Monday, July 21, 2014

A Modest Proposal for Restricting the Use of Computers to Only Those Who Are Worthy

It seems certain that a mistake has been made on the public policy issue of who uses computers and what they are permitted to use them for. The naive egalitarianism that so many of us espoused may have been foolish in retrospect. We seem to have unleashed a vast madness of unthinking and even puerile consumers whose only thought is to text about underage sex partners, vapid consumerism and the next iPhone. The mistake, I believe, was to allow just anyone to use computers. That idea, that openness, was surely noble, but look where it has led.

Just for discussion, I want to propose the idea of limiting the use of computers and computing to an elite. This elite would have had to study and learn something about the history and philosophy of computing and perhaps also have their moral character evaluated by a qualified board. The requirements would not necessarily be much, what I have in mind could easily be learned by pretty much anyone of average intelligence in a few years, certainly less than five. And a background check could determine if the potential computer user was a rapist, a member of an organized crime syndicate, an abuser of children, or a potential computer company or entertainment industry executive.

Given the moral hazards involved in certain professions, members of those professions would no doubt have to be vetted with special care. These would be fields where the risk of criminal involvement and contempt for the law has resulted in the overt and appalling exploitation of innocent people in order to enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor. These fields would certainly include parts of the finance industry, politicians at the local and national level, and of course computer animation executives of any rank.  

What would they study? Oh this and that, about where computers came from, what the ideas are, that sort of thing. Here is one potential paper on the reading list: its the report that Dr. John von Neumann wrote about what may be the first stored program computer at the U of Pennsylvania for his client, the US Army, that paid for the work. I can't imagine that anyone who used computers would not be fascinated by this paper. Here is one paragraph from the introduction.

You see, its not just all boring capacitors and resistors, there are, or at least were, some ideas behind these devices. Unlike today, of course, where the only ideas that can be discerned is to steal money from the consumer and annoy them with advertisements while collecting personal data without their knowledge or consent. What a dismal fate for such a high-minded invention!

If the requirements up front seem a little stiff to people, perhaps we could find a more incremental solution. Perhaps every toaster oven and smart phone or other device could come with a paper from the reading list that the consumer would have to read before the device could be activated. Different devices could come with different papers, perhaps. Given the obsolescence built into most of these devices, such that they are worthless within 18 months or so, over a short number of years the consumer would have certainly read a couple of dozen relevant papers or texts. I do not like this idea as much as simply having an elite, I think any effort to let just anyone use computers is doomed to failure and will ultimately just bring us right back to where we are.

The entire paper can be found at this location.

I have included the title page and table of contents below.

No comments:

Post a Comment