With the coming of age of the digital age and its new political and economic commodity - data, digital technologies will spell the end for the free web. What has happened to the promise of open communication and open access that the internet stood for? Globalization has affected every aspect of life. This globalization and digital commodification has affected the very fabric of human existence.
The internet is now a center of activity that connects the entire world. Information flows in and out of every country in record speed. Technological and managerial developments allow people and institutions from anywhere to interact with one another instantly and share information at the push of a button. The resulting explosion of data has created new possibilities for social interaction.
The problem is that this abundance of data has resulted in massive over accumulation of data and information. In other words data has flooded the market place. There are no longer secrets or boundaries with which to operate. Open source software and communities have been founded on the idea that democratic control of data is a key to open communication and knowledge provision. This has opened up the possibility for various groups to come together to address common problems, to pool resources, and to make decisions about shared resources.
However the democratic control of data is not enough to secure information. Digital technology has also corrupted the meaning of data as something neutral and objective. It is now seen as something that can be manipulated politically, monetized, and/or used for marketing purposes. With the rapid spread of proprietary technologies and the commercialization of many free systems it has become more difficult for users to control their data. This has resulted in a situation in which data has become tied to the political economy rather than being a source of knowledge independent of these factors.
The need for open source technologies is thus not that hard to understand. democratic control of data must be preserved in order to maintain privacy and anonymity. Moreover it is important that the data remains localized and geographically isolated so that geographical information and marketing strategies cannot be misused to favor a certain vendor over another. And of course data should remain free from abuse by third parties.
Why People Still Hate Crypto
Web 3, the generic term for a blockchain-based alternative to the internet where users can own their data and hold stake in the tools they use, is a positive development. Outside of legal challenges to monopolistic internet giants, crypto presents the best way to counteract “surveillance capitalism.”
But for those that haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid, crypto appears to be hyper-capitalistic, capitalism-plus. It prefers markets over the state to find solutions and protect everyday people. It’s an avenue for the already rich to make almost insultingly large amounts of money. It advances the “neoliberal turn” towards financialization, globalization and commodification of everything.
These are people who conceivably might support crypto from a digital rights and privacy perspective. But like the angry mob, they seem to have already made up their minds about the industry. In both cases, these are likely savvy internet users and are not dismissing crypto out of hand.
There are legitimate reasons to be suspicious of crypto. Its current privacy issues (everything stays on a blockcha are solvable. It’ll be harder to reconcile crypto’s capitalistic aims – call it what you want, say Bitcoin is for all, but the money doesn’t lie – at a time when more people than ever are skeptical of the economic status quo.
Does crypto subvert the system or play into it? Is the discord it creates adding value? For now, as far most people are concerned, it’s “probably nothing.”
So what is the solution?
There is no simple answer to this question. In a world where digital technologies have almost cornered the market on the distribution of information, it has become imperative to have access to this data. However distribution of data requires new models of distribution which will be based on open source principles.
If the model that I have described above is adopted then there is no danger of abuse by third parties. Users have control over how their data is distributed and this is the key to security. Data can be taken for any purpose but users have the right to make sure that their data is not misused. It is also important to point out that users will benefit from the increased efficiency and quality in the running of their businesses. They can choose the most suitable free software for their needs and that also at zero cost.
So how long will it take for a certain distribution platform to adopt a model based on community based distribution? It does not really matter as long as it happens very fast. It will happen very fast if the users and developers of open source solutions get together and form an organization. The organization will run its business using the data it acquires from the community. It will not need any particular political or technological platform because all these are derived from the community and the users can decide on the distribution platform as they see fit.
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