Monday, December 23, 2013

Where's all the information on the internet?

I wonder.

I've been trying to research something that happened years ago back in 1974, in Tacoma, Washington, and I'm having a lot of trouble with it. Like, is someone locking down all the online info? Sure there is still a lot out there, but it seems to me like there was more out a while back. Maybe there even is more out there now, but I used to be able to access more types than I can now.

All this talk about security and hackers, who are indeed out there but, how much is it a selling point to lock things down so we can be charged for it, for security reasons, for access, for info, for knowledge, for power?

He who holds the information holds the power. Is this a trend? Should we be worried? Is it too late?

I've been involved in many levels of security and technology in my life. I've been in the military, had a secret clearance, worked in keeping systems secure, learning about it, networking, I've been in rooms with people, talked to them, asked them questions, people who most of you will only ever see on TV. I see this from a variety of perspectives. Information should be free to people to better humanity. We need secrecy in some cases for purposes of national security. These both are true.

There is an old saying in the IT (information technologies or internet technologies if you like) world that you can have complete business or you can have complete security, but you can't fully have both. It's a continuing balancing act that by necessity slides from one end to the other, hopefully never being too far to one side or the other that in the end, that is dangerous for both endeavors.

Back in the 80s I was on newsgroups (remember those, pre WWW? before the "graphical internet"). I was one of those screaming that information should be free, the internet should remain free and open, knowledge should be free for the masses around the world. Well, to some respect, I've come around. Artists should be paid, obviously. So should writers, musicians, programmers, even software companies and certainly retail businesses but that's a bit different and not at all what I'm talking about today. Though that's all gotten a bit out of hand in some ways, too.

They started charging in the beginning for access to the internet (AOL, Compuserve, etc.). The web started up and took over and then ecommerce started up, which we were very against.

"Free the Internet", we cried. "Keep the internet free." Or more correctly, make it free. No someone has to pay for it, obviously, but free to just sit and use. As free as our roads and highways. Paid by most, used by all.

The internet should be free, as it was at the universities where we originally were accessing it from.

Well, we finally lost that battle, but then we saw the cool things coming up from it. There's some good stuff out there, buying online, saving our infrastructure (roads, gas, working from home, etc.), though now they don't want to support our digital infrastructure and make access to the internet free, or fast, or even, consistent. Or safe, but that's another matter.

And what about this "singularity" that could spring up, a sentient AI (artificial intelligence) that could one day come into being? We would have no control whatsoever over it. And it could do a lot, to everyone. Culled from so much of the nasty out there, what if it found God? God help us.

Fantasy? Thirty years ago, the internet was fantasy.

Now I’m starting to think that after all, we may have been right to start with. "Keep the internet free, information should be free." Certainly public information should be free, but not only free, but free to access. And, it's not. Now a days the term "free" has come to be relative. "Free" as long as you pay for it.

My brother had this to say recently:

Searches are getting weird. Things I used to be able to do easily are now almost impossible. Google used to put forth thousands of responses now I'm often getting just one or two. And some of these are of known info. Also, it's suddenly gotten stupid when it comes to simple misspelled words. For instance, before if I put in the phrase "Sitiacum Puyalup Indian Tribe", it would easily pick up on what I was looking for by associating the words. I could get everything wrong and it would still figure it out. Now it's barely picking these up at all. Sometimes not at all. Hopefully this is some oversight that will be corrected soon. I can't believe that they will let their system slide backwards like this. It creeps me out that I'm thinking about having to talk to actual humans to get info. What is this the 1980's?!

That last part was obviously in jest, but he has a point. Lately, and with my current situation where I'm trying to research something and can't find any useful info unless I pay for it, pay for a service that may turn up nothing and yet, they will still charge me; it's really making me wonder if we weren't right after all.

Knowledge does need to be free, for whoever wants it. Maybe though, we do still need to mature a bit more, maybe. Maybe not.

I just keep remembering "1984" and "Brave New World", and others.

As concepts remain, history and technology progress. That is, as we have an ideal remaining constant ("information should be free"), the world changes around that, and what that originally meant may change with it, and so we need to keep up. Our government, our elected officials need to keep up. Not to ground us down under history, or grind us under status quo, blinding us with Zeitgeist, but to maintain our ideals by evolving our processes to keep us at a qualitative level and to advance that, to progress us to where we never thought we could go.

We  should be getting smarter, with more leisure time but we are getting dumber, with less time for ourselves and more time devoted to the God Corporation, or Money. We don't need money so much, as we need our resources, clean and well thought of. Barring that we do need our money so we can do for ourselves. But we've been cut off from both.

We need apparently now, to justify and indemnify those who should remain or be responsible to see, that what should be, should be. And will be.

Decide where you should be in life and wonder why you aren't there. And vote with your ballots, your mouths, words, thoughts and actions. Be good to one another but strive for better. Set an ideal and try to achieve it in any small or big way you deem fit.

"Of peace on earth, good will to men (and women)." - "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" lyrics
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), 1867)

Remember too, good will to yourself.


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