The New Computer
Elijah Ketchum
52

TL;DR: Computers controlling people has been around for a long time, since it’s ultimately people controlling computers controlling people.

Let me start off saying my technical background followed this progression: gamer -> modder -> hacker and programmer -> Computer Science major (wip) and Software Engineer.

Unlike in your story, I hardly ever touched computers outside of school that weren’t video game systems until I was 15, and not on a regular basis until I was 18. Before last summer, my home internet connection was capped at around 80 kilobytes/s download, 20 kilobytes/s upload.

Technology (especially software) is something special to me. As a gamer, it broadens my horizons. As a modder, it enables me to redefine those horizons if I wish. As a hacker, it revealed this exciting “hidden world" of software and computers, and how it actually all works (i.e. not some incomprehensible “magic”, but an actual understandable science based on pure logic and reason). As a programmer, it enables me to create anything I imagine if I give enough of my time and effort to do so. As a college student, it lets me control my course-load, limiting how much the course-load controls me. As a Computer Science major, it’s my primary intellectual interest. As a software engineer, it’s my profession and developing it is how I make a living.

Quite simply, it’s a really big part of who I am. As far as earthly things go, it’s my life’s theme, focus, and purpose.

But being honest, one of the reasons I’ve dedicated so much of myself to the world of software and stuck with it is that I like the power it gives me. The freedom and control.

One of my Computer Science professors remarked the other day that for human beings, power is ultimately just being able to make other people do what one wants. Certainly, a grandiose claim that might have trouble under scrutiny.

If you think about it, almost anything that a computer could be used as a tool for, a person could be used as a tool to do as well. Biologically, physically, and computationally speaking, we’re already computers. Of course, this is like saying that a smartphone, as far as its illuminated screen goes, is just a flashlight.

The difference is that computers can’t think for themselves. We design elaborate schemes to try to fool the user into thinking otherwise, but ultimately, only the developers and users can direct them.
So in reality, if one feels controlled by software, then either one’s inadvertently controlling oneself in an unintended way, or someone else is (on another note, one of the fundamental principles of Gnu).

Sorry if this was a bit long or boring. My original objective was to just put off finishing a college paper for a few minutes that’s due in the morning. In that respect, this activity was incredibly successful… If you actually read this comment turned wall of text, thank you.

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