The Future Is Licensed

Jul. 22, 2022

The Internet of today has developed far beyond what any one average person could possibly imagine since its inception. The sheer scope and bandwidth of modern day internet connectivity were but a fantasy just twenty years ago for most. Today, we have digitized entertainment on-demand just a button press away – a far cry from the old days of dial-up modems where one could be waiting for a day, or more, for even just a single, lowest of low-resolution episode of one’s favorite Cantonese cartoon.

Computerfestival in Amsterdam

Today, creating and showcasing creations for the world to see is at the palm of the hand through smartphones and high-speed 5G wireless connections. Any one who wishes to delve into the art of creation, whether it is writing, video, audio, or a combination thereof has the power to do so whenever and wherever they desire. It is a real form of digitalized freedom for the common man in the truest sense of the word.

However, that very digitalization of our lives has progressed beyond what it were originally intended or desired. That freedom has slowly begun to mutate into something unrecognizable. The freedom to acquire and publish information has slowly but steadily turned into a digital shackle instead.

The ability to push and receive information digitally is steadily being regulated into an unrecognizable mess. Physical book sales are being overtaken by its digital counterpart, and the overwhelming majority of which comes with Digital Right Management schemes which makes it impossible for one to truly own said copy. At any time, for any reason, a publisher may decide that a person which has paid for any given book does not have the right to keep reading it; or censor parts post-release, making it impossible for a person to read it as it were once published.

As the circumvention of protective measures on the books are generally against the law, those individuals who wish to keep an archive of their legally purchased (read: conditionally licensed) electronic books will see themselves at odds with what is legal and not; and in an increasingly realistic future, where legacy printed material has declined into obscurity, there will be no truly trustworthy historical records to be read; for all access to said records will be modifiable and revocable at the push of a button.

Caveat Auctor

Furthering the issue of licensed, never owned material, so classed “harmful words” are being equated to real life physical violence. Those legacy printed books which has already been printed and exists on a bookshelf somewhere, and happens to contain any one word or set thereof gets denounced and called for their burning at organized book burning events – never to be read by future generations again. The very same acts which generally agreed upon bad figures has once been condemned for. One example of which is the collective Internet consciousness’ favorite go-to extreme baddie-figure: the Nazis.

The modern way of social prosecution grows ever more muddy. Context and meaning gets selectively ignored, and an author’s intent gets extrapolated from findings from their complete history. Whether one says in defense, and no matter the evidence one might provide for or against any given accusation, it matters little to the angry “social mob.” Those with the most virtuous-sounding argument, and the greater number of Likes and Followers will no doubt reign supreme in the scale of collective social-moral justice.

Go against the stream and one will inevitably, eventually, find themselves “deplatformed;” pushed into obscurity by ways of de-indexing, or otherwise so-called being “shadowbanning;” censored outright; or prosecuted and jailed for putting the figurative pen to the paper. All in the name of a particular part of the collective’s moral justice. Regardless of political leaning, the reasoning almost always boils down to the same nonsense of self-gratification.

The Past Is Unlicensed

Even physical goods are no longer exempt from DRM schemes and the “as a service”-model which plagues the tech-world. The automobile has already begun transforming into something more like a license, for which you may loan a set of wheels and chassis. Certain actors in the automotive industry already sells “micro-transactions” (alternatively called “macro-transactions”) and subscriptions for additional features which “enhances” your vehicle in a variety of ways, including (but not limited to) better battery performance, acceleration, and heated seats.

This is the very future which many once mocked, saying it will never come to be.

The processors which powers our home computers are already being sold with features locked down at the firmware level, and additional performance through extra cores and instruction sets are sold for an additional fee post-purchase. Television screens are being sold with license agreements which one must agree to before using them, and advertisements are being served on top of the content which one watches. The increasingly essential smart-phones we use are being slowly infected with ads and surveillance schemes. All products which has features which may be removed or altered at any time, and whose functionality may be “revoked” at any time at the behest of the manufacturer; just a firmware update away.

The concept of ownership simply no longer exist for many products; and the disease will only continue to spread and fester.

Along with the digitalization of the goods we rely on, we have also lost control of a part of our very lives. Individuals are no longer humans, but rather an entry point in a massive cluster of metadata; and every aspect of our being, down to the rights to our very DNA, are at the hands of multi-billion dollar companies; and everything is being put against a cost-to-loss calculation.

Ultimately, whether what has been gained through the digital revolution outweighs what has been lost and is likely never to be regained, is a question for the future to decide.

Let us just hope that there will be a past for them to acquire a license for.


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