Horrors of Modern Technology

  • Cloud services and data storage tools are emerging so quickly that the concept of storing anything at all locally almost seems antiquated. It’s an old trope that the floppy disk used as the “save” icon in many user interfaces is alien to an entire generation, but what else would make a better replacement? Isn’t the concept of saving files itself also archaic? Everything just kind of always exists! We’re probably about a decade away from the concept of the folder or directory going out the window as well. Services like Dropbox and its ilk are legitimately wonderful and are already changing the way we think about files and access to resources, but they are also all but predicated on leaks, since every new point of convenience is also a route to exploit. Our next conception of data storage may well be built atop an assumption of inescapable vulnerability.
  • Computers, and for the most part even phones, are now easily powerful enough to spontaneously calculate nearly anything relevant to mainstream life. The only path forward is smaller and more inconspicuous — watches, eye implants. Whatever these devices may eventually turn into, their ubiquity builds a market, the optimized mining of which now drives all the technology with which we will build our future. Anything you invent can now be sold to an extent that wasn’t true even ten years ago, before pirated warez had fallen victim to the heavy-handed centralized authentication and solid business models of app stores. Standards and technologies have given way to startups and their proprietary apps – how many new open protocols do you suppose have been killed by the smartphone? Why merely build something amazing when you can also patent it? And so we end up with silos and power struggles, several parallel attempts at “internets of things,” all engineered to ignore each other instead of cooperate. From here forward, all innovation will happen within the constricting framework created by the presence of billions of potential customers. There’s no sense in complaining about either capitalism or technology at this point, but they are such perfect parasites and bedfellows that they’ll probably turn into something new entirely. Nobody yet knows what, exactly, but we’ll find out soon enough!
  • the “sharing economy,” jeepers
  • Perhaps fear of public shaming is one of the things governing public conduct on the internet, a sort of mutually assured destruction that prevents us from losing our shit despite a thin veil of flawed anonymity. Maybe we aren’t kind, or even civil. Maybe we’re all just terrified of each other.
  • The ridiculous real estate market in San Francisco may soon render the city literally uninhabitable for the rest of our lives.
  • Privacy concerns as we now know them didn’t really exist even a decade ago, leading many of us (ahem) to be a little more cavalier than perhaps we’d be today. You can probably be connected to your past online activities with the right amount of detective work — old personal blogs, or maybe embarrassingly enthusiastic posts you made to the fan forum for some awful band back when you were too young to know better. The “right to be forgotten” exists in Europe and is in contention elsewhere, but it doesn’t really cover this properly: we don’t need to be forgotten entirely so much to contextualize old online activities such that they appear obviously dated and irrelevant. Old journal pages wear and yellow with time, and were probably rediscovered under a heap of ridiculous stuffed animals, but aside from broken stylesheets, the internet doesn’t progressively erode in a comparable way. The term “link rot” is misleading — they don’t rot, they usually just break entirely. But links have a funny way of lasting longer when they’re both owned by and of value to the company that builds the playground you built them in. You are probably logged into some combination of Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter at this very moment, and they have no obligation to ever forget you.
  • Tech has always generally moved faster than government in most senses, but increasingly it now outpaces the agencies we’ve been conditioned to trust, not just the municipal parks struggling to put pool schedules online. Very real threats form in dark corners of the internet precisely because the people who hang out there can buy drugs and weapons, and trying to limit the transactions quickly led to untraceable online currency. These are functions we theoretically employ vast literal armies of government agents to manage. But cooperation between industry and government in the interest of national security undermines technical security for the rest of us — the FBI and NSA are not just asking Google and Twitter for keys, they’re asking for new doors, and in some cases for large open holes bored straight through the walls and then secured only with obscurity. So would you rather deal with terrorists or hackers? Hurry up! Choose quickly, otherwise you’re gonna end up with both.
  • I just bought my cell phone a couple weeks ago but I’ve already dropped it and cracked the screen into little teeny bits, and repairing it will cost $150! I knew I should have bought the AppleCare.
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