(mis)adventures in software development...

30 December 2013

The Deviant Luddites Screwing Us

Category Technology

As politicians around the world find entertaining ways to use technology to destroy their own careers, is there something those of us in the technology industry, unhappy with many of the decisions politicians are making on our behalf, could perhaps learn from all this?

Screaming into the Broadband Void (Part 4)

It’s a great day if you’re a late night talk-show…you know…thing…this…because…former congressman Anthony Weiner is returning to politics! Listen, if you had to do this crap every day you would love it when you hear a weiner is running. Weiner running again? That takes balls! Then you could say things like: “I guess you can’t keep a good weiner down.” … Now Weiner is a Democrat, but from what I’ve seen, sometimes he leans to the right.

—Craig Ferguson, The Late Late Show, April 2013

Here in Australia, those of us with an interest in technology — us geeks — are currently undergoing a gangbang sized screwing on two issues in Australian politics that potentially have profound implications for the whole country, but especially for anyone who works in IT and other technology industries: The National Broadband Network, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

The Coalition is giving up a historic opportunity to correct some of the problems they caused by privatising Telstra without structural separation. Instead of continuing what Labor started and building a modern Fibre to the Premises broadband network, they will doom Australia to a future as a technological backwater with their inferior Fibre to the Node alternative. Although perhaps that’s just as well, because if the intellectual property provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are implemented as currently drafted, doing just about anything useful on the internet will become illegal! Even innocuous web browsing will become a crime! Yes, they’re even trying to make web browsers illegal.

The TPP is an odious attempt by multi-national corporations to control the way we use the internet and consume media content (ebooks, music, movies etc). It’s an attempt to eliminate all kinds of common consumer behaviour — like transferring legitimately purchased media from one legitimately purchased device to another for more convenient consumption of that media. The TPP is, amongst other things, an attempt to ensure you may only consume the media you purchase in the way the corporation you purchased it from wants you to consume it, regardless of convenience. It’s an attempt to make sure you can only use their proprietary software with their proprietary hardware and their proprietary copy protection — all of it incompatible with those of their competitors.

Welcome to the future. Only in a world where using the internet is mostly illegal does having a crappy Fibre to the Node network make any kind of sense.

That’s the sort of future our wonderfully competent elected leaders are envisioning for us.

As the NBN rollout continues — albeit Malcolm Turnbull’s crappy, crippled FTTN version — and as node cabinets start appearing on street corners, each one will represent a failure of us in the technology industries to make a difference in the political process. Each one will be a monument to our geeky failures, and further proof of the uselessness of slacktivism. Each one will be a reminder of how effectively our political overlords are screwing us.

However, as the year comes to an end, if we look back at some of the things our beloved political masters did that made headlines, it certainly makes one wonder about the calibre of our esteemed elected leaders. It makes one question their character, and reflect on their shortcomings. Yet, these are the sorts of people who are so efficiently screwing us? Once again, this year showed that just when we thought that the dignity of public office couldn’t be disgraced any further, our beloved elected officials proved there were always new depths of disgrace to plumb.

Canada provided comedians around the world with the gift of Rob Ford, Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor. But he only smoked crack while in a drunken stupor, so that’s OK, apparently, in Canada.

In the US, former San Diego Mayor and purveyor of creepy smiles, Bob Filner, was sentenced for sexual harassment. Disgraced former New York Governor and call girl aficionado Eliot Spitzer tried and failed to become New York City Comptroller.

Even renown sexter Anthony Weiner attempted an apologetic political comeback. He was even leading in the polls early on, before his campaign was ultimately derailed by another sexting scandal, proving that Weiner (AKA “Carlos Danger”) really is the comedy gift that keeps on giving.

The Spitzer and Weiner comeback campaigns make me wonder about the people who dedicated resources (money, time, manpower) to help these individuals get elected. I’m all for second chances, but is the talent pool really so shallow that there weren’t any worthwhile, non-sexting, non-call-girl-choking candidates to whom those resources could have been better allocated? If nothing else, in Weiner’s case, it showed he had learnt nothing the first time round, and was certainly not worthy of second chances.

Here in Australia we had our own Weineresque sexting scandal, when revelations surfaced that Queensland MP Peter Dowling had taken pictures of his penis placed in a glass of red wine and sent them to his mistress. This from a married conservative family man, a supposedly devout Catholic, and chair of the parliamentary ethics committee!

