You actually want to BUY software? Pity!


I’ve promised some of you that I would blog on this or that topic and I will, in time.  I still need to address the University business student stupid rape chant in terms of how this silliness fits into a sociological framework of involvement and detachment.  I will, I will.  But I need to deal with this first because it’s getting under my skin.

Have you noticed an insidious little change that’s been happening to computing lately?  Well, “THE CLOUD” is one thing that’s profoundly changing how we work with ‘computing,’ but there’s another thing that’s related I think and that’s indicative of how profoundly things are changing in our online world. It’s increasingly difficult to actually buy software out there these days.  I mean, really BUY it, like you would buy a stove or a bag of chips.  Software providers are now ‘leasing’ or ‘licensing’ the use of their software for a price rather that outright selling it.  The end user, you and I, are being written out of the ownership picture.  That has consequences, of course, the most important I think is the loss of any control we have over what happens when we boot our computers.  Let me tell you a little story about my life with computers.

We (my family and I) got our first computer in 1986.  It was a Mac.  There were Apple computers around before that but they were nowhere near the Mac in terms of their interfaces. Since then, we’ve owned probably 10 computers, more like 20 if I consider the four of us in my family.  I have 3 Macs to myself right now, but just one I use regularly.  In 1986, at work, as a college instructor, I used a ‘terminal’ linked to a main server somewhere on the college property, I can’t remember where.  We all did.  There were no stand alone computers at the time.  That came later, in the late 80s or early 90s when we got HP computers that were both able to act as stand alone machines and as  terminals.  Computers at the college now are all linked to a main computer server (several, actually) but can still function as stand alone units.  Truth be told, my MacBook Pro is feeling more and more like a terminal every day, attached to a server and out of my control.  I recently upgraded the operating system on my Mac to ‘Mavericks’ for free.  Yes, for free!

What I see happening is that computers in the not-too-distant future will be more like terminals and the ‘Cloud’ will be more like the servers that are still part of computing in many organizations.  I hear that more and more companies and organizations are going to ‘cloud’ computing.  If that’s true, and I’m sure it is, the potential for wresting control of information flow away from individuals, companies and organizations and concentrating it in the hands of a very few ‘controllers’ is palpable.  It’s happening now.  But it’s a slow (in today’s terms) process that seems to be happening for all the ‘right’ reasons with nobody really in charge.  Don’t expect that scenario to carry on for long.  Monopolization is the fate of all competitive systems and concentration of power is inevitable in this.

However, I see another dimension to this too.  The elimination of ownership and control of software  must be seen in the context of the elimination of ownership and control in other areas.  It may seem crazy now, but I can see a day when individual human beings will not own anything of substance and people will find that situation completely acceptable.  In fact, they’ll get bent out of shape if you dare suggest it to be strange in any way.  I’m sure most people see the onset of ‘Cloud’ computing as a logical extension of the need for worldwide integration of computer systems for business and commerce.  But, mark my words, this new technology will have a major impact on our lives, and soon too.  If Apple is now willing to give away (license for free) it’s operating system for the first time in its history, you know something’s up.  It will do so now to have more power and control in the near future by seeing to it that computing happens only in the ‘cloud.’ It’s software now is ‘cloud’ based.  And who do you think will control ‘THE CLOUD?’

7 thoughts on “You actually want to BUY software? Pity!

    1. Yes, opensource is a kind of counter-movement to the thrust of the global concentration of computing, but even opensource will not be able to resist THE CLOUD! WWWhhooooohaaahaaa.

  1. Roger, I am sure you have heard talk of this in the Christian context. Christians have predicted (actually the Bible has predicted) a one-world government for centuries. The “Cloud” will enable this to come about. I know you don’t buy this, but since this is still a “free” country and we still have “freedom of speech” I just wanted to bring this into the picture. I am no expert on this topic, but it is going to happen as you predict. Christians believe that they will have to opt out of this system and pay a price – for some the price of their lives. Hopefully, we will be dead before this happens, but there will be our children and grandchildren still here to face this scenario. I don’t want to try to discuss the Bible here and I am sure you don’t want me to do that. Just wanted to make my commentary. Thanks for this opportunity.

    1. I won’t discuss the Bible here either, Marilyn, but I can say that a world government is as inevitable as some team or other winning the Stanley Cup every year. The human trajectory has been to larger and larger political units over time. One of the key elements in this is that ‘government’ will not be as we know it in our so-called democracies. Marx concludes that there will be this kind of concentration of power but that eventually that will cease to exist because of its own internal contradictions. He lived in the 19th century so couldn’t conceive of such things as cloud computing but he predicted the way history would unfold. He argued that when labour has been completely eliminated from the productive process, there will be no way for capital to exploit labour anymore. That doesn’t mean stupidity will be eliminated or that ‘human nature’ will be reformed. He did say that human history will start when we cease being barbaric towards each other within a competitive economic system and that will happen with the end of capitalism.
      By the way, I don’t completely dispel the Bible. I think that the Bible has some very interesting things to say about lots of things, but I think of its message as idiomatic, not literal. I don’t ‘believe’ in the Bible any more than I ‘believe’ in science. I’m kind of like doubting Thomas, I guess.

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