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comment by veen
veen  ·  246 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Everything is amazing, but nothing is ours

So basically the technological equivalent of:

    "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people" - (attributed to) H.L. Mencken

I don't really disagree with you, but I do have some thoughts.

1: Catering to the masses is not necessarily good for everyone. Services cater to the masses first, and to the "difficult cases" second. Facebook works for mom and pop but whoopsie, it also enables neonazis, oof, that's difficult. WhatsApp is great for a lot of people, except when you're in a bloodthirsty village in rural India.

Services serve people, but disservice others. More and more it seems like you can't have the first without also having the second. Now we can blame that on the people, and not on the tools, but I don't think that's entirely fair because services remove so much friction. If the tool enables wrongdoing so much more effectively than the alternatives, its design has led to that end. People kill people, but guns kill people too.

2: There is power in impermanence. There is powerlessness in dependancy. c_hawkthorne and I discussed our music libraries. He's one of those people that I envy, who have kept their music library at a pristine level for the past decade or two. Meanwhile I've given my soul away to Google Play Music, who will definitely merge it with YouTube music at some point and fuck everything up.

I mean - I pay for GPM and YouTube Premium, even though the former is included in the latter. That's not because I like giving Google money, no, it's because I do not trust Google not to fuck up merging those to subscriptions. And when they do fuck up, I have nowhere to go, and all my collected music of the past half decade will be gone with the wind. Because Google does not have any way for me to export my full list of music. I can't jump ship because there's an ocean between me and the alternatives.

3. We use plastic, the most permanent of materials, in the most impermanent disposable ways. Similarly, we somehow ended up casting the most permanent of digital things - files - aside for the impermanence of services. There is no reason my stuff is locked up in services when I can have a goddamn file and have it work in ten, twenty years from now.

I'm pretty sure GPM will not exist for that long. Thing is: these services can totally make it easy to transcend their own fleetingness. GPM could allow me to download a list of all of my songs at once, but they don't. Pretty much every service doesn't let me download shit. They never let me take back the control we yielded to them, some Hotel California-ing and dark-patterning us into paying forever and ever and ever.

kleinbl00  ·  246 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Not the technological equivalent of Mencken, no. Mencken meant that spitefully and I don't. I don't need everyone to know their way around terminal commands. I have no problem with the guys who used to use Tascam Portastudios using iPads now. If anything, the phone revolution has meant that there are a lot more pictures in the world and people can always be in touch with very little effort. Marc Weiser coined the term "ubiquitous computing" in 1988 and expanded on the concept of the iPad introduced by Vannevar Bush in 1948. I think what upsets people is the idea that if you build it they will come and they haven't. But that's the nerds misunderstanding human nature, not a failing of the technology.

What you're talking about breaks down to two separate thoughts. The first of which is the argument that technology should do better for ethical reasons. I don't disagree. However, technology will do what it does for economic reasons. How much are ethics determined by the market, and how much are they externally enforced? That's pretty much the moral question of humanity: how much good do we do because it pays off in the long run vs. how much good we do because the social contract forces us to behave. We'll start using plastic correctly the minute it becomes expensive. I mean, the floor I'm standing on right now is made from dimensional 4x6 old-growth cardeck with rock maple flooring. You couldn't build the subfloor of this place for less than $150k these days. in the late '40s? In the Pacific Northwest? Cheaper than linoleum and slab. Would the world be better if we made plastic so expensive that we have to use it right? I certainly think so but I guarantee Xi Jinping disagrees and so long as his plastic is cheap, it will be ubiquitous.

The second thought is the nature of ownership. Google will cheerfully let you download anything and everything you bought from them and anything and everything you uploaded. I've done this. My backup strategy suffered... a configuration issue, shall we say, which left me with a RAID5+1 version of blank space. Thus, everything I'd uploaded - 130GB, or 110GB over their advertised limit - was readily available from Google.

It did a shitty job, of course. The interface is garbage, as if it were a barely-realized wireframe of an idea that got added at the last minute. And it errored out on easily 40% of my files because the possession functionality of a rental platform is not one Google spent any effort on.

Here's the thing: I had CDs of all my music. I ingested all of it. I curated the ID3 tags, I made sure the album art was correct, I had everything assigned by genre. I had a lot of time sunk into my music. My ownership had moved far beyond simply paying for it. With the torrent tweakers their ownership was reflected in the amount of craft they put into the files. Yeah - they never paid for that album but they made sure their file sanitation was perfect, it was the best possible version, etc. And when you say "Okay, Google, play nine hours of music related to Coldplay" you're giving up ownership to Google. Your involvement is an off-handed non sequitur. This is by design. The less you touch it, the less it matters. Dan Ariely pointed out that psychologically, the further you can divorce "dollar bill" from "$1.00" the less that $1.00 means a dollar bill. This is my theory as to why all the chip readers in the United States suck so hard: they want us to switch to using NFC on our phones so that we don't feel the money going away the same way.

When you own your files, you protect your files, you arrange your files, you categorize your files. You know what pushed me over the edge into buying a $3k Synology backup solution? Scanning all my slides. They started as rolls of film, passed through a $2000 nikon, then cost thirty cents each to become slides, then burned a minute each passing through a $700 slide scanner. So they were just data... but they were data too important to trust to Flickr.

But most people don't have files like that. You don't have music like that - at least, not as files. I'll bet you have it as vinyl because you have a visceral attachment to it. That was the genius of the music industry for the past decade: whereas people used to never spend more than $10 for vinyl, once vinyl because a touchstone for fandom above and beyond the music they jacked the price up to $40, $50. It's a fetish object and people pay a lot for fetishes.

Why do you pay for GPM? Because your sunk value is in your curation of someone else's property. Eliminate that curation and you lose your value.