I wonder if there was any point in time, before the media got hold of the story, that Peter Dowling realised the irony and blatant hypocrisy of what he was doing? I wonder if just before he was about to send a dick pic to his mistress, he ever paused for a moment, to ponder if maybe this would at some point in the future come back to haunt him? I wonder if, during his liaisons with his mistress, it ever occurred to him that, as a conservative family values politician and chairman of the parliament’s ethics committee, perhaps screwing around on his wife wasn’t the best career move, not to mention morally questionable?

I suspect not. There seems to be something about the ego and lack of self awareness of politicians that engenders such blatant tone-deaf hypocrisy. It’s the same runaway ego and lack of self-awareness that results in Tony Abbott appointing himself minister for women, most likely completely oblivious to how obnoxious the whole idea appears to an electorate that sees him as misogynistic and out of touch with women.

Just like it’s the same level of misguided yet egotistical stubbornness that enables Malcolm Turnbull to advocate for a Fibre to the Node broadband network in the face of ridicule and criticism from the entire technical community.

It would no doubt be an understatement to suggest that a family values advocating leader of a parliamentary ethics committee taking pictures of his penis in a glass of wine and sending them to his mistress — perhaps not even considering the possibility of repercussions — probably has his fair share of personality flaws.

I suspect it’s the same kind of personality flaws that enable Malcolm Turnbull to push forward with his silly plans for a Fibre to the Node broadband network, ensconced in the comforting self-delusion that all the experts deriding FTTN technology are wrong, and that there won’t be any negative repercussions resulting from his choice of inferior networking technology. I’m sure Malcolm believes no one will notice the slow speeds and dropouts — just like no one currently notices the slow speeds and dropouts of ADSL.

Politics is a strange job, and it attracts some strange people, often for all the wrong reasons. It’s pretty obvious by now that our politicians are generally deeply flawed individuals. It might even be their flaws that help them succeed in the strange world of politics.

I think this might explain why us geeks constantly get screwed over by these dick pick distributing deviants. There is a huge disparity in personality types and abilities between the world of politics and the world of technology. They require vastly different skills and personality traits to succeed. That might be partly why our political leaders make such incredibly bad decisions on matter relating to technology — they don’t understand us. And it’s also partly why we don’t fight back effectively — because we don’t understand them. We tend to naively think that we can reason with them. That we can change their minds by explaining the technical merit of our position. So we blog and tweet and sign online petitions and post in forums — all of it pointlessly screaming into the digital void. Because politicians don’t care about any of that. None of that directly affects them in their quest for whatever emotional validation they seek by trying to attain public office. None of that directly affects their quest for personal gain, power, ego and status — so they don’t care.

Which means to make them care about our geeky concerns, we probably need to learn to think a bit like our deviant political overlords — as disturbing and distasteful as that prospect may be. Because surely their flaws and seeming lack of self control could provide some sort of advantage for us? Since our political leaders seem incapable of anything except taking pictures of their genitals and distributing them to unsuspecting women on social media, isn’t there any way we can take advantage of this?

Because it’s bad enough we’re being screwed, but it’s worse that we’re being screwed by these incompetent, power hungry, sex crazed egotists with no self control and and even less self awareness. These are the people who are screwing us? These dick pic distributing deviants? These family values campaigners by day, and adulterous whore mongers by night?

We tend to think we’re kinda smart, aren’t we? So is there no way we can outsmart our politically meddlesome masters? Is there no way we can take advantage of their character flaws to get a good outcome on technology issues we care about? (And leave them to destroy their own careers in entertainingly embarrassing ways the rest of the time?)

While our salacious political leaders are busy cavorting with prostitutes and taking pictures of their cocks, can’t we somehow work out a way to get decent broadband? While they’re distracted with finding novel ways to destroy their reputations, can’t we work out ways to preserve our online freedoms? While they’re sticking their dicks in glasses of wine, can’t we work out ways to reform the patent system?

Who knows, maybe somehow, in this process, if our political leaders realise we’re watching them closely, ready to use any of their weaknesses or indiscretions against them, maybe one day there might come a time where some dignity is restored to public office.

At least until the next sexting scandal.