Tim O'Reilly's WTF? A book that tells us how to keep the technology baby and throw out the Big Tech bathwater


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/12/02/love-the-sin-hate-the-sinner.html

Tim O’Reilly has his finger on the pulse of technology and the people who make it in a way that is unmatched by anyone in the world; the publisher of the world’s best-loved computer books, the host of technology’s best-loved conferences, the convenor of the most important conversations about tech and its people, O’Reilly is literally uniquely situated to understand the arc, trajectory, and possible destinations of technology and its impact on real people, which is what separates his breakout business book, WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us, from rest of the field.


Sounds like a good book and I will check it out as it is very relevant to my interests. Specifically, I have an e-democracy project which involves setting up non-partisan grassroots-run discussion boards for politicians to engage with constituents. This would (among other things) carve out political discourse away from Facebook, which is a terrible platform for that purpose.

If the project sounds interesting you can find details at the twitter account is https://twitter.com/VoterVoices. And here’s an amusing thing: the account avatar is from the Rockwell “Freedom of Speech” painting.


Yeah, sure.

Hey - I found something for the Cool Tools feature.



Yet, the link leads us to Amazon. Are there no other places to buy books now, or is getting paid by Amazon somehow the baby and not the bathwater? Maybe the review is the bathwater.


This applies nicely to the Internet.



Louie CK’s comedy is social commentary, its merit is not “intrinsic”. We… well, I… liked the way he went up to a certain line but not beyond it… but now it’s clear he was so good at that because actually he often did go beyond it. My appreciation of his comedy is not just tainted, it’s ruined.

I think for future Louies, we need to not deny – denial will be too obviously just that – but be disinterested in questions of artistic merit when we hear about abuse.


Too true.


"The convenience of Amazon and Uber, the pleasures of Facebook, the miraculous knowledge-augmentation of Google, the design of App Stores, the brilliance of Netflix – they are all real, and true. "

Are you high?


all i accede to is convenience on all accounts; there is nothing brilliant about netflix nor pleasurable about facebook. all these things have done is made drudgery less drudgerous for me—often by making someone else do a lot of drudgery (amazon warehouses, uber drivers).

i mean, the fundamental innovation of amazon and uber isn’t technological but this more efficient extraction of more labor out of someone else’s life.

so, what is corey talking about?


WTF planet are you living on? 'Cause in the one I’m living on, it absolutely does.

Even being accused of bad behavior (not even horrible behavior) by one person is enough to have your carrerr destroyed, even to the extent that anything you had previously touched has to be renamed to be totally disassociated with you. [Reference: NPR.]

We live in a shrill, unforgiving world, and as far as I can tell, this is what people want. So no, you probably can’t have technology without having the bathwater of FB, Amazon, Google, etc.

At this point, I think I’m going to side with the Cockroaches. They seem nicer.


That’s one of the things that really, really irks me about technology today. It’s all about one thing, and one thing only: convenience.

We’re supposed to give up civil rights for convenience. We’re supposed to give up autonomy for convenience. We’re supposed to trade any and everything for convenience.

And the big irony is that research shows that convenience doean’t even correlate to happiness…


Seems fairly obvious IMHO

You just need regulated democratic socialism to suppress the bad parts of capitalism. Which is simply middle ground on a right/left scale (Though painted as ‘extreme left’ by the media)
Then capitalism can work well for everyone.

The problem is that the worst parts of capitalism have shedloads of money and are using it to actively suppress democracy (Overwhelming control over the majority of the mainstream media and corruption via lobbying (aka: outright bribes) being the prime methods)


@doctorow, how would we go about fighting for a good Facebook - petition the tech giants, currently our feudal overlords?

The fact Facebook has been able to take over practically all private communication on the Internet shows that it does something right - it really did discover a way to interact with users that enable people to communicate easily. I hate it, but even so I still find myself forced to use it. Because there’s also structural reasons for its success - Diaspora as a P2P copy is well made, but it doesn’t have the mass effect, and of course providing alternatives to the tech giants can be a fight against windmills - honestly, how many ressources do the free software grassroots have compared to Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.?

