Saturday, September 09, 2006

A New Revelation


God wills us all to be computer literate

The invention of the desktop computer could be the greatest liberating force mankind has experienced since, well at least since the establishment of 'democracy' (sort of) in the New World, and perhaps as far back as that historical moment in Palestine and the consequent New Testament culture.

But all three of these above named moments had a cap. The cap came when another god emerged: he goes by many names; one of the most popular names in our time is free enterprise. The first dictate of this god was to believe that the general welfare is best achieved through the particular prosperity of a chosen few enterprising individuals, or conversely the biggest yacht raises all the little canoes,

A corollary to this is that general prosperity ensues when the general population remains dumb, fat, and happy.

The alternative god has put forth that program with outstanding success, notably at 325 A.D., the 19th century in America, and at Harvard around 1980. The effect on the three great liberating forces was --- de-liberating.

1. In the dark and middle ages believers remained compliant while an enormous structure of wealth arose in Italy.

2. Free education became more and more a matter of socializing children with the aim of making them obedient and free from dreams. In the 20th century dreams were provided by Hollywood and then by TV, all of which very satisfactorily dumbed and fattened the population especially making them profitable to the enterprising few.

3. We come now to the big event that led to Kubuntu:

Consumer computing was born in the late 70's. Prior to that computing was the domain of technocratic priests wearing white coats. With the invention of the desktop things changed. It was potentially a magnificent blow for 'freedom for the masses'-- if the masses would buy it.

In those early days Boston was the center: at Harvard and M.I.T. a new brand of managers came into existence. Many of them had ideals (liberte, egalite, fraternity, to lapse into French for a moment). But there were also some enterprising individuals more or less on the take.

One of these belonged to a group of students developing Basic (Basic means little today, but it was the door to freedom for a fair number of non-enterprising folk, among them yours truly. A door to democratization, mental and spiritual abundance opened for all who would come in.

Basic was very much of a cooperative and non-commercial venture, but the enterprising individual took basic and ran with it, and became a multi-billionaire and spawned hundreds, maybe thousands of little millionaires.

Their spiritual product was to develop a new generation of dumb, fat, and lazy computerists. Each paid a toll and bought a program for a fair sum. Soon every desktop (and laptop) on the market contained the program (with the toll or fair sum). Everybody was happy, and the enterprising community laughed their way to the bank.

But this free enterprise paradise had its share of troublemakers: some non-enterprising individuals started giving things away. Geocities gave away millions of websites, and their bounty returned to them seven fold (it was eventually sold to Yahoo for a few billion).

A similar thing happened with the first browser. Free Netscape really cramped the style, and the profits of the company browser until it was sold to AOL for billions; talk about seven fold!

The most serious threat to the computer dynasty came in the nineties at the hands of another Harvard student, this one from Finland.

In the 21st century the really big event came at the hands of a free spending South African billionaire. He released Ubuntu, a free operating system, rapidly becoming easier and easier to use. Then there's Kubuntu, the subject on my mind when I began this post. But perhaps it should wait for another one.

For now I can only tell you that ubuntu is a Zulu word meaning "A South African ideology focusing on people's allegiances and relations with each other" (Wiki)


Rob said...

You are indeed a wise happy old man.

As a new blogger, what strikes me as wonderful about this medium is simply the release of creative energy that it has generated. Like so many others, I suddenly have a vehicle for my thoughts, so that they aren't merely rattling around in my head, but organized and expressed and going out into the world. The formerly imaginal becomes something concrete. And that is indeed a liberation of a very personal and spiritual nature.

Zach Young said...

Mark Shuttleworth is a smart guy. He actually wrote some rather innovative code and sold it to a big company to get his fortune. It's nice to see he's interested in giving it back now. By the way - The computer this is posted from is running Ubuntu, the big brother of Kubuntu :) Thanks for the good post!

Larry said...

Zach, glad to have a Ubunto brother and for the info on the originator. I knew he was a billionaire, but didn't know the source of his wealth.

Rob, yes, yes, yes. The enthusiasm you express for blogging now is much what happened to me when I first discovered the computer. I understood immediately that it means "power for the people". That's being emphatically demonstrated by the flood of political bloggers that are helping to keep the govt including Congress honest.

Of course "power for the people" requires the "people" to show enough initiative to make use of it. The bloggers I know are good examples of the kind of people who do.

Just getting back from our trip with very little chance to compute. Soon I can begin to catch up.