The internet, and computing in general, is a confusing place. A lot of it was started by Hippies. Steve Jobs had a well-documented connection with the Hare Krishnas. If Bill Gates hadn’t come along, maybe software would still be free and open, developed by creative people for the pure joy of it. There still is a great Open Source movement with these ideals, there are foundations working to make sure that there is at least a bit of the internet remaining free and open, for our benefit as people. And then there’s the business end of it where people are products and profit is king.
Today, most of the stuff we use, on all sides of the ideological divide, still originates in Silicon Valley, where there’s a whole culture of founders and wannabe founders who take neither materialism nor social history very seriously. They go to Burning Man every year and expand their minds, and if you’re not part of that culture, you just don’t get it, man.
A lot of them are genuinely interested in moving humanity forward. And there are a lot of them who genuinely don’t care about humanity and its achievements and just want to make money. Uber, with its complete disregard for its ‘contractors’ – they don’t even employ any more – and anything people have worked for in terms of protection and working laws, is at the logical end of that extreme.
I do believe that Twitter’s openness and refusal to change too much in order to reward its stakeholders shows that they started with a good intent, and it still is great for creating real connections. With Facebook, every decision shows the pure profit-driven thinking behind it.
Being online as a person, and trying to do things as a person, it helps to know a little bit about this.