing did, and you might say "thats entirely different" but i dont think it is (in the short run almost certainly, in the long run its far more difficult to say) and i think its very important. its not my intention to conflate the two, but to point out the potential for overlap at some point in the future. but thats not the point of this article at all.
my personal story is not intended as an instruction for anyone, it is relevant only to the broader point im making here-- an industry that bears so little responsibility itself demands that broadly misinformed and frequently exploited customers (who used to be "patients" but i guess that implies seeing doctors, which so many spend so little time doing now) not only take responsibility, but trust a broken system. and while i certainly dont disagree about the responsibility part-- i think the industry has a lot of fucking nerve.
although this is intended metaphorically, and applies to other industries just as much, im going to focus on the medical industry here. the people who ought to bear the greatest responsibility are people with the highest certifications and the highest authority. if all of that training and prestige does not imply trust, ethics and being held to a high standard, what fucking good are they, really?
which isnt to say that i think that such certifications are meaningless-- for the most part, id rather see a doctor for medical issues than a guy selling stuff out of the back of his truck. to some extent, clearly, all that school and "quality assurance" still means something, even to a cynic. in fact ive had more than one medical expert in my family, and i dont doubt that theyve earned whatever they got. (i can tell you that to the very best of my knowledge, neither were ever rich or famous).
the moral of the story here, is that the people who really need to be held to the highest standards, are the same ones we are the last to blame for anything. when you receive a doctorate, one of the most unfortunate and too-common interpretations of that certification is "you can absolutely trust this person."
certainly, if a doctorate did not in any way advance the level of trust you SHOULD be able to put in a person, then they would not be necessary or reasonable to pursue in the first place. when youve received the training and certification and done the extraordinary amount of work to hold such a title, it really OUGHT TO mean something, at least. but it clearly does not mean that the holder can be trusted no matter what. some people act as if it implies this, but i have what i think is a better interpretation.
rather, someone who has received such training and certification is making a commitment TO BE HELD to the standards of that title. it is a sign not only of prestige, and trust-- but accountability. and we clearly have an industry designed to shield what ought to be the most accountable people in society against that level of accountability. you pass the test, youve passed, youre trusted-- but the greatest test of all is what you do in practice, not in training and certification. the industry is a bit upside-down in this regard.
industry loves to find faults as much as anybody does, of course. in muckrights irc, the incomparable bill hicks is quoted and paraphrased from time to time: "going for that accountability dollar, thats good, the suits love that one..." if you can find a fault, they can find a product or service to alleviate or mitigate that fault, or they can invent one. theres a quick and easy (but not always cheap) solution to everything, after all. got a problem with malpractice? shit, thats an industry that DEPENDS on doctors being unaccountable. if they all did their jobs properly, think of all the lawyers that would be out of work. (you dont want THAT, do you?)
im aware of the fact that many of the problems doctors have stem from people and businesses (even laws) that go over their heads. if a banana republic is completely corrupt, i cant say im certain whether its more ethical or not for doctors to avoid practicing there, (it depends on the details) but i dont think leaving entire nations without healthcare experts is really the solution. this complicates things a bit.
but when it comes to industry, there really is no level that is left untouched by problems anyway-- the laws are corrupted, some doctors are corrupted, some hospitals are corrupted, as well as many corporations doing business with those doctors and hospitals-- all to varying degrees. its more than all the lawyers in the world can keep up with! but thats great really, because it means the lawyers will never hurt for work. if we had enough lawyers (and how would you ever know when there were enough, really?) they would simply make it harder and/or more expensive to become one, and ensure that the scarcity continued. thats the genius of job security. and besides that, isnt it nice to know that the worst people on earth go to untold lengths to limit their own numbers?
lawyer jokes aside, (going for that anti-lawyer dollar, thats a good one) they are still only part (albeit a large part) of the problem. if you leave rotting meat around, you get scavengers; even if you remove the scavengers entirely, youve still got all that rotting meat.