And as for Amazon: I don’t know how we’d ever get a good Amazon, because nobody prevented it from being good to start with. Whereas Google’s and Facebook’s exploitative practices are more or less built into their business models (selling eyeballs to advertisers), Amazon’s well-known hideous and cruel labour practices are completely gratuitous - they do it because they can, not because they in any way have to. One might say that regulations could have obliged them to accept unionized labour, etc, but come on - “I can’t do the right thing because the law doesn’t make me” is no excuse in my book.

So yes, of course we could have the same technological convenience without the abuses. Maybe behemoths like Google and Facebook couldn’t exist, but their technologies could be deployed on a P2P basis, and they could die, and good riddance. But will it happen? Not likely, because our world is driven by financial interests that say otherwise. So, how do we get there?

I’m currently working with the Rede Mocambos, a network of quilombos in Brazil, to create a piece of software called Baobáxia, which will enable un- or semiconnected rural communities to communicate and share and preserve their cultural heritage with their own infrastructure, without depending on an Internet connection which they may or may not have. You could look at these slides or access the system and try playing with it.

While this works as a project for a network of autonomous communities in the sense that we actually created a marvellous piece of working software, we’re also struck by the realities of capitalist society: Nobody will or can pay us to maintain the system, and thus we are 4-5 developers who are really hard pressed to find the necessary time. And where will the ressources to create the good Facebook come from, if there’s no monetization of eyeballs?

Honestly, I think this falls back to the discussion of a possible “good” Wal-mart in one of the articles linked to in the piece: Wal-mart is a well-functioning organization, so what if it paid everyone a fair wage, wouldn’t it be a good organization and a model for how society should be?

My thought is this: It still requires an army of people who are willing to get up at seven each morning in order to do, albeit decently paid, menial work. The notion of a good capitalist society presupposes the existence of salaried work. And since the only way to get a decent living in such a society is to get a job (any job) or be born in a rich family, getting a job is not really voluntary. That is, a society with an exemplary and still functioning Wal-mart still presupposes wage slavery for the many.

But, as someone who works for a large network of autonomous communities, I think that the only way to arrive at a decent and sustainable life for everyone is to do away with wage slavery; we could, e.g., follow the suggestions of new Italian feminists such as Silvia Federici and Mariarosa Dalla Costa and return to much more commons-based societies, not as a supplement to capitalism, but as an alternative to it.

But I think that’s about the gist of it - if we want to retain the baby and throw out the bathwater and build a society with the right priorities, we must do away with wage slavery (voluntary paid work, by choice and not by obligation, is of course another thing). But if there’s anything that’s a prerequisite for capitalism, it’s wage slavery. Thus, the bathwater is not only the admittedly unnecessary abusive practices, the bathwater is capitalism itself. But, I’m no technophobe and I also think we can throw out even that bathwater and still retain the baby - because, liberated from the obligation of nine to five drudgery, we’ll be free to make the baby ourselves.


Free healthcare and mincome.


There is a wisdom in accepting that people are mixed bags - in some cases, very mixed indeed - Einstein was also pretty horrible to the women in his life.
This is true about nations. When we can accept that we can love a country, in its physical fact and in its myths, yet not deny the crimes attendant upon its creation, that’s another kind of wisdom. The US, obviously, but Israel too, Germany (obviously) and many others… probably all others.
We need to get past Love it or Leave to Love it and Fix it – with nations, people, and ourselves.


Yes, but I want to see that before I believe it.


Also, everybody has a duality of person. In some, the evil manifests itself more than the good. Do we shun a 99.9% good person, or lower the threshold to 75%, or what? I mean, for example, my wife puts up with a lot of shit from me, and I from her, because we contribute to the other’s happiness and well-being, and love each other. Sadly, the politics of a person-to-person relationship likely cannot be externalized.


Sure, but we’re not talking about people or nations here–these are global corporations, which are neither people or nations. A corporation is a legal device created as tool for people, and part of the point of the corporation’s existence is for the individual to avoid direct responsibility for actions taken in the name of profit. This allows the individual to judge all ethical or moral questions by how much profit is created. This may create socially undesirable outcomes for others who don’t share in the profit.


Yeah, thank goodness for the mouseover that shows where the link wants to take you.


I’m not sure that there is a cost of acknowledging Louis CK’s behaviour, or that his survivors have to convince us of anything; the only person with any convincing to do would be Louis CK himself. I get the point that’s being made, but… y’know. I would have got it without the Louis CK diversion.