iBad: The FSF Kool-Aid and Other Dystopian Hallucinations

The people who worry that the iPad will bring about a dystopian future for home computing keep forgetting something: for the rest of humanity, their ideal world of perfectly hackable machines is already a dystopian nightmare. It’s a world in which nothing works without spending hours setting it up, in which basic features are missing while the manual lists thousands of irrelevant options, in which a million hardware extensions are available for their machine, but none of them help to solve a single one of their day-to-day problems. While being something of a hacker myself, I feel that the hacker’s vision of totally open computing probably should become a niche market, in much the same way that chemistry sets represent a niche market. The fact that not every person has a set of tools in his house that, by default, allows him to conduct arbitrary chemistry experiments has not substantially slowed down the progress of chemistry from what I can tell. The arrival of a world in which the most popular computers are closed to arbitrary hardware extensions and all applications are required to run within a sandbox probably won’t slow down the progress of personal computing much either.

Hackers of the world, your priorities are not simply different from the average user’s: they often represent a direct attack on the average user’s preferences. You keep asserting that you have the normal person’s interests in mind, but I think you’re often simply concealing your own self-interest underneath politicized rhetoric about freedom and openness.