[sixties-l] Computers as new politics

From: monkerud (monkerud@cruzio.com)
Date: Wed Nov 21 2001 - 16:23:21 EST

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    Microsoft's Vision of the Future:
    Coming on a Computer Near You
    By Don Monkerud
    850 words
    Copyright 2001

    Microsoft's "Creating Computers You Can Trust" advertorial, which it
    recently placed around the country, claims to be an essay on
    technology, society and the future. Unfortunately it only tells part
    of the story.

    Computers are easily the most frustrating invention of the last
    century. They require the mastery of a whole new language, hours of
    training, heavy investments in constant hardware and software
    upgrades, and innumerable phone calls to tech support.

    On the economic front, computers transfer billions of investment
    dollars from the world's poor nations to the Western industrialized
    world. They enable the development of new weapons systems and allow
    eavesdropping on business and private communications around the
    world. They allow multinational corporations to closely coordinate
    their businesses to the remote corners of the earth.

    Although it has already brought earth-shattering changes, the
    computer age is just beginning. Microsoft claims that computers will
    pervade every aspect of our lives in the future. Computer networks
    have brought tremendously positive changes to society. Not only can
    people communicate inexpensively over vast differences, but
    information and goods are now available from virtually anywhere at
    anytime. There are also dangers.

    Technology now has the ability to monitor the faces of those who
    attend sporting events and concerts and match them with suspected
    terrorist. In the future, society could decide to include unpaid
    parking ticket violators, delinquent loan payers, or even
    anti-globalization demonstrators. Nations like China are already
    monitoring all email. The possibilities are endless.

    But there are also problems. Technology companies are addicted to
    growth and their markets are becoming saturated. Consumers don't need
    endless operating system upgrades and a gazillion application
    features. To meet declining demands, companies need new streams of

    Microsoft is not alone. Virtually the whole computer industry is
    built on continual upgrades, a version of planned obsolesce. To solve
    the problem of decreasing revenues, hardware manufacturers such as
    Dell, Compaq, IBM and HP continue to develop new technology to lure
    They swarm to new markets such as mobile telephony to boost sales.
    Others, such as Microsoft and AOL are finding steady streams of
    revenue with monthly Internet subscription fees.

    But even these new revenue streams aren't enough. Microsoft in
    particular has larger ambitions. To solve the revenue problem,
    Microsoft has embarked on a program-called .net or hailstorm- to
    encourage more people to buy on the Internet. By selling Microsoft
    software for both ends of the transaction, Microsoft can charge a
    percentage of transactions and build a robust revenue base for the
    21st century.

     From Microsoft's viewpoint, security and ease-of-use are major
    reasons why people aren't purchasing more on the Internet. Due to
    unscrupulous individuals, personal information is not secure on the
    Internet. To overcome consumers fear of having their personal
    information stolen off the Internet, Microsoft is engaging legions of
    public relations firms to promote "the promise of technology" along
    with urging customers to place "faith" and "trust" in the companies
    that manage their computer systems.

    Ironically, it's the countless flaws in the design of Microsoft's
    operating system that leads people to distrust computers.
    Applications such as Office and Explorer include designs that allow
    Microsoft, as well as the unscrupulous, to access information on our
    computers. The real question is not whether people trust their
    computers but whether they can trust software that makes computers so
    vulnerable to attack. Some suggest that Microsoft needs to create a
    company that people can trust and the rest will follow. Unfortunately
    they are focused on increasing their revenue.

    Microsoft acknowledges that it will take years-they call it a
    "challenge"-for consumers to trust their computers. That's years to
    migrate its revenue stream from a "continual upgrade" model to a
    "charge you for everything you do" model where customers pay
    merchants a transaction fee for using Microsoft products. Microsoft
    will invest billions of dollars in the effort. They will purchase a
    fleet of companies and enlist armies of technicians, public relations
    flacks, and marketing gurus.

    In the wake of these changes, the consumer will find the American
    landscape vastly changed. Consumers will be able to order virtually
    every product over the Internet and have it delivered to their
    doorstep. While this model applies primarily to commodity goods, even
    higher-priced services and goods, such as financial services, luxury
    items and health care, will be sold with a combination of Internet
    and personal phone service.

    This will make the "hollowing out" of communities, begun by Wal-Mart,
    will seem like children's play. Not only will there be no "downtowns"
    in small towns, but even shopping malls will become largely
    unnecessary except for a Disneyland-type "shopping experience." One
    envisions a town's "commercial area" becoming miles of Pizza Huts and
    McDonald's. If Internet taxes continued to be banned, city tax bases
    will shrink to new lows.

    Once achieved, Microsoft's revenue stream will be insured for years
    to come, and the consumer will pay and pay and pay. The only
    surprising aspect of this is that Microsoft promotes its vision of
    the future as a "benefit to society."

    The end

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