Kara Swisher interviews Tristan Harris vox.com/recode/2019/5/6/185308

Tristan Harris is still one of the most clear-eyed thinkers in the whole "techlash." He's good at pulling together seemingly disparate phenomena and showing how they all stem from the incentives of the attention economy.

One thing I found interesting is that Tristan Harris seems to really lean on Apple as a potential white knight to come in and help clean up the ecosystem. He's right that they're well-positioned for that, since their business model isn't based on attention.

It makes me continue to wonder: is the open-source battle over? Is the new battle over privacy, attention, and well-being? Most tech critics these days (Tufekci, Lanier, etc) sound a lot more like Tristan Harris than like Richard Stallman.

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> It makes me continue to wonder: is the open-source battle over?

it's over and we lost, but i don't think this makes us _wrong_ that open code and open standards matter. it just makes the world worse and acknowledges the pragmatic reality that we are at the mercy of unaccountable corporations with the effective power of nontrivial governments.

to put it another way, i acknowledge this dynamic, but i don't expect privacy and well-being without free software.


@brennen @nolan RMS was ver focused on the personal computer, and the free software movement was about free personal software.

and then (as a result?) the corporations moved most software in to "the cloud", in to the mainframes that they control.

It might be open source! Reddit was, for a while.

But that doesn't matter if it's running on someone else's computer.

@ajroach42 @nolan @brennen this may be neither here nor there but i’ve observed a sort of inversion in the dev world that seems to make all of this worse, where the first few generations of code-workers were often taking personal/academic work and expanding it to suit an employer’s needs. now, i see young devs setting up their personal websites using the same stacks they use at work — AWS, etc.

@ajroach42 @nolan @brennen and it’s beyond “you don’t need all that” — it’s a way of _thinking_ ):

@ajroach42 @nolan an irony here, among many other bitter ironies, is that RMS's motivations actually proceeded originally from the perceived loss of a _shared and social_ computing environment.

at any rate, yeah, we lost the economic and social war by winning elements of the narrowly technical one. open code built the megacorps, and it'll be tactically useful to them indefinitely, but it will continue to matter less and less in the scope of their power and control.

@brennen @nolan

The hacker archetype traditionally believes that social problems can be solved with tech.

The opposite, I think, is actually true.

@ajroach42 i think probably what i would say here is that, more complicatedly, technical problems are generally social and vice versa. the neat division applies sometimes and in simple cases, but it rarely does so where our hard problems really live.

@ajroach42 thats weirdly formulated or I would say thats not true. tech problems need tech solutions. or make an example.

@ajroach42 @nolan (and, frankly, it matters little whether projects like chrome, components of android, etc., are open code. they're proprietary in control and function.

as i said to someone the other day on IRC: "our problem is that the world is run by assholes, and that's a lot harder to solve than creating a passable free unix.")


RMS and GNU came up only as personal computing was rising. They were parallel developments, with the GNU focus on what were at the time expensive 32-bit 'workstations' while personal stuff was 8-bit.

Internet-enabled distributed development on cheap 386's for the Linux kernel was a paradigm shift.

I feel RMS et al missed the boat *again*, but the same way, with the shift from desktop/dial-up to cloud+wireless mobile

@nolan @brennen

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