2006/06/02

Technosophy

Test driving the blog... Can't yet trust it with anything new,
so let's try recycling some old musings.
Here's one from 1998
.

Licensing, Microsoft and Salvation

98/11/06


Many have compared Microsoft in the 1990s to Standard Oil in the 1890s, and Gates to Rockefeller. But I think there's a better (even if slightly exaggerated :) historical analogy to be made.


Almost everyone who buys a PC pays about $90 for the Windows95/98 license, about 10% of the cost of the computer (about the same percentage if you look at NT machines too). For centuries, peasants in Europe (and other Christian feudal societies) paid about 10% of their harvest to the church automatically ("la dime"). It was the licensing fee for the Bible. I'm sure that at the beginning, it appeared to make sense. What's 10% in exchange for eternal salvation? But they didn't tell you about the bugs in the Bible. They didn't tell you all the things that you wouldn't be allowed to do under future releases. They didn't tell you you wouldn't be able to boot Buddha, and that the Islam API was not compatible. Instead, you are told to wait for the upcoming release which will solve all your problems... provided you stay faithful.


Why is this important?


Afterall, most of the suffering in the world today has nothing to do with what's good or bad in the computer industry. But! when the work patterns, the relationships between capital and labor were being put in place, in the mid 19th century, only a small fraction of the world was involved in the industrial economy. By the time it became "important", it was already too late to change it rationally, only extreme violence could challenge the established order.

So, what happens today in operating systems and the software industry in general, could well shape the basic structure of human society for the next century. Do we want to wake up in the year 2050 and see 3 billion enraged slaves of "intellectual property" led by Vladimir Info Lenin, or Mao Techno Tung?