of course we blame everyday people first, because the industry is at war with everyday people. of course everyday people make mistakes, because theyre not trained and yet they know theyre being lied to, taken advantage of, overcharged whenever possible, and ultimately at the bottom of a fucking pyramid scheme called capitalism. their response is just to try to survive. yes, it has real costs-- but these costs are the result of industry having raped education dollars, of having bought out most of the media, of legalised bribery in practically every corner of everything, and of finding a way to bleed people from money every which way from before theyre even born until after theyre dead.
and industry is accountable for roughly none of this, because they already own everything (including the opposition) that could possibly hold them accountable in the first place. and after theyve cut every corner but one, the public cuts the last one-- its only then that we start pointing fingers.
why are people on the bottom held responsible for every fault in the world, including the faults of those who should be held to the highest standards? because thats how accountability "works" in a monopoly; the monopoly says who is at fault, who should be hated, who should be punished. the monopoly has the privilege of outsourcing all responsibility to someone else, and when all the finger pointing has gone around it ultimately finds the most defenseless people in the world to blame-- the victims.
of course it doesnt always work this way, and the reason that it doesnt is BECAUSE people take responsibility, because they stand up for themselves, because they fight and stand up to the monopolies. when they realise that no one is going to fight for them (the lawyers always will, dont worry) at least up to the point of changing the game, they dont give up but fight even harder-- because they realise its the only thing to do.
i certainly understand (and relate to) the frustration with people who do the fucking dumbest thing possible, as ive certainly been on the short end of the stick when it comes to someone im supposed to be able to trust fucking me over and being careless. there are times when people pretend to be the sufferer too, making their story into bait to ensnare the gullible. for every professional lawyer, after all, there are at least one or two shady dealers who will trick you and take you for your money (or your time) without passing a formal test in doing so. its not only an industry-- some ripoffs remain local "mom and pop" scams.
but when it comes to doctorates (and we can work our way from there, i think) instead of saying "hmm, this person is clearly above reproach"-- note that basically every bad idea weve heard recently had someone claiming to be a doctor or expert endorsing it, even if most doctors and experts did not-- what we need to do is hold people with credentials to the highest standards of anyone. we cant be so forgiving of corruption, and we shouldnt wait until years, or decades later, when the system falls apart to say "oh, well its clearly everyones fault, as thats how many people are fucking up at this point".
corruption at the bottom is not where these travesties come from at all. its lies at the top, and lies from the middle, and after we confront those (because we are dutifully trained to believe they are doing everything they can already) then we can hate each other also for being idiots.
but lets put the blame where it really belongs, and do it by the level of sheer betrayal and the utmost, greatest fraud.
finally, despite the overall goal to hold the greatest levels of corruption responsible before the least, lets make one exception-- because the leaders of our communities will never be accountable for anything if we insist on leaving them alone until world leaders are accountable for their actions; lets be certain that we also take care of whats local, and not only the global. this means holding our local leaders accountable as if they ran the world itself, but not necessarily MORE than we do for actual world leaders.
when our local leaders lie, sell out, misrepresent us, and fail to disclose what industries they really work for-- they should not get a free pass. it should cost them in terms of trust, authority and credibility. if on top of this, they also hold certifications, the very least we should do is ask ourselves: "why?"
its a fair question. there may not be a very good answer.
the one thing im not saying is that we should eliminate some form of reasonable due process. im still very much in favour of that. im not naming any particular authorities here as worthy or unworthy of trust, but the idea of due process is (in my opinion) an extremely good one.
many of the efforts to deal with leaders who are (shall we say) not entirely appreciated, were not based on fact, reason or any sort of fair process at all. its a known fault that due process can be hijacked, and its happened before. an unruly mob, with no real plans or principles, can frequently be steered in whatever direction a masterful manipulator wants them moving in as well-- so that is hardly an improvement. whatever the people intend to do to stand up to corruption, they must do so with plans and principles.
in this regard, sadly-- having principles will often mean that people still hold themselves to a higher standard than the corrupt can ever meet. once they do so, however, it is even easier to ask why these people with no principles at all, have the audacity to try to blame their own victims for the worst things in the world.
at that point, it is no longer the corrupt at the top directing the blame, because no one will listen to them. at that point the fingers will be pointing up, and not down, and that is when the word "justice" will finally take on true meaning again.